Hot shooting from Manhattan Jaspers forward, Warren Williams, provided just a drop in the bucket as Jamaica suffered a lopsided 52-94 defeat at the hands of Nicaragua, at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Central American and Caribbean Pre-Qualifiers on Saturday.

Williams was an immovable force on the low block, as he scored 24 points off 63 percent shooting, and was just shy of a double-double after also grabbing 9 rebounds.  He was, however, the only Jamaica player in the line-up to get to double figures.

The effort was dwarfed by the Nicaraguan trio of Jared Ruiz, Norchad Omier, and Larel Pacheco.  Ruiz led the way with 26 points but also filled out the rest of the stat sheet with 9 rebounds and 5 assists.  Omier and Pacheco were perfect from the field, scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively.  Omier also grabbed 13 rebounds to register a useful double-double.

The Central Americans got off to a strong start and found themselves leading the Caribbean team 27-11 at the end of the first quarter and led 49-21 by halftime, before cruising the rest of the way to victory.

The loss was the first of the tournament for the Jamaicans, who recorded a 69-67 win over Costa Rica in their opener and a 107-87 win over Guyana.

 

Steve Kerr was "in awe" of the quality on show in an NBA thriller between his Golden State Warriors side and the in-form Boston Celtics.

The Celtics extended their winning run to six games with a 119-114 victory at TD Garden on Saturday despite being 16 points down in the first half.

Steph Curry's 47-point haul could not prevent Boston from coming out on top in a pulsating contest, with Jayson Tatum scoring 44 points and claiming 10 rebounds.

Kemba Walker weighed in with 26 points for the Celtics, who are 31-26 and sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Warriors head coach Kerr said: "First of all, I'm in awe of what I watched tonight.

"From a skill level and level of competition, it felt like a playoff game out there. Both teams were just gassed and competed like crazy, and just incredible shot-making, particularly from Steph and Jayson.

"So, what a basketball game. It hurts to lose, but I told the team I feel like they got better tonight."

Tatum and Curry had a court-side conversation after the Celtics small forward spoke of his admiration for the Warriors legend.

He said when asked what the pair had discussed: "Just mutual respect. Obviously two big performances. I was glad that we got the win, but obviously he's one of the all-time greats.

"Just to earn his respect and get a win on the same night ... it was a good night."

Golden State are 28-29 following this setback, languishing down in ninth in the Western Conference.

 

Andre Drummond is itching to experience more of the thrills of a home-court win with the Los Angeles Lakers after helping see out an overtime victory against the Utah Jazz.

Acquired at the end of March, Drummond found out for the first time how it felt to earn a win at the Staples Center as a Lakers player, as around 1,700 fans saw Los Angeles earn a 127-115 overtime triumph over the NBA Western Conference leaders.

The Lakers had previously seen a 14-point advantage evaporate, with the Jazz taking the lead towards the end of the fourth quarter, before Dennis Schroder tied things up with three seconds to play.

Still without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Drummond finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists to aid the team's cause, while the impressive Schroder had 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Since joining the Lakers, Drummond is averaging 9.2 points, 1.2 assists and 9.2 rebounds and he feels the depleted Lakers – fifth in the Western Conference – are beginning to gel.

"With the fans being in the arena it was kind of a surreal moment for me because I've been on the other side," he said. 

"Seeing them win, seeing the streamers come down, to be on this end it was definitely a great feeling and something I want more of.

"I think tonight was a good game for all of us, for me personally I think it was a pretty solid game. 

"As a unit we clicked on all cylinders. We didn't allow adversity to get us out of our game, they did have a hell of a run down the stretch to tie up the game and take the lead. 

"The chemistry is getting there, we're having fun day by day doing it."

Head coach Frank Vogel was impressed by the way his Lakers side kept their cool after seeing their lead wiped out.

"We made more in-game adjustments than we have all year just to counter their attack," Lakers Vogel said. 

"To have a team storm back and take the lead and [us] not panic is definitely something we can draw on going forward. We'll have this experience to know that we’ll prevail."

