League scrambling to fit Jeremy Lin into All-Star Weekend

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The NBA had named the All-Star team, had named the players for the Rising Stars Challenge (what you and I call the rookie/sophomore game) and had basically everything in place for All-Star Weekend Feb. 24-26 in Orlando.

Then Jeremy Lin and Linsanity came along.

Now the league is scrambling to fit their hottest star into their biggest weekend. But they seem to be ignoring the obvious and best way.

For sure, Lin will be lobbing balls to fellow Knick Iman Shumpert as part of the Dunk Contest on Saturday night.

Also that night is the tedious “Shooting Stars” competition where three people (a current player, former player and WNBA player) from one city compete against trios from other cities in a shooting contest. The Daily News says it looks like Lin will be part of that.

According to a source, the NBA is hoping to add Lin to its All-Star lineup by having him participate in the Haier Shooting Stars competition during All-Star Saturday night. The competition features one current NBA player, one current WNBA player and one TNT on-air talent and legend on each team.

Let’s be clear, Lin has not earned his way into the All-Star Game itself yet, not in seven games. And while he surprised everyone with a dunk against the Wizards, the Dunk Contest is not his forte. He’s knocked down some but he’s no three point specialist, either. The Shooting Stars thing is nice. Not thrilling, but nice.

What the league should do is bend the rules and add him (and another player) to the Friday night Rising Stars game. The format of this has been changed this year, with a pool of players — already selected — being chosen playground style by TNT analysts Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. Lin is certainly the likely replacement if one player from this game is injured and can’t go, but what really should happen is Lin and another player get added to the pool so he is definitely in.

Why not? Is the league afraid of messing with the integrity of the rookie/sophomore game? Really?

At this point for the league, the more Lin the better. Let the man play.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.