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Gary Payton, two-thirds of Run TMC lead Hall of Fame finalists

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It’s time for The Glove to be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gary Payton — one of the greatest point guards of his generation, a defensive force, a nine-time All-Star and the face of Seattle Sonics basketball (with all due respect to Jack Sikma) — is the leader of the finalists for the Hall of Fame class of 2013.

Payton told ProBasketballTalk that this was not something he expected growing up in Oakland.

“It’s showing a lot of people have respected the things I’ve done in basketball and it’s showing I’ve done a lot in basketball,” Payton said. “And I’m really happy for it. Not a lot of people can get in the Hall of Fame, it’s a great honor. I hope that I can make it.”

The rest of the finalists include two-thirds of the Warriors Run TMC from the 1990s (and the other guy is already in) plus a Knicks legend who deserves it. There is another round of voting to pare this group down, with the class of 2013 to be announced Final Four weekend in April. The enshrinement happens in September.

In addition to Payton the finalists are:

• Bernard King. The Knicks swingman was one of the greatest pure scorers of all time. He averaged 22.5 points per game during a 15-year career and had some monster playoff runs, like 1984 when he averaged 34.8 points per game. More than that or the four All-Star games or two All-NBA First Teams, it was his influence on a lot of players coming up that matters. Seriously, this guy needs to be in. That he’s not is just wrong.

• Mitch Richmond. He was one third of Golden State’s Run TMC with Chris Mullen (already in the Hall) and fellow nominee Tim Hardaway. Richmond could score averaging 21 points a game for his career, was a six-time All-Star and has a gold medal.

• Tim Hardaway. The standard against which all other crossovers are judged. He won a gold medal and was a five-time All-Star as part of Run TMC in the Bay Area.

• Maurice Cheeks. The great Philadelphia Sixers guard (and current Oklahoma City Thunder assistant) is a four time NBA All-Star, was named to the NBA All-Defensive team four times, and won an NBA ring.

• Spencer Haywood. One of the more graceful big men of all time, he is a four-time All star, plus has both an NBA championship ring and a gold medal.

• Others on the list of finalists include college coaches Jerry Tarkanian, Guy Lewis (University of Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma) and Rick Pitino (don’t tell Celtics fans he was an NBA coach, they’ll deny it). Also Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn, already in as a player, is nominated as a coach because he won two titles as the head man for the Celtics.

The two women nominated are Dawn Staley (three time Gold Medalist and five time WNBA All Star) and Sylvia Hatchell (North Carolina women’s coach).

Also voted in for sure are Roger Brown (a four time ABA All-Star), Richie Guerin (the feisty six-time All-Star guard for the Knicks), Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt (he should have been in already), Russ Granik (David Stern’s former right hand man), and George Raveling for a lifetime achievement award.

D’Angelo Russell says it’s not easy being patient, waiting his turn behind Kobe

D'Angelo Russell Kobe Bryant
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TORONTO — For the rest of this season, the Los Angeles Lakers are Kobe Bryant‘s team.

Some Lakers’ fans have questioned why Byron Scott is still the coach despite an 11-44 record, and in part it’s because he gives deference to Kobe other coaches might not. Scott was brought in to help sell the Lakers’ history during the final years of Kobe’s career, he has done that. He lets the veteran Kobe do things he will not allow anyone else on the team to do.

Meanwhile, the next generation of Lakers are trying to wait patiently for their turn.

But when asked All-Star Weekend about playing with Kobe (who often has the ball in his hands), Lakers’ rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell didn’t sound patient.

“Honestly, it’s hard,” Russell said of playing with Kobe. “It’s not easy. He’s a guy that’s earned every shot he’s taken, earned every minute he’s given, so you feel like being a rookie, but you feel like you’ve worked to be in his position so early but you’ve just got to be patient.”

There are a couple ways you can look at this.

You can see it as a rookie hungry for minutes, for touches, for the chance to learn by doing. You should like that he has that drive, that confidence that he wants the rock. Russell has had the ball in his hands probably since fourth grade, being bumped down the pecking order — even for Kobe — is an adjustment.

Or, you can see this as a rookie who is a bit full of himself, a bit overconfident, someone who turns the ball over too much and needs to earn those touches. This is more Scott’s thinking.

I’d say a guy that is overconfident as a rookie and wants the ball in his hands sooner rather than later sounds a lot like Kobe.

