Steve Kerr has been confirmed as the new coach of the United States men's basketball team for 2022-24.

USA Basketball announced the appointment on Monday, with Kerr replacing San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at the helm. Kerr had been Popovich's assistant on the national team since 2017.

Popovich – a five-time NBA champion with the Spurs – led the US to glory at this year's Tokyo Games, their fourth consecutive Olympic gold.

The team will have a similarly impressive staff moving forward, with Kerr in charge having won the NBA title five times as a player and on three occasions as coach of the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors stood 24-6 for this year ahead of a Monday night game with the Sacramento Kings, as they make another run at the championship. They have improved Kerr's career win percentage to 69.3 – the third-best mark in NBA history. Among coaches with three wins or more, Popovich (66.3 per cent) ranks eighth.

Kerr will be supported by Gonzaga coach Mark Few, the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra and the Phoenix Suns' Monty Williams.

"I'm incredibly honoured and humbled to represent our country as the head coach for the USA Basketball men's national team," Kerr said in a statement. "It's a thrilling opportunity and I'm excited for the challenge."

Assuming the US qualify, Kerr will be in charge for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Chicago Bulls' DeMar DeRozan said he felt "as free as a bird" as he returned from isolation with a star turn against the Los Angeles Lakers.

DeRozan had not played in over two weeks after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols amid a COVID-19 outbreak within the Bulls' camp.

He was one of 10 Chicago players to have to quarantine, though did not suffer any symptoms, and he marked his comeback in emphatic style on Sunday.

DeRozan had 38 points, including decisive free throws inside the last 20 seconds, four rebounds and six assists as Chicago claimed a 115-110 win.

He leads the way for the Bulls on points per game (26.8) this season and despite his stint in quarantine, only Zach LaVine (703) has scored more points for Chicago so far in 2021-22 than DeRozan (671). 

DeRozan is also averaging 8.2 points per game in the fourth quarter this season, the most in the league.

"I felt free as a bird," DeRozan told reporters, as quoted by ESPN.

"Just getting out there, being with those guys, being in front of the fans. Just getting out the basement I was in for 10 days."

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was hugely impressed.

"When the ball is in his hands, there's just a calmness to him," Donovan said.

"He doesn't get rattled. He's been in so many of these moments throughout his life and his career. I think things slowed down for him.

"He knows exactly what he has to get done, what needs to get done and he finds ways to just stay totally locked in. It's really an incredible gift that he has."

Indeed, Carmelo Anthony, who had 21 points for the Lakers, acknowledged DeRozan was at the top of his game.

"The fact that he utilizes the midrange, a lot of people want to kind of discredit that part of the game, but I think that's a lost art," the Lakers forward said.

"DeMar is one of the guys who's mastered that. And at the end of the game, when you gotta down, and you gotta run something, threes are not falling, you gotta get to that. He mastered that.

"He mastered his spots on the court. I think that's why he's very efficient, especially this season, in the fourth quarter, specifically down the stretch."

The victory moved the Bulls to 18-10 for the season, with Chicago well placed in second in the Eastern Conference behind the Brooklyn Nets.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis revealed he feared the worst when he "heard something pop" as the Minnesota Timberwolves' Jaden McDaniels fell into his left knee on Friday.

Davis limped out of Friday's 110-92 defeat to the Timberwolves after sustaining the knee injury which has since been confirmed as an MCL sprain sidelining him for four weeks.

The Lakers power forward collapsed on his way down the tunnel and said he feared the worst at the time.

"I just reached a point where it was tough to walk," Davis told reporters on Sunday. "I had to take a break.

"I did hear something pop - and the first thing I thought of was [a major injury], which I was emotional, I was just like everywhere. But thank God that it wasn't that."

Davis has played 27 games this season, averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

The eight-time All-Star missed 36 games through injury last season and said he had a positive outlook about his latest setback.

"Mentally I'm fine. I'm in a good space," Davis said. "Last year was a more 'me' thing. This year was like a freakish play. So knowing that nothing I really could have done to avoid it, I guess, keeps me in a good place.

"The locker room keeps me in a good place. People around me outside of basketball keep me in a good place. Great conversation with my wife about it; she's the one who keeps me in a good place, for real."

The Lakers slipped to a 16-15 record with Sunday's 115-110 defeat to the Chicago Bulls without Davis.

