With CP3, Durant leading the way West wins tight All-Star Game

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HOUSTON — You know it’s an All-Star Game and all the seriousness that entails when Dwight Howard is launching and hitting threes, Howard and Blake Griffin are pretending to do acrobatics between quarters and the understated Tim Duncan is wearing some bright green Adidas Crazy Fast shoes.

“I think that’ll be the only time you see those crazy shoes (on Duncan),” Tony Parker said.

But when the game was close in the final five minutes things did get serious. You don’t become an All-Star without being incredibly competitive. Guys started defending. Kevin Durant was bodying up LeBron James and Kobe Bryant swatted one of LeBron’s shots — the West was not going to just let him take over.

In the end it was Chris Paul knocking down key threes and Durant throwing down dunks on his way to 30 points and the West held off the East 143-138. The West led pretty much the entire way but never by much more than 11.

Paul was your MVP with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting plus 15 assists. His old-school game worked well in the high-flying All-Star world He was the guy showing energy from the start — three minutes into the game he knocked down a three, raced back to steal a long-pass intended for Carmelo Anthony, pushed the ball up the court and went between his own legs for a pass to pick up an assist. Later he’d dribble between Chris Bosh’s legs on a drive, and although he didn’t pick up an assist on that he sure made Bosh look bad.

Bosh had a rough go of it in the first half, with some rough defensive stretches and a couple of airballs that had a few fans booing him.

“You know, I don’t care,” Bosh said laughing about it. “I’m gonna shoot the next one. Everyone was like, ‘shoot it.’ You don’t have to tell me to shoot, I’m gonna shoot the next one. It was just hesitation man.”

The All-Star Game is less basketball purist and much more entertainment, and there was plenty of that. Blake Griffin was throwing down dunks on his way to 19 points. LeBron had some early dunks. Westbrook had a couple. Even Jrue Holiday had one that got the East bench up and cheering.

But from early on the West took and maintained a lead that fluctuated between 10 and two points, but never went away. The East couldn’t get over the hump, and when it looked like they would Durant or James Harden (15 points off the bench) would make a play and keep the East at bay.

The East hung in thanks to 26 from Carmelo Anthony, 21 from Dwyane Wade, 19 from LeBron and 17 from Paul George off the bench.

It got fun when it was still tight late. We started to see Kobe Bryant and LeBron go at it. But that is when Chis Paul earned his MVP. He made a few plays but the key was one where he dragged out the clock, got a switch to have Joakim Noah on him, then hit a little stop-back three over the best perimeter defending big man in the league with just over a minute to go.

“Part of me wanted to try some moves to get by him,” Paul said. “I love his defense, his energy and stuff like that… He just baked up, so I figured I’d shoot it. Don’t waste any time.”

That may not have been the dagger, but Griffin’s highlight off-the-backboard to himself dunk with 47 seconds left was.

The West had just a little more energy all night, pushed by Paul and Durant.

But mostly, the game was just entertaining. And what else do you want from a basketball exhibition?

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.