LeBron James feels the Los Angeles Lakers are finding their rhythm without Anthony Davis after a comfortable 117-91 win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Davis is averaging 22.5 points, three assists and 8.4 rebounds this season, as well as 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and two turnovers per game.

However, he has been absent since sustaining a calf injury on February 14 and the Lakers had lost five of six without Davis prior to winning their past two.

Against the Warriors, six Lakers players reached double figures, with James putting up 19 and able to play a season-low 24 minutes such was their dominance.

"When you lose a mega piece like AD, it's going to take some time offensively and defensively how we want to play, what's going to be our rhythm," James said after his 1,300th regular-season game. 

"The last couple of games we've done a good job of trying to say, 'This is where we're going to have the ball, this is where we'll be effective, this is where we need to run'. Guys are just staying ready."

This season the Lakers are trying to repeat the championship success they enjoyed in the disrupted 2019-20 campaign.

Opposition coach Steve Kerr knows a thing or two about repeats, having won three straight with the Chicago Bulls as a player – he individually won four in a row having then joined the San Antonio Spurs – while the Warriors won three in four seasons, including going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

Kerr suggested the unusual circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant this season might be the toughest ever to try to complete a repeat – a notion James felt might have some merit.

"It's been extremely tough, you literally have to self-motivate yourself every single day," he added.

"We're playing every other day, if not back-to-backs, there's not much down time so you have to motivate yourself. 

"Us and Sac [the Sacramento Kings] and the Clips [the Los Angeles Clippers] and Golden State, we don't have the luxury of having fans right now. 

"I've been watching a lot of games of late, and there's been 1,500, 2,000 fans, whatever the case may be, and it gives you an extra boost. 

"I'm just waiting, hopefully sooner rather than later we can have fans here in California, especially here at Staples. 

"It's very challenging, got to have the self-discipline, self-motivation and have trust in your team-mates to know you'll get the energy."

The Lakers are second in the West following their win and now have a 24-11 record for the season.

Stephen Curry believes opponents play harder against the Golden State Warriors due to their past success, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers getting the better of them on Sunday.

Prior to a 2019-20 campaign that was wrecked by injuries, the Warriors had reached the NBA Finals in five consecutive seasons.

On four of those occasions they met James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and won three titles. Golden State swept the Cavs in 2017-18 shortly before James left for the Lakers.

James and LA made the most of Golden State's tough year last time out as they claimed the championship - the four-time MVP's fourth ring - but Curry believes there is still tension when the Warriors meet their old foe.

A threat again as Curry averages 29.5 points per game - fourth-most in the league - Golden State fell to 19-16 and eighth in the West with a 117-91 defeat to the Lakers.

Curry scored only 16 points, by far his lowest return in the whole of February, while LA were already 20 points clear after a first quarter in which the Warriors shot 8-of-22 from the field and 2-of-11 from three as their opponents went to the free-throw line 16 times.

The superstar guard suggested the Lakers were motivated to beat Golden State, but he also acknowledged his team had to show more.

Curry said: "Draymond [Green] said it a little bit at halftime - we have to remember, even when we're playing well, when we've won three in a row, teams still want to beat us and beat us bad.

"They still have a lot of memories from the last five, six years.

"A lot of that is that you have to - against the really good teams, with the discipline that separates a good team from a great team - show up.

"We've done a great job of not fouling teams, and then you get the best defense in the league set with possessions and easy points. They thrived off that and they brought a bit more energy in the first quarter.

"Those little things that we can control - we can't control makes and misses every night - you can control being defensively smart, not fouling, you can control your energy and your effort and your competitiveness.

"We've done a really good job of that and then tonight we didn't have any of it, and it shows in the score."

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 in NBA action on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo posted 36 points – 17 in the final quarter – 14 rebounds and five assists for the Bucks, who used a game-closing 9-0 run to extend their winning streak to five games.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with 35-plus points in four consecutive games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973.

Meanwhile, LeBron James appeared in his 1,300th regular-season game as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers eased past the Golden State Warriors 117-91.

