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Gasol's start sparks Lakers to victory over Wolves

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Gasol's start sparks Lakers to victory over Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maybe Pau Gasol deserves to start after all.

Gasol had 22 points and 12 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup and Kobe Bryant nearly had a triple-double in leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 111-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Bryant had 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and Steve Nash added 17 points and seven assists for the Lakers, who played without Dwight Howard due to a sore right shoulder. They have won four of their last five games and beat the Wolves for the 20th straight time, the longest active streak in the NBA.

Alexey Shved scored 18 points and Ricky Rubio had nine points and seven assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their sixth straight game. They trailed by 29 in the second quarter, but climbed within four in the fourth.

Stumbling into Target Center on an eight-game road losing streak, the Lakers found out at shootaround that they would be without Howard, who flew back to Los Angeles to get platelet-rich plasma therapy on his torn labrum. That put Gasol back in the starting lineup and the disgruntled four-time All-Star responded with 13 points in the first quarter.

With only four healthy guards - three of them point guards - Wolves coach Rick Adelman had few options to deal with Bryant. He started out with the 6-foot Luke Ridnour on him, and it was a colossal failure. Bryant backed Ridnour down in the post mercilessly, forcing double teams and then finding teammates for wide-open 3s.

The Lakers hit eight of their first 10 3-pointers and shot a staggering 71 percent in the first 15 minutes of the game. And when Bryant and Gasol went to the bench, it only got worse for Minnesota. Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks kept drilling 3s, ripping off a 17-1 run to put the Lakers up 61-32.

These were the Lakers of old. Deep, versatile, talented and relentless.

Then, all of a sudden, they turned into the Old Lakers, and Rubio pounced.

Sensing a letup in intensity, Rubio picked up the pace. Looking like the player he was before tearing the ACL in his left knee - at home against these Lakers on March 9 - Rubio threaded no-look passes to cutting teammates for layups and 3-pointers and crossed over Nash to get to the rim, the kind of move he just hasn't been able to pull off since returning in December. An 11-1 run near the end of the second quarter gave the Wolves a glimmer of hope, and a switch to a zone defense completely befuddled them.

After hitting 22 of their first 30 shots, the Lakers missed 19 of their next 24 attempts. A steal and layup by Ridnour made it 72-64 early in the third quarter, and suddenly the ghost of blown leads past started to hover over the Lakers.

Two days after giving up a 13-point lead with 10 minutes to play to Michael Beasley and the lowly Suns, the Wolves pulled to 94-90 with just under 6 minutes to play on a 3 by Shved. Gasol and Bryant both went without a field goal in the second and third quarters, but Bryant snapped an 0-for-6 skid with a putback, Gasol had a dunk and finished the three-point play, and the Lakers never looked back.

NOTES: Gasol's 3-pointer in the first quarter was his first since Dec. 28. ... The Lakers outrebounded the Wolves 57-40 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. ... Antawn Jamison had 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Lakers. ... Derrick Williams finished with 15 points and nine boards for Minnesota. ... The Wolves went 8 for 18 on free throws.

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.

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