Former United States president Barack Obama has paid tribute to a host of NBA stars for their generosity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA was this week suspended indefinitely amid the spread of COVID-19, with league commissioner Adam Silver saying that will remain the case for at least 30 days.

In response, Kevin Love, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Blake Griffin all donated $100,000 to the arena staff of their respective teams to help those who will be hardest hit by the halting of NBA action.

Zion Williamson vowed to cover the salaries of all staff at the New Orleans Pelicans' Smoothie King Center for the next month.

Steph Curry, meanwhile, was influential in a collaboration involving Golden State Warriors players, coaches and owners pledging $1million to aid Chase Center employees.

Their efforts caught the attention of Obama, who praised them on Twitter.

"A shout out to Kevin, Giannis, Zion, Blake, Steph and all the players, owners and organizations who are setting a good example during a challenging time," wrote Obama.

"A reminder that we’re a community, and that each of us has an obligation to look out for each other."

Relief efforts have also seen Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban initiate a system to financially support the arena workers at his team's American Airlines Center.

Earlier this week, Obama had highlighted the impact cancelling large sporting events and other significant public gatherings can have in the fight against the virus.

He wrote: "If you're wondering whether it's an overreaction to cancel large gatherings and public events (and I love basketball)… these measures can slow the spread of the virus and save lives. We have to look out for each other."

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has matched Kevin Love and donated $100,000 to support the staff at the Fiserv Forum following the suspension of the NBA season.

The NBA was put on hold on Wednesday after Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the Utah Jazz's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Gobert's team-mate Donovan Mitchell has since confirmed he has contracted the virus, while the NCAA has cancelled March Madness in response to the pandemic.

On Thursday, Cleveland Cavaliers' Love pledged $100,000 to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse support staff, who would be impacted by the suspension.

 

Antetokounmpo has now followed suit, donating the same amount to staff at the Bucks' Fiserv Forum home.

"It's bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my team-mates' lives easier," Antetokounmpo said in a Twitter post. 

"Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together!"

On Friday, president Donald Trump officially declared a national emergency in the United States, where there have been just under 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Kyle Korver insisted the Milwaukee Bucks made the right call in resting some of their starters despite slipping to a third successive loss on Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the 109-95 defeat to the Denver Nuggets as he is sidelined with a minor knee sprain, his status to be evaluated again ahead of this week's home game with the Boston Celtics.

Eric Bledsoe is also dealing with an injury, but Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer did not play Khris Middleton, Donte DiVincenzo, Marvin Williams or Brook Lopez at all against the Nuggets.

With a playoff spot already secured and a healthy lead over the Toronto Raptors at the top of the Eastern Conference, Korver – who top-scored with 23 points – understood why the decision was made to manage minutes for key players.

"Different guys are banged up," Korver told the media.

"We've got a good home stretch coming up here and we want to get right. Guys have nicks and knacks and you take care of it.

"We've got some important games coming up, so it was definitely the right call."

Budenholzer was pleased with the performance of those who did feature against Denver, revealing he opted to go with the "freshest bodies" at the end of a three-game road trip.

"This was the group that gave us our best chance," he said.

"Every night in the league you need something different. I thought we needed a lot of energy tonight going against a good Denver team.

"We were right there. This group put us right where we wanted to be. We just weren't quite able to get it done.

"At some point, you go with the kind of freshest bodies in certain situations. Those other guys are good, available and I told them to be ready. But we went with the group we did because we thought that was the best thing tonight."

Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the Milwaukee Bucks' next two games with a minor knee sprain.

The reigning NBA MVP sustained a left leg injury during the Bucks' defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the team confirmed. 

An MRI revealed a minor joint capsule sprain of the left knee, ruling him out of the Bucks' road games with the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.

Antetokounmpo's status for Thursday's home game with the Boston Celtics will be updated later in the coming week.

The Greek is again the favourite for the MVP award and is averaging 29.6 points and 13.7 rebounds for the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks.

Milwaukee possess the best record in the NBA at 53-10 and are 8.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the race for the number one seed in the East.

Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted the Milwaukee Bucks "didn't play smart" against the Los Angeles Lakers - but believes his team will learn lessons from Friday's defeat.

LeBron James scored 37 points, had eight rebounds and provided eight assists as the Lakers won the battle between the top seeds in each conference, prevailing 113-103 at Staples Center.

However, the home team were aided by shooting 38 free-throw attempts in the contest, hitting 31 of them, much to Antetokounmpo's frustration.

"We definitely didn't play smart," Antetokounmpo, who led his team with 32 points in a losing cause, told the media after the game. 

"We obviously tried our best. We fight – we fight in every game. We try to stay in every game that we play.