James scored 19 points in his milestone game – the four-time NBA champion becoming the 23rd player in league history to appear in that many regular-season contests.

 

Beal stars again

Bradley Beal put on a show with 46 points for the Washington Wizards, who still narrowly lost 111-110 to the Boston Celtics. In his last three games in Boston, Beal has tallied 44, 41 and 46 points. According to Stats Perform, he is the first player to score 40-plus points in three successive road games against the Celtics since Abdul-Jabbar between 1970 and 1971.

The Memphis Grizzlies crushed the Houston Rockets 133-84. On February 1, the Grizzlies won at the San Antonio Spurs by 31 points while they humbled the Rockets by 49 on Sunday. They are the second team in NBA history to have two 30-plus point road wins in the same state in the same month, according to Stats Perform. The other team was the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards) in 1968.

Devin Booker recorded 43 points, while Deandre Ayton (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Chris Paul (11 points and 15 assists) contributed double-doubles in the Phoenix Suns' 118-99 success away to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

John Collins' 34-point, 10-rebound double-double was not enough for the Atlanta Hawks, who went down 109-99 to the Miami Heat.

P.J. Washington's 42 points helped the Charlotte Hornets edge the Sacramento Kings 127-126. Sacramento led by eight points with just over a minute remaining before Charlotte rallied at the death.

 

Rockets crash as Clippers capitulate

The Rockets have suffered 11 consecutive defeats after being embarrassed by the Grizzlies. Houston are now riding their longest losing streak since a 15-game skid in 2001.

All-Star pair Kawhi Leonard (25 points and nine rebounds) and Paul George went cold in the final quarter for the Clippers. Leonard and George combined to shoot three-for-15 and scored just six points in the fourth period against the Bucks. The Clippers were scoreless over the final four minutes of the game.

 

Giannis with the slam!

It was a masterclass in Milwaukee, where Antetokounmpo flexed his muscles with a monster dunk during the closing stages.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 117-91 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 133-84 Houston Rockets
Miami Heat 109-99 Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks 109-90 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 111-110 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers
Charlotte Hornets 127-126 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 118-99 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls-Toronto Raptors (postponed)

 

Nets at Spurs

After their eight-game winning streak came to an end in the absence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Saturday, the high-flying Brooklyn Nets (22-13) will look to bounce back against the Spurs (17-12) on Monday.

For four straight years, meetings between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors decided the NBA title.

James' Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Warriors in the Finals in consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2018, winning only once as Golden State earned three championships.

James left Cleveland after the Warriors' most recent triumph, though, and his move to the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers means he can no longer face his old rivals in the title decider.

But games between James and Golden State remain blockbuster affairs and they will go at it again on Sunday.

The Lakers swept a threadbare Warriors team in the 2019-20 regular season before James claimed his fourth ring, but Stephen Curry and Golden Stave have already gained revenge once already this year.

And momentum is with the travelling outfit heading into this clash.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Dennis Schroder - Los Angeles Lakers

As the 23-11 Lakers lost four straight games prior to beating the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the continued absence of Anthony Davies appeared the most obvious factor in their poor form.

But that wretched run coincided with Schroder's lay-off due to the league's health and safety protocols. He returned against Portland and scored 22 points, improving his personal record to 23-7 on the year.

A Sixth Man of the Year contender last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Schroder has started all 30 of his appearances for the Lakers and provided James with some much-needed help on the offensive end.

Schroder, who weighed in with a season-high 25 points in January's defeat to the Warriors, leading LA in scoring, has averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds this term.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Two-time MVP Curry is putting together another astonishing season, back fit and firing after playing just five games in 2019-20.

He has averaged 29.9 points per game this season, a mark that sits second in the NBA – behind Bradley Beal's 32.8 on a poor Washington Wizards team – and second in Curry's own career, narrowly trailing the 2015-16 campaign (30.1).

A remarkable level of consistency has made Golden State a force again in the west at 19-15 and yet Curry is actually improving as the season goes on.