The NBA ladder leading-Utah Jazz felt the absence of Donovan Mitchell as they lost 127-115 in over-time to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Mitchell hurt his ankle during the week and was unavailable for the clash against the Lakers who were missing injured pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Lakers center Andre Drummond dominated with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Dennis Schroder had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists too.

The Jazz could have won the match in normal time when Jordan Clarkson's buzzer beater missed with scores locked at 110-110.

The Lakers ran away with it in over-time, but had a late injury scare with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also had 25 points, clutching his right ankle.

The result improves the Lakers to 35-22, while the Jazz remain top of the West with a 42-15 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks stumbled to a 128-115 home loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies kept the Bucks at arm's length the whole match led by Grayson Allen who shot 26 points including seven-from-10 beyond the arc.

A fired-up Dillon Brooks had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists for Memphis, while Giannis had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing side.

 

Celtics edge shootout with Curry

Jayson Tatum won an All-Star shootout against Stephen Curry as the Boston Celtics edged the in-form Golden State Warriors 119-114.

Boston forward Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds, while Curry played a leading role for GSW with 47 points, including 11 three-pointers as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Tatum had outstanding assistance from Kemba Walker, particularly in a tight final quarter, with 26 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics won their sixth straight.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Bradley Beal made 37 points in the Washington Wizards' 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-85, while Nikola Vucevic had 25 points in the Chicago Bulls' 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Scary sideline spell

There was a scary incident late in the Warriors' loss to Boston when youngster Juan Toscano-Anderson threw himself at a loose ball, with his momentum seeing him bundling over the scorers' fence across tables and monitors. He lay injured for several minutes before eventually walking to the locker room aided, with a towel on his head.

 

Russell makes triple-double history

In-form Wizards guard Westbrook's triple-double made history as he became the first player in NBA history to have 15 in a 20-game span. 

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards 121-100 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 119-114 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 128-115 Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs 111-85 Phoenix Suns 

 

Nets in Miami

With Kevin Durant back, the Brooklyn Nets (38-18) make the trip to face the Miami Heat (28-28), although they will likely still be without the injured James Harden.

Joel Embiid was backed for MVP honours by teammate Ben Simmons after a stellar display led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 106-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Embiid posted 36 points and 14 rebounds as the 76ers extended their winning streak to four games, while ending the Clippers' seven-game run.

It made him the first 76ers player with at least 36 points and seven rebounds in three consecutive games since Charles Barkley in 1990, while Embiid is also the first Philadelphia player with at least 35 points in three straight games since Allen Iverson in 2006.

According to Simmons, rival players are becoming clueless about how to handle the 76ers star.

"I don't think teams really know what to do when guarding him," Simmons said. "I think he's clearly the MVP this season.

"He's been so dominant and consistent this whole year and he's been healthy which has been great for us. So I don't know how to stop him!"

With Philadelphia (39-17) leading the way in the Eastern Conference, the admiration is mutual between Embiid and Simmons.

Embiid, who spoke about having two or three men on his case each time he had the ball, suggested Simmons also merits award consideration.

"We've got someone in Ben who should be defensive player of the year," Embiid said in his post-game news conference.

"He's been dominant all season on that end of the floor. That's something he wants so much and he deserves it.

"That's an award, when I got to the league, that I always wanted to win. At some point in my career that's something I want to win, but this year he's been a master, he deserves it.

"The way he guards every player on the floor. He's been bringing it, so I really do think he should be the defensive player of the year."

Joel Embiid dominated as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers held off the Los Angeles Clippers 106-03 in a blockbuster NBA showdown.

Embiid posted 36 points and 14 rebounds as the 76ers extended their winning streak to four games, while snapping the Clippers' seven-game run on Friday.

After being outscored 20-3 early in the opening quarter, the Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers rallied to take the lead during the closing stages of the final period in Philadelphia.

But the 76ers (39-17) scored seven straight points to move clear 99-94 and they never relinquished the lead, despite the Clippers' efforts.

