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.

Like Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee perfect fit on Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — JaVale McGee practices 3-pointers from all around the arch, just in case. He sits with assistant coach Jarron Collins and a laptop to study film, long after practice and his shooting workouts are complete.

The 7-footer’s rugged professional path has landed him at seemingly the perfect stop: in the Bay Area with the NBA’s best.

Just don’t call him a journeyman.

“I’ve never considered myself a journeyman in the first place,” McGee said after a practice this weekend. “Whatever y’all want to call me y’all can call me. The number of teams I’ve been on was in like one year. I’ve been with three teams in two years.”

Yet McGee must not look far to find someone else who has learned to thrive as a well-traveled NBA role player. Just a quick glance a couple of lockers down to where Shaun Livingston dresses at Oracle Arena, defying the odds yet again this season as a regular reserve contributing to another Warriors championship chase, is all it takes.

McGee has never made it this far, an NBA Finals first-timer when Golden State hosts defending champion Cleveland in Game 1 on Thursday night. Livingston never should have made it this far, and here he is back to the final round seeking his second title in three seasons – and 10 years after a devastating injury that could have sidelined him for good. Doctors thought they might have to amputate his left leg.

Fourteen teams between them, over 21 combined seasons. Each has found a great groove in Golden State’s rotation, called upon to take pressure off the big stars while maintaining the highest level.

“We just kind of follow suit, but it’s up to everybody to come in and lock in on the details. It’s the playoffs,” Livingston said. “Obviously the stars help, they get all the headlines deservedly so, but the small things, the details, that’s what we lock in at and that’s how we win ballgames.”

McGee has discovered the ideal place to shine as an alley-oop specialist in a pass-happy offense, and even Stephen Curry admits it’s so easy to target the sure-handed big man perhaps the Warriors do so too often at times.

“We almost get in trouble because we try to do it too much even if it’s not there, because he has the ability to catch it really anywhere around the rim, around the backboard,” Curry acknowledged. “You kind of see it developing when he gets a free lane to the rim, and as a passer in that situation literally feel the most confidence that if I just get it anywhere up there, he’ll go get it, and usually he does.”

With great efficiency, too.

In Game 3 against the Spurs, McGee scored a postseason-best 16 points, all in the first half to get Golden State going as Zaza Pachulia sat out with a bruised heel. He made all seven of his shots in Game 2 of a first-round win against Portland, shooting 18 for 23 in all in the four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers.

“That’s my whole thing, I just try to be efficient out there,” McGee said. “I don’t try to do too much. I just try to do what’s necessary for me in the minutes that I’m out there.”

Livingston has unselfishly dealt with a diminished role, a rotation change late in the season that altered when he’s used, and then a hand injury in the first round of the playoffs.

In February 2007 with the Clippers, Livingston tore three major ligaments in his knee – the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral as well as his lateral meniscus, then required extensive surgery. Though the injury could have ended his career at age 21, he still believed he would play again. First he had to walk again.

“Shaun, that story isn’t really the same now. He’s become a staple of this franchise, he’s helped us win a title, he’s done some great things here,” Draymond Green said. “For JaVale, it’s still fresh, to where I think it’s a great situation for him. He’s finally been put in a position where he can do what he do. He’s finally come to an organization, a first-class organization, that has embraced him for him and not tried to make him something that he’s not. I think that has been pretty special, just seeing his growth over the course of the year, how he’s been able to thrive. … It’s special to see when you take the path that they’ve taken to get to this moment.”

McGee will have to help keep Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson off the boards. His teammates know he’s up to the task.

“It just speaks to his kind of character and perseverance and work ethic and his belief in himself that when he’s out there on the floor he deserves to be out there on the floor, he belongs and can make an impact,” Curry said. “When he showed up here, he understood the opportunity and he’s taken full advantage of it. It’s great to see.”

 

Cool Hand Lue: Cavs coach keeps NBA champs cool amid chaos

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Moments after the Eastern Conference championship banner was raised by the Cavaliers for the third straight time and the obligatory postgame interviews ended, Tyronn Lue slipped quietly away.

Cleveland’s coach ducked into the shadows, his preferred location.

“I don’t like the attention,” he said.

But Lue, once a journeyman point guard who steered the Cavs to an NBA championship last season, has grown more accepting of his frontman role. He’ll again be at center stage this week as Cleveland meets Golden State in the third installment of their title trilogy.

If the unassuming, easygoing Lue had his preference, the teams would duke it out for the Larry O’Brien Trophy on a playground court in a stifling hot gymnasium, with only a handful of onlookers present. A student of the game, he’s old school with a fresh perspective.

Of the many juicy subplots between the Cavs and Warriors, one that frequently goes overlooked is Lue, the former assistant who has blossomed in no time into one of the league’s brightest young head coaches and a playoff savant.

He’s 28-6 in two postseasons with Cleveland. His players credit Lue’s soothing, steady influence – on and off the floor – as nearly as vital to their success as a clutch Kyrie Irving 3-pointer.

“It’s just his level of calmness no matter what’s going on,” LeBron James said following practice. “He always talks about, at the end of the day, he’s already won in life, so whatever else happens after this is extra credit. And I feel the same way. That’s why I relate to him so much. Lose here, or you win a game here, it’s like, `All right, cool. I’ve already done so much more than anybody ever gave me credit of doing or thought I can do, so there’s no reason to get too high or too low.’

