Three Stars of the Night: Kobe Bryant makes history

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There were plenty of stellar performances on a night that featured an 11-game slate.

Kyle Lowry continues to toil in obscurity in Toronto, putting up 34 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a loss to the equally horrendous Kings.

DeMarcus Cousins had no problem getting his confidence back in the same game with a 25-point, 13-rebound performance of his own.

Ty Lawson scored 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting in Denver’s loss to the Hawks, while also dishing out seven assists and grabbing five steals.

But those are simply honorable mentions before presenting our true Three Stars of the Night.

Third Star: Al Jefferson — 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting, 15 rebounds, in 35 minutes

The points and rebounds are impressive, but even more so in a low-possession contest like the one Utah was able to win by a final of 87-81. Jefferson was dominant all night long, and was unfortunately forced to leave with back spasms with about a minute and a half to play in the game. But not before ensuring his team would leave with the victory.

Second Star: J.R. Smith — Game-winning three at the buzzer to beat the Bobcats

Smith didn’t have that amazing of an evening, finishing 6-of-16 from the field, and a dismal 1-of-9 from three-point distance. But that one was a monster, and as cold-blooded a shot that we’ve seen this season. Smith lined up his man in isolation, dribbled left, stepped back for the fadeaway jumper that was perfectly defended, yet calmly swished it through the net nonetheless.

Smith is a shooter above all else, so the 0-for-8 three-point shooting on the night to that point had zero effect on his confidence for the game’s final shot. Shoot ’til you’re hot, shoot ’til you’re cold, my man.

First Star: Kobe Bryant — 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 30,000 point milestone achieved

Bryant did a little bit of everything to help his up-and-down Lakers get a much-needed road win over the dreadful Hornets. But considering the talent disparity between the two teams and the final 103-87 result, the performance wasn’t all that amazing.

While Bryant was more efficient and effective than normal, he earns the top spot tonight based on his becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to score more than 30,000 career points.

Report: Kevin McHale also in mix for team president in Orlando

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Cavaliers GM David Griffin — who doesn’t have a contract with the team beyond this year, but who LeBron James has endorsed — is on their radar.

Larry Bird, who is stepping down in Indiana, is a potential target.

You can add Kevin McHale to the list of former NBA executives the Orlando Magic are taking a look at in their search for a new head of basketball operations, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

The Orlando Magic have serious interest in Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Kevin McHale for their team president position, according to two people with knowledge of the situation….But McHale, who served as Minnesota Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations from 1995 to 2008 while also serving as the team’s head coach on two occasions, is known to be on the Timberwolves’ short list as well. The Magic would strongly prefer someone who has previously been a general manager for the president position.

But McHale, who served as Minnesota Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations from 1995 to 2008 while also serving as the team’s head coach on two occasions, is known to be on the Timberwolves’ short list as well. The Magic would strongly prefer someone who has previously been a general manager for the president position.

McHale made some franchise-defining moves as the head man in Minnesota — he drafted Kevin Garnett and he brought Flip Saunders into the organization, he brought in Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell and that got the Timberwolves to the conference finals in 2004, to use a few examples.

He had his share of mistakes, too. Like drafting Ray Allen then trading him for Stephon Marbury, or drafting Brandon Roy and trading him for Randy Foye.

The Orlando roster has talent on it — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — and a quality coach in place with Frank Vogel. That said the talent on the roster does not fit and Orlando desperately needed someone willing to shake things up, who wasn’t too invested in “their guys” to realize the roster’s serious shortcomings.

McHale could do that. It looks like we are a month or more from finding out, however, as Griffin isn’t going anywhere until after the Cavaliers season — which likely extends into June. If the Magic are serious about him, this process is going to drag out.

Joel Embiid was hanging out with Philly fans at the NFL Draft

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Joel Embiid is a man of the people.

And last night the people in Philadelphia were all Eagles fans, watching the NFL Draft unfold.

Embiid was out there with them. Literally.

Ben Simmons was there as well with Embiid, according to CSNPhilly.com.

Philadelphia fans can only hope the Eagles draft as well — and have WAY better injury luck — than the Sixers.

Moving to new arena, Detroit Pistons submit bids to host 2020 or 2021 All-Star Game

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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Pistons have put in bids to host a future NBA All-Star Game at Little Caesars Arena.

The team says in a release Friday that bids were submitted to the league for 2020 and 2021.

Little Caesars Arena is being built just north of downtown Detroit and is expected to open this year. It also will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

In November, the Pistons announced the team was moving back to Detroit from The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The city of Detroit last hosted the NBA’s All-Star Game in 1959. The 1979 game was played in Pontiac when the Pistons’ home court was the Silverdome.

NBA All-Star events include the All-Star Game, NBA Rising Stars Challenge, a celebrity game, skills competition and fan events.

PBT Extra: Does Larry Bird stepping down change Paul George question in Indiana?

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When the Woj bomb dropped that Larry Bird was stepping down as president of the Indiana Pacers, two questions came to mind. First was, “Is he healthy?” Reportedly he is, this was not a healthy-related decision. Which is great news.

Second, what does that mean for Paul George?

Is Indiana more likely to trade him now? Less?

George speculation has ramped up around the league and — while no doubt new GM Kevin Pritchard will say he would love to keep PG13 when he speaks to the media — there is a sense Bird walking away could be a sign that the Pacers are moving into rebuilding mode. That said, Pritchard is known for driving a hard bargain, he’s not going DeMarcus Cousins trade here.

I talk about all of that and more in this latest PBT Extra.