MVP hopeful Embiid – averaging 34.5 points and 11.0 rebounds over his last four games – became the first 76ers player with at least 36 points and seven rebounds in three consecutive games since Charles Barkley in 1990, while he is the first Philadelphia player with at least 35 points in three straight games since Allen Iverson in 2006.

Having topped Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, it is just the third time in franchise history the 76ers have claimed back-to-back wins against teams 20-plus over .500 after 1966 and 1983.

Paul George put up 37 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers (39-19), who also had a season-high 18 points from Patrick Patterson.

George joined Bob McAdoo, World B. Free and Leonard as the only players in Clippers history to have five straight games with 30-plus points.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz (42-14) rallied to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-111 after All-Star Donovan Mitchell exited due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell suffered a sprained ankle in the second half, having scored 22 points before leaving in the third quarter.

All-Star team-mates Rudy Gobert (13 points and 23 rebounds) and Mike Conley (10 points and 10 assists) both had double-doubles, while Bojan Bogdanovic put up 24 points.

 

Randle dazzles to fuel Knicks

Julius Randle's 44 points and 10 rebounds led the New York Knicks past former team the Dallas Mavericks 117-109. Randle became the first Knicks player since Bernard King in 1985 to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in a regular-season game. He also became the first Knicks player since Carmelo Anthony in 2013-14 to register multiple 40-point games in a single season.

The San Antonio Spurs lost 107-106 to the Portland Trail Blazers but Dejounte Murray starred with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season. The last Spurs player with that many triple-doubles in a season was David Robinson in 1993-94.

MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets crushed the lowly Houston Rockets 128-99.

Russell Westbrook inspired the Washington Wizards' 117-115 overtime victory against the New Orleans Pelicans after scoring 10 of their 12 points in the additional period. Former MVP Westbrook tallied 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists – finishing just short of a seventh consecutive triple-double. The league's leading scorer Bradley Beal added 30 points.

A Kevin Durant double-double of 25 points and 11 assists guided the Nets to a 130-115 win at home to the Charlotte Hornets. Miles Bridges put up a career-high 33 points for the Hornets.

Jimmy Butler's 30 points and 10 rebounds were not enough after the Miami Heat were upstaged 119-111 by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Houston humbled

It was a tough outing for the Rockets in Houston. Kevin Porter Jr. headlined their woes after he finished one-for-nine shooting for four points in 32 minutes. He missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The Orlando Magic lost again, beaten 113-102 by the Toronto Raptors. Orlando's Gary Harris was scoreless from the field. He was 0-for-seven from the field, while failing to make both of his three-point shots.

 

No-el!

New York's Nerlens Noel made an emphatic block to deny Dorian Finney-Smith.

 

Friday's results

Utah Jazz 119-111 Indiana Pacers
Detroit Pistons 110-104 Oklahoma City Thunder
Philadelphia 76ers 106-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards 117-115 New Orleans Pelicans (OT)
Brooklyn Nets 130-115 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 113-102 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 126-115 Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets 128-99 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 119-111 Miami Heat
Portland Trail Blazers 107-106 San Antonio Spurs
New York Knicks 117-109 Dallas Mavericks

 

Jazz at Lakers

Defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (34-22) will host the high-flying Jazz in a Western Conference showdown at Staples Center on Saturday.

The high-flying Utah Jazz have some extra star power off the court after NBA great Dwyane Wade purchased an ownership stake in the franchise.

Wade – a three-time champion and 13-time All-Star – joins majority owner Ryan Smith in Utah, where the Jazz lead the NBA with a 42-14 record this season.

The 39-year-old Wade won three titles with the Miami Heat, having also played for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring in 2019.

"When you're able to get an opportunity to meet someone like Ryan that has been very successful in business, that can educate you, that can teach you — I'm all about I want mentors, and Ryan became a mentor to me," Wade said after joining a shortlist of former players with ownership stakes in NBA franchises, alongside Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (Charlotte Hornets), Los Angeles Lakers great Shaquille O'Neale (Sacramento Kings) and Grant Hill (Atlanta Hawks).

