PBT’s All-Star Game live blog

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HOUSTON — Enough with the preliminaries — especially the pregame Ke$ha concert — let’s get on with the real show. Time for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.

We’ve got this show covered for you. First, over on the mothership NBC site is a running log of everything tweeted by myself, PBT’s Brett Pollakoff, as well as CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely and CSN Houston’s Dave Zangaro, Howard Chen and Sara Eckert. It’s a great running stream of our reactions and our attempts at humor.

Also below is my running blog from the game. And pregame. And Alisha Keys show. And whatever else happens and grabs my attention. Comment below and let’s have fun.

PREGAME: They are showing the pre-game concert from All-Star Jam in the arena. Which means a lot of Ke$ha. I’m sure moments like this is what Bill Russell dreamed of back in the day.

PREGAME: Dwight Howard, out taking warmup shots, takes a half courter, knocks it down, then jogs of the court. He knows when to make an exit… well, he’s learned when to make an exit.

PREGAME: If you’re looking for something to watch other that Charles Barkley’s pregame insights — and you should be — may I recommend the guys from The Basketball Jones asking All-Star weekend players what they could beat Michael Jordan at.

PREGAME: The Western Conference players have taken the court for warmups, going through layup lines with less energy than even a regular season game. My two impressions are that James Harden’s beard is glorious; and that Carmelo Anthony can’t take his eyes off Craig Sager’s jacket. That can lead to blindness.

PREGAME: The Eastern Conference comes out for about two minutes of warmups. I am thinking about predicting Jrue Holiday to win MVP. Just to go off the board.

PREGAME: But before we get to basketball,  don’t we all need some Ne-Yo? Doesn’t matter, about to get him anyway.

PREGAME: I’m not Ne-Yo’s biggest fan, but I’ll take him over KeSha any day.

PREGAME: I’ve always waited for the moment Ne-Yo and Gregg Popovich shared the stage together. I bet they would make great friends.

PREGAME: Kevin Durant’s cheers almost as loud as those for hometown boy James Harden.

PREGAME: We are 44 minutes past the start of the broadcast time, how about playing some basketball? Just an idea. Wanted to put it out there.

PREGAME: I will say I liked John Legend’s national anthem. Simple, clean, good tempo.

TIP OFF: Finally.

11:45 1st Q: Opening play looks like every Clipper game, CP3 to Blake Griffin. Griffin ends up with the game’s first two buckets.

8:55 1st Q: Chris Paul with the first huge highlight of the game — hits a three, steals a pass intended for Carmelo then gets a between the legs assist pushing back the other way. LeBron James then answered with a dunk.

7:55 1st Q: The MVP always goes to the guy who wakes up Sunday morning and says “I want to be MVP.” So far the guy hustling like that is Chris Paul.

7:45 1st Q: LeBron with his second huge dunk. Can we retroactively give him the Dunk Contest title?

5:34 1st Q: Great in house reaction to a video of NBA players singing love songs. No, Dwyane Wade can’t sing. But he’s selling it.

4:24 1st Q: And another big dunk by LeBron. He and Carmelo Anthony each have 7 to be game highs so far.

2:44 1st Q: Waiting to see who decides to take this game over. It’s 23-20 West right now. By the way, Rockets dancers performing to Salt ‘N Pepa.

2:01 1st Q:  Joakim Noah works hard for the offensive board, gets the putback and sprints back down court. He knows it’s an All-Star Game, right?

:15 1st Q: Erik Spoelstra trying a defensive lineup with Noah, Luol Deng and Tyson Chandler all on the court at the same time.

END OF 1st Q: West 31, East 26. It’s pretty low scoring for an All-Star game.

END OF 1st Q: Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon. That’s a lot of Rockets center right there.

9:23 2nd Q: David Lee enters the game. He’s the first Warrior to play in an All-Star game since the Garfield administration.

7:48 2nd Q: The East bench got up and was screaming after that Jrue Holiday dunk. He can get up.

7:39 2nd Q: Bill Russell shown on big board. He got more applause than “Diddy” but less than Jay-Z with Beyonce.

6:00 2nd Q: To this point Kevin Durant is the game’s high scorer with 14.

