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LeBron James piling up milestones at historic pace

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LeBron James piling up milestones at historic pace

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) LeBron James has reached so many milestones in his NBA career it might be easy to lose track.

He hasn't.

Just a point shy of becoming the youngest player in league history to score 20,000 points, James knew exactly where he stood Wednesday night. He worked a switch off Draymond Green on the wing, dribbled past David Lee and pulled up in the lane from 12 feet to make an off-balance jumper with 2:45 remaining in the second quarter.

Swish.

``The best part about it is I was in a rhythm, too, so it wasn't one of those forced shots,'' James said. ``I was able to get the switch on David Lee and get to the elbow and make a shot. It's pretty cool.''

On a road trip that has had more bad news than good, James rewrote the headlines and the record books again.

The three-time NBA MVP also surpassed 5,000 assists on a landmark night, leading the Miami Heat to a 92-75 victory over the undermanned Golden State Warriors. He finished with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in just 30 minutes to grab his latest slice of history.

In the locker room after the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley took a moment give James the game ball and recognize his latest record.

Players shouted and huddled in the center of the room. Then, as Spoelstra said, ``Everybody took a shot at him - a punch, a jab, an elbow, whatever they could get in before he started hitting back.''

``That's a big-time moment,'' Spoelstra said. ``He's a special guy. He's a special player. He's a once-in-a-generational type of player.''

James eclipsed both marks before halftime, helped Miami go ahead by 34 points in the third quarter and allowed Spoelstra to rest his starters - without debate this time - for the fourth. Dwyane Wade added 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Mario Chalmers scored 15 for the Heat, who had lost three of their last four away from home.

James already had been the youngest player in NBA history to win rookie of the year, record a triple-double, score 1,000 points, score 10,000 points and win MVP honors at an All-Star game.

Add another to the list.

``It means everything,'' James said. ``It means a lot. First of all, like I continue to say, it means I've been able to be healthy. To be out on the floor and do what I love to do, I love the game of basketball and I try to give everything to the game. And hopefully it continues to give back to me.''

David Lee had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Jarrett Jack scored 16 in place of Stephen Curry, who sprained his twice surgically repaired right ankle during Golden State's morning practice. The team said X-rays were negative, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he doesn't expect Curry to be out long.

The Warriors, who upset the Heat 97-95 in Miami on Dec. 12, lost consecutive games for only the third time this season. With center Andrew Bogut already out indefinitely recovering from left ankle surgery, Curry's absence turned out to be too much to overcome against the defending NBA champions.

``Disappointing, but we faced a team that remembered what took place in South Beach and came with a mindset to make a point, individually and collectively,'' Jackson said. ``That's what great players do.''

James and Wade just overwhelmed the Warriors from the start.

Wade lobbed an alley-oop from half court that James finished with two hands early in the first quarter. James hit Wade slicing down the lane for a dunk moments later for his 5,000th career assist, and James made a 3-pointer after falling hard on his right elbow a play earlier to give the Heat a 23-14 lead.

James, who made 11 of 20 shots from the floor, needed 18 points entering the game to become the 38th NBA player to reach the milestone.

Previously, the youngest player to score 20,000 points was Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who got there when he was 29 years, 122 days old. James was 28 years, 17 days on Wednesday.

``He probably would've had it sooner if he didn't decide to come down here to South Beach,'' Wade said. ``It's just a testament to him as a player.''

Only Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days) reached the latest milestone before turning 30.

James also is the 13th player with 20,000 points and 5,000 assists. The only active players to reach both marks are Bryant and Boston's Kevin Garnett.

With the long-awaited record out of the way, James and Wade switched roles and opened the second half almost the same way they began the first.

Wade tossed an alley-oop just inside half court to James while two Warriors defenders watched the three-time NBA MVP soar for the slam, part of a scintillating 26-6 surge filled with highlights to open the third quarter and put the Heat ahead 78-44.

In a 104-97 loss at Utah on Monday, Spoelstra sat Wade and played Chris Bosh for just 40 seconds in the fourth quarter in a decision that had been critiqued and questioned for the past two days by fans and national media. The Heat sliced a 19-point deficit to two without both before falling short.

This time, the Big Three watched the final 12 minutes smiling from the bench.

``Hopefully,'' Spoelstra said, ``we can put to rest everything that happened the other night.''

NOTES: In terms of games played, James is the seventh-fastest to join the 20,000 club. Wednesday was his 726th regular-season game. Chamberlain needed only 499 games to score 20,000 points. ... The Warriors are 13-3 against the Eastern Conference this season. The two other losses came against Orlando. ... Heat backup F Shane Battier returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. He had two rebounds and finished 0 for 3 from 3-point range in 10 minutes.