“So it’s the even-keel mentality about our coach and it definitely helps us as players when we’re going out into a war.”

Lue has been preparing for the biggest battle of his basketball career this week.

From the moment he returned home from Boston following the Cavs’ win in Game 5 of the conference finals, Lue has immersed himself in the Warriors, a virtual All-Star team featuring two league MVPs (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry), a dead-eye shooter (Klay Thompson) and a triple-threat performer (Draymond Green).

Lue’s defensive strategy to this point in the playoffs has been to neutralize the opponents’ top player. The Cavs were able to do that with Indiana’s Paul George, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who aggravated a hip injury in Game 2 and missed the remainder of the series. Cleveland blitzed, double-teamed and did all it could take away the other team’s offensive threat.

Lue was asked if it’s more difficult to identify who that is on Golden State.

“Hell yeah,” he said, his voice rising. “It’s tough.”

There are few weaknesses in these Warriors, the first team to head into the final round 12-0 and winning by an average of 16.3 points per game.

“They have so many weapons,” Lue said, “having four All-Stars and now adding KD to the mix who I’ve always loved as a scorer, just how he scores so easy. They have a lot of options. It’s going to be tough, but we have to lock into what we have to do defensively, and sometimes you can play great defense and it doesn’t work. Steph is making tough shots, Klay is making tough shots and KD is making tough shots. But all you can do is play your defense, stick to your principles and just make it as tough as possible.”

The Cavs know Lue won’t panic.

He stayed cool last spring when Cleveland fought back from a 3-1 deficit to win its first title. Lue made subtle tweaks to his rotation, drew up key inbounds plays, then isolated Irving late in Game 7 on Curry. The Cavs All-Star guard made his now famous go-ahead, step-back 3-pointer.

Pressure intensifies in the postseason, when possessions, turnovers and rebounds are magnified.

As the drama builds, Lue stays composed, setting the tone for his players.

“Throughout the postseason there’s so many different emotions,” James said. “Going high, going low. And if you’re a coach able to just stay even-keeled throughout the whole thing, it relaxes the rest of the group.”

Lue is a stickler for detail, and he won’t cut any corners preparing for another dance with the Warriors. He’ll have the Cavs ready, and they can also count on him to keep them relaxed.

“When you’re prepared and you do the best you can do and you put it out there on the floor, you’ve just got to live with the results,” Lue said. “I’m doing my homework, I’m doing every possible thing to put this team in every situation to win. When you’re doing that, things you go over every day, end-of-game plays and things like that, either they work or they don’t.”

 

Byron Scott: Lakers made me feel ‘betrayed, lied to and deceived’

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Byron Scott lost 77% of his games with the Lakers, alienated their young players and failed to deliver on his big talk about defense.

Yet, Scott said he was blindsided when the Lakers fired him last year.

How did he possibly get the idea he’d return for a third season?

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

Scott said he “felt betrayed, lied to and deceived” by former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and former executive Jim Buss. Though he had only two guaranteed years on his four-year contract, Scott contends that Kupchak and Jim Buss previously promised him they would exercise the team option for his third year. Scott also believes the Lakers used him to manage Bryant during his final seasons and farewell tour before making the coach a scapegoat for the franchise’s struggles.

“If I asked him to do certain things, Kobe would do it because of his respect for me,” said Scott, who mentored Bryant during his rookie season in 1996-97. “Basically, you just wanted me there to help you guys get through the next two years, so Kobe doesn’t go crazy on you guys. I would be the one that can handle it. They know me. I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to be intimidated by anybody.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if management said something Scott could have reasonably interpreted as a promise to keep him. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Scott heard what he wanted to hear.

The Jim Buss Lakers didn’t always feature the best lines of communication, and Scott was delusional.

Either way, the Lakers did the right thing in firing Scott. If he were hired to manage Kobe Bryant’s final seasons, Kobe retired. There was no more need for Scott, who neither related well to young players nor implemented a winning scheme – pretty much everything beyond handling Kobe.

The strangest part of Scott’s criticism is how it reflects on Kupchak, who has now been accused of both being too dishonest and too honest.

Tony Parker tells French publication he plans to return in January

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Back on May 5, Tony Parker has surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon, an injury some thought could be career ending for the 35-year-old point guard.

He plans to be back and is aiming for January, he told the French publication L’Equipe, as transcribed by EuroHoops.net.

“I will play my best basketball when I return in January”, Parker told L’Equipe….

“The first thing that came in when I got injured, was frustration. I was super good and we had the chance to go until the end and get the title,” Parker said.

“The coach’s plan worked like a clock. I was consistent, playing for twenty to twenty-five minutes per game. My series against Memphis was good and I had a good start in the season,” he added.

Paker’s return in January (if he can meet that timeline) will have him coming off the bench, meaning the Spurs will still need a starting point guard and some depth at the position.

No, that doesn’t mean Chris Paul is coming to San Antonio, that was always a long shot as Adrian Wojnarowski noted. It’s not like the Spurs to kick guys like Parker to the curb (Bill Belichick does not run the franchise) nor do the Spurs gut their roster, and that’s what they’d have to do. Beyond that, Paul is president of the players’ union and one of the things he/the union got in the new CBA was to turn the over-36 rule (which restricted how much LeBron could get on his last deal) to the over-38 rule — meaning the Clippers can give 32-year-old Paul one more five-year max deal. You really think he’s walking away from that?

Hopefully, when Parker returns he can give us all glimpses of his old self.