D’Angelo Russell scored 21 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper with 5.9 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Lakers overcame LeBron James’ absence in a 123-122 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

After Russell’s basket put the Lakers up one, Spencer Dinwiddie blocked Damian Lillared’s step-back jumper before the buzzer to preserve a stirring win for the Lakers.

Russell matched his career high with nine 3-pointers, handed out nine assists and scored the Lakers’ final eight points in the final 1:13 to help them rally from a late deficit.

Anthony Davis had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Austin Reaves added 18 points as the Lakers won without James, who sat out to rest his sore left ankle.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 34 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for his 43rd career triple-double and Lillard scored 28 points, but Milwaukee lost its second in a row after coming out of the All-Star break with six consecutive wins.

Depleted Cavaliers outlast Timberwolves

Darius Garland scored 34 points and Jarrett Allen scored 10 of his career-high 33 in overtime and also grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the injury-thinned Cleveland Cavaliers to a 113-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Allen made a career-best 15 free throws, 14 after halftime and his dunk early in overtime put the Cavaliers ahead for good.

Georges Niang had 16 points and Caris LeVert added 15 and eight assists to help Cleveland win despite missing starters Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Max Strus.

Naz Reid scored a career-high 34 points and Anthony Edwards added 19 on 7-of-27 shooting for the Wolves, who entered with a league-best 21-11 road record.

Minnesota’s loss coupled with Oklahoma City’s win over Miami moved the Thunder into sole possession of the Western Conference lead.

Thunder win to move atop West

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 of his 37 points in the second half and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied for a 107-100 victory over the Miami Heat to move into sole possession of the Western Conference lead.

Jalen Williams added 15 points and Josh Giddey had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Thunder overcame a 14-point deficit to move into first place in the West, one-half game ahead of Minnesota.

Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 25 points and Jimmy Butler had 20, 10 boards and eight assists for Miami, which has lost consecutive games for the first time since a seven-game skid in January.

Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown does not want to keep referring to De'Aaron Fox as "amazing", but he has little choice.

Fox tied his career-best points haul on Wednesday, with his haul of 44 helping the Kings to a 130-120 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The victory saw the Kings move two-and-a-half games ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference, while it also marked the seventh time this season that Fox has scored over 40 points.

And Brown is running out of ways to describe the Kings' talisman.

"He was amazing. I hate using that word because to me that’s who he is," Brown said.

"It's hard to score 44 points every single night, especially on the percentage that he did it at, but he is more than capable with his ability.

"It was a big game for him in a big-game environment."

Fox stressed how important it is for the Kings to pick up wins against the teams around them.

"Right now where the standings are, if we lose this game, we're half a game in front of them rather than two and a half like it is now," Fox said.

"So right now especially to play teams that are around us in the standings, those games mean a little more."

The frustration from Lakers coach Darvin Ham was evident.

Ham said: "They got a few easy opportunities in transition and they were able to get inside and make some tough shots.

"The sense of urgency we have to be able to maintain that.

"We talk about forcing our will on the game. We obviously initiated it, but we didn’t sustain it and we damn sure didn't finish it."

LeBron James led the Lakers with 31 points, though he exited midway through the fourth quarter due to ankle soreness.

"Some games it's better than others. I didn't feel it during the Oklahoma City Thunder game [on Monday] and I didn't feel it tonight until the fourth quarter," James said. "Some days are better than others."

LeBron James "hated" the circumstances in which he reached 40,000 career points as it came in a defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The NBA's record all-time scorer hit the latest milestone in his career in the second quarter of his side's 124-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

James scored a team-high 26 points, taking his overall tally to 40,017, but it was not enough as the Lakers' two-game winning run was snapped.

"For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said after the contest at Crypto.com Arena

"I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. 

"We played some good basketball tonight, but wasn't able to close it out. So, it's bittersweet but I enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

James is averaging 25.3 points per game this season, which is currently the 17th-best return of any player.

"I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 and even 20 years ago," James added.

The loss was the Lakers' eighth in a row against the Nuggets and continued a theme of James losing games in which he hits a milestone figure.

James also fell short in games that saw him hit 10,000 rebounds, 10,000 assists, 30,000 points and a record 38,388 points.

The 20-time NBA All-Star surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 40-year points record last season and is showing no signs of letting up.

Of all active players, the Phoenix Suns' Kevin Durant is closest to James with 28,342 points, while Stephen Curry has 23,254 points.

