Team LeBron rallies to beat Team Giannis, 178-164

By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — LeBron James was trading lob passes with Dwyane Wade again, one last time. Catching lobs from former teammate Kyrie Irving once again, too. And after making a stepback 3-pointer late, he stared down Joel Embiid to send a message without saying a word.
Oh, this mattered to James — and Team LeBron as well.
Team LeBron, down by 20 in the second half, finally got firing and went on to beat Team Giannis 178-164 in the All-Star Game on Sunday night. MVP Kevin Durant scored 31 points for Team LeBron, the one that James drafted and led to victory in the captain’s-choice format for a second consecutive season.
“You put me on the floor, I love to compete,” James said in the postgame interview room. “I’m a competitor, no matter what it is. I was competing to see if I could get to this table first.”
He wasn’t kidding. He then turned to NBA spokesman Mark Broussard, asked if he was the first player to get into the room and grinned when told he was.
“See what I’m talking about?” James said.
Klay Thompson scored 20 points, and James and Kawhi Leonard each had 19 for the winners.
“It’s all sweet to me,” Durant said after getting his second All-Star MVP award, to go with the one he claimed in 2012. “It’s hard to rank because everything’s special. But it’s cool to be out there with some of the best players to ever play the game. And to win MVP in front of my family and friends is pretty sweet.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo — the first-time captain — led everybody with 38 points on 17 for 23 shooting for the club he drafted. Paul George and Khris Middleton each scored 20 points for Team Giannis, which got 17 apiece from Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
“Just being the leader of a team, it wasn’t as tough as I thought,” Antetokounmpo said. “My teammates, the guys in the locker room, encouraged me to step up and take it serious and play hard.”
The highlights, as would be expected, were absurdly good, time and again.
Curry slammed the ball off the floor on a first-half fast break and watched it ricochet toward the rim with an apex that flirted with the top of the backboard. Too high for most humans — but Antetokounmpo isn’t most humans. The freakishly long Greek star slammed Curry’s unconventional alley-oop pass home, with both benches reacting in disbelief.
Curry then slammed an alley-oop on the last play of the game, to himself, for a dunk that closed the scoring in his hometown.
“I thought we put on a great show tonight,” said Kemba Walker, Charlotte’s lone player in the game.
It was not a defensive showcase, as always.
Team Giannis set an All-Star record with 23 field goals in the first quarter, topping the mark of 22 set on four other occasions — by both the West and the East in the first quarter of the 2017 game, and by the West in both the second and third quarters of the 2016 game.
The 53 points tied a one-quarter All-Star record as well, matching the total by the West in the third quarter of the 2016 games and by the East in the first quarter of the 2017 game. But when it was time to get competitive, things tightened up considerably, at least by All-Star standards.
But when Team LeBron used a flurry of 3s to get back into it in the third quarter, everyone on the bench was standing — sometimes running from the bench and onto the court during play, the celebrations a bit more exuberant than what’s usually allowed.
“We got the win,” said Houston’s James Harden, who scored 12 points for Team LeBron. “That’s all that matters.”
And the All-Star farewells for Miami’s Wade and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki— the adds to the game by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, in honor of their career bodies of work — were festive, as everyone wanted.
Nowitzki entered the game late in the first quarter and made his first three shots — all of them 3-pointers — before heading back to the bench. Wade checked in not long after Nowitzki took the floor, then started the second half and achieved his primary missions for his last All-Star Game as a player.
He got an alley-oop lob from James.
And he threw an alley-oop lob to James.
Wade dunked, James dunked, and the close friends who entered the NBA together in 2003 and won championships with Miami in 2012 and 2013 got a couple more moments to savor in their final night as on-court teammates.
Wade finished with seven points in 10 minutes, and Nowitzki never returned after his nine-point, four-minute opening stint. When the third quarter ended, every player gathered behind them as Wade and Nowitzki were honored with commemorative jerseys at midcourt.
“Thank you to the commissioner and the NBA for allowing us to both be on this stage again,” Nowitzki said.
“Exactly what Dirk said,” Wade said as he took the microphone. “We’re very thankful for this opportunity. … The game is in great hands. It’s easy to walk away right now.”
TIP-INS
Team Giannis: Antetokounmpo was awarded a first-quarter free throw — but instead of shooting it, he tossed a pass to himself off the backboard. It isn’t legal, and didn’t work, but he didn’t mind. … Embiid had 12 rebounds and Antetokounmpo added 11. … Team Giannis gave up 96 points in the second half after leading 95-82 at the half.
Team LeBron: James spent part of halftime on the court listening to J. Cole’s performance, then grabbed a hug from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. … New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, who was dealing with a muscle strain in his shoulder, played five minutes and made both of his shot attempts.
SPLAT BROTHERS
Ordinarily “Splash Brothers” in Golden State, Curry went splat — courtesy of Thompson.
Early in the fourth quarter, Curry shot a 3-pointer from the right wing while getting fouled by someone who’s usually his teammate. Thompson gave a dismissive wave, as if to ask “Why’d I do that?” when Curry’s 3 swished. And Curry made the free throw to seal the four-point play.
“I felt like the opposition for once. … It sucked to be on the receiving end,” Thompson said. “But it’s all fun and games in the All-Star Game and that was a crazy shot.”