"We're still in a good spot, for a team who feel like they can, could have done more, or win more games, games we should have won, and we're still in a good spot," he said.

"So hopefully we can stay afloat with all the stuff going on around the team and being able to still pursue our goal, which is to win a championship."

DeMar DeRozan had 38 points as the Chicago Bulls rallied past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers late in the fourth quarter on the way to a 115-110 victory. 

DeRozan hit a jumper with 52.6 seconds to play to give the Bulls the lead and added a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left to extend the margin as Chicago held on late. 

Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington missed game-tying three-point attempts after that before Lonzo Ball iced the win with two more free throws. 

Ball had 19 points and Nikola Vucevic added 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls (18-10), who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Brooklyn Nets (21-9). 

James led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds but made just one of seven shots from three-point range. Anthony had 21 points and Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Los Angeles (16-15).

 

Suns rip Hornets, hold NBA's best record

The Phoenix Suns (24-5) can now claim the best record in the NBA after a 137-106 demolition of the Charlotte Hornets as Devin Booker returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a hamstring injury. Booker had 16 points and was one of nine Suns to reach double figures as Phoenix led 37-15 after the first quarter and did not let up, making 20 of 41 three-point attempts to 10 of 45 from beyond the arc for Charlotte (16-16).

Damian Lillard scored 32 points as the Portland Trail Blazers (13-18) picked up a 105-100 road win against the Memphis Grizzlies (19-12). The Grizzlies had won five in a row and 10 of 11 but shot only 38.5 per cent from the field Sunday as they squandered a career-best 37-point night from Dillon Brooks. 

 

Lowry, Heat fall to lowly Pistons

The Miami Heat had won four out of five games entering Sunday but everything fell apart in a 100-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who had lost a franchise record-tying 14 in a row. Kyle Lowry made just three shots from the field in 42 minutes for the Heat (18-13), though he finished with 19 points as he went 11-of-16 at the free-throw line. Saddiq Bey had 26 point to lead the Pistons (5-24), who recorded their first victory since beating the Indiana Pacers on November 17. 

The NBA has postponed a total of five games, including three that were set to be played on Sunday, due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The Brooklyn Nets have lost a significant number of players to positive tests, with 10 players presently in the health and safety protocols – a list that includes stars such as James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – and their games against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and the Washington Wizards two days will not go ahead.

The Eastern Conference leaders had just eight fit players for Saturday's 100-93 defeat against the Orlando Magic, who are 6-25 and sit just 14th in the table.

Meanwhile, seven Cleveland Cavaliers players tested positive between Saturday and Sunday, meaning they do not meet the minimum requirement of eight healthy players and are unable to play the Atlanta Hawks, according to NBA rules.

The game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans will also be postponed, with the former also struggling to come up with eight fit players.

However, it is possible the Sixers will be able to return to action against the Boston Celtics on Monday.

Monday features yet another suspended game, though, as the Magic's clash with the Toronto Raptors is also not going ahead due to a number of cases at Orlando.

The NBA has now had to postpone seven games this season after the Chicago Bulls' fixtures with the Detroit Pistons and the Raptors were called off earlier this month.

Mike Budenholzer explained he was just managing the minutes of absent duo Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen as the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks went down to the in-form Cleveland Cavaliers.

Milwaukee were without regular starters Giannis Antetokounmpo, Donte DiVincenzo, Wesley Matthews and Bobby Portis as they have entered the NBA's Health and Safety protocols, while Khris Middleton is still out with a hyperextended left knee.

Both Holiday and Allen were available for selection but were not included as the defending NBA champions were routed 119-90.

However, head coach Budenholzer said that decision was simply because of the amount of minutes the duo played against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

"I mean it's just those guys have played a lot," he said

"Those guys have given us so much including last night, they really, really laid it out – the whole group did. 

"I was just trying to be big picture, Grayson's a little under the weather. I'm really proud of the guys who played, they really competed."

Jordan Nwora impressed for the Bucks, leading the team's scoring with 28 points. Budenholzer says the task now is to improve other areas of his game.

"He's got that unique kind of scorers mentality, he can make or take tough shots, gets just enough separation, he's getting to the basket a little more, attacking a little more," he said.

"He's a very good scorer so it's just kind of trying to work on other parts of the game too. He's making progress there too so it's invaluable opportunities for him."

