There’s a simple old coach’s axiom in basketball: Tall and good beats small and good. So tonight we look at the tall guys and give them their due with the three stars.
There were other candidates big and small who were worthy but just missed the cut: Carmelo Anthony (27 points 7 rebounds), Brandon Jennings (19 points, 19 assists), Amir Johnson (22 points, 14 rebounds), Stephen Curry (29 points, 7 assists) and Deron Williams (22 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds).
Third Star: LaMarcus Aldtridge(33 points, 11 rebounds)
This was the kind of performance that made you say, “maybe this guy should be an All-Star again this year.” On a night when Oklahoma City showed they can play great defense and smothered most Blazers players (Damian Lillard was 3-of-14 with Russell Westbrook hounding him) but Aldridge kept Portland in the contest. When he got the ball on the left side mid-post (or out farther but backed his man down) the Thunder had no answer. His 33 points came on 15-of-26 shooting.
Second Star: Dwight Howard (22 points, 14 rebounds)
Dwight Howard’s back has clearly been an issue this season, he has not been the same explosive player that dominated for Orlando. It felt like he may have come back too early following off-season back surgery.
That idea may have gotten a boost Sunday — after missing three games because of a torn labrum (shoulder), he returned with an extra bounce in his step. He had 10 points in the first quarter and set the tone for the game. Defensively he patrolled the paint and had the Cavs players adjusting shots or settling for jumpers. On offense he drew double teams (even when just rolling to the rim) that opened up the rest of the offense. That is the Howard the Lakers need.
First Star: Kevin Durant(33 points, 6 assists)
This was a “Kevin Durant is the MVP” kind of game. Oklahoma City does not beat Portland Sunday night without Durant. He pretty much carried them. You can kind of say a lot of nights, but Sunday it was ridiculously evident. On the night he scored 38 percent of his teams total points, and in the second half that jumped to 49 percent (he had 22 of his points after halftime). He has improved as a playmaker, as a ball handler and as a defender this season. It all showed Sunday.
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Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls reached a buyout agreement — he will take an $8 million haircut to become a free agent. Not that we should feel bad for Wade, I wish someone would pay me $15 million to go away.
The next question: Where will Wade play this season?
The smart money is on Cleveland, but it’s not that simple. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN got the ball rolling, but others chimed in.
Sources: Cleveland, San Antonio and Miami are leaders for Dwyane Wade post-Bulls buyout. OKC could become factor too.
OKC is an interesting option on the court, if their ownership group is willing to eat a little more tax to make it happen (the Thunder would pay about $24 million, based on their current payroll). Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype shed a little more light on that and other options.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have already started recruiting Dwyane Wade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to sources.
It’s probably going to be the Cavaliers — his good friend LeBron James is there, they are the best team in the East so a trip to the Finals (and a shot at a ring) are very possible, and he could start for them. That’s probably enough to get the deal done.
Expect Wade to take a little time with this decision. Veterans are not big fans of training camps, he may be willing to miss a little, spend some time with the family, listen to pitches, then choose Cleveland where he wants to play this season.
AP source: Bulls agree to 2-year deal with Mirotic
CHICAGO (AP) A person with knowledge of the situation says the Chicago Bulls and forward Nikola Mirotic have agreed to a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Sunday because the deal has not been announced. The Bulls hold an option on the second year.
The 6-foot-10 Mirotic averaged 10.6 points last season. He has scored 10.8 per game over three seasons.
The Bulls are rebuilding after winning 41 games and losing in the first round of the playoffs. They traded All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to Minnesota on draft night for three players 23 and younger – Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the rights to No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen.