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Michael Johnson, son of broadcaster Ernie Johnson, dies at 33



The son of Turner Sports broadcaster Ernie Johnson has died at the age of 33. Johnson tweeted about the death of his son, Michael, on Friday night.

“We are grieving and at the same time so grateful for having been witnesses to a miraculous 33 years with michael,” Ernie Johnson wrote.

Michael Johnson was born with a progressive form of muscular dystrophy that caused respiratory issues and required the use of a ventilator. He was one of four adopted children of Ernie Johnson and his wife, Cheryl, who have six children in total.

“We are heartbroken over the passing of Cheryl and Ernie’s beloved son, Michael, a true hero who uplifted and brought joy to everyone he touched,” Turner Sports said in a statement. “The family’s love, faith and commitment to one another will forever be an inspiration to us. Our deepest condolences are with Cheryl, Ernie and their family, friends and loved ones as we mourn with them.”

Ernie Johnson has served as the host of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” since 1990.

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Russell Westbrook sparks rally in second half, but Los Angeles Lakers fall short



NEW YORK — Russell Westbrook was tremendous in the second half of the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 106-100 loss to the New York Knicks, scoring 25 of his game-high 31 points after the break to help get his team back into a game in which it trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half.

The thing is, L.A. had to claw back from that deficit in part because of Westbrook’s first-half play. He had six points on 1-for-5 shooting and five turnovers before the break.

“He just clicks,” Anthony Davis said of Westbrook’s midgame adjustments. “I don’t know if he sees a matchup he likes, or someone’s talking to him on the other team, or a fan. I’m not sure. But whatever it is, we just need that the entire game because it helps us.”

Westbrook got locked in during the third quarter, scoring 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting with three assists, two rebounds, two steals and just one turnover. The Lakers outscored the Knicks by 10 in the period.

He played well in the fourth, too, scoring seven points on 2-for-3 shooting with three rebounds and two assists, but it was a different story for the rest of the team. The Lakers shot 5-for-19 from the field (2-for-11 from 3) and couldn’t complete the comeback, with the Knicks edging them 23-19 in the fourth to hold on for the win.

Avery Bradley (15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) said the late-game flameout came because of all the energy the team had to expend digging out of its early hole.

“We were fighting and scrapping to get back into the game,” Bradley said. “I feel like if we do a better job executing our game plan at the beginning, we won’t be in that position and we’ll be able to execute down the stretch.”

Westbrook finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season, but he also had six turnovers. He came into the game averaging 4.9 turnovers, which was second worst in the league, trailing only the Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden (5.0).

Westbrook took exception to a line of questioning about his turnovers after the game.

“It’s funny you mention turnovers,” he said. “I haven’t heard you ask me that question in about five games. You know why?”

Indeed in the four games before Tuesday night’s loss, Westbrook had 12 total turnovers. In the four games before that, he had a total of 27 turnovers.

“It’s funny,” Westbrook said after feigning laughter. “You guys are funny, man. It’s just making easy reads. I had five [turnovers] in the first half, I had one in the second. So I know I made an adjustment and did a good job of picking my spots and being aggressive and looking to score instead of jumping in the air and making passes.

“So, like I said, it’s an easy fix for me. And I know when I’m making those mistakes and making those turnovers. I mean, the one I stepped out of bounds and I got one before the half. So three of them are kind of like, if you’re actually watching the game, you kind of would be like, ‘Well, OK, that’s different.’ Three of them I kind of threw away. So, I’ll take those three. But other than that, I’ll be fine.”

Davis believes that part of Westbrook’s early woes came from him looking to force feed teammates.

“Russ has to continue to do what he’s doing no matter who’s on the floor. To be himself,” Davis said. “I tell him before every game: ‘Be nobody but yourself. That’s why we brought you here.’ I think a lot of times, he tries to go passive and to start passing the basketball, looking for other guys, which is great, but kind of takes him out of a rhythm. And he can do the same for guys while being aggressive.”