"Did I ever think that this would be a part of our conversations? No, I did not. But this was always a goal of mine, to one day hopefully be a part of something bigger than I, and that's what the Utah Jazz is — something bigger than myself."

"The respect I that I have for that [Heat] organisation will not go anywhere, the love that I have for the [Heat] fans -- that goes nowhere," Wade told ESPN.

"But this is about the next phase of my life as an investor, a businessman, an entrepreneur. For me, this is an opportunity to grow."

The Jazz – spearheaded by All-Stars Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley – are eyeing their maiden NBA championship.

Utah have suffered back-to-back first-round exits in the playoffs, having last reached the NBA Finals in 1998 – beaten by Jordan's Bulls.

"Dwyane is not only a basketball legend, he is also a great leader, businessman, and human being," said Smith. "As we continue to build on the incredible legacy of the Utah Jazz franchise, we are excited to add Dwyane's experience and expertise to the equation.

"Utah is an amazing place and I couldn't be more thrilled about the future of the franchise and the future of this state. Dwyane's influence will be important to both."

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said former NBA MVP James Harden is "progressing well" from a hamstring strain.

Harden has missed five consecutive games since exiting Brooklyn's win over the New York Knicks on April 5.

The All-Star guard – one of the frontrunners for MVP honours this season having been averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game – sat out Friday's 130-115 victory against the Charlotte Hornets.

Marks provided an update on Harden, telling reporters: "I can tell you that James is progressing well. He's looking forward to having at least one or two more play days -- which means he'll play four on four, five on five with the group in practice.

"And hopefully, if things go smoothly like that, he'll be out and joining the guys in a game. But he's progressed well, he's met his markers up to this point and we'll just continue to progress him along.

"Hopefully, it's not too much longer. But at this point, I can't put a timetable on if it's two days, five days or so forth."

Nets head coach Steve Nash was also asked about Harden after star-studded Brooklyn improved to 38-18 behind Kevin Durant's 25 points and 11 assists.

Steve Nash added: "I haven't seen James. So he worked out [Thursday]. We had an off day. He worked out when we were on the road.

"But I think he was going to work out this evening. So I haven't seen him. all I can go off is what I heard and I know, speaking to James and speaking to people who were on the court with him -- he is improving and he is on the right track and hopefully won't be long before he's back.

"But there are still markers. And you know there's James -- he wants to play tonight -- and there's performance that wants to lean on science and be safe.

"There are two kind of despaired opinions and that's what we're here for is to try to find the middle ground and make sure he returns safely but also as soon as he possibly can."

The Nets are set for a three-game road trip against the Miami Heat (Sunday), New Orleans Pelicans (Tuesday) and Toronto Raptors (Wednesday).

"I mean, again, I hope I'm not speaking out of term," Nash said. "But I think typically, at this stage of the rehab, it's about high-intensity play. So can get out there and play one on one, three on three, four on four, five on five and can he do it consistently over two or three times in a row?

"Not necessarily back-to-back days, but two or three bouts of high-intensity play in a row and you recover, do it again and prove that he can meet the demands and intensity and have no ill effects the next day or the next performance. So that's kind of the way it works, in a very general way."

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich described LaMarcus Aldridge as a "consummate professional" after the veteran retired due to a health issue.

Aldridge played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat in the Brooklyn Nets' 126-101 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday, a problem that became worse after the game.

The seven-time All-Star was listed as out with a non-COVID related illness for the Nets' next two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.

On Thursday, the 35-year-old announced he was putting his health and family first and calling it a day.

Aldridge had only joined the Nets as a free agent in March and averaged 12.8 points in five games after agreeing a contract buyout with the Spurs.

He was signed by the Spurs ahead of the 2015-16 season, helping San Antonio reach the Western Conference Finals in 2017 where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

"LaMarcus Aldridge enjoyed a wonderful NBA career. He was a consummate professional with a unique skill set and a deep respect for the game," Popovich said in a Spurs statement.