Defeat for the Bucks (19-13) leaves them fifth in the East, while a sixth straight win sees the Cavaliers up to third with a 19-12 record.

Two seasons ago, the Cavs only won 19 games in total while it took until April 8 to reach that point in 2020-21 – a campaign in which they finished 22-50.

Commenting on the Cavs' position, Darius Garland –  who had 22 points – said: "It's early. We don't get too far ahead of ourselves.

"It's been super fun. It's not just hero ball, everybody is contributing."

Steve Nash was proud of the effort his depleted Brooklyn Nets team put in during the loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

The Eastern Conference leaders had 10 players in COVID-19 protocol, including the returning Kyrie Irving, as well as James Harden and Kevin Durant.

Such was the dire situation, the Nets signed James Ennis III and Shaquille Harrison before the game, while Cam Thomas and Kessler Edwards made their first career NBA starts and David Duke Jr just his third.

Despite the difficult circumstances, Duke hit a three to tie up the game before the Magic were able to win out 100-93.

Head coach Nash had nothing but praise for the way his side performed amid the circumstances, though.

"I thought it was an outstanding effort to get back in the game and tie it late, I'm really proud of the effort," he said.

"We probably made too many mistakes defensively but that effort to come back, find a way to level it and then we got a little unlucky, they made a tough three, we had a backcourt violation, those things happen.

"We probably had too much to make up for those offensive efforts but that's going to happen, we got a bunch of guys who are with us for the first time, got a bunch of guys who are playing extended minutes in multiple games for the first time, and overall I'm really proud of them it was a great effort."

Patty Mills put up 23 points for the Nets, while Blake Griffin had 17 and Cam Thomas 15.

One of the brightest notes of the game came from the performance of Duke, though, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

"I thought he was great, I talked to him at halftime because I thought he looked to score a little too much," Nash added.

"We love him because he does so many things well; he defends, he steals, deflections, offensive rebounds, hustle play.

"I said you're going to get your 20 points but you're going to get it out of the game not going out and finding it. He was great, he understood that and his approach in the second half was outstanding.

"He was disruptive offensively, got his hands on a lot of things, was a killer on the glass. He was a bright spot."

With so many players out there was an opportunity for the experienced Griffin, who has found himself out of the Nets' rotation.

"Blake's played great, I think I've said to him there's always something around the corner in this league," Nash said.

"He was out the rotation for a while but we knew something would happen and he'd get his opportunity again. He's a pro and worked his butt off, stayed in shape, found good rhythm, and he's playing good basketball. 

"Unfortunately he took a little knock on the knee tonight and we couldn't get the game but his effort was outstanding."

Coach Steve Kerr was in optimistic mood despite seeing his Golden State Warriors go down 119-100 against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

The shorthanded Warriors rested star guard Stephen Curry and were also missing Draymond Green (hip), Andre Iguodala (knee), Otto Porter Jr. (foot) and Andrew Wiggins (knee) in Canada.

Fred VanVleet starred with 27 points as the Raptors dominated a young Warriors side at Scotiabank Arena, but speaking to the media after the game, Kerr was keen to emphasise that it had been a valuable learning experience for his team.

"Plenty to learn," he said. "Lots of tape for our young guys to watch. Some things they did well, a lot that we could have done better, but every game is valuable, every minute played is valuable for young players.

"First half we were on our heels, didn't have a lot of juice and confidence, but Toronto played well and they had a lot to do with that."

One positive for the Warriors was the performance of Jonathan Kuminga, with the 19-year-old scoring 26 points, hitting nine of 15 field goals and four of six three-pointers.

"J.K's a dynamic athlete. He's powerful, explosive, he can get downhill, so you see the potential. It was great to see him knock down some three-point shots. That's going to be a big part of his development.

"He's got to get more than one rebound in 36 minutes, especially with that kind of athletic ability and frame, and he had six turnovers so he showed how talented he is, how young he is, how high his ceiling is and how far he has to go all in one night, but that's the whole point of getting him reps and it was fun to see him out there."

This was the Warriors' fifth away game in a row having beaten the Pacers, the Knicks and the Celtics in between defeats to the 76ers and the Raptors, and Kerr was pleased with his team's work during their time on the road, with their next outing a home clash with the Sacramento Kings (12-18) on Monday.