Asked if James' ever-growing tally will ever be surpassed, team-mate Anthony Davis said: "Possibly Steph, the way he shoots the ball, but I guess not?"

"It's just tough because he's not finished playing, so it's only going to increase. That gap is only going to get bigger and bigger.

"So as of right now, I don't see anybody breaking his record."

James does not quite see it that way, though, adding: "We have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball.

"If they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it. Records are always meant to be broken. Never say never."

The 33-29 Lakers are 10th in the Western Conference ahead of facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

LeBron James cannot discount another player going on to reach 40,000 NBA points, as he celebrated reaching the milestone despite a Los Angeles Lakers loss.

The Lakers lost 124-114 to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, though with a haul of 26 points, James reached 40,017 points.

When James reached nine points, he was presented with the game ball and received an ovation from the crowd at the Crypto.com arena.

Coincidentally, James surpassed the 40,000 mark on the 62nd anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks.

While teammate Anthony Davis believes no other player will come close to matching James' points haul, James himself warned records are there to be broken, even though no other active player has yet reached 30,000 career points.

"Obviously we have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball, and if they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it," James said.

"And then, records are always meant to be broken. You can never say never for any record. At one point we said that Big O's [Oscar Robertson's] triple-double record would never be broken and Russ [Westbrook] did it, and now looks like Joker [Nikola Jokic] and Luka [Doncic], they're doing it every night.

"I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 years ago. And some things I was doing 20 years ago, which is weird to say."

Davis did joke, though, that James' record-setting games usually come in defeats for the Lakers.

"I was just telling him in the locker room he might have to stop breaking records because we always lose any time he breaks a record," Davis said. "And he said the same thing."

Indeed, that streak is quite something. James was on the losing side when he reached his 30,000th and 35,000th career points. When he became the all-time leading NBA points scorer last year, the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said.

"I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. We played some good basketball tonight, but weren't able to close it out. So, bittersweet but enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

LeBron James scored his 40,000th point, but the Denver Nuggets closed strong and won their sixth straight game, 124-114 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

James finished with 26 points and nine assists while reaching his latest milestone on a layup with 10:39 left in the second quarter. He extended his lead as the league’s career scoring leader.

Nikola Jokić had 35 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Porter Jr. added 25 and 10 and Jamal Murray had 24 points, 11 assists and six boards to help Denver get within one-half game of Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead.

The Nuggets closed the game on a 16-6 run, with Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer with 3:49 left putting them ahead for good.

Jokic made a turnaround hook before Murray hit a jumper and Justin Holiday converted a running layup for a 117-110 advantage. After Anthony Davis’s basket got the Lakers within 117-112 with 1:49 left, Murray made a layup and Jokic added a layup of his own.

Booker injures ankle in Suns’ loss

Jalen Green poured in 34 points with six 3-pointers to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-109 win over the Phoenix Suns, who lost star guard Devin Booker to an ankle injury.

Booker left late in the game after he injured his right ankle when he stepped on teammate Royce O’Neale’s foot. Booker had 24 points in 38 minutes before departing.

Fred VanVleet scored 24 points and Alperen Sengun added 21 with 10 rebounds as the Rockets snapped a three-game skid and avenged Thursday’s loss at Phoenix.

Kevin Durant had 30 points for the Suns, who had a nine-game home winning streak snapped.

Butler leads Heat past Jazz

Jimmy Butler scored 18 of his season-high 37 points in the third quarter and the Miami Heat defeated the Utah Jazz 126-120 for their 10th win in 13 games.

Bam Adebayo added 23 points and Caleb Martin had 18 for the Heat, who beat the Jazz at home for the seventh straight time.

Butler hit all three of his 3-point attempts and had a steal, extending his streak of having at least one 3 and one steal to 13 consecutive games – the fourth-longest run in the NBA this season and tying Tim Hardaway for the second-longest such streak in Heat history.

Keyonte George scored 31 points and Lauri Markkanen added 25 as the Jazz lost their third straight and eighth in nine games.

LeBron James felt like he had a "superpower" after authoring the best fourth-quarter comeback of his career on Wednesday, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a stunning win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lakers found themselves 21 points down in the fourth quarter and heading for a third loss in four games, but the NBA's all-time leading scorer had other ideas.

James finished with 34 points, single-handedly outscoring the Clippers 19-16 in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers roared back at Crypto.com Arena to improve to 32-28 for the season.