"We're grateful for his contributions, both on and off the court, during his time here in San Antonio.

"I'm proud of him for making this difficult decision and we wish him and his family all of the best in the future."

Selected second overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2006 draft, Aldridge spent the majority of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 12,562 points to sit third on the franchise's all-time list.

Aldridge played in 1,029 NBA games and finishes up averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Steph Curry aims to bring "joy and a competitive fire" to a developing Golden State Warriors unit, after he netted 30 points for a career-best ninth straight game.

Curry was instrumental as the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-101 on Thursday to make it four wins from four – the team's strongest streak this season.

The 33-year-old scored 33 points, registered five assists and four rebounds, completing four of 13 attempted three-pointers, while Curry is the first Warrior since Rick Barry in 1966-67 to score 30-plus points in nine consecutive games.

Golden State's run has taken them onto the verge of the playoff positions in the Western Conference, and Curry is delighted with how the team is coming together.

"I just try to bring the team joy and a competitive fire," Curry said, as reported by ESPN.

"We've got a way to go, but developing different ways to win games is a good thing."

"He's been incredible lately, even by Steph standards," Warriors coach Steve Kerr added of Curry's superb individual display. 

"It's the result of a lifetime of training and hard work, but he just does it night after night. We're in a very good place right now. The guys feel good about themselves."

Curry was ably supported by Andrew Wiggins (23 points), Juan Toscano-Anderson (20) and Draymond Green, whose tally of five points was boosted by 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Indeed, Green's partnership with Curry received particular praise from Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who said:  "Steph and Draymond are so good and with their experience, they're just deadly, and the other guys play their role to a T."

One negative for Golden State is the news of a season-ending knee injury for rookie James Wiseman, the number two overall draft pick.

"It's tough because he was headed in the right direction, but I told him he needs to think big picture," Curry said.

"He can use this to try and turn a negative into a positive."

Stephen Curry posted more than 30 points for a career-best ninth consecutive game as the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-101.

Curry starred for the Warriors on Thursday, scoring 33 points to lead the visitors past the Cavaliers in Cleveland and to their fourth successive win.

The two-time MVP – who is averaging 38.2 points amid his streak – became the first Warriors player to have at least 30 points in nine straight games since Rick Barry in 1966-67.

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Warriors, while Juan Toscano-Anderson had his first career 20-point game with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Cavaliers were led by Collin Sexton's 30 points and Jarrett Allen's double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.

 

Brown goes off against Lakers

The Boston Celtics took down injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 121-113 at Staples Center. Without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were punished by Jaylen Brown, who fuelled the Celtics with 40 points on 17-for-20 shooting, making three of his five three-point attempts to go with nine rebounds and three assists. He became the first player in franchise history to score 40-plus points with a field-goal percentage of 85 per cent or better.

Deandre Ayton (26 points and 11 rebounds), Devin Booker (23 points) and Chris Paul (13 points and 11 assists) combined as the red-hot Phoenix Suns topped the Sacramento Kings 122-114. Phoenix won their 10th consecutive home game as they reached 40 victories for the first time since 2014.

Brook Lopez was efficient with 19 points and 12 rebounds on seven-for-10 shooting, while he was three-of-six from three-point range as two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a six-game injury lay-off in the Milwaukee Bucks' 120-109 success against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Matthews and Caldwell-Pope struggle

It was not a memorable outing for Lakers pair Wesley Matthews (three points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two points), who were both one-for-seven shooting in 23 minutes as starters. Matthews made one of his six attempts from beyond the arc, while Caldwell-Pope missed all three of his efforts.

Kevin Love – an NBA champion with the Cavaliers – finished two-for-10 shooting against the Warriors. The veteran (five points) only nailed one of his seven three-point attempts on a rough day.

 

Tricky Tatum

Jayson Tatum had five assists against the Lakers, including a behind-the-back dime to tee up Celtics team-mate Tristan Thompson.

