NBA players making the biggest leap; Plus, LeBron owns L.A. again, for a night.


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Yesterday, I saw a food truck called “Grilled Cheese N Things” and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Leap Years!

Five players who have made the biggest leap

Happy February 29th! It’s a leap year! If you were hoping for some good old-fashioned March, you have to wait until tomorrow. Today is Tyrese Haliburton’s birthday, so as we try to figure out if he’s 24 or six years old, it seemed only right we’d highlight some players who have made big leaps this season. Here is my five-player list with honorable mentions:

Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers: Just in time to receive a max contract in restricted free agency this season, the 23-year-old Maxey has taken full advantage of James Harden getting away from the 76ers. The first-time All-Star went from 20.3 points and 3.5 assists last season to 25.9 points and 6.4 assists so far this season. He’s one of the fastest players in the league, end-to-end.

Alperen Şengün, Houston Rockets: Ime Udoka and Houston trusted Şengün to be the franchise guy this season, and the results have been stellar for the 21-year-old center. His 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game are all career highs. He was receiving plenty of deserving chatter for All-Star.

Coby White, Chicago Bulls: So far, White (24 years old) is my pick for Most Improved. When Zach LaVine went down, White stepped up and has been arguably the second-best player for the Bulls. He might have even saved their season by doubling his points with great increases in rebounding and assists.

Jalen Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks finally gave Johnson, who turned 22 in December, a chance once John Collins left, so he’s clearly their power forward of the future. He is the type of player people expected from his Duke days.

Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder: Williams (22 years old) was deserving of being named an All-Star, even though it didn’t happen. He’s been the second-best player on OKC this season. He’s improved drastically on both ends of the floor, giving the Thunder 19.2 points on 62.7 percent true shooting and a second clutch player to play off of SGA.

Some honorable mentions: Jalen Suggs, Orlando | Scottie Barnes, Toronto | Derrick White, Boston | Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State | Goga Bitadze, Orlando

Also, it’s also Chucky Brown’s birthday. You may remember him from playing for 12 different teams in his 13-year career. Now, is he 56 or 14 years old?

The Latest From Shams

Team USA updates; Hawks waive veteran

As we noted in this space yesterday, Jrue Holiday is expected to be among the 12 members of Team USA’s roster at the 2024 Olympics. In USA Basketball’s recent discussions with stakeholders, Suns All-NBA guard and Olympic gold winner Devin Booker has also been mentioned along with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum as the expected core of the team barring injury, multiple NBA sources and sources close to the American team told The Athletic.

Multiple USA officials said Wednesday the final Olympic roster is not set, but sources tell me and Joe Vardon that at least some of these players have already begun initial planning and public commitments related to their Olympic participation.

The Atlanta Hawks are waiving guard Patty Mills, league sources tell me. Players waived before March 1 are eligible to participate in the playoffs with another team, so it’s possible the 15-year veteran, who is shooting 38.2 percent from 3 in a limited role this season, finds a landing spot elsewhere ahead of the postseason.

I’m told the Hawks plan to use their open roster spot to convert two-way guard Trent Forrest to a standard NBA contract. He’s played in 20 games this season, his second in Atlanta, after being in Utah from 2020-22.

LeBron Owns LA

About the Lakers’ epic comeback

Last night, It looked like the Clippers (37-20, fourth in West) were going to crush the Lakers (32-28, ninth in West), as they led by 21 points early in the fourth quarter in their Battle for Los Angeles. The Clippers appeared to be championship-caliber as the Lakers hoped to just maintain their Play-In Tournament hopes. Everything was set up for the Clippers to earn bragging rights for the night.

However, I won’t say what happened next involved the Clippers being clipped. What actually happened is LeBron James simply LeBron’d them. The Lakers defense held the Clippers to 16 fourth-quarter points. LeBron? He scored 19 of his 34 points in that period. That’s right. He outscored the Clippers by himself, as the Lakers stormed back to win 116-112. LeBron also assisted on 11 points in the final frame so he accounted for 30 of their 39 points in the last 12 minutes.

He made five 3s himself and assisted on three more to Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell. When Kawhi Leonard missed a chance to tie the game, LeBron ended up with the board and threw it ahead to Cam Reddish for the transition dagger dunk. Overall, he assisted on 11 points in the final frame, meaning  he accounted for 30 of their 39 points in the last 12 minutes. Oh, did we mention LeBron is 39 years old?

At some point, this city has to belong to the Clippers, right? Even by accident? There’s always Inglewood next year …

More from last night

Pacers 123, Pelicans 114: This was the second night of a back-to-back for New Orleans (35-25, sixth in West), which might explain giving up 14 offensive rebounds to Indiana (34-26, seventh). The Pacers’ offense was just too much for the usually good Pelicans defense. Two games separate the Knicks, Heat, Sixers, Pacers and Magic for 4-8 in the East.

Nuggets 117, Kings 96: The Kings (33-25, eighth in West) were up 47-32 with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Denver (40-19, third in West) went on a 33-8 run to end the first half. Then, the champs won the third quarter 35-17 and cruised to victory. Jamal Murray had a game-high 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting.

Bulls 132, Cavs 123 2OT: This game wouldn’t end, and we didn’t want it to. The Bulls (28-31, ninth in East) got 35 points from DeMar DeRozan while adding 32 second-chance points on 25 offensive boards. Cleveland (38-20, second in East) blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead to eventually allow double overtime.

Wolves 110, Grizzlies 101: Anthony Edwards had a game-high 34 in this one. The Wolves blocked 13 shots (four for Nickeil Alexander-Walker) to get a half-game lead on OKC for the No. 1 seed.

Mavericks 136, Raptors 125: It was a real pedestrian night for Luka Dončić in this road game up north. He had only 30 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds on his 25th birthday. Dallas (34-25) is a half game behind New Orleans for the No. 6 seed.

The GIF That Keep On Giving

NBA Finals stars in GIF form

We’d be remiss by not telling you Emo Jimmy Butler didn’t just end at Heat Media Day back in September. Remember all the Fall Out Boy jokes and Emo band comparisons the Heat star brought about with his flat-ironed hair? Well, the actual band Fall Out Boy gave us a music video for their song, “So Much (for) Stardust.” It stars Butler, whom they called “Heat Wentz.” Pete Wentz is the bassist for Fall Out Boy.

That’s not the only GIF you need in your life from this week. Katy Winge of the Nuggets broadcast showed us a quick video of reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokić from the “Nuggets 360” show from Altitude Sports. It’s him running through a tunnel to the court, saying, “Unforgiving. The lightning is coming.”

Protect these two at all costs, please.

Bounce Passes

The 65-game rule is all about bringing in big money for everybody. Will it change, though?

Steph Curry is the one who turned Donte DiVincenzo into an elite shooter.

Are the Hawks about to make a dramatic decision on Trae Young?

The Bucks’ defense is looking a lot better under Doc Rivers.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Warriors-Knicks (7:30 p.m. ESPN). It’s Curry at the Garden. The Knicks are battered but good. This is a great matchup.
  • Second Screen: Heat-Nuggets (10 p.m. TNT). Miami is 5-0 on this road trip. This one will determine the 2023 NBA Finals winner.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Thunder-Spurs (8:30 p.m.). We should watch whenever we get Wemby going against Chet. Even if it’s a blowout in the making. Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images )

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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