DUAL COACHSPEAK
Team Giannis coach Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks and Team LeBron coach Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets did their postgame news conference together. That doesn’t happen in normal games, and they were asked if they liked speaking alongside one another.
“Probably not a good idea,” Budenholzer said.
OLADIPO SPEAKS
Victor Oladipo’s season is over with a leg injury that kept him from playing in the All-Star Game as well. The Indiana Pacers star, however, was watching. “Wish I could be there playing with you guys but I know this will be a good game to watch!” Oladipo tweeted. “I was on Team LeBron last year but this year it’s all about #TeamGiannis! Lets Go Fellas!!!” Oladipo was replaced on the Team Giannis roster by Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell.
NO-FIGHT NIGHT
There were no fights, though that didn’t stop the league from bringing in renowned boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer to deliver his famed “Let’s get ready to rumble” proclamation just before tip-off.
UP NEXT
The next All-Star Game is Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago.
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Denny Hamlin cruises to 2nd Daytona 500 victory in 4 years

By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Denny Hamlin came to the Daytona 500 determined to honor his late car owner with a victory.
He delivered with a storybook tribute for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hamlin won NASCAR’s biggest race for the second time in four years Sunday, leading JGR in a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium in overtime. The race and the season have been dedicated to J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ eldest son who died last month after battling a degenerative neurological disease.
J.D. Gibbs helped his father start the race team, ran it while Joe Gibbs was coaching the Washington Redskins, was a tire changer on the team’s first Daytona 500 victory and the one who discovered Hamlin during a test session at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Hamlin was hired to drive the No. 11 — the number J.D. Gibbs used when he played football — and J.D. Gibbs’ name is on the Toyota.
When Hamlin stopped his car along the frontstretch to collect the checkered flag, he immediately credited J.D. Gibbs.
“The whole family, they did so much for me over the course of my career, and this one is for J.D,” Hamlin said. “We are desperately going to miss him the rest of our lives. His legacy still lives on through Joe Gibbs Racing and proud to do this for them.”
Hamlin was met in victory lane by the entire Gibbs family, including J.D.’s widow and four sons.
“He meant a lot to me and it’s hard for me not getting choked up because I’ve been choked up about 100 times about it,” Hamlin said. “Just to have Melissa (Gibbs) and all the kids here, it’s just crazy.”
Joe Gibbs, the Hall of Fame NFL coach with three Super Bowl victories, ranked the tribute win to his son first in his career accomplishments. J.D. Gibbs encouraged his father to move the team from a crowded-Chevrolet camp to become Toyota’s flagship team in 2008 and the Daytona 500 victory was the 100th for JGR in a Camry.
“It is the most emotional and biggest win I’ve ever had in my life, in anything,” Gibbs said. “It was the most important night in my occupational life. I know J.D. and everybody in my family was emotional.”
Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finished second and third as JGR became the second team in NASCAR history to sweep the Daytona 500 podium. Hendrick Motorsports did it in 1997 with Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven.
Busch, now winless in 14 Daytona 500s, was initially openly disappointed in falling short.
“He’s got two, I’ve got none, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Busch said.
But he reiterated the JGR and Toyota goal of working together to win the race and noted he didn’t have much of a shot at beating Hamlin because the field had been decimated by a flurry of late accidents.
“Was trying to make sure one of us gets to victory lane, first and foremost,” Busch said. “There wasn’t enough cars out there running at the end. I don’t know how it would have played out.”
The Cup Series slogged through three uninspiring exhibition races during Speedweeks to cause concern over a potentially disappointing main event. Jim France, who took over as chairman of NASCAR last August, used the pre-race driver meeting to ask the drivers to liven up the activity. Hamlin and Chase Elliott were the rare drivers to use the bottom lane in the exhibition races while the rest of the field ran single-file along the top.
“I hope a few of you drivers out there will get down on the bottom with Denny and Chase and put on a good show today,” France told the field.
The drivers obeyed and delivered an action-packed and wreck-filled running of “The Great American Race.”
There was an accident on pit road, a 21-car crash, 12 cautions and five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation. The race was stopped twice for cleanup totaling nearly 40 minutes in the final stretch. During the second red-flag, one of NASCAR’s track-drying trucks broke down while cleaning oil off the racing surface.
Hamlin and Busch alternated as the leaders during the handful of late restarts, and the final rush to the checkered flag was a push to hold off Ford driver and reigning NASCAR champion Joey Logano. The Ford camp went 1-2-3 in both of Thursday’s qualifying races and was favored to win the Daytona 500.
Logano, who started his career at JGR, settled for fourth and also took a moment to honor J.D. Gibbs.
“I’m not a Gibbs driver but for what J.D. has done for my career is the reason why I’m sitting here today,” Logano said. “As bad as I want to win it, it is pretty cool to think that the first race after his passing, to see those guys one, two, three, it just says he’s up there watching and maybe gave (those) guys a little extra boost there at the end.”
Michael McDowell was fifth in a Ford but aggravated Logano by not working with him in the two-lap overtime sprint to the finish.
“I just told him that my team doesn’t pay me to push Joey Logano to a win,” McDowell said.
Ty Dillon was sixth in the highest-finishing Chevrolet.
