NBA’s Rising Stars know exhibition drill, put on dunk fest

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Give the people what they want.

Nobody tuned in to the BBVA Rising Stars game Friday night of All-Star weekend to watch defense — they wanted to see dunks, crazy passes and guys carpet bombing threes. Then more dunks off ally-oops. Then Jeremy Lin.

In that case, the fans got their money’s worth. Friday night in Orlando there was less defense than your average Nets game.

We’ve got Ricky Rubio going through DeMarcus Cousins’ legs then throwing the ally-oop to Blake Griffin. We’ve got Griffin throwing a dunk off the backboard to himself. You got Kyrie Irving raining threes (8-of-8). We got the next generation of NBA stars trying to put on a show.

“It’s important to come out and have fun and compete a little bit,” said the Clippers Blake Griffin (who is playing in this and the big All-Star Game on Sunday night). “These fans come for a reason and we don’t want to disappoint them and not play hard.”

The fans got Lin to Griffin, what more could they want?

Oh, by the way, Team Chuck beat Team Shaq 146-133. They’ll talk about that a lot on Inside the NBA on TNT. Nobody else really cared about the score.

If you want to know why it ended that way, in a game where every three was uncontested Team Chuck shot 55 percent from deep, Team Shaq shot 29.3 percent. Charles Barkley can thank Irving, who had 34 points and was the game MVP.

“He was hot today,” said Irving’s teammate for a night MarShon Brooks of the Nets. “Kyrie can shoot in a real game, so in an exhibition where you’re wide open, I can see that happen. Didn’t surprise me.”

For the guys in the game, this was a chance to have fun and get to know and play with guys they don’t see much.

“We’ve been hearing about Ricky Rubio since like 400 b.c.,” said the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson, who was teamed with him. “So finally he’s here playing with us and it’s fun. He can pass the ball, he was hitting some threes, he’s going to be a great player in this league.”

As in most of these exhibitions, guards tend to shine because they have the ball in their hands.

“It’s definitely kind of harder for big guys because we go out there to dunk and block shots, and you don’t want to block and hurt someone (in an exhibition) so it’s really simple: run the floor and dunk. I can do that.”

He and his friends did a lot of that.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.