The 39-year-old hit five of his season-best seven 3-pointers in the final frame, also finding Cam Reddish for the final dunk in a 116-112 success, with the Lakers having trailed 89-77.

Asked about his mindset during that decisive period, James said: "It's just a zone, and you can't really describe it.

"You wish you could stay in it forever, but obviously it checks out once the game ends. But during it, you don't feel anything. It's just like a superpower feeling. 

"If I'm in a lineup, if I'm on the floor, I've got to make plays. Sometimes I've got to make even more plays. 

"Tonight was one of those moments where I had to make even more plays in order for us to even get back into the game and then ultimately win the game."

James also added six rebounds and eight assists, and was supported by Anthony Davis (20 points), D'Angelo Russell (18) and Rui Hachimura (17).

Lakers coach Darvin Ham also compared James to a superhero in his post-game press conference, saying: "He had to take the cape, tuck it under his seat on the bench, I guess. 

"It was time for him to whip it out. He definitely did that, put the cape on and just got aggressive and got into good rhythm."

While crestfallen after the defeat, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue acknowledged there was little his team could do to defend James in such form, saying: "I don't think that's ever happened in my career, to lose a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.

"But LeBron got hot. We talked about it before the game, you can't turn the ball over against this team because it's deadly."

LeBron James scored 19 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers erased a 21-point deficit in the final 12 minutes as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied for a 116-112 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

James hit five of his season-high seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and outscored the Clippers by himself (19-16). He either scored or assisted on 11 of the Lakers’ 13 baskets in the final period.

The Clippers held a 98-77 lead in the opening minute of the final quarter, but James led a 29-8 run over the next 7:34. Anthony Davis’ free throws tied it at 106 with four minutes left, and Jamesd found Rui Hachimura for a go-ahead 3 moments later.

Kawhi Leonard missed a 12-footer with five seconds to go and the Clippers down two before James threw a long pass to Cam Reddish for a dunk that punctuated a stunning win for the Lakers.

Davis finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, D’Angelo Russell added 18 points and Hachimura had 17.

Leonard scored 26 points and James Harden added 23 with nine assists for the Clippers, who have lost consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 21 and 23.

 

Doncic has triple-double on birthday

Luka Dončić celebrated his 25th birthday with 30 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds for his 11th triple-double of the season in the Dallas Mavericks’ 136-125 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Doncic was 11 for 23 from the field and missed 7 of 8 from 3-point range in his 67th career triple-double.

He is the first player in NBA history to record a 30-point triple-double on his birthday.

Kyrie Irving scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and P.J. Washington Jr. added 23 points for Dallas, which avoided a third straight loss.

Scottie Barnes had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Immanuel Quickley scored a season-high 28 points as Toronto said goodbye to a season-best three-game winning streak.

Doncic scored 11 points in the third quarter and added six assists to help the Mavs take a 106-92 lead into the fourth.

 

Jokic extends triple-double streak in win

Nikola Jokić notched his fourth straight triple-double in three quarters and Jamal Murray scored 32 points as the Denver Nuggets won their fourth in a row, 117-96 over the Sacramento Kings.

Jokic had 14 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists for his 19th triple-double this season, two behind Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis for the league lead.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 16 points and Aaron Gordon added 15 for Denver, which avoided a four-game season sweep to the Kings.

Keegan Murray had 21 points and Chris Duarte contributed 18 off the bench as Sacramento had a three-game winning streak snapped.

LeBron James and Darvin Ham were left frustrated with the officiating after the Los Angeles Lakers went down to the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers lost 123-113 in Arizona on Sunday, with Los Angeles awarded just eight free throws in contrast to Phoenix's tally of 19.

It was a season-low for the Lakers, who averaged 24.7 free throws per game heading into the game.

Of those eight free throws, none came in the second half, and James was left exasperated.

"A lot of people, a lot of coaches, a lot of teams are like, 'That's all the Lakers do is get to the free throw line,'" James said.

"It's like this narrative out there that that's all we do is get to the free throw line. I mean, we have attackers. That's what we do. We have attackers. Yeah, we shoot the ball from the perimeter, but we're not shooting 40 to 50 3s a game. We're not that team. We don't have the luxury of being that team. So, working it into the paint, that's what we're really good at.

"To have eight free throw attempts is definitely not us. I know, definitely, I got hit a couple of times when I got to the paint tonight that wasn't called. But it is what it is."

Lakers coach Ham, though, was left reserved.

"I'm not one to use referees as an excuse," he said.

