Three Stars of the Night: The Butler did it

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Four games, three stars on a Sunday night. As always there are some honorable mention guys left out — Tony Parker with his 21, Monta Ellis with 30 points and 9 assists, and Al Jefferson with 30 against the Clippers front line almost made the cut. But instead, it’s an all-perimeter guys three stars tonight.

Third Star: Tayshaun Prince (20 points, including game winning free throws).

Someone in the comments will tell me that Monta Ellis deserved to be here, and he had a great game including the shot that put the Bucks up two with 1:06 left in the game. But Tayshaun is here because of what happened on the two possessions after Ellis tied this game — the Pistons went to Prince and went with isolation sets. On the first one he backed Monta Ellis down into the paint and hit a hook shot over him to tie it up. Next time down, with 10 seconds left he backed his man down, spun into the lane and drew the foul on the help defender. Then sank two free throws to give the Pistons a quality win at home.

Second Star: DeMarcus Cousins (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists)

This is the first career triple-double for Cousins as he had a big night against the Celtics front line — and this is why other teams are interested in him despite his off-the-court issues and fights with coaches. Cousins is talented and that is beyond question. What was impressive is Cousins’ shot was not falling (4-of-12 shooting) but he compensated by dishing assists and also making some key defensive plays to lift the Kings over the Celtics.

First: Caron Butler (29 points, 6-of-6 from three)

The Clippers are up to 17 wins in a row and the Clips can thank Butler, who had 17 of his points in the first quarter and another dozen in the third against the Jazz Sunday.

In a sense I should put Chris Paul here because he made this happen — Butler is not one of the go-to Clippers scorers (9.5 points a game), but he was knocking down everything and CP3 kept feeding him the rock. Butler was 6-of-6 from three and had his 29 points on just 14 shots. But he also hit them at key times — he hit a big three in the third quarter as the Jazz were starting to close in.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.