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.

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.