"But it's becoming increasingly tough because of the inconsistency. I'm seeing our guys get the same contact on them as we're supposedly committing. And the whistle is not being blown."

Anthony Davis did not record a single free throw attempt for the first time in a game this season.

He added: "We live on getting to the line. We attack the basket.

"Especially how much we struggle from the 3, we're kind of up and down, so we try to live in the paint and get to the line.

"I'm not sure if it was just the refs missing it or they weren't fouling. I felt I got fouled a couple of times. But that's part of our identity, our DNA, is getting to the line and guys catching rhythms like that and then playing from there."

While the Suns are sixth in the Western Conference after the win, the Lakers are in ninth, with a 31-28 record.

In other news on Sunday, the NBA banned five players – including Jimmy Butler – for their involvement in an on-court spat in Friday's meeting between the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Butler, Nikola Jovic and Naji Marshall were each suspended for one game without pay, while Jose Alvarado and Thomas Bryant were slapped with three-game bans.

Victor Wembanyama wants victories, not individual feats, after he joined Michael Jordan in the NBA record books.

Wembanyama became just the second NBA rookie, after Jamaal Tinsley in 2001, to post at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in a single game. He is just the second player to have five blocks and as many steals in successive games, after the great Jordan.

However, his efforts proved fruitless for the San Antonio Spurs, who lost 113-108 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

Wembanyama finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks. He is just the 15th player in the NBA to record a 5x5.

But for the overall number one draft pick, wins are the priority.

"To me, it's secondary," Wembanyama said. "Hopefully in the future, and think this is a good performance, but as of today, I can't be satisfied with a loss."

LeBron James returned from injury to score 30 points for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

"Of course it was challenging [going against] one of the best duos in the league," Wembanyama said of facing two of the NBA's star players.

"But still, I think it's a lot of teams we beat if we play this way.

"But I think it came down to maturity at the end because each and every one of us was making a mistake each of the times.

"Little mistakes, missing a layup, turning the ball over. We went down, we went back to down four, down seven multiple times and that's when we did mistakes. So yeah, it's maturity."

Even though the Spurs have lost 10 of their last 11 games, James believes the sky truly is the limit for Wembanyama.

"He doesn't have a ceiling," James said.

"He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I'm not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it's literally that simple.

"There are guys in our league that you have to account for any time you get around the rim or around the perimeter in our league history, and he sits right at the top of it, [if not] around the top, with all the greats.

"He's one of them to have like a stellar rookie season. Guys that have come in and [dominated]. But, it's, can you sustain it? We've had guys that have come in and [have] just been really damn [good]."

The Lakers returned to winning ways following their loss to the Golden State Warriors, but coach Darvin Ham was not entirely satisfied with the performance.

"You want your team to constantly look within and try to make plays and force the other team to put you in uncomfortable positions," Ham said.

"Not you put yourself in those uncomfortable positions, whether it's not sprinting back in transition or allowing teams to get two or three offensive rebounds. Or, you know, fouling because we're not in position because we're not doing our work early. And then going down the other end and not trusting the execution.

"We've got a bunch of weapons, but they're useless if we don't do the little things, sprinting hard when we get the ball in transition, not turning it over, maintaining spacing, making sure we get hits on screens to create an advantage and making the simple, easy play."

LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' road game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday as he continues to nurse an ankle problem.

James has been suffering from peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle, and the issue caused him to miss the Lakers' 138-122 road win over the Utah Jazz before the All-Star break.

The NBA's all-time leading scorer did feature in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he was limited to just 14 minutes on the court as the Western Conference All-Stars lost 211-186 to their Eastern Conference counterparts.

James said before Sunday's game that he would use the break to undergo treatment on his ankle, also suggesting his status for Thursday's trip to Chase Center was uncertain.

On Wednesday, the Lakers announced he had officially been downgraded to out, causing him to miss his eighth game of the season.

James had 36 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists as the Lakers beat the Warriors in a double overtime classic last month, and the 39-year-old is averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game this season.

Prior to the trade deadline earlier this month, the Warriors reportedly enquired about James' availability, only to be knocked back by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

James said last week that he wishes to finish his glittering career in Los Angeles, though he is yet to decide whether to take up his $51.4million player option for 2024-25.

Thursday's matchup could prove crucial to the playoff hopes of both teams, with the Lakers emerging from the mid-season hiatus at 30-26 and the Warriors having a 27-26 record. 