"[It was a] big success to go 3-2 on a tough trip, with two back-to-backs. Obviously [we were] very shorthanded tonight. Really proud of the guys and now we've got to get some rest and bounce back pretty quickly with a game on Monday night."

The Warriors' sixth defeat of the season leaves them second in the Western Conference with a 24-6 record.

Fred VanVleet starred as the Toronto Raptors won 119-100 over the Golden State Warriors who rested star guard Stephen Curry on Saturday.

VanVleet finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists as the Raptors blew the Warriors away in the first half, leading 63-42.

Curry (rest), Draymond Green (right hip), Andre Iguodala (right knee), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) and Andrew Wiggins (left knee) were all absent for Golden State and returned to California to avoid potential COVID-19 exposure and quarantine in Canada.

The Raptors made their absence count, shooting 45 of 90 from the field, becoming the first side the Warriors have allowed this season to shoot at 50 percent or better.

The Warriors' sixth defeat of the season leaves them second in the Western Conference with a 24-6 record.

 

Wizards end Jazz run

Bradley Beal scored a season-high 37 points and had seven assists and five rebounds as the Washington Wizards ended the Utah Jazz's eight-game winning streak 109-103. Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points for the Jazz, while Rudy Gobert had 19 rebounds with 11 points.

Cedi Osman came off the bench to top score for the Cleveland Cavaliers with 23 points as they won 119-90 over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were missing Giannis Antetokounmpo due to COVID protocols.

Luke Kennard's (27 points, seven rebounds) heroics could not lift the Los Angeles Clippers to victory, going down 104-103 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were led by rookie Josh Giddey (eight points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists).

 

Weakened Nets lose to struggling Magic

The depleted Brooklyn Nets, missing star trio Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden due to COVID protocols, were beaten 100-93 by the lowly Orlando Magic for their sixth win of the season. The loss was the Nets' ninth.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been dealt a major blow with eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis ruled out for at least four weeks with an MCL sprain.

Davis sustained the injury in Friday's 110-92 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and underwent scans and evaluation on Saturday.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had hoped the forward's injury was only minor but the franchise confirmed on Saturday he has suffered an MCL sprain and will miss four weeks minimum.

Davis had played 27 of the Lakers' 30 games this season, averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

The loss of Davis is a setback for the Lakers who are 14-16 and already without Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Kevin Durant is the latest Brooklyn Nets star to enter the NBA's coronavirus protocols.

Durant was already ruled out of Saturday's game against the Orlando Magic due to an ankle injury.

The Nets revealed the 11-time All-Star would not have been able to play in that match even without that issue, however, after he joined a lengthy list of absentees who have entered the health and safety protocols.

That list is now up to nine, one of which is point guard Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Damian Lillard vented frustration at coverage of his struggles after scoring a season-high 43 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers get back to winning ways.

Lillard torched the Charlotte Hornets as Portland ended a seven-game losing streak by winning 125-116 on Friday night. Lillard was 12 of 19 from the field as he posted the 40th 40-point game of his career.

Yet even after his big performance on Friday night, Lillard is still shooting career-worst numbers this season – just 39.5 per cent from the field and 31.6 per cent from three-point range after 24 games.

He is averaging 22.8 points per game, his lowest since the 2014-15 season, and this was just the fourth time in this campaign that he has registered 30 points or more. Those healthier hauls have all come in his last nine games, pointing to a significant upswing in Lillard's form.

When his demeanour in a post-game news conference was called into question, Lillard said: "I'm happy we won a game. I felt happy throughout the game and in the locker room, but when I come here and I gotta answer questions, and I've done so much in my career, specifically in Portland, I've given everything, I've never made an excuse, I've never disrespected any of y'all.

"I've never not given you guys time. Just when our team is going through it, I'm in a little bit of a struggle, and I see certain people not giving me that same respect. So that's why I'm a little irritated in here, but with our team I'm happy with what we did. I still come in here and give that same time, but I don't appreciate it man. It'll be handled that way going forward."

Lillard, 31, has spent his entire NBA career with Portland and is a six-time All-Star, posting a career-high 30.0 points per game in the 2019-20 season.

He felt understandable relief at the Trail Blazers finding a way to end their slump. They are 12-18 so far for this campaign.

"I tried to come out and play with pace, be in attack mode, and that was just it," Lillard said. "It was the same situation as in the last few games; we just need to get a win and tonight was that night.

