NBA All-Star has the game of his life

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NBA All-Star has the game of his life

From Comcast SportsNet
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) -- Deron Williams really wanted to make his tee time Monday morning in Miami. Knowing coach Avery Johnson would be giving his team the day off if they won, Williams took matters into his own hands and scored a franchise-record 57 points to lead the New Jersey Nets to a 104-101 victory Sunday night over the Charlotte Bobcats. "I had an 11:39 tee time, so I had to make sure I'd make that," said Williams, an avid golfer. "So I wanted to contribute." The Nets needed just about every point they could get from Williams to fend off the pesky Bobcats, who led by as many as 16 in the first half. "The first half was pretty pitiful," Williams said. Williams had 17 points in the first half before erupting for 22 in the third quarter to help the Nets battle back from an eight-point halftime deficit and take the lead. He added 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal shot late in the game to give the Nets a four-point lead. Johnson called Williams' effort unbelievable. "He really was focused," Johnson said. "He was well-rested. He made a lot of shots yesterday in our mini-practice and it carried over into tonight's game. We were going back and forth on whether to have a shootaround this morning and we opted for rest. And he was pretty fresh." Williams' eyes grew a little wider when he realized early on that the Bobcats weren't double-teaming him off pick and rolls. It's something he hadn't seen all season. "I'm used to getting double-teamed on those," Williams said. "It's kind of refreshing not to be." The 57 points are the most in the NBA this season and breaks the Nets' previous team record of 52 shared by Mike Newlin and Ray Williams. It was the second-most points scored against the Bobcats, one shy of Kobe Bryant's 58 in 2006. Williams, who came in averaging 21.7 points, shot 16 of 29 from the field and hit all 21 of his free throws. He did miss one attempt at the line, but the Bobcats were called for a lane violation and Williams hit the second chance. Williams said he was a little surprised when a teammate told him he had 39 points at the end of the third quarter, three shy of his personal career best set April 6, 2010, against Oklahoma City. "You really don't pay attention to it," Williams said. "It's just one of those games where you start feeling good and let it go." Added teammate Sheldon Williams: "When someone is hitting like that you want to keep going to the well until it runs dry. It never did tonight." However, not all went right for the Nets on this night as starting center Brook Lopez rolled his right ankle and left the locker room on crutches. Lopez, who made his season debut Feb. 19 after missing the Nets' first 32 games while recovering from a broken right foot, had an X-ray but will be reevaluated on Monday, according to Johnson. "It's a tough situation for him, especially coming back from the foot situation," Johnson said. "We're going to get him checked out tomorrow. We'll know more when we find out." Afterward, Bobcats coach Paul Silas wasn't apologizing for his team's approach to defending Williams. "You can do one of two things: You can try to stop him and double him and leave other players wide open or guard everybody," Silas said. "I thought that's mainly what kept us in the game. Nobody else was doing anything (for them). It gave us a chance." Corey Maggette had 24 points and Gerald Henderson added 15 for the Bobcats, who've now lost five straight and 21 of 22. Williams did just about everything right, adding six rebounds and seven assists. He also converted a four-point play after getting fouled while knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing. With the Nets leading 96-94 with 1:04 remaining, Kris Humphries missed two free throws but Sheldon Williams got a key momentum-turning rebound and called timeout. Deron Williams hit a big jumper to give the Nets a four-point lead and Sheldon Williams followed by converting a three-point play off a pretty pass from Jordan Farmar. The Bobcats would cut the lead to two with 3.5 seconds left, but MarShon Brooks knocked down one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left. The Bobcats had a final chance to tie the game but Augustin's off-balance heave from 20 feet didn't hit the rim. "We didn't give up," Silas said. "That was a great thing. In the last 1.7 seconds, we didn't execute that play particularly well. But we did have a chance. That shows me that we are getting there. It's certainly not there yet. But we are striving to get there. At least we're not just giving up and letting teams just run over us. If we continue to do this, we'll be OK."

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Lauri Markkanenn will be a Chicago Bull once the trade between the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves is finalized sometime Friday when the trade call is sent to the NBA, as he’s the first domino to fall in what could be an interesting offseason to come.

A stretch-shooting big man from Arizona who shot 42 percent from 3 last season, Markkanenn is a native of Finland who’s more of an offensive threat rather than a defender and rebounder at seven-feet tall. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for Arizona and has been regarded by many scouts as the best shooter in the draft.

With the Bulls bringing up the rear in that category, one assumes he’ll add a level of versatility if he can see the floor—which brings the Bulls to some offseason decisions they’ll have to make once free agency begins and even before. Markkanenn conceivably brings Nikola Mirotic’s future into question, as Mirotic is a restricted free agent this summer and Mirotic was on the trade block by the Bulls for the better part of last season as he had an underwhelming year trying to fill the role of a stretch-shooting big man.

But officials with the Bulls say Mirotic is still a priority for the Bulls and because he’s restricted, they control the process of his free agency. Mirotic shot 41.3 percent and averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds, as the Bulls still consider him an asset for the present and future as they’ll play a new style of basketball next season.

One would think Mirotic will command a salary at least around $10 million as the NBA’s salary cap will balloon to $99 million with a luxury tax line of around $119 million.

Rajon Rondo’s future has yet to be decided, as the Bulls acquired a point guard in Kris Dunn they’ve long eyed and presumably one they feel will be their future at the position.

Bulls officials stated they’ll wait until next week before making a decision on Rondo, but one wonders if they’ll go full youth movement, especially with wanting Dunn to succeed after a rocky rookie year in Minnesota and already having Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne under contract for next season.

Rondo has a $3 million buyout the Bulls can exercise that will make Rondo a free agent or they’ll pay Rondo $13.3 million next season.

[MORE: After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Lauri Markkanen] 

And then there’s Dwyane Wade, who opted in to his deal of $23.8 million for next season. Wade came to Chicago for a number of reasons, notably the salary and chance to play with Butler. With Butler gone and the Bulls changing their direction of the franchise, one wonders how Wade sees himself next season and how the Bulls see Wade with their young players.

Unless Wade wants out, the Bulls are headed into the free agency period thinking he’ll be back next season, and considering the Bulls have to spend up to 90 percent of their salary cap, his money helps them keep their books afloat, even as Butler’s affordable max salary exits and the controlled rookie-scale salaries of LaVine, Dunn and Merkkanenn enter Chicago for a future unknown

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.