"But they shot 31 free throws. We put them on the line so easily. You take that away and it's 70-odd points. You give them 12 free throws, 14 free throws, and now you have a ball game.

"We've got to do better, obviously. We will learn a lot from this game, go back and watch the tape and get better. Now we've got to move onto the next one."

As well as a potential NBA Finals preview, the game in Los Angeles pitted two of the leading candidates for this season's MVP award against each other.

The home crowd made clear who they believe should get the individual honour, chanting 'MVP! MVP!' for James after he pulled off a spinning dunk in the closing seconds.

Antetokounmpo, however, remains the overwhelming favourite to be crowned for a second successive season.

"It's always good playing against one of the best players in the league," he said. "When you bring the ball down, whenever you go against him, you can feel greatness.

"I've said in the past, that's where I want to be. As I said, he's one of the best players in the game, really smart. He's going to come at you – you've got to be ready to go, ready to fight against him. He's going to get his shots up, get his team-mates the ball."

Khris Middleton endured a tough outing for Milwaukee, finishing with 12 points on a 5-for-19 shooting night, but was backed by Antetokounmpo to keep on letting it go.

"Khris has got to keep shooting," he said of his team-mate. "It doesn't matter if you're having an off night, you're one of the best players in the team.

"A rough night cannot stop you from being who you are. Even if you go 0 for 20, he has to keep shooting."

LeBron James upstaged Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Los Angeles Lakers secured their playoff berth with victory over the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

James led the Lakers to a 113-103 victory at home to Antetokounmpo and the visiting Bucks in Los Angeles on Friday.

Lakers superstar James won his battle with reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, posting 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Western Conference leaders.

Anthony Davis added 30 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who improved to 48-13 following the blockbuster showdown.

Antetokounmpo's 32 points and 11 rebounds were not enough as the high-flying Bucks fell to 53-10 for the season.

 

Baynes makes history

Aron Baynes had a game to remember. The Australian tallied a career-high 37 points, 16 rebounds and made nine three-pointers as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 127-117. He joined James Harden as the only players in NBA history with 30-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and eight or more three-pointers in a game.

Kristaps Porzingis recorded his fifth straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds after putting up 26 and 11 in the Dallas Mavericks' 121-96 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Duncan Robinson made history in the Miami Heat's 110-104 loss away to the New Orleans Pelicans. Robinson finished with 24 points following eight three-pointers. It took Robinson's three-point tally to 233 this season – a single-season record by an undrafted player.

Bradley Beal's 35-point performance extended his streak of 25-plus points to 21 consecutive games. It tied LeBron James for the second-longest run by an Eastern Conference player since the 2000-01 season. The Washington Wizards won 118-112 against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Bradley struggles

Usually a handy contributor for the Lakers, Avery Bradley failed to make much of an impact despite his team's victory over the Bucks. The point guard played 31 minutes and failed to make any of his shots from the field (0 of five) or three-point range (0 of three). His two points came from the free-throw line.

The Chicago Bulls went down 108-102 to the Indiana Pacers and Lauri Markkanen headlined his team's woes. The 22-year-old had just three points, going one of 10 from the field and missing all five of his shots from beyond the arc.

 

LeBron slams it down!

James was an immovable force for the Lakers against the Bucks, who were unable to prevent this dunk.

 

Friday's results

Washington Wizards 118-112 Atlanta Hawks
Brooklyn Nets 139-120 San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder 126-103 New York Knicks
Utah Jazz 99-94 Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers 108-102 Chicago Bulls
Orlando Magic 132-118 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 110-104 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 121-96 Memphis Grizzlies
Phoenix Suns 127-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers 113-103 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Warriors

The Philadelphia 76ers (38-25) will be eyeing back-to-back road wins when they travel to the Golden State Warriors (14-49) on Saturday.

LeBron James' enduring brilliance is a source of inspiration to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who aims to follow in the NBA great's footsteps. 

The pair will face off when Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks take on James' Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

At the age of 35, James is still producing the goods, and Antetokounmpo – whose Bucks side beat the Indiana Pacers 119-100 on Wednesday – cannot help but admire him.

"It's amazing. He's 35 and playing at a high level," said the 25-year-old Antetokounmpo, per ESPN.

"A lot of times we think that, 'Okay, we're going to retire at 35,' but seeing a guy at 35 being still a top-three best player in the world, that makes us want to be there.

"It makes me want to be there one day, so I've got to keep taking care of my body, eating the right way, being healthy, and as I said – he paved the way, and hopefully we can just follow."