LeBron James has outlined his desire to finish his storied career with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite recent reports linking him with a trade.

While James' average of 24.8 points per game this season is down on last term's 28.9, the NBA's all-time leading scorer has continued to impress while playing through a niggling ankle injury in his 21st season in the league.

He has only missed seven of Los Angeles' 56 games thus far in 2023-24, helping the team win the inaugural NBA in-season tournament in December. 

James has a $51.4million player option for 2024-25 with the Lakers, but he recently said he was undecided on whether to take up that option.

That led to speculation that he could be available, with his current team fielding calls from the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.

However, the 39-year-old stayed put, and speaking before his record-extending 20th appearance in the NBA's All-Star Game on Sunday, he gave his clearest indication yet that he sees his future in Los Angeles. 

"I am a Laker and I'm happy. I have been very happy being a Laker for the last six years and hopefully it stays that way," James said. 

"I don't have the answer to how long it is or which uniform I'll be in, but hopefully it is with the Lakers. It's a great organisation with so many greats, but we'll see."

Warriors forward Draymond Green reportedly lobbied team owner Joe Lacob to enquire about a blockbuster trade for James, but he says he played no part in any talks with Golden State.

"I actually heard about it when everybody else heard about it," James told TNT Sports of their interest. 

"Sometimes there's conversations that happen behind closed doors that you don't even know about, I guess until it's real or not, then they'll bring it to you. It never even got to me."

Looking further ahead, James knows the curtain will soon come down on his glittering career, but he is yet to make any decisions regarding the nature of his NBA farewell.

Asked whether he would announce his retirement in advance in order to receive a proper send-off, as opposed to quitting in the offseason, James said: "I'm 50-50, to be honest.

"I was asked this question a couple of days ago; 'Will you take the farewell tour, or will you just Tim Duncan it?'

"There's times when I feel like I owe it to my fans that have been on this journey with me for two decades, to be able to give them that moment where it's every city and they give you flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool.

"But on the other side, I've never been that great with accepting praise. It's a weird feeling for me. I don't know how it's going to end, but it's coming. It's coming, for sure." 

LeBron James said the All-Star game is "something we need to figure out" as NBA commissioner Adam Silver hit out at the players.

Silver had promised a competitive All-Star game after a damp squib last year.

And although Sunday's game proved to be the highest-scoring All-Star encounter in NBA history, with the East beating the West 211-186, Silver was unimpressed with the level of competitiveness on show.

Rather flatly, Silver said: "To the Eastern Conference All-Stars, you scored the most points. Well ... congratulations."

James only played in the first half of his record 20th All-Star appearance, as he manages an ankle issue.

And while seeing Silver's side of the argument, James said it is a "deeper conversation".

"I think it's something we need to figure out," said James, who scored eight points for the West.

"Obviously from a player's perspective, it's fun to get up and down. But at the end of the day, our competitive nature don't like to have free-flowing scoring like that.

"But I think the good thing that came out of tonight was none of the players were injured, and everybody came out unscathed or how they were before the game started. So it's a deeper conversation."

James' Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said: "Obviously the fans and the league and everybody wants to be competitive, but then you also as players think about trying not to get hurt. Obviously injuries are a part of the game, and no one wants to get hurt in the All-Star Game.

"All these guys here are very valuable to their teams. So it's some mixed emotions about it.

"You try to go out there and compete a little bit and not just be a highlight show. But at the same time, do you guys really want to see somebody going down for a dunk and somebody going to contest it and, God forbid, something happens in the All-Star Game when it could have been avoided?"

However, Anthony Edwards, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, suggested he has no interest in playing too fiercely in an exhibition match.

"For me, it's an All-Star Game, so I will never look at it as being super competitive," he said.

"It's always fun. I don't know what they can do to make it more competitive. I don't know. I think everyone looks at it [like] it's a break, so I don't think everyone wants to come here and compete."

Adam Silver will not "anoint" any player to be the next LeBron James when he eventually retires.

Four-time MVP James is set to play in his 20th All-Star game on Sunday at the age of 39, averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists so far this season for the 30-26 Los Angeles Lakers.

Though James is still performing well, he is in the latter stages of his career and the talk over who could potentially fill his place as the league's most recognisable player has been growing.

NBA commissioner Silver, though, compared James' potential retirement to that of Michael Jordan, saying players must earn the mantle of James' replacement.

"I would never anoint another player to be the next LeBron James just in the same way when Michael [Jordan] retired," Silver told reporters.