"You lose so many in a row, things start to do downhill. This was a big win for us, and we needed to feel good about something and getting a win usually does that.

"Now we need to roll with it. We've got to make it turn into two and three, pick ourselves up and dig ourselves out of the hole we've put ourselves in and tonight was a good start.

"It's easier when you're making shots as a team, but it was good for us to play with that energy and swagger for a long time and get a win against a good team."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will undergo tests on Saturday to determine the extent of the injuries that forced him out of the defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 28-year-old took ankle and knee blows in the 110-92 setback on Friday, forcing him out of the game and leaving question marks over whether a lay-off could follow.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said: "He did see the team doctor here. He's just going to have to be evaluated tomorrow [Saturday] with the MRI, and we'll know more at the time.

"Hopefully, it's something minor and he can get back soon, but we'll find out more tomorrow."

On the defeat, he added: "We have enough to win the game, and we didn't play well enough.

"I think their whole team was more physical. They definitely played a more physical brand of basketball today, and we've got to be better."

Davis is averaging 23.3 points plus 9.9 rebounds this season.

"You lose a player of AD's calibre, your team gets weakened," Vogel said. 

"We don't feel sorry for ourselves. You hope for the best for AD. You want him in there, and you hate to see any guys suffering any injuries, but we always feel like we have enough to win.

"So, we're not feeling sorry our ourselves or looking for excuses."

Davis managed just nine points in 20 minutes on court, while LeBron James scored a modest 18 points in 35:30 with five-of-13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds.

James is hopeful Davis will be soon back in action.

"I asked him how he's doing, and he said: 'I'll know more tomorrow', so that's all we know," James said.

"My concern is always for his health. You wish for the best."

James reflected on injuries and the COVID-19 crisis depleting the Lakers' ranks, with players coming in and out of isolation, and said the current circumstances felt "like a revolving door of what-ifs".

"Hopefully, we can get past it soon and can really show who we are as a team, what we are capable of and not having guys in and out so much," he added.

Stephen Curry posted 30 points as the Golden State Warriors reclaimed the best record in the NBA with a 111-107 victory at the Boston Celtics.

Curry – the league's all-time three-points leader – nailed five shots from beyond the arc to fuel the Warriors (24-5) on Friday.

The Warriors snapped a five-game losing streak against the Celtics as Andrew Wiggins added 27 points.

It was a milestone victory for head coach Steve Kerr, who became the third coach in franchise history to reach 400 career wins.

"We're coming off the emotional roller coaster ... a lot going on around the league," Curry said after Jordan Poole entered the NBA's COVID-19 protocols. "You try not to get distracted by all the things that are outside the locker room."

 

Lillard's 43 inspires Blazers

Damian Lillard torched the Charlotte Hornets with a season-high 43 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers end a seven-game losing streak by winning 125-116. Lillard was 12 of 19 from the field as he posted the 40th 40-point game of his career.

The San Antonio Spurs upstaged the Utah Jazz 128-126 behind Dejounte Murray's second triple-double in three games – 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. San Antonio did not commit a turnover in the third quarter and registered a season-high 41 points in that period to snap Utah's eight-game winning run.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic fell just short of a triple-double after scoring 20 points, collecting 10 rebounds and tallying seven assists in the Denver Nuggets' 133-115 win against the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young's 34 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Hawks.

 

LeBron's Lakers beaten

LeBron James was five-of-13 shooting for 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' 110-92 defeat at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Isaiah Thomas had 19 points in his second Lakers debut as Karl-Anthony Towns inspired the Timberwolves with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Not even a career-high 40 points from Jrue Holiday could lift defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks, who went down 116-112 to the New Orleans Pelicans after overtime in the absence of stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

Kyrie Irving will re-join the Brooklyn Nets after the NBA championship-chasing franchise announced the part-time return of the All-Star for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlook him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, which has sidelined superstar and former MVP James Harden, Brooklyn have opted to bring back Irving.

"After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organisation has decided to have Kyrie Irving re-join the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate," Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Friday, with Brooklyn's next road contest against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 23.

"We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols.

"We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster.

"We look forward to Kyrie's return to the line-up, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

With Harden missing the last three games while in health and safety protocols, Kevin Durant is averaging 39.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists. The Nets are 3-0 in those games.

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