Looking ahead to the Bucks' match-up with the Lakers ​– the two teams leading their respective conferences – Antetokounmpo cited James and Anthony Davis as key players, while Frank Vogel's men will have revenge on their mind following a 111-104 loss in December.

"The Lakers are going to come and play hard. We know that," he said. "I watched the game [against the New Orleans Pelicans]. They played extremely hard. They played through Anthony Davis, LeBron was facilitating, guys were shooting the ball, they were running to the corner, they were playing good basketball.

"And they lost the first game, so they're going to come out and try to win the second one.

"But at the end of the day, we've got to do what we do, which is defend and run to the corner and run to our spots, move the ball, take the open shot, make the right play, drive the lanes.

"We've done this for two years now – a year and a half, almost two years – and things take care of itself. So as a leader, I've just got to do that, and as a team, we've just got to stay on track."

Giannis Antetokounmpo claimed winning back-to-back NBA MVPs is "not important at all" to him after seeing the Milwaukee Bucks suffer just their ninth loss of the season.

Antetokounmpo was kept in check by the Heat on Monday, scoring a season-low 13 points as center Bam Adebayo frustrated the reigning MVP with a fine defensive performance.

Despite the loss, Milwaukee still lead the Eastern Conference standings with an NBA-best 52-9 record and Antetokounmpo is the frontrunner to be named MVP again.

Yet such accolades were far from his thoughts after a rare loss.

"It's not important at all. I really don't [care]," he told reporters when asked about being named MVP once more.

The Heat improved to 39-22 with the 105-89 victory and may have provided the blueprint for how to stop Antetokounmpo.

It is a game plan they might need to revisit in the playoffs and Antetokounmpo know the Bucks will likely need to find a way to break Miami down if they are to reach the NBA Finals.

"We haven't lost a lot this year," he said.

"Teams are looking at me and obviously I've got to keep my confidence high

"You're gonna win some games, you're gonna lose some games. We're not going to go 82-0.

"Miami's a great team, came out [and] played really, really hard tonight. We're definitely going to play them again at some point and we've just got to play better, play hard.

"They're going to play hard for 48 minutes, it doesn't matter whether they make shots or miss shots.

"They made 17 threes. If we see them in the playoffs, which is a month and a half away, we've got to be ready."

Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted he was not looking for a "back-and-forth" with James Harden but defended his style of play after the Houston Rockets star suggested his power game "takes no skill at all".

The reigning NBA MVP mocked Harden's high usage rate and lax defensive game during the All-Star break, prompting a response this week.

Seemingly referring to Antetokounmpo, Harden told ESPN: "I wish I was seven feet and could just run and dunk. That takes no skill at all."

Antetokounmpo, the clear favourite to be named MVP again, put up 32 points and 13 rebounds as his Milwaukee Bucks improved to 51-8 on Friday with a 133-86 thrashing of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Greek was asked about Harden's comments after the game, but he told ESPN: "There's not a back-and-forth. [I have] never tried to take shots at somebody."

Antetokounmpo was more open in discussing his style in an indirect question following Harden's criticisms, though.

"My game is not just power, for sure," he said. "I came in when I was 18, I was 180 pounds, so to power through big guys was kind of tough.

"But obviously, there are going to be times where you've got to power through guys. Like one of the best players, LeBron, Michael Jordan, Kobe and all those guys, Shaq, all those guys, they were extremely physical with their play.

"They made their presence felt in the paint, but obviously I try to work on my game, mid-range shots, threes, being able to screen and roll faster and make the right pass. It's hard to drive full speed and try to make the right pass to the corner.

"I try to get my passes more accurate and it's a lot of things I'm still adding, and hopefully, when I add all those things in my game, I'm a more complete player and I'm better and can help my team win and the game is easier."

James Harden did not appear to take kindly to light-hearted criticism from Giannis Antetokounmpo during the All-Star break as he suggested the NBA MVP's style of play "takes no skill at all".

Houston Rockets star Harden is renowned for his high usage rate, and All-Star captain Antetokounmpo instead selected Kemba Walker at the recent draft.

The Greek said: "I want somebody that's going to pass the ball."

Then, after the game, which Harden's Team LeBron won, Antetokounmpo claimed Team Giannis had targeted "whoever James Harden was guarding".

Harden was asked about the comments on ESPN's The Jump this week and did not appear amused.

"I average more assists than [Walker], I think," said Harden, who averages 7.3 assists to Walker's 5.0. "I don't see what the joke is.

"But I didn't even see [the comments] - I don't pay attention to stuff like that. I just know they keep mentioning me."

Seemingly referring to Antetokounmpo, he added: "I wish I was seven feet and could just run and dunk. That takes no skill at all.

"I've got to actually learn how to play basketball, how to have skill. I'd take that any day."