The race featured eight drivers making their Daytona 500 debuts and rookie Ryan Preece, a short track racer from New England, was best in class with an eighth-place finish. Ross Chastain, the eighth-generation watermelon farmer who lost his main ride for this year when the FBI raided his sponsor right before Christmas, finished 10th,
Jamie McMurray, the 2010 winner, led six laps and was in the mix until he was collected in one of the late accidents. He finished 22nd in his final race before retirement.
William Byron and Alex Bowman were the youngest front row in race history but had little to show for it after the race. Bowman finished 11th and Byron, the pole-sitter, was 21st.
Hamlin last year suffered through his first winless season in the Cup Series and made a crew chief change during the offseason. When he won the 500 in 2016 it was his debut race with crew chief Mike Wheeler, and this victory came in his first race with Chris Gabehart.
Hamlin’s first Daytona 500 victory was in a photo finish against Martin Truex Jr. and the celebration was a blur. This one, he said, he will enjoy.
“I think I was so dumbfounded about everything that happened the first time with the photo finish and everything,” Hamlin said. “This one lets me soak it in a little bit more. I’m going to have a terrible hangover tomorrow, but I’m going to enjoy it the rest of my life.”
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Pitch clock coming for spring training games

By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Major League Baseball is unilaterally starting the use of pitch clocks for spring training games, while brushing off complaints from players about the slow free agent market.
With the sport looking for ways to speed the pace of play, pitchers generally will have 20 seconds to deliver to the plate when teams play exhibition games in Arizona and Florida beginning this week. The intention is to get players and umpires accustomed to the clock in the event MLB makes the rule change for the upcoming regular season.
“We will start getting ready for the possibility that we’re going to use the pitch clock on opening day,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Sunday at spring training media day in Florida. “We have to get going.”
After the 2016 and 2017 seasons, players rebuffed management’s proposal for a pitch clock. Owners have the right to implement one this year without consent, but Manfred has been reluctant to initiate on-field modifications without agreement from players and their union head, Tony Clark.
“We’re still hopeful that we’re going to make an agreement with Tony on pace-of-play initiatives,” Manfred said. “I just think that whether it’s by agreement or otherwise, the only prudent course for us at this point is to be in a position to proceed if in fact we have an agreement or decide to do it … under our collectively bargained right to do that.”
MLB made a unilateral decision on clocks for the exhibition season.
“We were recently notified by the commissioner’s office that the pitch clock will be tested in spring games,” the players’ association said in a statement. “This is not the result of an agreement with the players’ association. Discussions regarding several on- and off-field issues remain ongoing.”
Manfred said the rules involving the clock will be “phased in” and won’t start immediately with ball and strike calls. But there will be a “functional” clock in Grapefruit League and Cactus League games. Management’s proposals have said a clock would not be used after foul balls.
Pitch clocks have been used in the high minors since 2015.
With spring training underway and exhibitions scheduled to start Thursday, several players around the majors have taken issue with a second consecutive slow market for free agents. They question why more teams aren’t trying to win.
“It would be nice to start with the facts on this topic. There has been no meaningful change in the distribution of winning percentages in Major League Baseball,” Manfred said. “Our teams are trying. Every single one of them wants to win. It may look a little different to outsiders because the game has changed, the way that people think about the game, the way that people think about putting a winning team together has changed, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.”
Two of the game’s biggest stars, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned — along with closer Craig Kimbrel and dozens of other accomplished veterans.
“There are 11 players who had a WAR (wins above replacement) above 1 last year that are unsigned. I believe that just like last year, that market is going to clear. At some point here in the next few weeks, those players are going to get signed,” Manfred said. “We negotiated a system that allows the market to operate and I have every confidence that for those players that I just described, that market is going to clear before we get to playing real games.”
The current economy for players is all part of the game, he insisted.
“I think it’s important to remember that the Major League Baseball Players Association has always wanted a market-based system. And, markets change. Particularly when the institution around those markets change. We’ve had a lot of change in the game. People think about players differently. They analyze players differently. They negotiate differently. Agents negotiate differently,” Manfred said.
“I think there’s lots and lots of offers out there and it’s a bilateral process. Players haven’t accepted those offers yet. That’s how a market works. So you know, we bargained for a market system, that market’s out there operating, and I don’t have any choice but to live with that right now.”
Manfred said just because clubs don’t spend big doesn’t mean they aren’t attempting to win.
He pointed out that Oakland and Tampa Bay, two low-payroll clubs expected to struggle in 2018, both had excellent seasons. The Athletics reached the playoffs with 97 wins, and the Rays won 90 games.
“I reject the notion that payroll is a good measure for how much a team is trying or how successful that team is going to be,” he explained.
That drew the ire of Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, who tweeted: “Agreed… finally we’re on the same page! Awesome! Removal of the luxury tax it is.”
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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this rpeort.
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No. 11 Michigan State beats Ohio State 62-44, but Ward hurt

By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State shut down Ohio State in the second half despite an injury to Nick Ward.
Now the Spartans may be without their standout big man for a while.
Ward left in the second half with a broken left hand, but No. 11 Michigan State still rolled to a 62-44 victory over Ohio State on Sunday. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to only 13 points in the second half. Coach Tom Izzo initially said Ward might have dislocated a finger, but the school announced that the 6-foot-9 junior has a hairline fracture.
