This was a tough night to narrow the list to three, some guys with huge games miss the cut — Russell Westbrook with 36 points and a near triple-double, Nikola Vucevic with 21 points and 21 boards for the Magic. But there was a key theme to go with for the night — current or former All-Stars who led they team to a win.
Third Star: Chris Kaman (26 points, 11 rebounds)
Remember, he was a 2010 All-Star — and on Sunday night he played like it. Dallas ran away from Portland in the Rose Garden in the first half behind 14 points from Kaman — he single handedly outscored the Blazers when he left the game in the first 14-11. He has had an up and down (with a lot more down) season in Dallas and this was clear and away his best game in a Dallas uniform.
Second Star: Chris Paul(24 points, 12 assists)
The Lakers hung around much of the game playing like the desperate team they are, but the Clippers got the win because Chris Paul figured out how to start shredding the Lakers defense and they couldn’t stop him. He would come off the high pick and had space to make decisions — knock down the midrange, drive into the lane for a floater or a dish, the Lakers just gave him space and CP3 uses that room better than anyone in the NBA. It was another masterful performance.
First Star: Carmelo Anthony(36 points, 12 rebounds)
It wasn’t just the 12 rebounds — it was that nine of them were offensive rebounds. Second chances were key to the Knicks and ‘Melo was a big part of it. More than once in the fourth quarter he would drive baseline, get to the rim, miss a contested shot but get his own board and put it back in. Anthony was at the hard of the Knicks fourth-quarter push — they had led by a dozen earlier but when the Thunder came back at home and took a fourth quarter lead, you wondered if the Knicks could match the run. They did with an 11-2 run of their own that included a whole lot of Carmelo. And offensive rebounds.
As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.
For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.
Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.
To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English
Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.
Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.
Steven Adams reflecting on Kevin Garnett's retirement. Said he pulled the "no English" card when KG tried to talk to him: pic.twitter.com/uUVgisG4vb
Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.
Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.
“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…
“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”
Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.
The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.
Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis
In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.