He has averaged 33.4 points this month, with his lowest return 24 at Indiana, still enough to match the Pacers' top-scoring Malcolm Brogdon.

KEY BATTLE - LEBRON AND DRAYMOND TO RENEW ACQUAINTANCES?

The 2019-20 season was a forgettable one for the injury-hit Warriors, but Draymond Green is unlikely to have let the third and final game against the Lakers slip from his memory.

Green was ejected for two technical fouls in quick succession, departing after less than 10 minutes of action – his fewest minutes in any of the 12 NBA games he has been ejected from.

James, a direct opponent in many of those Finals battles, was not involved due to injury but was spotted laughing at his furious rival's misfortune.

Without the distraction of Davis, Green should have the opportunity to go up against James and perhaps serve a reminder of his talents as one of the league's outstanding defensive players of the past decade.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

Both teams have had runs as the league's dominant team, but the Lakers boast the superior head-to-head regular-season record, with 255 wins to Golden State's 169.

Since James moved to Los Angeles, they have met eight times, winning four apiece, although the Lakers' main man has only appeared in four of those games.

He has a 3-1 record against the Warriors as a Laker, with the sole defeat the 115-113 reverse earlier this season.

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

LeBron James helped the Los Angeles Lakers end their losing streak, while Jimmy Butler inspired the Miami Heat.

James' double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds saw the Lakers snap their four-game losing run with a 102-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

Dennis Schroder contributed 22 points, while Montrezl Harrell (17 points) and Alex Caruso (10) finished with double-digits off the bench.

Butler was in fine form as the Heat overcame the Utah Jazz, who have the best record in the NBA, 124-116.

He went 12-of-22 from the field for his 33 points, while also contributing 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Miami (16-17) had five players in double-figures for points, including Goran Dragic (26).

Donovan Mitchell finished with 30 points for Utah (26-7).

 

Green guides Warriors, Lowry shines

Draymond Green posted a triple-double of 11 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds in the Golden State Warriors' 130-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Green was the first Warriors player to reach 19 assists since Baron Davis in 2008.

For the Hornets, Malik Monk had 25 points in 25 minutes, including five three-pointers. He has at least 20 points and four three-pointers off the bench in three consecutive games. The only other Charlotte reserve to do that in three-plus straight is Dell Curry (March 1995), as per Stats Perform.

Kyle Lowry did likewise for the Toronto Raptors, his 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists seeing them past the Houston Rockets 122-111.

Kemba Walker poured in 32 points as the Boston Celtics overcame the Indiana Pacers 118-112.

The Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Memphis Grizzlies 119-99, with Kawhi Leonard (30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) starring.

 

Rockets crash to another loss

The Rockets slumped to their 10th consecutive defeat with the loss to the Raptors. Victor Oladipo (27 points) and John Wall (21) combined for 48 points, but they went 18-of-42 from the field in total.

 

Brilliant Butler

Butler was in incredible form to get Miami past Utah.

Friday's results

Boston Celtics 118-112 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 122-111 Houston Rockets
Sacramento Kings 110-107 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 124-116 Utah Jazz
Phoenix Suns 106-97 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 119-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 118-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 130-121 Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers 102-93 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Mavericks at Nets

The Brooklyn Nets (22-12) have won eight straight and will take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks (15-16) on Saturday.

There is an age-old argument about which footballer is the greatest of all time: Pele or Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or the alternative option named by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Although some may expect the charismatic Swedish star to bestow such an honour upon himself, the 39-year-old believes the all-time best is prolific Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

Ronaldo starred for PSV, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid during a distinguished 14-year European club career, claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1997 and 2002, and earning countless other prizes and awards.

'Il Fenomeno' helped his nation lift the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2002, and was once a runner-up in 1998, while scoring 62 goals in 98 international caps for the Selecao.

"I always tell everyone who plays with me: Ronaldo is football. That Ronaldo is football," said Ibrahimovic.

"The way he moved, the way he did those stepovers, those mazy runs. In my view, he is the best player in history, no doubt about it."

