Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition

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The towel waver. The dancer. The 27-step handshake guy.  Every bench player has their role, but our Three Stars of the Night broke the mold and did a whole lot more than watch the starters. On a night where Brooklyn beat up on their big brother and the Hornets bested Chris Paul, anything seemed possible…so long as you weren’t a Wizard or a Bobcat. Only sadness was possible for them. But cheer up, kick your case of the Mondays to the curb, and check out the Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition:

Third Star: Tiago Splitter (15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists in 23 minutes)

Unless you’re some kind of crazy person (or Bradley Beal) you’ve probably already accepted the fact that the Washington Wizards are really, really bad. They’re the only winless team in basketball and it’s often uglier than the final score lets on. Against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that actually runs plays (a novel concept in Washington), the Wiz stood virtually no chance of winning. Likewise, no Spurs player had any chance of totaling a starter’s share of the minutes. But still, could you imagine what Tiago Splitter could have done with a full load? Splitter flirted with a triple-double and set a new career high for assists (7) in a game he played just 23 minutes. Doing some quick, possibly inaccurate number crunching (Math: not even once.), Splitter was on pace for about 23 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks had he received 36 minutes of time. Tiago Splitter was LeBron James tonight, which is something I plan on writing never again.

Second Star: Derrick Favors (19 points, 7 rebounds, GW free throws)

If you’re not watching Derrick Favors whenever you can, stop that. He’s like a young Amar’e Stoudemire that actually defends and doesn’t punch fire extinguishers. It’s not always easy to get him minutes, but Favors came up big down the stretch in a tight game against the Nuggets. After an Al Jefferson miss in a tie game with under a minute to play, Favors nabbed a huge offensive rebound and got fouled. After calmly sinking what would end up being the game-winning free throws, Favors grabbed a defensive rebound off Andre Miller’s miss and sealed the win with another big free throw.  It’s early, but Favors has some serious 6h Man of the Year appeal so long as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap stay put in Utah.

First Star: Ersan Ilyasova (18 points, 6 rebounds, 12 4th quarter points)

On a night where key subs shined, no team exemplified the theme of the night quite like the Milwaukee Bucks did. The Bucks, for all intents and purposes, were dead. They were down 27 points to the Chicago Bulls, who don’t let numbers go up on the scoreboard very easily. When Bucks head coach Scott Skiles trotted out his entire second unit to start the fourth quarter, it might have been mistaken by the Bulls for a white flag. While the Bulls let off the gas, the Udrih-Lamb-Dunleavy-Ilyasova-Udoh lineup played the entire fourth period – and with good reason. In a huge comeback win, Ilyasova scored 12 points in the fourth, which also happened to be all Chicago could muster in the game’s final period He may not have started the game, but Ilyasova sure finished it.

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

zach lavine
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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.

Kevin Durant gets a hoot out of meme with Draymond Green

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You’ve seen the Draymond GreenKevin Durant meme, right?

Here’s the video with my favorite caption:

In the latest episode of “Still KD,” Durant watches the meme, reads other captions and calls it “hilarious.”

Russell Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be’

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The Thunder want to sign Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that projects to be worth about $207 million over five years.

But does he want to sign it?

Westbrook, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook noted that his wife is expecting their first child in May, and that’s where his focus is right now. Asked whether there’s a timetable on his decision about a potential extension, Westbrook lightheartedly jabbed back.

“No. What did I just say? Like you don’t care about my baby?” he said. “You must not. You didn’t hear that part, huh?”

Though it was painted as Westbrook showing his loyalty to the Thunder in stark contrast to the departed Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s renegotiation-and-extension last summer was also his way of receiving the highest-possible salary.

This is a different case.*

*So, it seems. It’s unclear whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Oklahoma City to renegotiate Westbrook’s 2017-18 salary up to the designated-veteran-player rate, but I’m presuming not.

Westbrook will have 10 years of experience when an extension would kick in. A typical advantage of a designated-veteran-player contract is allowing a player with eight or nine years experience, who’s typically limited to a starting salary of 30% of the salary cap, to receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap. But Westbrook will be eligible for 35% of the salary by then simply due to his years of service.

In other words, an extension signed this summer would pay Westbrook the exact same amount he could receive as a free agent in 2018.

So, would Westbrook sign that extension? It’d guarantee him a huge salary and protect him in the event of injury or decline. But Westbrook is so good, he’s extremely likely to get the max in 2018-19 no matter what. With only minimal risk, maybe he’d rather maintain flexibility.

Westbrook appeared to embrace leading the team, and he truly seems happy in Oklahoma City in a way I didn’t expect when he signed last summer. His image is so tied to loyalty to the Thunder, it’d be tough to spin an exit.

But Oklahoma City is relatively locked into a roster that will have a hard time winning multiple playoff series. Westbrook wants to win.

I don’t know whether he’ll accept an extension this summer rather than delaying a year, but if he won’t ink a deal this year, that should be a concerning indicator to the Thunder about their chances of re-signing him in 2018.