Michigan State hopes Ward will be able to return before the end of the season. Next weekend, the Spartans play the first of two big games against rival Michigan.
Michigan State (21-5, 12-3) pulled into a first-place tie with Michigan atop the Big Ten. Ohio State (16-9, 6-8) led by six at halftime but shot 4 of 21 from the field the rest of the way.
“Defense not only travels — sometimes it works at home too,” Izzo said.
Kenny Goins had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State, which finished the game with a 20-2 run. Matt McQuaid scored 14 points for the Spartans and Cassius Winston added 13.
“It was all on defense,” McQuaid said. “We weren’t getting clean rebounds in the first half. We did a better job in the second of securing the ball and running.”
It was tied at 42 when Michigan State’s Kyle Ahrens sank a 3-pointer that started a 10-0 run.
Kaleb Wesson scored 12 points for Ohio State, but he failed to take advantage of Ward’s absence and foul trouble to Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman.
The teams combined for 58 free throws when the Spartans won at Ohio State last month. There were only 21 on Sunday, but there was no shortage of physicality inside.
“I’m not used to getting fouls anyway,” Wesson said. “I get fouled almost every possession if you look at the film.”
BIG PICTURE
Ohio State: A win would have done quite a bit to boost Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes, and the Buckeyes certainly were in decent shape after 20 minutes. But a dreadful second half left Ohio State well short of an upset.
Michigan State: It was a convincing home victory for the Spartans, but Ward’s injury could be a problem going forward. Only three Michigan State players have scoring averages in double figures this season, and two of them are now injured. Joshua Langford is out for the season because of ankle problems.
Goins scored all 10 of his points in the second half and was impressive on both ends of the court.
UNUSUAL GROUP
The game was tied at 39 when Michigan State went with a lineup of Goins, McQuaid, Ahrens and freshmen Foster Loyer and Thomas Kithier. Ward was out, Tillman had four fouls and Winston was getting some rest.
When Winston came back in, the Spartans were up 50-42.
DROUGHT
C.J. Jackson made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 42, but Ohio State went the final 7½ minutes without a field goal. In that span, the Buckeyes had only five shot attempts from the field and turned the ball over six times.
It was Ohio State’s lowest point total since a 65-43 loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 31, 2009.
“We tried a variety of things,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Tried playing through the post, tried playing through Kaleb, tried playing through Andre (Wesson) a few times.”
POLL IMPLICATIONS
The Spartans have won three straight after a three-game losing streak, and they’ll likely move back into the top 10.
UP NEXT
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are back home against Northwestern on Wednesday night.
Michigan State: The Spartans host Rutgers on Wednesday night.
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Figueroa lifts St. John’s to 71-65 win over No. 13 Villanova

By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — A 70-foot shot just before halftime gave St. John’s momentum, and LJ Figueroa and the Red Storm used a strong defensive effort in the second half to surprise No. 13 Villanova.
Figueroa scored 22 points and St. John’s rallied to beat the Wildcats 71-65 on Sunday night. It was the first win for the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden against Villanova in 17 years, and they accomplished the feat in front of an energetic sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.
“It was as loud as I can remember, maybe louder,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “I’m happy for them they got to experience that too. There’s nothing like that. There are some great places to play college basketball, but when you get a full Madison Square Garden against a championship team like Villanova there’s nothing like that. It’s awesome. It helped us. It kept us in the game and took us to another level.”
Trailing by 17 late in the first half, the Red Storm scored the final six points, including Justin Simon’s shot from the opposite 3-point line that banked in just before the buzzer and made it 37-26.
“We were screaming the whole way into the locker room,” said Mustapha Heron, who added 19 points. “We had to do it on the defensive end (in the second half).”
The Red Storm (19-7, 7-6 Big East) were down 48-34 with 12:30 left. They scored 20 of the next 25 points to take their first lead on Figueroa’s 3-pointer from the corner.
During that run, Villanova coach Jay Wright was hit with a technical foul for arguing a call.
“Their half-court defense went to another level after they pressed us and the crowd got going,” Wright said. “We had it to 11-12 in the second half there and they started pressing us. They got that turnover at half court and we got the technical that really got them going. That was the turning point in the game.”
The teams traded the lead over the next few minutes before Figueroa hit another 3-pointer that gave the Red Storm a 58-57 advantage with 3:51 left and started an 8-0 run. That was the last basket the Red Storm would make.
The Red Storm led 63-57 with 50 seconds left when Villanova’s Phil Booth was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He made two free throws to get the Wildcats within four.
That’s as close as they could get as St. John’s converted its free throws down the stretch to complete the biggest comeback since the team rallied from a 20-point deficit against DePaul in 2010. St. John’s went 13 for 14 from the free throw line in the final 3:11 of the game.
Joe Cremo scored 14 points for Villanova (20-6, 11-2), and Eric Paschall added 11 points and 14 rebounds. The Wildcats shot just 20 percent from the field in the second half.
“Our defense was everything,” Mullin said.
The game was a little bit of revenge for the Red Storm, who lost to Villanova by five after blowing an 11-point second-half lead on Jan. 8.
The Wildcats jumped all over the Red Storm early on, outscoring them 29-10 over the first 12 minutes. During that stretch, the Red Storm went without a basket for 7:39.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Wright said. “We were really dominant in the first half, the second half they matched up the intensity.”
