Three Stars of the Night, two Kevins, and one kiss

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Just a monster 14-game slate this Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, so before we give you our Three Stars, let’s break off a few honorable mentions.

In Boston, there was Tony Parker shredding the Celtics for 26 points and six assists on 12-of-17 shooting. In Miami, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each had 28 points, but it was the play of Chris Bosh, who finished with 24 points on 14 shots and 18 rebounds that once again proved to be most important for the Heat in their overtime win over the Bucks.

In Phoenix, Marcin Gortat got the touches he asked for, and delivered with 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds as the Suns blew out the Blazers by 27.

Now, onto the most stellar.

Third Star: Paul George – 37 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 9-of-13 shooting from three:

The Pacers are a long way from getting right, needing overtime to get a home win over a Hornets team playing without Anthony Davis. But if they can get more players to step up the way George did tonight, they may have a fighting chance to not be terrible as the season progresses for the next few months with Danny Granger recovering from injury.

Second Star: Kevin Love – 34 points, 14 rebounds, 12-of-25 shooting: 

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. No one was expecting Love back anytime soon, with the timetable for his return thought to be at least two or more weeks away. But not only was Love active for this one, he played as if he had never left, posting a big-time double-double in his first appearance of the season. The loss to Denver notwithstanding, Love’s game by itself was supremely impressive.

First Star: Kevin Durant – 35 points on 19 shots, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals: 

OKC needed every bit of Durant’s big game to hold off the Clippers in overtime, even with Chris Paul uncharacteristically struggling mightily to get the job done offensively. But in addition to the huge numbers and the big buckets, Durant delivered a kiss to a courtside fan who was on the unfortunate business end of one of his errant passes. Just one more reason why Durant is one of the game’s most humble and likable superstars.

Jared Dudley: Giannis Antetokounmpo practiced mean mugging in locker room

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Game 3 dunk over Aron Baynes was great.

Antetokounmpo’s Game 4 dunk over Al Horford (seen above) is even better, because of the fantastic mean mug that followed.

The rise of Antetokounmpo is no accident. He worked hard to develop his on-court skills. And that includes all aspects.

Suns forward Jared Dudley, who played with Antetokounmpo on the 2014-15 Bucks:

This is the inside info we need.

Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.

“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’

“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’

Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.

But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.

When Kristaps Porzingis returns is the biggest variable. But Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are all in their primes. Atlanta is much thinner.

The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.

The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.

Andrew Bogut signs to play in NBL in native Australia

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Back in January, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Andrew Bogut. He had a very limited role on a Los Angeles team that was not making the playoffs, serving as a backup big man against teams who use a traditional center. That’s not much of a role anymore. He’s a center who can pass, shoot from the midrange a little, and knows where to be defensively, but the game has evolved as Bogut’s skills have faded. Bogut tried to latch on with a contender for the playoffs, but could not find a team to take him.

So he is going home.

Bogut is signing to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL.

Bogut was the first No. 1 draft pick from Australia when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005. He made the All-Rookie team that season, was All-NBA in 2010, but may be best known for his role as a crucial part of the defense of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015 (and his injury during the 2016 Finals is an underrated reason Cleveland was able to pull off a miracle comeback).

At age 33 Bogut may not have a spot in the NBA, but in the NBL he both will thrive for a few more years but also be a huge draw and get the welcome home from fans that he deserves.

When Lance Stephenson gets a traveling call, he earns it (VIDEO)

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Yes, guys get away with traveling in the NBA. James Harden on the step back (sometimes, not always), or guys sliding left/right to avoid a closeout at the arc and not bothering to dribble while they do it.

Lance Stephenson got called for traveling Sunday in the Pacers’ loss to the Cavaliers. In a game where Stephenson got under the skin of LeBron James and drew a technical (and tied him up for a jump ball at one point), this was the best Lance highlight of the game. Because if you’re going to travel, you should go all in.

Never change Lance. Never change.