Three Stars of the Night: Give me your Point Guards

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I’m a sucker for point guards. The guys who can balance scoring and dishing; who can control the game’s flow like they do the ball in their hands. Tonight there were several worthy performances of making out list, including fantastic nights from Kevin Durant, Luis Scola, Gerald Henderson, and Greg Monroe. But, tonight, I’m going with the point guards who made their team go and led their squads to victory. Let’s get to it…

Third Star: Goran Dragic (21 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals)

Dragic didn’t have the best shooting night (7-17 from the floor), but he led his team masterfully in an upset win over the visiting Houston Rockets. Dragic set the tone early, leading the Suns to a dynamic 39 point first period with 8 points and 9 assists (with zero turnovers) in the opening frame. He broke down the defense masterfully and set up his teammates for open shots that they were able to knock down. This was a bit of a revenge game for Dragic who was allowed to walk in free agency by the Rockets after putting up some very good numbers for them last year. Tonight, with this win, Dragic was able to help put his old team in jeopardy of slipping all the way to the 8th seed should they lose to the Lakers in their season finale on Wednesday. Not a bad night’s work for the Slovenian point guard.

Second Star: Kemba Walker (23 points, 9-15 shooting, 13 assists, 4 rebounds)

In the pantheon of very good young point guards around the league, Kemba Walker’s name typically isn’t one of the first mentioned. That said, the 2nd year pro is making real strides in his game, finding ways to have a positive impact for the Bobcats as a scorer and a distributor. Tonight was a perfect example of that as he blended his usual brand of shot making with excellent playmaking for his teammates. Maybe the most impressive part of Walker’s night was the fact that his 13 assists came with only a single turnover attached as he mostly made smart reads that fueled his team’s offense while fearlessly attacking the defense.

First Star: Stephen Curry (35 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 made three pointers)

There may not be a more fun player to watch right now than Steph Curry. He dazzles with a fantastic handle and is able to launch quick release jumpers from all over the floor. And against the Spurs, Curry had that jumper working, canning 7 of his 13 attempts from behind the arc to lead his Warriors to a win that, with the Rockets losing, could set them up to climb up to the 6th seed on the last day of the season. In the 1st half Curry mostly worked on the ball, creating for himself and then making good passes when the defense took away his jumper. But in the 2nd half he worked much more off the ball, coming off screens and hitting shots that few people could even attempt, much less knock down. Just another special night from one of the league’s special talents.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.