HE SAID IT
“It was a great college basketball atmosphere, the Garden was awesome today,” Wright said. “Fun to be a part of it — somewhat.”
SINGING ST. JOHN’S PRAISES
Wright thinks St. John’s is an NCAA Tournament team right now. There’s still a few weeks left in the regular season.
“We played a lot of good teams this year — Marquette, Michigan, Kansas — this team I think is going to be a tournament team,” he said.
TIP-INS
St. John’s Shamorie Ponds had 11 points on 2-of-14 shooting. … It was the lowest scoring first half for St. John’s this season, surpassing the 27 points the team had against Butler. … St. John’s Marvin Clark II hit a 3-pointer to start the second half and cross the 1,000-point career mark. It was his first basket of the game. … St. John’s is 3-1 this season in the conference against the top two teams — Marquette and Villanova.
UP NEXT:
Villanova: At Georgetown on Wednesday.
St. John’s: At Providence on Wednesday.
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At All-Star Game, Anthony Davis finds himself in spotlight

By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Anthony Davis isn’t completely sure if he’s going to play in Sunday’s All-Star game. He doesn’t know how much the New Orleans Pelicans will have him play the rest of this season. Or where he’ll play next season. Or where he’ll play the season after that, either.
So Davis, obviously, has a lot of questions.
At All-Star media day, he also had some answers.
Yes, Davis wants to keep playing through the end of the season with New Orleans. No, he didn’t eliminate Boston from the list of cities where he would consider playing. Yes, he will test the free agent market in the summer of 2020. And above all else, big market or small market, he insists that having a chance to win is all that matters going forward.
“It’s time to go play ball,” Davis said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Davis — provided a shoulder strain doesn’t keep him out — will finally be LeBron James’ teammate Sunday night, when Team LeBron takes on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Team Giannis in the All-Star Game. The league’s annual showcase exhibition always comes with subplots, and this year, the one where Davis just asked for a trade that didn’t come seemed to generate more All-Star weekend buzz than anything else.
“I’m just keeping it real, to be honest,” Davis said while talking with reporters. “I knew that’s all you guys wanted to talk about. I just stated how I feel, I stated my intentions and I go on from there.”
Davis confirmed that there was a list of teams on his preferred get-traded-to list — James’ Los Angeles Lakers, along with the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
He also denied that the Celtics were not on his list, news sure to delight fans in Boston and not the rest of the Eastern Conference.
“They are on my list,” Davis said.
The Lakers unsuccessfully tried to acquire Davis, and the Pelicans aren’t exactly sure what happens now. They fired general manager Dell Demps on Friday and replaced him on an interim basis with Danny Ferry, a move that Davis said caught him by surprise but also doesn’t change his thinking that a change of scenery is needed. It’s been argued that the Pelicans might be best served not playing Davis, though the NBA — which has already fined the 2017 All-Star MVP for saying he wanted a trade — would surely come down hard if they sat him for no reason.
“It’s about the best situation for me, the best fit for me,” Davis said. “When the time comes, obviously, I have to re-evaluate my situation and see what market best fits me and go from there.”
Here’s some more of what to know about the All-Star game:
DIRK AND DWYANE
Neither Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki nor Miami’s Dwyane Wade expects to play a lot in the game, which they got invited to by Commissioner Adam Silver to commemorate their NBA careers. Nowitzki is in his 21st season, all with the Mavericks, and hasn’t officially said he’s retiring. Wade is retiring after 16 seasons, most of them with the Heat.
“I’m getting old,” Nowitzki said. “This doesn’t get old. This is great to be here. Just enjoying the stage one more time.”
Wade had his son Zaire on the floor for some of practice on Saturday, as father-and-son were throwing lobs to each other.
“He has the same dream,” Wade said, “to one day be sitting up on this podium.”
CLOSE GAME?
LeBron James is hoping for a close game Sunday.
James was one of the players who decided enough was enough when it came to All-Star teams flirting with scoring 200 points, and wanted to find ways to make the game more competitive. It still doesn’t — and won’t — have playoff intensity, but last year’s game was played at a higher level than any All-Star Game had in years, a 148-145 final, and James wants that to continue.
“I know we all saw the way the game was last year, and we’re going to try to top it,” James said. “Hopefully, it can come down to the wire, like it did last year, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
NEW CAPTAIN
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is relishing his first time as an All-Star captain.
“I’m comfortable on this stage,” Antetokounmpo said during media day.
That doesn’t mean he’s taking this lightly.
Antetokounmpo, who has led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record so far this season and is an MVP frontrunner, says the captaincy — and the mere mention of a team being called Team Giannis — is humbling.
“If you told me that six years ago … I would have never, never, never thought I would be in this position right now,” Antetokounmpo said.
MVP PUSH
Charlotte’s Kemba Walker will have the home crowd on his side Sunday night. And while Walker says he hasn’t given much thought to making an All-Star Game MVP push, many of his fellow All-Stars wouldn’t be surprised to see the Hornets’ guard take a swing at winning that award.
“Kemba is different,” said Houston’s James Harden, the NBA scoring leader and last season’s MVP. “The way he’s so crafty, his ball-handling, his shot-making ability. He’s been playing at a high level. One of the top players, definitely, as far as playing for the first half of the season, and he’s been doing it for some years now. Definitely one of those guys that gets overlooked.”
