Three Stars of the Night

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Basketball is back! Hockey? Well, not so much. That doesn’t mean we can’t pay homage to the guys on ice by handing out the Three Stars of the Night, basketball style. Tonight’s stars feature a few familiar faces in new places, and a player who did something that hasn’t been done in 25 years:

Third Star: Ray Allen

Highly anticipated opening acts are usually a bit of a flop, but Ray Allen’s debut exceeded expectations. Allen did exactly what he was brought in to do – spread the floor and pace the bench when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were off the court –and he did it to the tune of a very efficient 19 points on just 7 shots. Allen won’t be this good every night, but it’s an illustration of how scary the Heat’s offense can be at full strength when the ball is being peppered around the horn. Who can you leave open when Miami has their best lineup on the floor? Here’s a hint: it ain’t Allen.

Second Star: Darren Collison

Remember when tonight was supposed to be about a tempo dictating point guard and a monster center getting acclimated to their new team? Well, it was – it was just Collison and Eddy Curry stealing the roles. Collison pitched a near perfect game all things considered. He set the tone with his patented brand of annoying on ball defense, making Nash work for things that are typically granted to him. On the other end, Collison was aggressive in pushing the Mavs up the floor throughout the game, helping to create easy opportunities on the run for a Mavericks offense void of any real halfcourt threat. And when everything broke down? Collison smoked Nash off the dribble and rendered him an afterthought.

First Star: Anderson Varejao

Here’s a fun fact: By grabbing a ridiculous 12 offensive rebounds and also dropping 9 assists, Varejao became the first player since Charles Barkley way back in 1987 (!) to put up those numbers in a game. A healthy Varejao with all his energy and smarts is a scary thing, but the Wizards may have actually been a little more frightening. Washington nearly allowed more offensive rebounds (18) than the defensive rebounds they collected (21). They also shot 35 percent from the field, and had only two players score in double-digits. Maybe Varejao’s First Star should come with an asterisk considering the competition, but that would just look like two stars and confuse everyone, so we’ll let it stand.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

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Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.

Celtics’ reported plan: Sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George

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The Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward.

They want to trade for Paul George.

It seems those goals are not mutually exclusive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.

For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.

The Celtics can clear cap space to sign Hayward. They have the ammo to trade for George. They could do both.

But, as covered before, there’s probably not a path to signing Hayward and extending George’s contract.

So, how much would Boston surrender for George on an expiring contract? The risk he walks in a year, particularly for the Lakers, should lower the Celtics’ offer.

Still, Boston could trade for the Pacers star and roll the dice on re-signing him. Playing with Hayward – and Isaiah Thomas and whichever other players the Celtics keep in this arrangement – would be pretty appealing.

Rumor: LeBron James would ‘never’ join Clippers

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The Clippers hired Jerry West, in part, to help lure LeBron James.

But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz:

I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it.

I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline.

He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.

I don’t believe in “never” in situations like this. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, teams are just laundry. The Clippers can change owners, general managers, coaches, players. LeBron would remain absolutely opposed to joining?

Maybe, but I won’t go that far without knowing his reason for resisting the Clippers. A lot can change between now and 2018, when LeBron can opt out.

One of the Clippers’ biggest selling points was always going to be Chris Paul, LeBron’s close friend. Reading the tea leaves, maybe this is a sign Paul will leave this summer – for the Spurs, Rockets or somewhere else.