D-League Showcase: Day 1 Features Plenty Of Talent Vying For A Call-Up

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The first day of the eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase tips off Monday afternoon as the legendary Antoine Walker and the Idaho Stampede face-off against the New York Knicks-owned Erie BayHawks. There’s probably no better way to shake off the cobwebs of the weekend than sneaking out of the office for a late lunch to catch the first of eight D-League games airing live on NBA TV this week when this game tips off at 1 p.m. ET.

The D-League Showcase, as explained earlier, is an annual event where all 16 teams from the NBA Development League converge on one location — this season it’s lovely Reno, Nev. — to showcase their skills in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams as well as a handful of executives from European and Asian squads looking for a mid-season boost. Knowing that, the players are going to play harder than they’ve ever played, the coaches are going to coach like their jobs depend on it and the fans … well, hopefully they show up considering the hosting Bighorns don’t play until the fourth game of the day.

The Stampede, coached by former NBA draft pick and 1993 Naismith Player of the Year Randy Livingston, have a couple of names that should be familiar to basketball fans in the frontcourt for those that decide to tune-in for the matinee. Walker, best known for his ‘shimmying’ with the Boston Celtics, is playing in his second season with the Boise-based team while 12-year NBA veteran Mikki Moore is expected to play his first game with Idaho after joining the team on Sunday as they make up the oldest frontcourt in the D-League (yes, Antoine Walker is now exclusively a forward as he’s lost a step or three since his NBA days).

Idaho’s opponent, the Erie BayHawks has added some veteran help as well over the past couple of weeks. The Pennsylvania-based tea, bought by the Knicks over the summer, added longtime NBA guard Mike James last week to a roster that already features NBA call-up candidates Devin Green, Chris Daniels and former St. John’s standout D.J. Kennedy.

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The second game of the day will feature the Los Angeles Lakers of the D-League taking on the New Jersey Nets’ Development League affiliate when the L.A. D-Fenders and Springfield Armor do battle in a game scheduled for tip-off on NBA TV at 3:45 p.m. There’s going to be NBA talent at every position on the court when this game gets underway, making it Monday’s must-watch game (if such a thing exists in the D-League).

The D-Fenders, coached by former NBA Coach of the Year runner-up Eric Musselman, boasts a lineup featuring former NBA Draft picks Gerald Green, Mardy Collins and Orien Greene along with NBA call-up candidates Brandon Costner, Elijah Millsap (the younger brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap), Malcolm Thomas and Courtney Fortson. The scouts should be out in full force to watch Los Angeles play this week with former dunk champion Green likely being a focus of plenty of those in attendance.

The Armor rely pretty heavily on their backcourt featuring a pair of Nets training camp invites in JamesOn Curry (learn more about him here) and Jerry Smith, but their man in the middle is bound to get some attention this week as well. Cornell product Jeff Foote is averaging 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds since the lanky 7-footer enter the D-League following a camp invite with the Portland Trail Blazers.

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The rest of Monday’s action will only be available live on NBA Futurecast, the D-League’s free streaming service, but there are a couple of interesting storylines to follow for those in it for the long haul.

Monday’s third game will feature the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who recently decided to promote assistant Steve Gansey as the head coach, facing off against the Bakersfield Jam. Both teams have plenty of players with ridiculous upside on their roster, but Fort Wayne might look a little worse for the wear as they were only scheduled to arrive in Reno at 11 a.m. Monday after having travel issues Sunday afternoon.

The final game of Monday’s quadrupleheader will take place between the hosting Reno Bighorns and last year’s Showcase hosts, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. NBA fans will likely be most interested when rookie Tyler Honeycutt, on assignment with the Bighorns from the Sacramento Kings, is on the court at the same time as Marcus Morris, the Rockets’ first round pick currently playing for the Vipers.

For those that aren’t able to catch Monday’s action: Don’t worry! There will be 12 more games the rest of the week with comprehensive coverage continuing here at Pro Basketball Talk.

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.