Team Giannis coach Mike Budenholzer, who will have Walker on his team Sunday, said he has a simple gameplan for the Hornets’ star.
“Turn him loose,” Budenholzer said.
BACK AGAIN
The All-Star MVPs from nine of the past 13 games will play Sunday. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have all won it at least once. James won the award last year.
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New-look Daytona 500 has a certain throwback feel

By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Among those trying to win the Daytona 500 this year are a Florida watermelon farmer, a short-track champion from New England, a television analyst and a 22-year-old whose career nearly was derailed by a brain tumor.
The front row is the youngest in Daytona 500 history and it will be William Byron, a Liberty University student who had his wisdom teeth removed in the offseason, leading the field to green in Sunday’s showcase race to kick off the NASCAR season.
The overall look of the nation’s top racing series has undergone a transformation the last few seasons and proof is plastered on the hood of Corey LaJoie’s car. His full facial-haired face adorns his Ford Mustang, which easily makes him the most recognizable driver among the eight Daytona 500 rookies in the field.
“He looks like he’s going to eat you every lap,” quipped Clint Bowyer.
LaJoie’s paint scheme for his low-budget team is courtesy of sponsor Old Spice, which chose “The Great American Race” to promote its dry shampoo. Manscaped.com bought the space on the back of Landon Cassill’s car, Bubba Wallace signed Aftershokz headphones for the race. After Casey Mears made the field — his first race in two years — skateboard rim maker Rim Ryderz joined his program.
This Daytona 500 is unlike any in recent memory and truly highlights the dramatic loss of star power from just four years ago. The 2015 race featured Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip and Danica Patrick. All are now retired.
Some of the big-money sponsors in that race included Lowe’s, Target, Dollar General, GoDaddy and 5-Hour Energy. All have since pulled out of NASCAR.
What remains is a new-look NASCAR that nonetheless has a throwback feel.
NASCAR was built on the premise that if a budding driver or team owner could scrape together the funds to field a car, they could bring it down to the beach and try to make the big show. As the sport exploded past its Southern origins, it became nearly impossible for a new driver to claw his way into a ride.
But change has created opportunity — even second and third chances for a guy like Ross Chastain. The eighth-generation watermelon farmer impressed a sponsor with his work ethic and landed a career-changing ride with unexpected funding. Federal agents raided the sponsor right before Christmas, but Chastain still managed to land a seat for his first Daytona 500.
Ryan Preece bounced back and forth between NASCAR and New England short tracks before finally gambling on his future. He settled for a part-time job with a competitive team because he believed he could show his true talent if given the right equipment. Now he’s also a Daytona 500 rookie.
Same with Matt Tifft, who learned he had a brain tumor four races into his 2016 season. Or Daniel Hemric of Kannapolis, North Carolina, who followed hero Dale Earnhardt Sr. from the old mill town into a ride with Richard Childress Racing.
Parker Kligerman, a part-time racer and full-time television personality, raced his way into his second Daytona 500.
“Watching this race last year, I literally thought I’d never drive a Cup car again, never have another chance in the Daytona 500,” Kligerman said. “I’m doing TV full-time. It just didn’t seem like I was really getting anyone’s attention. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t find the right opportunity, couldn’t find a sponsor.”
“I went off and did the TV thing. You’ve seen drivers do that before, where they do something to up their profile, then they get back in a ride. It kind of feels like it’s finally all starting to work.”
Kligerman works for NBC Sports and so does Earnhardt Jr., his broadcast partner who will drive the first pickup truck to pace the race. It is an unexpectedly heavy NBC Sports promotion in a race broadcast by rival Fox.
Despite all the hardscrabble hopefuls who at various times figured they’d never make it to NASCAR’s biggest stage, the super teams still exist and the stars are the favorites.
Hendrick Motorsports and its four fast Chevrolets at the start of Speedweeks went 1-2-3-4 in time trials. Byron, who is 21, and 25-year-old teammate Alex Bowman swept the front row for qualifying and gave Chevrolet an early boost in its effort to defend last year’s Daytona 500 victory with Austin Dillon .
Still, Ford drivers swept both podiums in the pair of 150-mile qualifying races to load rows two, three and four with the brand new Mustang. Ford competed last year with the Fusion, winning 19 of 36 races and its first Cup title in 14 seasons, and is eager to make an immediate statement with its sportier new race car.
Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, previous Daytona 500 winners, led the Ford charge. Logano and Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski are listed as 8/1 favorites in betting lines.
Jimmie Johnson ended a 19-month losing streak with a victory in a Speedweeks exhibition race, but he triggered a 16-car accident while making his race-winning pass. Then contact with Kyle Busch in a qualifying race increased the scrutiny around Johnson, who has a new sponsor Ally Financial and a new crew chief for the first time since his 2001 debut.
The Toyota bunch has yet to stand out from the crowd, which doesn’t bother Martin Truex Jr. His 0-for-14 skid in the in the Daytona 500 is longest among active drivers, but he knows he’s got a chance Sunday.
“Out of the 40 cars, how many have a legit shot at winning? Probably 25,” he said.
