Three Stars of the Night: When Duty Calls

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Points are put on a pedestal in the NBA, so what happens when a team loses its big scorer to injury or simply doesn’t have one on the roster? Other guys step up. We tend to forget, but just about every NBA player (earmuffs, Reggie Evans) can score when given enough chances. It might not always going to be pretty, or efficient, but most of these guys have scored 30 points a game on some level. For tonight’s Three Stars, we showcase three guys who answered the scoring bell and led their teams to victory.

Third Star: Andrei Kirilenko (18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks)

Continually underrated, Kirilenko has been putting up stat lines like this for ages to little fanfare outside of the fantasy basketball crowd. Even when he was tearing it up overseas as a number one option, the NBA crowd still remained skeptical. With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio out, the Wolves have started the season scoring by committee, but tonight it was AK47 who took over the game in the second half and put the Wolves on his wings to overcome a 15-point deficit at the break.

Second Star: O.J. Mayo (32 points on 12-for-18 shooting)

Make that back-to-back games with over 30 points for Mayo, who has taken the Mavericks’ primary scorer role and ran with it early in the season. Mayo has looked like a perfect match next to point guard Darren Collison, a burner who flies up the court and looks for kickout opportunities to spot up shooters. Fortunately for Mayo, he’s the only one young enough and athletic enough to keep up with Collison, so the ball just keeps finding his way. Let’s see a bigger sample size before we announce that Mayo has finally reached his potential, but it’s a good start nonetheless.

First Star: Marc Gasol (22 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocks)

It’s stunning how good Gasol is when he’s aggressive and Memphis makes it a priority to run the offense through him. Because the Grizzlies offense has about the same spacing as five guys in an elevator would, Gasol often finds himself away from the basket to at least try and allow some driving lanes. Gasol lived a little closer to the basket tonight, and really just overwhelmed Al Jefferson and company with his size. Gasol, an incredibly underrated defender, also took care of Jefferson on the other end, staying on his feet and refusing to fall in the web of pump fakes Jefferson typically spins. And how about those 8 assists? Is there a better passing big man than Marc Gasol? Maybe his brother Pau, but that’s about it.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves starts with Paul George question

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.