Raking up hardware already, Lillard wins All-Star Skills Competition

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Consider this the first of a bunch of award Damian Lillard could be racking up.

The Portland Trailblazers celebrated rookie won the All-Star Saturday Taco Bells Skills Competition. He seemed to embody the old John Wooden mantra of “be quick, don’t hurry.”

“I think the biggest thing for me is to try to be too cool and speed through it, but take my time with the passes and shots,” Lillard said.

Lillard seemed to move more quickly than many of the competitors through an obstacle course where the guards had to make some layups, some chest passes, a bounce pass, and dribble around some cutout defenders.

Some guys had good nights and good times, like Brandon Knight who had a time of 32.2 seconds through the course, but he fell to Jrue Holiday’s 29.3 that was best in the East (and that got Holiday in the two-man finals). Jeff Teague struggled his way to a 49.4 second result. It wasn’t pretty.

For the West, hometown boy Jeremy Lin didn’t rush or hurry and ended up with a time of 35.8 seconds, playing at an under control pace. Defending champ Tony Parker missed all five of his shots from the top of the key and looked terrible, a 48.7 seconds. I mean, better than Teague, but unimpressive.

Lillard had a time of 28.7 to easily advance to the finals. Where he pretty much trashed Holiday who missed a few of the top of the key shots.

“I’ve played basketball a long time and I grew up in a tough city,” Lillard said after his win. “I’ve always been comfortable with myself and confident with myself. So coming into this season I was confident and coming into this competition, also.”

Lillard gets a trophy. The future Rookie of the Year is going to rack up some more in the next few months.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.