While the Milan striker was in his homeland speaking to UEFA and Discovery+ about his career, he also voiced strong opinions about NBA superstar LeBron James.

While Ibrahimovic recognises the 17-time All-Star's talent, he does not agree that athletes should use their platform for political reasons, like campaigning for justice and social change.

"What he does is phenomenal, but I don't like it when people with a certain status talk about politics," he said.

"Do what you are good at. I play football because I am the best at it. If I was a politician, I’d have gone into politics.

"This is the first mistake that famous people make when they feel like they've arrived.

"I think it's better to steer clear of these issues and do what you're good at."

LeBron James called on the depleted Los Angeles Lakers to remain confident despite suffering a fourth straight loss, this time against an in-form Utah Jazz team who set an NBA record. 

The Jazz hit 22 three-pointers as they shot 46 per cent from deep in a resounding 114-89 triumph on Wednesday, in the process improving to 26-5 for the season.

While Utah lead the way in the Western Conference, the Lakers are suffering a dip that has coincided with the absences of key duo Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder through injury.

James acknowledged it is a "tough stretch" for the reigning champions, though even with the poor recent run they still boast a 22-11 record.

"It's challenging for all of us, especially some of our young guys and some of our guys who haven't been in the position before where they need to do a little bit more than what they are asked to in a normal situation," James said. 

"Everyone is speaking about AD [Davis], and that's obviously a big hit, but we also haven't had Dennis down this stretch too. He's a big piece of our puzzle as well.  

"But it's always about staying confident, continuing to give my team-mates the courage and confidence out there on the floor, and make plays. 

"It's a tough stretch for us, but this won't define who we will be for the rest of the season."

As for the Jazz, they are the first team in NBA history to make 50 threes over a two-game span, having finished with a franchise-record 28 in a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

They have now won 14 straight home games by double digits, the second-longest streak posted in the NBA, behind only the Phoenix Suns (15) in the 1989-90 season.

"They came back with the same roster, but what I noticed, more than anything, is that those guys are fully healthy," James told the media.

"Mike Conley is back to himself; you can see that with the way he's moving on the floor and it's trickled down to everyone else. They are playing some really good ball and are a really good team."

Rudy Gobert did not attempt a three but still contributed 18 points, as well as nine rebounds. Conley, meanwhile, landed four of his six attempts from beyond the arc, as well as eight rebounds and eight assists.

"It's all about getting better," Gobert said. "We did a great job sharing the ball offensively. When we defend and we share the ball, it's hard to beat us."

LeBron James was left helpless as the Utah Jazz destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-89, with the defending champions slipping to a fourth straight loss.

James was the game's top scorer with 19 points while six Jazz players hit double-figures, with Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson dropping 18, and the NBA leaders raced away with this contest between two championship contenders.

Utah stormed to a 16-point half-time lead before restricting the Lakers to a season-low 17-point third quarter, and the hosts once again set the bar high from downtown, shooting 22 threes, including a franchise-high 14 in the first half.

The lifeless Lakers offered little resistance while slipping to their biggest loss of the season as the Western Conference leaders cruised to a 22nd win in 24 games.

The Jazz's league-leading 15-2 home record improves them to 26-6 overall.

With Anthony Davis joined by Dennis Schroder on the sidelines, Montrezl Harrell (16 points) and Markieff Morris (12 points) were the only other Lakers players to hit double-figures as their record fell to 22-11.

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

Danilo Gallinari set an Atlanta Hawks franchise record of 10 three-pointers in the 127-112 win against the Boston Celtics.

The Italian veteran had the best shooting day of his career, burying 13 of his 16 attempts from the field, while putting up a personal-best 38 points. 

Siakam ineffective for Raps

Pascal Siakam was only able to put up five points from his 24 minutes on court in the Toronto Raptors' 116-108 defeat by the Miami Heat.

The Raps center landed one of six field-goal attempts, sinking one of his three from distance and adding a pair of free throws, before being benched in the fourth quarter.