"I remember at the time David Stern [former NBA commissioner] was saying whoever demonstrates on the court that they should be.

"These new players aren't anointed. They demonstrate to the world, they demonstrate to the league that they deserve to be viewed in that same rare position as players like Michael and Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron and others."

Silver pointed to the rise of international talent in the NBA as potentially being able to somewhat fill the boots of James, stating the league is in "fantastic hands".

"Just look at the All-Stars that we're going to be seeing competing [Sunday] night," Silver added.

"Look at the magnitude of the pool of international players coming into this league. Look at the amount of basketball that's being played on a global basis."

LeBron James will be rested against the Utah Jazz after leading the Los Angeles Lakers with 25 points in their 125-111 home win over the Detroit Pistons.

Wednesday's road game in Utah is the second game of a back-to-back and James has been playing with a sore ankle, so he will be granted the opportunity to sit out of the last game before the All-Star break.

LeBron had a game-high points total on 9-for-15 shooting against the Pistons, as all five Lakers starters topped 15 points.

D'Angelo Russell had 21 points and Anthony Davis added 20 with 14 rebounds and six blocks.

Los Angeles has now won five of its last six games and improved to 29-26, with the NBA-worst Pistons (8-45) relatively comfortably brushed aside on Tuesday.

The Lakers racked up a 24-point lead early in the contest and led 71-48 at halftime.

LeBron, who also had eight assists, was full of praise for Davis after the victory, backing him to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

"Offensively, we are sharing the ball and everybody has been in a good rhythm," he said, per ESPN.

"And then defensively, we've been on a string and if anything breaks down, the Defensive Player of the Year cleans it up for us. So, definitely, we are playing some good ball."

Spencer Dinwiddie had six points and seven assists in his Lakers debut, while Ausar Thompson led the Pistons with 19 points as James Wiseman scored 18 points and added nine rebounds.

LeBron still expects to be fit for Sunday's All-Star game in Indianapolis, as he prepares to make his record 20th appearance.

"I'm just humbled and very blessed, obviously," he added. "I don't take it for granted, being an All-Star."

Los Angeles remains ninth in the Western Conference, two spots above Utah (26-28), which has lost two straight games.

LeBron James says he loves the players in the current Los Angeles Lakers locker room as speculation about roster changes swirls ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.

The Lakers won 124-118 against the short-handed Charlotte Hornets on Monday, with their third straight victory marking their best run since winning the NBA Cup in Las Vegas.

There is still much debate over how different Los Angeles' team will look by the time it takes to the court at home to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

D'Angelo Russell is one of the players mentioned in trade talks and he led the team with 28 points and six assists in Charlotte.

Anthony Davis had his third career triple-double with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, while LeBron had 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting.

LeBron was asked after the game whether the current roster was good enough to win a championship or if he felt changes should be made.

"It's not a question for me," he said, per ESPN. "I love who we have in the locker room and that's all I worry about.

"We are going to go out and prepare ourselves every single night no matter what it is, no matter who's out there on this team. No matter what.

"This is who we have, so there's nothing else to talk about."

Russell is also completely blocking out the speculation after producing an impressive run of performances. The Lakers are 10-6 since he returned from injury in January.

"Show up to work," he said about how he was coping with the trade debates. "That's it. Just play. You can't control that. I don't care at all [about trade speculation].

"Obviously I've been here before, I played for the Lakers before, so I know what the requirements are to be successful here are. 

"So, if you're part of the future here you'll be successful. If you're not, you'll get traded. And I've been traded before here. So, my approach is just a little different.

"I really just genuinely, humbly don't care because I know I can't control it, one. And, two, I just won't allow my mind to go there. 

"I like to focus on this and you can see how I've been focusing on basketball and not comments and what's trending on social."

Miles Bridges produced a career-high 41 points and rookie Brandon Miller scored 33 points for the Hornets, but it was not enough to prevent them from suffering their eighth straight loss since trading Terry Rozier.

The Lakers are 27-25, ninth in the Western Conference, and would need to improve to at least sixth to avoid the play-in tournament.

After going 4-2 on their six-game road trip, Los Angeles now has three straight home games against Denver, New Orleans and Detroit.

"When we put our minds to it, we can beat any team in this league," added Davis.

"We lost two we felt like we should have won, and we won two that the people in Nevada thought we should lose. When we buckle down defensively and play the right way we are a tough team to beat."

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