 

DeMarcus Cousins has spent All-Star Weekend playing defense on trade, George Karl rumors

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball during the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of NBA All-Star 2016 on February 13, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada. 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 Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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TORONTO — DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star and he just wants to enjoy it. Hang out with other elite players, take part in the Skills Competition, have dinner at Sotto Sotto, play in the ASG itself, chill with friends. Chill being the operative word considering the weather.

But for parts of the weekend, he has had to play defense, swatting away attempts to get him to slam coach George Karl or talk trade rumors that have him leaving Sacramento. Mention his friend Isaiah Thomas making it to All-Star Game and you get the gregarious Cousins, but when the other topics come up you can feel his frustration, and hear it in his clipped answers.

“First of all, I can’t control the trade (rumors) and I can’t control if I’m traded or not…” Cousins said. “But I do want to be in Sacramento, and I know everybody in Sacramento knows that.”

Cousins isn’t getting traded. Teams may call the Kings, but they get shot down quickly (then those teams leak the rumor they called, making them look good to their fan base for trying). For one, the Kings have a franchise cornerstone piece under a reasonable contract, that’s not someone you trade unless forced to. Second, owner Vivek Ranadive loves him. Third, and this is key, the Kings open a new arena in downtown Sacramento next season — you don’t trade your best and most popular player, the face of your marketing program in the city, while you’re trying to sell luxury boxes and sponsorships in a new arena.

Cousins has also batted down questions attempting to get him to slam George Karl.

“I can go long term with any coach, but that’s not my decision….” Cousins said. “He’s a free, open-minded coach, he lets his players play. I think every player appreciates that.”

He was more direct with deserving new basketball Hall of Fame journalist David Aldridge of NBA.com in a video (and he’s laughing more and in more of a joking mood in the video than how this quote reads):

“I’m tired of it. Stop trying to make a story out of it, we’re fine. Our only goal this season is to make the playoffs. That’s it. All the other stuff, just stop, it’s not necessary.”

Undoubtedly there is some tension in and around the organization with Karl, although he will be around through the end of the season. However, the one thing that was clear with this team going back to Summer League — when the core guys bonded on a plane trip together to Las Vegas (and doing the other things one might do in Vegas) — the locker room is pretty solid.

“Throughout all this, the one thing that’s been good about the whole situation is the guys in the locker room stay together,” Cousins said. “There hasn’t been any separation.”

It seems Karl has never found a way to reach and inspire that group.

Ask Cousins about the rest of the season and you get some variation of “just stay positive.” He admits that’s not been easy after some tough losses of late, but it’s what they need to do to make a run.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the season, but just find a way to remain positive and get over the hump,” he said. 

That may be easier said than done.

But, at least, Cousins will get the chance to enjoy All-Star weekend.

Can we just relive that epic Dunk Contest one more time? Here’s the mixtape.

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TORONTO — Talking to NBA people, fans, and media around Toronto Sunday it seems every conversation starts with some version of “last night’s Dunk Contest was INSANE!

Because it was.

Andre Drummond threw down an impressive two-hand power slam with an assist from soccer playing Steve Nash. Will Barton‘s first dunk might have won him the contest in some weaker years. And we’re not even talking about them because of the eye-popping show that Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine put on.

Before we move on and talk trade rumors or actual All-Star Game, or whatever is coming next, can we just bask in the joy of that dunk contest one more time? The fine folks at NBA.com put together this mixtape version of the Dunk Contest, I’m passing it along.

Savor this people, it doesn’t get any better than what we witnessed Saturday night.

Michael Jordan to Klay Thompson: “Go ahead and break” Bulls’ 72-win record

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25:  Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, watches on during their game against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NBA - 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Barring a major injury, it seems almost inevitable at this point that the Warriors will surpass the 1996 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season and vault themselves into the conversation of the greatest NBA teams in history. All year, members of that ’96 Bulls team have weighed in comparing the teams, but one guy who hasn’t given his thoughts publicly is Michael Jordan.

Apparently, during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Jordan gave Klay Thompson his blessing for the Warriors to go for 73. Via CSN’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude:

Not that the Warriors need anybody’s permission to go after the record, obviously. But it had to be cool for Thompson to hear directly from Jordan that he respects what the Warriors are doing and wants them to break his own record. In all likelihood, they’ll do it.