Antetokounmpo is the favourite to be named the MVP again, with the Milwaukee Bucks on course to claim the number one seed in the Eastern Conference once more.

However, Harden was not impressed by the 'MVP Ladder' on the league's official website that did not rank him in the top five contenders in mid-February.

"It's crazy. I still lead the league in scoring," he said. "That's something I can't control.

"Around the league, if you named the top five players that are getting double-teamed... Nobody's mentioning that.

"I'm not the type to say it or broadcast it, I'm just going to go out there and try to win games. That's what I've been trying to do."

The Philadelphia 76ers lost Ben Simmons to injury in another NBA road defeat on Saturday, while the Miami Heat paid tribute to Dwyane Wade.

Simmons left a 119-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first quarter after aggravating an existing back problem and will reportedly undergo an MRI on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo relished his fellow All-Star's absence, putting up 31 points and 17 rebounds in a double-double that condemned Philadelphia to a sixth successive away loss.

The 76ers (35-22) sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, one place behind the Heat (36-20) following their 124-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The win added to a memorable occasion as Miami welcomed former favourite Wade back to AmericanAirlines Arena, officially retiring the number three jersey he wore during the team's NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013.

Wade, 38, retired at the end of last season after returning to the Heat for his career swansong.

 

Harden hot in valuable Houston victory

James Harden hit a game-high 38 points while Russell Westbrook went 14-of-26 for 34 points as the Houston Rockets topped the Utah Jazz 120-110.

The Jazz struggled to handle Houston's small-ball approach and are now level with the Rockets at 36-20.

Kawhi Leonard tallied 31 points and eight rebounds but the Los Angeles Clippers lost for the third time in as many games, going down to the Sacramento Kings 112-103.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks overcame a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Dallas Mavericks 111-107.

Trae Young and John Collins each recorded double-doubles to inspire the Hawks to their 17th win of a lean campaign.

 

Kawhi a lone performer for cold Clippers

Leonard did his part against the Kings at Staples Center but the reigning MVP had little help from his fellow Clippers starters, all of whom failed to reach double figures for points.

Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet were particularly culpable, the pair making just three of their combined 12 three-point attempts.

 

Bam drops the hammer

Fresh from winning the Skills Challenge on NBA All-Star Weekend, Heat big man Bam Adebayo put on another show with a huge dunk against the Cavaliers.

 

Saturday's results

Sacramento Kings 112-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Brooklyn Nets 115-86 Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks 111-107 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 124-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 112-104 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 119-98 Philadelphia 76ers
Houston Rockets 120-110 Utah Jazz

 

Celtics at Lakers

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers entertain Jayson Tatum's Boston Celtics in the pick of Sunday's seven games.

Joel Embiid feels his current run of form, including a 22-point display in the NBA All-Star Game, has proven he is the best player in the world.

Big man Embiid is often maligned despite averaging 23.3 points and 12 rebounds per game this season, with his highly-talented Philadelphia 76ers an underwhelming fifth in the Eastern Conference.

But the 25-year-old has had a big hand in Sixers wins either side of the All-Star break.

Embiid tallied 26 points and nine rebounds as he starred alongside Ben Simmons in a defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers, while a brilliant 39-point, 16-rebound return lifted Philadelphia to an overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, extending their winning run to four games.

In between those two performances, Embiid also managed 22 points and 10 rebounds for Team Giannis as he took on the best the Western Conference had to offer.

It was this display in the All-Star Game that Embiid felt secured his place as the league's elite performer.

"The All-Star game was fun, being there in the fourth quarter doing my thing at the end of the game," he said after seeing off the Nets, who will miss Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season.

"The game against the Clippers was a good starting spot, but the All-Star game was just proving that I'm here, I belong, being the best player in the world.

"And I just intend to keep coming out every single night and playing hard, just going out and trying to win a championship."

Embiid will have the opportunity to back up his claim on Saturday when the Sixers take on conference leaders the Milwaukee Bucks and All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is on course for a second straight MVP award.

"We beat them pretty bad in the first matchup [121-109 in December], they got us the last one [112-101 earlier this month]," Embiid said. "So, it's on us to go out there and try to beat them again."

LeBron James felt Kobe Bryant's presence throughout his team's win over Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

Team LeBron edged Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago in an entertaining clash as Bryant was honoured.

James said the presence of the Los Angeles Lakers great – who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month – was felt.

"We wouldn't be All-Stars if we weren't competitors," he told a news conference.

"We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in a position to win every night so guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight.

"But you could definitely feel Bean's presence just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24.

"He was definitely here."

Kawhi Leonard claimed the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award after contributing 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Team LeBron.

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