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No. 7 Nevada wins 10th straight behind Porter’s 14 points

By BOB MOEN, Associated Press
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Nevada relived last season’s double-overtime loss at Wyoming by watching video of fans storming the floor every day for the past week, and even just before taking the court Saturday night.
There were no fans storming the floor this time, as No. 7 Nevada easily beat Wyoming 82-49 for its 10th straight win.
Trey Porter led the way with 14 points, and Jordan Caroline and Caleb Martin each scored 13.
Jazz Johnson contributed 12 points and Tre’Shawn Thurman had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Nevada (24-1, 11-1 Mountain West). The Wolf Pack shot 54.4 percent from the field.
Nevada avenged last season’s loss at Laramie, when Wyoming defeated the then-No. 23 ranked Wolf Pack 104-103 in two OTs.
“We saw that film over and over again — losing in double overtime, the crowd rushing the court — you just don’t want that same feeling,” Thurman said.
Justin James led Wyoming (6-19, 2-10) with 16 points, followed by TJ Taylor with 13. The Cowboys were just 15 for 50 (a season-low 30 percent) overall and 6 of 24 from the 3-point line. The 49 points scored was the fewest this season by Wyoming.
Entering the game, the Cowboys had won five of their last six home games against ranked foes dating to 2012.
Nevada led from the beginning, building a 36-20 halftime advantage on nine points each by Thurman and Cody Martin. Wyoming got as close as 14 points on a basket by A.J. Banks to open the second half.
“I thought defensively we could have played a little bit better, but it’s good anytime you win on the road by that amount,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said.
Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said Nevada played with great energy and effort for the full 40 minutes and never deviated from what it does best, which is play unselfish basketball.
“They play together; they played hard on both ends of the floor,” Edwards said.
BIG PICTURE
Nevada: The Wolf Pack notch a road win at a venue that visiting teams find difficult to play in because of the 7,220-foot elevation of Laramie.
“It’s just so hard to get here,” Musselman said. “Guys are tired.”
Wyoming: The Cowboys continue to languish in second-to-last place in the Mountain West, but still have an 8-4 advantage at home against Nevada.
James lamented the lack of defense on the part of the Cowboys.
“We gave them anything they wanted,” he said. “It’s hard to win when they’re getting dunks and open 3s.”
UP NEXT
Nevada has another road game when it visits San Diego State on Wednesday night, which will be followed by a March 9 meeting between the two teams to end the season.
Wyoming gets to stay home while hosting UNLV on Tuesday.
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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Hachimura, Gonzaga use strong 2nd half to beat USD 79-67

By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) — For the first 20 minutes Saturday night, Rui Hachimura and the Gonzaga Bulldogs looked pretty average.
Once they got warmed up, there was no doubt they’re one of the nation’s best teams.
Hachimura scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds and No. 3 Gonzaga tightened its defense and pulled away in the second half to beat San Diego 79-67 for its 16th straight victory.
Zach Norvell Jr. added 18 points, Josh Perkins 15 and Brandon Clarke 14 for the Bulldogs (25-2, 12-0 West Coast). The nation’s highest scoring team, Gonzaga had only 30 points in the first half, but then scored 31 points in the first 9:59 of the second half to take control.
“We came back with a good energy from the beginning of the second half and we definitely had a good defense,” Hachimura said.
Gonzaga shot 69 percent (20 of 29) in the second half to finish at 58.2 percent (32 of 55).
Coach Mark Few said the difference for Hachimura was that “he started playing harder and being more assertive and not settling. He’s really, really good when he does that. When he goes back to settling and not playing as hard, he’s not very good. That’s kind of true for all players.”
Gonzaga took the lead for good during an 8-0 run early in the second half, getting a jumper from Perkins, a reverse layup by Hachimura and two baskets by Clarke for a 45-37 lead that forced Toreros coach Sam Scholl to call a timeout.
The Zags, who have won 10 straight against the Toreros, continued to pour it on behind Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. Their biggest lead was 15 points with 8:29 to play.
“We were getting stops,” Few said. “If you’re taking the ball out of the net, you can’t run. You’ve got to get stops. When we get stops, this team runs as good as any we’ve ever had. That’s a big key.”
Norvell agreed.
“We knew our defense can get on pace better than offense,” Norvell said.
“We just had a different mindset starting the second half,” he added. “We were more in attack mode. They were more aggressive in the first half so in the second half we wanted to bring the fight to them and I think we did that pretty well.”
Isaiah Pineiro scored 20 points, Olin Carter III 14 and Tyler Williams 12 for San Diego (16-11, 5-7), which lost its third straight game. The Toreros dropped to 22-73 in the series with Gonzaga, including 13-31 in San Diego.
Gonzaga was coming off a 73-60 win at Loyola Marymount in which it trailed midway through the second half before closing with a 20-6 run.
San Diego managed to tie it at 30 at halftime even though Pineiro, their leading scorer, had only two points and committed three fouls. Carter had 12 points in the first half but only two in the second.
“San Diego did a good job of disrupting our rhythm. They’re a tough out for us,” Few said. “They’re one of the hardest teams for us to play in the league. Sam’s done a great job. They’re extremely difficult for us to guard. We spend more time breaking their stuff down than anybody.”
Scholl was pleased with his team’s resilience in the first half, which it couldn’t sustain.