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A Capital doesn't win Hardest Shot at NHL Skills for the first time in 3 years

A Capital doesn't win Hardest Shot at NHL Skills for the first time in 3 years

ST. LOUIS -- John Carlson did a valiant job trying to defend his title for the hardest shot, but Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber took home the prize with a blistering 106.5 MPH shot at the NHL Skills on Friday.

Alex Ovechkin won the Hardest Shot in 2018 and Carlson won it in 2019. He looked to be in good position to win it again after taking the lead with only one shooter left to go.

As Carlson skated up for his turn, the number to beat was 102.4 from Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson. Carlson shattered that with a shot of 104.5, beating his own winning shot from last year of 102.8.

The only problem? Weber was the last shooter.

"With Webs going behind him you kind of just expect him to go put up some big numbers," T.J. Oshie said. "But when John put up 104.5, you thought maybe there was a chance, but obviously Shea stepped up and took care of business."

Weber had Carlson beat on his very first shot. Weber smashed the puck for 105.9 MPH on his first attempt. As he was the last shooter, he had already won, but took his second shot anyway and beat his own mark, finishing with a 106.5 MPH shot.

While the Caps had won the event in each of the past two seasons, Weber had won it three straight times before Ovechkin took the title in 2018.

Even when Carlson took the lead, he still did not believe he would win knowing Weber still had to go.

"I think I knew all along we were all just a part of the show," Carlson said.

Braden Holtby also fell short in his attempt to win the Save Streak event. Frederik Anderson had the number to beat of seven when Holtby went between the pipes. He faced shooters from the Atlantic Division and made a run at seven when he stopped David Pastrnak’s shot. A goalie's round could not end on a save. As the captain, Pastrnak was the last shooter unless Holtby saved his shot. When Holtby stopped Pastrnak, that meant he would continue facing shots until he was beaten. With two straight saves, Holtby denied Shea Weber and Brady Tkachuk to get his streak up to five saves before he was finally beaten by Jack Eichel.

"I was just hoping Shea Weber wouldn't come down and take a slap shot on me,” Holtby told the NBCSN broadcast.

St. Louis Blues Jordan Binnington ended up winning the event, much to the delight of the home crowd. Andrei Vasilevskiy raised the save streak up to nine with Binnington as the last goalie to go. In dramatic fashion, Binnington went on to deny 10 straight shots to take the win.

Other highlights of the All-Star Skills:

Ryan O’Reilly’s football helmet

Next week is the Super Bowl Sunday and Ryan O’Reilly showed who he is cheering for in warmups as he came onto the ice wearing a Kansas City Chiefs' helmet.


Connor McDavid is not the fastest skater?

We all know who the fastest skater in the NHL is. It’s Connor McDavid. You might as well just declare the race over, right?

Not so fast. (See what I did there?)

Stunningly, McDavid did not win the event and was edged out by New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal who completed the event in 13.175 seconds, just 0.03 seconds away from the record.

The Justin Bieber mask

San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl decided to have some fun during the save streak. Before his shot attempt on Binnington, he busted out a Justin Bieber mask and put it on before shooting.

No, he did not score. Yes, the mask was terrifying.


The women’s 3-on-3 game was awesome

If there is one complaint about the All-Star Skills and All-Star Game, is that it is not competitive enough. Players have fun with it, as they should, but they aren’t exactly going 100-percent like they would in an actual game. That was certainly not the case for the 3-on-3 women’s game between Canada and USA.

The women’s teams put on a great display of skill in what was an incredibly fun game to watch. Canada took a 1-0 lead in the first period off a goal from Rebecca Johnston. Melodie Daoust made it 2-0 in the second period and Hilary Knight finally put USA on the board putting them to within one.

But really it was the goalies who stole the show. With plenty of room to work, there were a number of breakaways and odd-man rushes. Both Alex Cavallini for the USA and Ann-Renee Desbiens for Canada were strong in net to keep it a three-goal game.

"It was pretty impressive," Oshie said. "The goalies stood on their head, but the girls were making some awesome plays, some great moves. It's always fun cheering on the Americans."

Desbiens had a drop the mic moment with a glove save just as time expired to maintain the 2-1 win for Canada.

Shooting Stars

You have to credit the NHL for trying. One of the new events featured players on a raised platform in the crowd shooting at targets on the ice. It was...different. The biggest issue with it was that the players could not hit most of the targets and the one that seemed the easiest to get was worth the most points. This one will need some tweaking if they want to bring it back again next year.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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