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

Luguentz Dort's three-point buzzer-beater earned the Oklahoma City Thunder a dramatic 102-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs, after a career-high 42 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Canadian becomes only the third player in franchise history to sink a game-winning three since the move to Oklahoma, joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Wednesday's results

Atlanta Hawks 127-112 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 111-107 Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 128-118 Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 116-108 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 133-126 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 124-121 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 114-89 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) to third in the east and they host the Zion Williamson-inspired New Orleans Pelicans (14-17) on Thursday.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will step in to replace injured Los Angeles Laker, Anthony Davis, in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Davis is suffering from Achilles tendinosis and a strained right calf, leading to commissioner Adam Silver to choose Booker as an alternate, one day after he was overlooked by league head coaches.

Booker joins Suns team-mate Chris Paul as a 2021 All-Star, earning his second selection after making his debut last season.

The duo have led Phoenix to the fourth-best record in the competition, 20-10, setting their team's best record through 30 games in the past 13 years.

The All-Star captains, Lakers superstar LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets ace Kevin Durant, will draft their rosters on March 4 for the game at State Farm Arena, Atlanta, on March 7.

Seventeen-time All-Star James had tweeted: "Devin Booker is the most disrespected player in our league!!! Simple as that," after Booker was snubbed from the All-Star reserves list.

Booker is averaging 24.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds during the 2020-21 season and has dropped a career-high 50.1 per cent of his field-goal attempts.

James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

Two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol has confirmed he is heading back to Barcelona, having earlier denied reports of a return to his former team.

Gasol started his career with Barca in the 1998-99 season before entering the NBA draft three years later, selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks.

A storied stay in the United States followed, notably taking in a six-year stretch with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Gasol has not played in the NBA since March 2019 due to a foot injury and was waived by the Trail Blazers later that year without playing a single game in Portland.

The center, now 40, has continued to discuss a potential return to action, with the suggestion of a move back to the Lakers mooted when Marc Gasol, his brother, signed for the team this season.

However, the idea of turning out for the Blaugrana once again had also appealed to Barcelona-born Gasol.

Responding to the reported move last week, Gasol wrote on Twitter: "I remain focused on my recovery and I am not ready to get back to competing just yet."

But he added he would announce any future news on his social media account, and Gasol had an update on Tuesday.

"I'm very happy to announce that I'm coming home and that I'll soon join the ranks of Barca's basketball team," Gasol said.

"I want to put my skills and experience at the disposal of the club at a key point in the season, while at the same time making progress in my physical condition and getting into the rhythm of competition.

"I'm happy to return to the club where I began, and I'm excited about this new opportunity: I hope to contribute to the first team very soon. I want to thank Barca and its technical staff for making it possible to join them."

Barcelona announced he has joined until June 30, stating on their website: "FC Barcelona is delighted that Gasol has decided to sign and return to the place that has always been his home. The club is pleased and honoured that Pau will be wearing the blaugrana colours once again."

The upcoming Olympic Games would appear to be a motivating factor in a move that seemingly ends the six-time All-Star's NBA career.

Gasol, the Rookie of the Year winner in his debut season with the Memphis Grizzlies, played 1,226 regular season games in the NBA, averaging 17.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.5 steals.

His best scoring season brought 20.8 points per game in 2006-07, his final full campaign with the Grizzlies, although he was an increased threat on the boards later in his career, with 11.8 rebounds per game with the Chicago Bulls in 2014-15.

Between starring for Memphis and Chicago, Gasol joined Kobe Bryant on two title-winning teams in LA, although he first lost in the Finals shortly after joining the Lakers in 2008.

Gasol started all 46 playoff games across their successes in 2008-09 and 2009-10, having been named to the All-NBA Third Team in the regular season on each occasion.

The Lakers star then made the Second Team with 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game the following year.

Russell Westbrook believes the Washington Wizards sticking together prevented the team from coming apart after an awful start to the NBA season. 

The Wizards continued their revival as they earned a 127-124 overtime win against defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. 

