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


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?

Gerald Green ejected for pushing Gorgui Dieng into stands (VIDEO)

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I don’t know why everyone in the NBA is so geeked this weekend. Coaches are getting fined, referees are throwing dudes out left and right. Maybe it’s because most of us recently saw the sun for the first time in five months, although I couldn’t tell you for certain.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets went head-to-head on Sunday, something had players on both sides itching. Early in the fourth quarter, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng got into it with Houston’s Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

The incident came as Dieng was being defended by Paul in the low post. Paul was whistled for a foul while trying to get the ball away from Dieng, but even after the whistle blew the Rockets guard did not stop trying to get the ball. Dieng responded by pushing Paul, who fell to the ground as if someone cut the strings on him.

That prompted another whistle from the refs, and a crowd of players ensued. Green rushed to push Dieng, sending the Timberwolves center into the stands.

When the scene settled, Dieng was issued a technical foul and Green was ejected.

After the game, Dieng told reporters he thought Paul’s constant digging for the ball was a cheap shot, so he responded in kind.

Minnesota, energized, tried to make a late push on the top team in the Western Conference but came up just short. Houston beat the Timberwolves, 129-120.

Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy fined $15,000 each for criticizing officials

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All is not right between NBA players, coaches, and the referees. What else is new?

After contentious games on Saturday night, both Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expressed their opinions about what they felt was a poor officiating.

Van Gundy — whose team lost to the Portland Trail Blazers as they continued on to their 12th straight win — complained that his players were being “screwed” as they were knocked down, hammered, and hit. Gentry was especially infuriated after a late foul call went against his team as James Harden was hit on the hand while shooting a 3-pointer.

Now, the NBA has announced that both coaches have been fined $15,000 each for public criticism of officials.

Things were slated to get better between the NBRA and NBPA after the All-Star break. The two sides were supposed to have a meeting which discussed some of the more concerning trends that players and coaches have publicly complained about this year. That meeting got moved up to December, with more talks to come later. It’s not clear if they’ve done any good.

Right after All-Star Weekend guys like LeBron James were still making waves about how they are being officiated. Coaches like Doc Rivers continue to openly complain about the referees and draw fines. Van Gundy and Gentry are just the latest additions to the list, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last before the season ends.

Hell, the end of the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors was just about as bad as we’ve seen all year. In that game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ejected after a comment made by a fan sitting near the floor was incorrectly attributed to him.

The NBA lost a lot of veteran officials due to retirement in the changeover to this season, and the transition has been rough. They’re going to need to figure some things out over the summer. I expect bigger announcements about those efforts to come out after the NBA Finals as a means to restore public faith in the officiating crews.

Distrust the Process? Rudy Gobert says he doesn’t believe in tanking


The Utah Jazz are an exciting team even after the departure of Gordon Hayward last summer to the Boston Celtics.

Rookie Donovan Mitchell is a bonafide star in the making, Rudy Gobert is still doing Rudy Gobert things, and Quin Snyder’s squad is a defensive nightmare, ranking second in efficiency per Basketball Reference.

Of course, the Jazz did some tanking themselves a few years back. Utah won just 25 games in 2013-14, winning just four games over their last 24 contests that season. The result was a Top 5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Jazz selected who they thought would be their point guard of the future in Dante Exum at No. 5 overall.

Still, at least one player doesn’t feel like tanking is the way to go, at least when it comes to the Jazz. In the absence of Hayward, the Utah organization could have gone for a rebuild and made a flurry of moves to stockpile assets, in the process no doubt losing quite a few games.

The Jazz haven’t done that, and Gobert is pleased. Speaking to USA Today, Gobert told Sam Amick how he felt about where Utah is now that Hayward is gone but the team is still trying for the playoffs.

Via USA Today:

“Just try to teach players how to make winning plays, not only good basketball plays but winning plays,” Gobert said in explaining coach Quin Snyder’s system. “Teach every single one to help the team win games. A lot of teams are very good doing skill work, strength work. But if you want to win, you have to teach a player how to win. That’s why I don’t believe in tanking, all that stuff. I believe you learn how to win by winning. You don’t learn how to win by losing on purpose to get a 19-year-old who you’ve never seen.”

The Jazz are in a similar situation as the Portland Trail Blazers were a few years ago with a team that was expected to take a dip in the win column becoming a surprising playoff contender. The verdict on the short rebuild process in Portland is still out, and like Portland the Jazz also need to add contributing players around their newfound stars in the coming seasons.

The tank works, let’s just be clear. It’s just not a guarantee, and if you’re a player on one of those teams (especially one with a shiny new contract like Gobert) there’s no reason to want to stick around a losing team. Players never want to tank. Organizations sometimes do. Good for Utah for not floundering in the vacuum left by Hayward.

Referees misattribute comment to Dwane Casey, incorrectly eject Raptors coach (VIDEO)


Things sort of fell apart at the end of Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It all started with about a minute left in the game when Serge Ibaka tackled Steven Adams.

No, really.

As Paul George finished the second of two free throws, Ibaka and Adams began to battle for the possible rebound. Adams gave Ibaka the slip off the lane line, and as a recovery move Ibaka tackled his former teammate on the baseline.

Via Twitter:

Then, with 30 seconds left and a chance to tie, DeMar DeRozan drove the lane and missed a shot near the rim while being defended by Corey Brewer.

DeRozan felt he was fouled, and quickly let the officials know about it. The Raptors star could be seen going after ref Marc Davis. Shortly thereafter, DeRozan was given a technical foul.

Via Twitter:

But it didn’t stop there.

A few seconds later, as the game wound down, DeRozan went after the referees again. He was given a second technical, and ejected along with teammate Serge Ibaka.

Then came Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

With fans in the Air Canada Centre chanting at referees, and with tensions high, the officiating crew mistakenly attributed a comment made by a fan or someone else on the Toronto bench to Casey. They decided to eject Casey with just eight seconds left, despite the coach not being the person who actually spoke to the referees.

Kyle Lowry couldn’t believe it, and even Brewer had a good laugh about that one.

The NBA is going to have some explaining to do on that one. Officiating is still under fire in the NBA, with New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry being the most recent coach to go off about the grey shirts.

I’m going to set a few alarms for when they release the L2M report Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Thunder beat the Raptors, 132-125.

Oh, and the referees had to leave the floor in Toronto with a security detail.