The first half of the 2011 Rookie/Sophomore challenge only vaguely resembled basketball. None of the players on either side of the court even pretended to play defense, and stood under the basket and watch their opponents launch threes. Fast-break dunks after made baskets were common. Alley-oops were being thrown down every minute or so.
In the second half, the teams began to treat the game with the smallest dollop of respect and actually began to contest each other’s shots from time to time, but the rookies were able to pull away thanks to DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated the paint and put up 23 points and nine rebounds in the second half alone.
Blake Griffin, who will participate in the dunk contest tomorrow night and the All-Star game on Sunday, was the clear crowd favorite and provided some spectacular dunks, but only played 14 minutes and sat out the last part of the game. (The crowd started up a “We want Blake!” chant late in the contest, but Griffin stayed seated on the bench.) Fortunately for the crowd, John Wall was able to deliver a masterful performance in Griffin’s semi-absence.
Wall was named the game’s MVP and recorded a challenge record 22 assists, with the majority of those assists leading to alley-oop slams. Wall’s most spectacular assist was one to remember; on a fast-break, Wall stopped at the three-point line and bounced the ball over Steph Curry’s head to find Blake Griffin, who was there to slam the ball home. Before the game, Wall talked about how excited he was to throw lobs to Griffin, and the game showed that he was right to be enthusiastic.
Wall didn’t face much defense on Friday night, but he showed that he’s an unselfish player who would rather set a teammate up for a spectacular play than try too hard to make one himself. Winning the rookie/challenge game isn’t a huge accomplishment on its own, but Wall was able to show the world that he has a rare combination of athleticism, creativity, and unselfishness. If he continues to work on his game, particularly his jump shot, it won’t be long before he’s having huge performances against teams that are actually trying to play defense.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)
Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.
As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.
First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.
As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.
But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).
Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.
Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)
“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.
Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.
Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.
Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.
Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.
After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.
Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.
On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.
But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.
But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.
Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.
This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.