Westbrook offered a similar assessment.

“I thought I didn’t be super aggressive in the first half and tried to find my reads,” he said. “And in the third, we needed to have a push offensively and tried to make ways to be aggressive.”

The loss dropped L.A. to 9-10. Westbrook will have further adjustments to make when the Lakers finish their five-game road trip in Indianapolis and LeBron James returns from his one-game suspension.

Westbrook and James have played only eight games together this season, with L.A. going 5-3, including Sunday’s comeback in Detroit that was sparked by Westbrook after James was ejected.

“We’re finding ways where he’s really comfortable and trying to minimize ways where he’s been getting himself in trouble,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “And I think that’s all part of the integration process, that there’s going to be some growing pains early. But we’re figuring it out and he’s bringing great competitive spirit in the absence of ‘Bron when we’re shorthanded and really willed us to the victory in Detroit and almost did the same tonight. We just fell short.”

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Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson participates in first full-team practice since ACL and Achilles injuries



SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors swingman Klay Thompson participated in a full team practice on Tuesday for the first time since tearing his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and his right Achilles in November 2020.

“It’s so exciting,” Thompson said. “Just to be running up and down the court and playing basketball, it’s truly a blessing and it makes coming to work so easy. The boring stuff’s behind me and now it’s just getting back in game shape — I got to stay patient because I can be an overeager person to get out there and play, but I’m just incredibly grateful to be out there. The work the training staff and I have done over the last two years is really paying off and it’s hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again.”

Thompson, who was cleared for 5-on-5 work with members of the Warriors support staff last week, has been in great spirits as his return to the floor inches closer. While the Warriors have been hopeful that Thompson could return around Christmas, coach Steve Kerr reiterated Tuesday that no return date has been set and they want Thompson to continue to build up his strength and stamina after being off the floor for so long.

“We don’t have a target date,” Kerr said. “What we have is a number of weeks ahead of us for certain where we’re going to play it out, keep letting him scrimmage as often as possible so that he’ll build that endurance. And I would think within a few weeks we’ll be able to finally sort of get a target date, but we don’t have one right now.”

For his part, Thompson seems content to continue putting in the rehab work and let his body tell him, in consultation with the Warriors medical staff, when he’ll be ready to play in games again. He knows that he’ll be on a minutes restriction whenever he does return, but he also understands that he’ll be joining a team that has exceeded early expectations and is riding a league best 15-2 record into Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Thompson didn’t hesitate when asked if he felt the Warriors could win a title this season.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “We’re 15-2. That’s a great indicator of [championship readiness] and our defense, I think it’s top three in the league as well as our offense — and I’m not even out there yet. Think about that. Really think about that. I’m more motivated than ever as well. I want a championship so bad. More than anything.”

Thompson said he has been motivated by critics who are doubting whether he and the Warriors can get back to the top.

“I wanted to be on that Top [75 list]. I wanted some recognition. I didn’t get it and that’s fine. You know how you get recognition? You go win. I just want to go win again. I want to win a fourth ring. Not being able to compete for the last two years, I feel like I have a lot of pent up energy to prove — not to anybody else, but to myself, I’m still one of the best.”

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Inside Carmelo Anthony’s 19-year scoring evolution



From his days as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets, to becoming a featured act in New York, to picking up monikers based on his apparel, to his preeminence in international competition, Carmelo Anthony‘s basketball reputation has morphed in his 19 years in the NBA.

Yet, as Anthony begins to carve out a role with his sixth franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers, some things have stayed the same.

“He’s been a pain on the ass on every one of those teams,” said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has tailored defensive schemes to try to thwart the No. 9 scorer in league history for nearly two decades now.

Throughout Anthony’s career, just as omnipresent as his megawatt smile, has been his branding as a certified bucket getter.

