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Three Stars of the Night: Be Easy

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This is catnip for the Lakers haters out there. The Lakers had all this positive momentum, Kobe Bryant was a new man, and all they had to do was keep it going against Phoenix. Easy, right? But instead, in what has to feel like rock bottom, the Lakers were put away by Michael Beasley. Yes, that Michael Beasley, the same guy who might finish out the year with more shot attempts than points. The guy with the “Super Cool Beas” tattoo across his back. That guy.

And with that in mind, we can’t honor the ultra-efficient nights of Tony Parker or Tyson Chandler on Beasley’s first (and probably last) appearance in Three Stars, can we? It just wouldn’t feel. Let’s get to the rest of the stars:

Third Star: Al Horford – (22 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks)

Horford’s monster night may have been overshadowed a bit by some memorable Josh Smith moments, but that worked out just fine for the Hawks in the end. Down one to Toronto with about 24 seconds left, Smith held the ball and the defense’s attention near the top of the key. It looked like Horford was going to set a down screen for the always deadly Kyle Korver, but instead, Horford brilliantly slipped the screen, and the Raptors forgot all about him. Smith delivered the picture perfect pass and Horford laid in the go-ahead, game-winning layup. Smith gets a lot of publicity for being a special athlete, but ask Horford — he’s an incredible high-low passer as well. He might have to share his star, but Horford’s big line and his thwarting of Toronto’s potential game-winners (one legal, one not so legal) gave Atlanta the win.

Second Star: Michael Beasley – (27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals)

How did the Suns come back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit? Dwight Howard’s shoulder injury played a role, and Phoenix’s defense did also, but let’s give credit where credit is due —  Beasley was awesome. On the game he had a season-high 27 points with 10 of those coming in big spots in the fourth quarter. Beasley made the game easy for himself by taking much more reasonable mid-range jumpers than he usually settles for, and his ability to attack the basket and use his size is something we all dreamed on when we watched him tear it up at Kansas State. If Beasley could somehow bottle this intelligent aggressiveness and use it all the time, we’d really have something. There’s an awful lot of evidence to suggest he’ll never figure it out, but nights like this are tantalizing enough to keep the hope flickering.

First Star: LeBron James – (24 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists)

It’s easy to forget about LeBron’s great games. We’ve just become so accustomed to greatness that we can dismiss it. LeBron’s work in the pick-and-roll and killer jumpers just further illustrated why Reggie Evans is so terribly, terribly wrong. Everyone needs help against good offensive players — true — but not every team is rendered helpless by certain guys. That’s only reserved for a select few, and that select few does not include Andray Blatche. More importantly than all that, the Heat sent a nice little message in a 20-point drubbing of the Nets that they can turn it on when the situation calls for it. They have their issues, but so did their championship team. As long as LeBron is making performances like this seem average, they’ll just be fine.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).