 

Thursday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 119-101 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 122-114 Sacramento Kings
Boston Celtics 121-113 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Clippers at 76ers

A blockbuster clash will see the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (39-18) visit the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (38-17) on Friday. The Clippers have won seven straight, while the 76ers are in the midst of a three-game winning run.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis has been cleared to resume full on-court activities and could return for the upcoming series against the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.

Davis has been sidelined since exiting the NBA champions' game against the Denver Nuggets on February 14 as he recovers from tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg.

The Lakers have also been without superstar LeBron James due to an ankle injury, but head coach Frank Vogel said the team are close to welcoming back Davis.

Davis missed Thursday's clash with the Boston Celtics, but Vogel did not rule out the eight-time All-Star from potentially returning in the Utah series across April 17 and April 19.

The Lakers are more hopeful Davis will be ready to face the Dallas Mavericks on April 22.

"Good news. He was evaluated again upon the return of this trip," Vogel told reporters on Thursday.

"He has been cleared for full on-court activity. Full practice, anything we want to do with him to begin his real ramp-up to begin his return to play.

"All the court work he's been doing until this point has been to get him to be fully cleared to participate in full practice.

"Obviously he's not playing tonight [Thursday]. It's unlikely he plays in the two Utah games, but not out of the question. Hopefully he is available after that."

Davis, who will return on a minutes restriction, was averaging 22.5 points per game this season before the injury – his lowest since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Pelicans (20.8).

The 28-year-old's average of 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21 is the lowest since his rookie season (8.2) in 2012-13.

Vogel's Lakers (34-21) are fifth in the Western Conference, seven games adrift of the high-flying Jazz (41-14).

James Wiseman's rookie season in the NBA has come to a premature end after the Golden State Warriors center underwent knee surgery on Thursday. 

Wiseman had a procedure in Los Angeles to repair a right meniscal tear, the NBA team announced. 

The 20-year-old is expected to be healthy for the start of the 2021-22 season.

Wiseman was the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft but had trouble staying in the line-up in his first season with Golden State, starting 27 of his 39 games and averaging 21.4 minutes along with 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. 

He ranks third among rookies in rebounding, fifth in scoring, fourth in field-goal percentage and fifth in blocks (0.92 per game).

Golden State's Wiseman missed much of February with a wrist injury before returning in a bench role for several weeks. 

Wiseman re-joined the starting line-up on March 23 and his play was inconsistent before a strong showing in what turned out to be his final full game of the season. 

He made nine of 11 field goals and scored 18 points against the Washington Wizards on April 9, but left the following day's game against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on a dunk attempt. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters earlier in the week that Wiseman was taking the injury news as well as he could. 

"He's just been through an awful lot this season," Kerr said. "And he has a really good way about him and he's at minimum putting up a good front, but I know he's really crushed, but he's hanging in there."

Perhaps no team in the NBA is on as interesting and open-ended of a course as the New Orleans Pelicans.

In a league where most teams fear the purgatory of mediocrity, New Orleans have seemingly set up a permanent home there.

The Pelicans are 279-340 since establishing their new nickname in 2013-14, including a 25-30 mark this season that would leave them out of the playoff picture if they remained the Western Conference's number 11 team.

Less than two years ago, the Crescent City had a franchise cornerstone and consensus top-10 player in Anthony Davis, who would soon force the Pelicans into trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last offseason, New Orleans shipped two-way guard Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in a four-team deal.

Along the way, New Orleans also let Christian Wood and Julius Randle slip through their fingers.

Despite the exodus of top-level talent in exchange for draft selections and pick swaps, the Pelicans' situation is far from a full rebuild. The Davis trade netted them Brandon Ingram, who made his first All-Star team last season and continues to improve.

Winning the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery despite having just a six per cent chance has been a franchise-altering moment that resulted in the addition of Zion Williamson.

While most teams in their position would prioritise the future over all else, building around Williamson, Ingram and whatever young talent comes from a sizeable pile of future draft picks, the Pelicans have given significant playing time to veterans Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and JJ Redick, before the latter was traded at last month's deadline.