“But unfortunately, a team that’s going to have every opportunity to win a national championship came out and showed all the reasons why. They got us on our heels and came with a full-fledged attack that our defensive identity wasn’t ready for,” Scholl said.
“The thing that doesn’t get talked about enough with Gonzaga is that they play for each other, as good if not better than anybody they play against,” Scholl added. “You can see it in everything they do, the way they celebrate for each other’s baskets, the way they talk to each other on the floor, the way they come in and out on timeouts, the way they huddle. That for me is the most impressive thing. They’ve got an unbelievable amount of talent, but man do they play for each other, more than a lot of people.”
BIG PICTURE
Gonzaga: Twenty-five representatives from 19 NBA teams were credentialed for the game. The Zags are 44-4 against USD under Few.
San Diego: The Toreros have never beaten a top-10 team.
UP NEXT
Gonzaga: Hosts Pepperdine on Thursday night.
San Diego: Hosts Portland on Thursday night.
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Panarin powers Blue Jackets past Blackhawks 5-2

By MATT CARLSON, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Artemi Panarin had a big night against his former team, making the most of a little luck.
Panarin had two goals and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Saturday night for their fifth win in six games.
Pierre-Luc Dubois added a goal and an assist for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 39 saves in his sixth straight start. Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson also scored.
The Blue Jackets’ line of Panarin, Dubois and Atkinson generated several prime scoring opportunities.
“I thought everybody contributed, but the top line did some damage,” coach John Tortorella said.
The 27-year-old Panarin began his NHL career with Chicago. He had 61 goals and 90 assists in 162 games with the Blackhawks before he was traded to the Blue Jackets in June 2017.
Panarin said he misses the fans in Chicago and stays in touch with former linemate Patrick Kane. But he relished an opportunity to do some damage against his old club.
“It was very important for me to score in general, especially against the Blackhawks, and it was important for my team,” Panarin said through a translator. “I have today, twice more (motivation) of everything. Nobody can hold me down.”
Chicago had won eight of nine to get back into the wild-card race in the crowded Western Conference.
“I think a lot of things are still there,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I’m not sure it’s so different. I think the results are different.
“Honestly, we didn’t have the full 60 (minutes) we wanted, but there still were some good sports that allowed us to stay in the game.”
Kane had a goal and an assist while extending his point streak to 17 games, matching the longest in the NHL this season. Jonathan Toews also scored for Chicago.
The Blue Jackets scored on three of their last four shots in the first period to take a 3-1 lead.
DuBois opened the scoring at 12:36 when he cut around Chicago defenseman Erik Gustafsson on the left wing, gained a step and fired a shot over Cam Ward’s shoulder.
Kane responded with a power-play goal with 3:46 left in the period. Kane beat a lunging Bobrovsky with a screened shot from the right circle after Alex DeBrincat made a cross-ice feed.
It was Kane’s 35th of the season. The dynamic winger has 13 goals and 24 assists during his point streak.
Columbus went ahead to stay when Panarin converted a one-timer from the slot just 17 seconds after Kane’s goal. Panarin seemed to be covered by Chicago’s Carl Dahlstrom, but Oliver Bjorkstrand made a pinpoint pass from behind the net.
Atkinson completed a 2-on-1 break with Panarin with 38 seconds left in the period after Chicago’s Connor Murphy lost the puck just inside the Columbus zone. It was Atkinson’s team-high 32nd goal.
Chicago picked up the pace as the second period progressed, outshooting Columbus 20-9 in the frame and testing Bobrovsky in close.
Toews cut it to 3-2 on Chicago’s final shot of the period with 34 seconds left. Gustafsson swooped in behind the Columbus net and found Toews alone at the right edge of the crease.
It was Toews’ 27th goal. The captain has nine goals and seven assists in his last 10 games. Kane extended his team-record assist streak to 16 games on the play.
Panarin added his 24th on a deflection just 12 seconds into the third. From a faceoff, Seth Jones fired from the blue line. Panarin was turning in the slot and had his back to the play, but the shot caromed of the shaft of his stick and bounced past Ward.
“I was worried (Jones) was going to hit my soft spot,” Panarin joked. “That’s why I was trying to run away and it hit my stick.”
Ward, who had won five in a row, blocked 25 shots.
After another goal for Atkinson was waived off following a video review for offside, Anderson made it 5-2 with 4:44 left when Ward juggled his shot from the right circle and the puck landed in the net.
NOTES: Chicago G Corey Crawford, who has been sidelined since Dec. 16 with his second concussion in two seasons, missed the game-day skate because of an illness. But he thinks he is close to returning. … Columbus C Boone Jenner sat out with an undisclosed injury and F Brandon Dubinsky (hip) missed his sixth game after being placed on IR on Friday. … Blue Jackets F Kole Sherwood, a native of New Albany, Ohio, made his NHL debut and became the first local player to skate for the team. The 22-year-old was recalled from Cleveland of the AHL on Friday. Tortorella downplayed Sherwood’s hometown connection. “I don’t care if he’s from Mars,” Tortorella said. “If he can play and add something to help us win, great.” … The announced United Center crowd of 22,196 was the Blackhawks’ largest this season and their 486th straight sellout.
UP NEXT
Blue Jackets: Host Tampa Bay on Monday.
Blackhawks: Host Ottawa on Monday.