“A threat,” is how LeBron James described him. “He is a sniper. What we call it in our league — guys that don’t need much airspace to get it off because of his quick trigger.”

Anthony averaged 20-plus points in each of his first 14 seasons with the Nuggets and New York Knicks, winning the scoring title in 2012-13 with 28.7 points per game for New York.

He has scored 50 points four times and topped 40 points 40 times.

“I’m still here doing it,” the 37-year-old Anthony said. “I think that’s what I’m honestly excited about. I’m here in Year 19 still doing what I’m able to do. Still passionate about the game. Still passionate about coming to work every day and getting better.”

While Anthony was the undisputed No. 1 option on those Nuggets and Knicks teams, his role took on different forms in recent stops, refining his game to fit the rosters he found himself on as a complementary player, rather than as the top dog.

Here’s how he got from a supernova with the Nuggets to a high-level role player in L.A.

Olympic Melo

As the most decorated Olympian (three gold medals, one bronze) in U.S. men’s basketball history, Anthony’s time for Team USA will likely be looked back on as the best basketball of his career.

He started on the 2008 “Redeem Team” in Beijing but was at his peak during the London Games in 2012 as the second-leading scorer behind Kevin Durant, averaging 16.3 points on 53.5% from the field and 50% from 3 off the bench. While Durant averaged 19.5 points during the United States’ 8-0 run to gold, he did it in 26.1 minutes a game, with Anthony playing just 17.9 minutes per game as a reserve.

Anthony averaged more points than James, the No. 3 scorer in league history, and Kobe Bryant, the No. 4.

During that run, he had one of the most mind-boggling performances in international hoops history, scoring 37 points in just 14 minutes and 29 seconds of playing time against Nigeria. Anthony went 10-for-12 from 3 in that game, and Team USA won by 83 points.

“Once he started coming off the bench, it was seamless,” Jim Boeheim, Anthony’s college coach at Syracuse and an assistant on Team USA, told ESPN. “He had the game against Nigeria, he made about a hundred 3s. … It was crazy.”

Anthony is the all-time leading scorer (336 points) and rebounder (125 rebounds) in U.S. men’s basketball national team history.

For Boeheim, who coached Anthony as a teenager when he led the Orange to the 2003 NCAA title, and again years later as part of multiple Olympic teams, it was obvious that Anthony could fit his game to match whatever team he played for.

“The thing that’s interesting is when everybody didn’t want to pick him up three years ago or whatever it was, I told a few people, ‘Well, he’s come off the bench in the Olympics and played well. He does what he does. It’s not like he’s not going to be able to come off the bench and make shots because that’s what he does,'” Boeheim recalled. “So that’s what surprised me a little bit about the whole thing.”

Thunder/Rockets/Trail Blazers Melo

The last half-decade has seen Anthony hop to a handful of teams, including a nearly year-long hiatus when he was out of the league.

The period of upheaval started with a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the start of the 2017-18 season.

“I loved Carmelo,” said Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who coached Anthony in OKC. “He was great to work with. I think that it was a really, really hard situation for all of us because the trade for him happened the day before training camp.”

Anthony went from averaging 18.8 shots per game with the Knicks to 15 per game for the Thunder. He started all 78 games he played in the regular season and all six he appeared in during Oklahoma City’s first-round loss to the Utah Jazz. He struggled in the postseason, averaging 11.8 points on 21.4% shooting from 3. This, of course, after setting the tone for his time in Oklahoma City with a news conference answer during training camp that some around the league viewed as him being unwilling to change.

“Who, me?” Anthony quipped back to a reporter when it was suggested that he could come off the bench for the Thunder. “I don’t know where that started, where that came from. Hey, P [Paul George], they said I got to come off the bench.”

Looking back, Donovan said that Anthony’s reputation took an unfair hit.

“All this stuff about starting, coming off the bench, I’ve always found Carmelo to be a really, really good team guy,” Donovan said. “Really good in the locker room. I think guys really enjoy being around him. I think he’s an authentic, genuine, sincere, real guy. And everything we asked him to do, he tried to do to the best of his ability.”

