New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

Three Stars of the Night: Go-Go Goran and a Game-Winner

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We had a pretty good slate of games on Thursday night, didn’t we?

The Knicks grinded out a combined 14-for-44 showing from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith for a tough win against the Celtics, the Raptors had a little late game magic of their own against Orlando, and in the nightcap, the Suns stayed undefeated in the Lindsey Hunter era by upsetting the Clippers. We’re all about synergy, so we have stars for three games. To the stars:

Third Star: Rajon Rondo – (23 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists)

If Paul Pierce could catch the ball he may be a little higher, but so it goes. Rondo’s triple-double performance was pretty impressive, and his deadly mid-range jumper kept the Celtics alive late in the game. It’s a common misconception that Rondo “can’t shoot” but he’s actually just limited to where he can shoot. Rondo shoots over 50 percent from 16-23 feet, living on little pull-up jumpers from the elbow. If there’s a criticism of Rondo’s game this year (and there always is), it’s that he hasn’t been aggressive enough in going to the rim. There’s some weight to that — Rondo has barely shot more attempts at the basket than from 16-23 feet, but against the Knicks, he took it right to the rack with more frequency. Although his fourth triple-double this season wasn’t enough wasn’t enough, it’s hard to point the finger at Rondo for Boston’s failures this season.

Second Star: Goran Dragic – (24 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds)

With no Chris Paul to worry about, Dragic was masterful on the offensive end, often securing switches in the pick and roll and then blowing right by a big ill-equipped to stay in front of him. Dragic’s 19 point first half made the upset seem attainable for the Suns, and the momentum kept rolling after that. When Dragic is aggressive and looks to turn the corner, he’s capable of big scoring nights. You can count the good defensive performances the Suns have had on one hand this year, but defense often led to offense, and Dragic was the generator of most of the positive action all night. Dragic and the Suns are playing like they’ve started a new season (not like the Lakers, like an actual new season), and it’s hard not to feel good that they were rewarded with a win. They very clearly played harder than the Clippers did, but it was Dragic’s skill that made sure the effort wasn’t in vain.

First Star: DeMar DeRozan – (22 points, 7 assists, game-winning shot)

What a fourth quarter for DeRozan. After a lackluster performance through three periods, DeRozan started to get his jumper to fall in the final frame, and it led to a 14-point fourth quarter when the Raptors needed it most. Tying his career-high in assists (yes, it’s 7) was a nice bonus, but DeRozan’s spot as the top star was secured in a tie game with just four seconds on the clock. Witness:

Rumor: Greg Monroe would like to be traded to New Orleans

Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, center, drives to the basket against New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca, left, and guard Tyreke Evans, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
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If you’re going to bet on an NBA player likely to be moved before the start of the NBA season — or at least by the deadline — Bucks’ big man Greg Monroe would be a good choice. It’s no secret he is on the trade block, the Bucks just aren’t finding a team making an offering to their liking.

What would Monroe like?

He probably wants to end up in New Orleans, ESPN’s Marc Stein said on the Lowe Post podcast.

Which makes a ton of sense — he was born in New Orleans, he wants to go home. The two sides have talked about a deal multiple times in the past, but nothing got done.

The problem is the Bucks are only getting rock-bottom offers for Monroe. On the upside, he’s an efficient offensive NBA big who got the Bucks 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game last season. However, he’s a defensive liability who does not protect the rim, plus he’s a $17 million rental next season (he can and likely will opt out in the summer of 2017). Even teams that could use a scoring big are not going to give up much quality in a trade for a rental like Monroe.

The Pelicans already have Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca as traditional fives, and they should play Anthony Davis there more anyway. Roster wise, the Pelicans would need to make some other moves for this deal to make sense.

But eventually, the Bucks will find an offer they are willing to take.

Nets’ Greivis Vasquez pulls out of Olympics for Venezuela

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Greivis Vasquez #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks takes the court against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Bucks 103-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Venezuela is in its first Olympic basketball tournament in more than 20 years — they upset Canada and Argentina to win the FIBA Americas tournament last summer and earned the right to go to Rio.

But they are going to have to play there without the one NBA player on their roster. Greivis Vasquez, who had ankle surgery last December, announced he had to pull out, via the Nets.

If you want to know what this means for the Venezuelan team heading into Rio, well, they shot just 23.9 percent in an 80-45 loss to Team USA Friday night in Chicago — and that was by far the USA’s worst performance in the exhibition run-up to the Rio Games.

Vasquez should be getting decent minutes off the bench behind Jeremy Lin in Brooklyn this season. They need him healthy as the team tries to move from “god awful” to just plain “not good” next season.

Report: Monty Williams to accept role on Spurs coaching staff next season

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Another smart move by the Spurs.

Monty Williams is one of the better assistant coaches in the NBA right now, and he was available (remember he understandably left Oklahoma City last season after the tragic death of his wife). He’s part of Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with USA Basketball this summer — watch him in practices at age 44 and he’s a better defender plenty of players in the league — and he wanted to get back on the bench.

San Antonio has snapped him up, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.

The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.

One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.

Williams will get another shot in the big chair down the line. In the short term, this is a smart move — nothing looks better on a resume than “Spurs” around the league right now.

Team USA has sing-along on plane leaving Chicago. Well, except for ‘Melo.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during player intro duction prior to playing the China Men's National Team in a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Team USA had their “Tiny Dancer” moment.

Like “Stillwater” in Almost Famous, Team USA’s Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving were leading a sing-along of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the team plane out of Chicago to Houston for the USA’s final exhibition game. Hat tip Alysha Tsuji who pulled the snapchats.

Everyone was loving it… except for Carmelo Anthony, according to DeMar DeRozan.

Melo ain't having it…😂

A video posted by DeMar DeRozan (@demar_derozan) on