But can the Pelicans defy the odds by attempting to win both now and in the future? Perhaps more importantly, are Williamson and Ingram the right cornerstones around which to build a team?

Williamson appears to be the unquestioned future of the Pelicans, utilising a unique combination of physique, athleticism and skillset to dominate inside despite being only as tall as many guards in the league.

The former one-and-done star at Duke is shooting 61.8 per cent from the floor this season, on pace to set an NBA record for a player listed at six-foot-six or shorter. Charles Barkley currently holds the record, shooting 60.0 per cent in the 1989-90 season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Williamson's shooting has improved from last season to this term, he has shown even greater growth in other areas. His free-throw shooting has jumped from 64.0 per cent to 70.1 per cent, and his assist-to-turnover ratio has improved from 0.85 to 1.45 season.

Williamson's performance has proven that his abbreviated, 24-game rookie season was no fluke and has only missed five games in his sophomore campaign to relieve concerns that he is an injury-prone player.

But as good as he has been, Williamson's size allows him to only match up against opposing power forwards, standing too short to defend most centers and unable to move his 285-pound frame quickly enough to stay with most wings. This would be a limitation that is easily managed if Ingram were not also best suited to play power forward, placing the pair's long-term compatibility into question.

The Pelicans have typically started Adams at center, with Williamson and Ingram starting at the forward spots, and Adams and Williamson have a tough time switching onto other players while playing defense. While talent has led to New Orleans having the league's ninth most efficient offense this season at 112.1 points per 100 possessions, this rigid alignment has resulted in the NBA's third worst defense, allowing 113.0 points per 100 possessions.

Williamson appears to be more valuable than Ingram, although the Pelicans are far from being forced to choose between their 20- and 23-year-old stars. New Orlean's net rating is plus-0.5 this season with Williamson on the court and minus-3.2 with him on the bench. The team have a minus-0.8 net rating with Ingram playing and a minus-1.1 net rating with Ingram sitting.

Perhaps more concerning is that fact that the Pelicans apparently have yet to realise that Williamson has surpassed Ingram as the team's best player. Ingram shoots 18.1 times per game, compared to Williamson's 16.6. Ingram also has 65 field-goal attempts in the last three minutes of fourth quarters, compared to Williamson's 50.

With that being said, the Pelicans are 21-13 when Ingram scores 22 points or more and are 4-17 when he scores fewer than 22 points or does not play.

Offense appears to come easily to both Williamson and Ingram, but can the pair evolve enough to ever play even league-average defense?

The problem is the reverse of another pair publicly deemed incompatible – the 76ers' Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – two elite defensive players who do not mesh perfectly on offense.

Despite their warts, Embiid and Simmons are in their fourth season together and have Philadelphia sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 38-17, with the former averaging nearly 30 points per game and the latter making a bid for Defensive Player of the Year.

Perhaps in two or three years – and with a better supporting cast – Ingram and Williamson can help the Pelicans grow into contenders in the west.

But when the Pelicans' stars are at their peaks, players like Adams, Bledsoe and James Johnson will have moved on. New Orleans better hope they have enough assets and supporting players in place after investing in a seemingly short-sighted run at the 2021 playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was listed as available for the Milwaukee Bucks' matchup with the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday after missing the previous six games.

The two-time NBA MVP has not played since matching his season high with 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 2.

Antetokounmpo's absence due to knee soreness appears to have ended his hopes of claiming the MVP award for a third straight year, with Nikola Jokic meanwhile continuing to impress and Joel Embiid returning from injury.

But the Bucks will be delighted to have their talisman back out on the floor when they face the in-form Hawks.

The 'Greek Freak', who had never previously missed more than two consecutive games in his NBA career, leads Milwaukee with 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season.

While Antetokounmpo was out, the Bucks went 3-3, although they remain third in the Eastern Conference with a 34-20 record.

Thursday's opponents Atlanta are now fourth after a run of seven wins in eight games.

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