The OKC experiment lasted just one season. Following a trade to the Atlanta Hawks, who waived him following a contract buyout, Anthony formed a new big three in Houston with James Harden and Chris Paul.

And that experiment lasted just 10 games — two of them in which Anthony appeared as a bench player for the first time in his NBA career — before he was told by the Rockets, in essence, to go home. He was eventually traded to the Chicago Bulls and waived without playing a game.

Then came the year-plus period when Anthony was without a team before the Portland Trail Blazers, scuffling along at the start of the 2019-20 season, signed him, with their stars, guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, endorsing the move.

“It was close to almost nobody taking a chance,” Boeheim said. “Just think if Portland hadn’t done that, I don’t think he plays. And then everybody has a whole different outlook on him.”

Anthony started 58 games in his first season with the Blazers and proved he still could perform in the clutch, hitting key late-game jumpers in the seeding round in the Orlando, Florida, bubble.

“He was great,” Boeheim continued. “I mean, he’d go eight minutes without taking a shot and on that team, you might not get a shot. And then he’d make two. And to their credit, they would go to him down the stretch, he would end up making a 3 at the end of the game to win the game. It was crazy, really.”

Anthony played one more season in Portland and came off the bench in 66 of 69 games. In the playoffs, even though Portland lost to the Denver Nuggets in the first round in six games, Anthony fared better as a reserve than he had as a postseason starter with OKC, averaging 12.3 points in 23.9 minutes while shooting 37.8% from 3.

Lakers Melo

While the Lakers’ season has been up and down, Anthony has been a bright spot.

Through his first 18 games, all but three of which he came off the bench, he’s shooting a career-best 46.1% from 3. Anthony has been even better at home, where the L.A. crowd has quickly fallen in love with him, shooting 53.2% from 3 — best in the NBA for any player playing in home games with a minimum of 30 3-point attempts.

“He knows who he is as a player and he finds places to be where he can be helpful, and this is a great example of that,” said Popovich of Anthony’s success in L.A. “He’s done it again. He takes care of himself. He’s a pro. And he makes every team better. So, I’m just happy for him.”

Anthony is averaging 15.2 points on just 11.2 shots per game and is often being asked to fill the wings and get open. He has made 47 catch-and-shoot 3s this season, the best in the league heading into Monday’s game, edging Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen (46), according to Second Spectrum tracking.

“He’s in a great rhythm,” James said. “He’s just taking his shots and knocking them down.”

While Anthony hasn’t gone so far as to chastise the Rockets for alienating him and the 28 teams other than the Blazers for not signing him, he has relished in his time with the Lakers.

“As far as what I can do on the court, I don’t think that’s going to change,” Anthony said. “I don’t require a lot. I pick my spots, I get to open spots, I shoot when I’m open, my teammates look for me. Now, I’m not the every possession guy coming down the court when the offense is playing through me, so I’m able to see the game differently, from a different perspective.”

Anthony has already garnered some Sixth Man of the Year buzz and has been key to the Lakers’ success. L.A. is 7-2 this season when Anthony scores 15 points or more, and he is a huge difference-maker for the offense. The Lakers average 108.6 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the court and just 97.0 points per 100 possessions without him. That differential in offensive rating, a plus-11.6, is tied with James for the largest on the team.

“I don’t think that he would say that he’s looking at it as a role player,” Boeheim said. “I think when he goes in, he’s looking at it as, ‘I’m going to put points up there.’ You average 14-15 a game in what, 22-23 minutes? That’s almost star-quality play. So I think when you go in, whoever you are, you got to think, ‘I’m a star.’ And he believes in himself, he always has, and there’s reason for it. He’s good. I mean, he’s proven.

“What’s he, the f—ing ninth all-time scorer in the NBA? That’s pretty good.”

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