4:25 2nd Q: Blake Griffin has eight points, all on dunks. So, pretty much your standard Clipper game.

3:33 2nd Q: Kevin Durant with a huge dunk to get his 19th point. So yes, if West wins he is your MVP.

1:01 2nd Q: It was a two-on-one with Chris Bosh defending CP3 and Griffin. Bosh conceded the layup to take away the alley-oop. Ugh. He know’s it’s an All-Star Game, right?

HALFTIME:  69-65 West. If this thing is still close in the fourth quarter, it will get fun as guys really start to try and defend.

HALFTIME: Chris Bosh was just painful in the first half. Bad shot after bad shot (2-for-7 with three airballs), CP3 just clowned him dribbling between his legs, and Bosh took away a couple lobs to surrender layups.

HALFTIME: Fun with halftime stats — Wade leads the East with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He also leads the East with 6 assists. Durant leads all scorers with 19 on just 12 shots. Chris Bosh had three airballs. Blake Griffin with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and I don’t remember him missing a dunk. Chris Bosh had someone dribble or pass between his legs twice. Russell Westbrook had 8 off the bench and looked like a guy who could really step up.

HALFTIME: On twitter, people were hating on Alisha Keys. In the arena, from behind the stage where I could see almost nothing, she played pretty well. I think. I couldn’t really see.

HALFTIME: The West is back out warming up with 11 minutes before play starts again. Popovich apparently not much of a halftime speech tonight.

10:12 3rd Q: LeBron with a couple early buckets, he may decide to assert himself. Because he can. Kobe with a couple early shots, too. Still a one-point game.

7:27 3rd Q: Let it be noted that at this time Tim Duncan got his first points of the night.

5:56 3rd Q: Inflatable mascots are so much better than the regular mascots.

5:56 3rd Q: Heat taking over East, Wade with 21 and LeBron 18.

2:34 3rd Q: James Harden knocks down a three for his seventh point. Crowd wants him to turn it on, gets loud.

END OF 3rd Q: Jrue Holiday knocks down a jumper with .02 left on the clock to make it 108-104 West with 12 minutes to go. The final quarter could be a lot of fun.

END OF 3RD Q: Noah seems pretty impressed with the end of quarter acrobat entertainment. Then Griffin and Dwight pretended they were going to try moves.

11:05 4th Q: Local fans getting their wish as Harden has stepped up and knocked down a couple more threes. He’s got 13. Can he win MVP? It’s fan voting, anyone could win MVP.

8:42 4th Q: West creating a little space, with 119-111 lead. It’s not much but the East is going to have to get a little focused now. Holiday did, played some actual defense on Westbrook, who seemed almost confused by it.

4:59 4th Q: Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin with back-to-back big dunks keeps the West ahead by five. But the final five minutes of this game is going to get interesting. You can see the intensity ratcheting up.

3:31 4th Q: Chris Paul with a couple big plays, a driving layup past Kyrie Irving and a three over Chris Bosh makes it 132-126 West. East just cannot close the gap completely.

2:33 4th Q: That felt like the game — Kobe Bryant swat blocked LeBron James, Durant chased the ball down and dunked it for his 30th point. Durant is your MVP…. don’t screw it up fans voting at home.

2:17 4th Q: You get the feeling LeBron is about to try to take over this game. To own it. Durant played some good defense but LeBron drew the foul. 8 point game.

1:06 4th Q: Great job by Chris Paul who dragged out the clock and hit a three over Noah. Paul has been huge this game with 19 points, 15 dimes.

:47.7 4th Q: The dagger is the Blake Griffin breakaway, off the backboard to himself dunk. Ballgame West.

:22 4th Q: A Carmelo Anthony three keeps it within four, so the East is playing the foul game. Truly a great All-Star moment.

END OF GAME: Your final score, West 143, East 138   Kevin Durant will be the MVP…. actually you have it to Chris Paul and I’m not going to argue that. As I said above he was in it early then hit the key shots down the stretch. No argument.

Thanks for following along everyone. It was fun (well, except for the wi-fi issues in the arena).

Check back to PBT to catch a boatload of stories and video out of tonight. Then come back this week for the trade deadline, we will have everything you need to know. And probably a few things you don’t. We’re like that.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.