They trailed by 17 points in the second half but rallied impressively, with Westbrook racking up 32 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. 

The Wizards have now won five straight games, having previously not even put together a run of four consecutive victories since February 2018. 

Wins against the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Lakers have turned the season around. 

The Wizards started 6-17 in Westbrook's first year since his trade from the Rockets, but they are now surging ahead of another huge test at the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. 

"It has been tough, but we have been sticking together," Westbrook said, per ESPN, amid the team's best run in three years. 

"That's the main thing. If you get caught up with everything else going on, teams and players tend to come apart. 

"But we have been sticking together and communicating on how to become a better team, and it's been paying off for us."

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal also shone with 33 points, including six on three straight possessions during a pivotal spell in overtime. 

"It feels different, in a great way," he said. "It feels great, but at the same time, we still haven't done a damn thing. 

"We realise that, and we keep telling each other that. 

"We've still got bad habits we need to break, but we don't discount what we did." 

LeBron James had 31 points for the Lakers, who have now lost four of their last five, with Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder out injured. 

"It takes a whole team to collectively get wins, and right now we have two of our main rotation guys out," Kyle Kuzma said after registering 14 points in the loss. 

"Obviously there are no excuses. You don't want to lose to an under-.500 team like that, but this is the NBA and anybody can win. We just have to figure it out." 

LeBron James insisted he does not believe in rest after the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a frustrating loss to the Washington Wizards.

Defending NBA champions the Lakers have lost three games in a row and four of their last five after going down 127-124 in overtime on Monday.

James missed a free-throw with 10 seconds left in regulation time and did not connect with his last four three-point attempts in the fourth quarter and OT as the Lakers surrendered a 17-point lead.

The 36-year-old played for over 43 minutes. He has not missed a game this season and has clocked up over 200 minutes more than anyone on the Lakers roster, with star team-mate Anthony Davis out injured.

James still had 31 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in a productive outing, but acknowledged he had not been at his best.

The Lakers (22-10) have gone to OT four times in the last 17 days, losing this one as Bradley Beal (33) and Russell Westbrook (32) combined for 65 points.

"This whole narrative of 'LeBron needs more rest' or I should take more rest or I should take time here, it's become a lot bigger than what it actually is," James told reporters after the game, per ESPN. 

"I've never talked about it, I don't talk about it, I don't believe in it. 

"We all need more rest, s***. This is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest. But I'm here to work, I'm here to punch my clock in and be available to my team-mates.

"And if I'm hurt or if I'm not feeling well then we can look at it then, but I have nothing but honest people around me [advising me].

"I'm also honest with myself as well, and me having a love for the game and me being able to be available to my team-mates is more important than anything.

"Obviously I take full responsibility [for] missing that free throw. I got to make the free throw up there, it's an easy point for us. 

"We didn't lose the game there, but I take that responsibility for sure, and I got to be better."

James added about his workload: "I'm not pushing myself. I'm doing my job and I'm trying to do it at a high level, but that's been a narrative around the league.

"I have never asked for time off or time throughout the season. And it's growing to a point where it's not even coming from me anymore. I've been hearing it for five, six, seven years now and I'm still going strong. 

"So, I don't need a handout, I'm not looking for a handout, my job is to go out when I'm available, when I'm healthy to go out and play and that's what it's all about."

"It's something I've done before," James added about the packed schedule and an upcoming All-Star game. "I can continue to do it, but I would much rather us be whole."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel called James "a workhorse" and said he would make decisions about the veteran on a game-by-game basis.

A game at Western Conference leaders the Utah Jazz is next on Wednesday.

Western Conference leaders, the Utah Jazz, bounced back from their first loss in 10 games by draining a franchise-record 28 threes while crushing the Charlotte Hornets 132-110.

Donovan Mitchell top scored with 23 points, while three players – Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang – came off the bench to post 20 points or more to send the Jazz to 25-6.

Ingles and Niang each shot seven from downtown, while Clarkson added five. 

Utah became the fastest team in NBA history to record 500 three-pointers in a season, setting the record at 31 games.

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