Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard knew man “Fruitvale Station” is based on

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Around Hollywood, “Fruitvale Station” has come out of the gate as the movie to beat in the Oscars Best Picture race. It is the emotionally wrenching true story of Oscar Grant, an African-American living in Oakland who was shot in the back and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer while Grant was handcuffed and on the ground. The shooting on New Year’s Day 2009 sparked mass protests, both at the time of the shooting (which was recorded on video) and after a jury returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter for the officer who fired the shot.

Damian Lillard knew Oscar Grant.

Portland’s Rookie of the Year, Lillard grew up in Oakland and talked about Grant and how the movie hit home for him in an interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“He went to high school and played on the same football team as my brother,” Lillard said. “I used to always be around my brother at the high school and crossed paths with [Grant]. We were on the bus at the same time. We were always in the same areas….

“You don’t see a lot of movies that are actually based in Oakland and give a chance to see what people are going through there every day,” Lillard said. “It was nerve-wracking to see in the movie how they had everything down pat and how they eventually went through the day in the life of a lot of people, a lot of young men in Oakland.

“At the end it was breathtaking how [Grant] kept saying after he was shot that he had a daughter, you see how friends were [helpless] and see how his family came together. This wasn’t just a movie. This really happened. At that point, I kind of sat in my seat and was like, ‘Wow.’ “

Some people in life are just forced to grow up faster than others (as a parent, it’s something I kind of try to protect my daughter’s from, I want them to savor childhood). Part of that is just simply where you grow up and what you are forced to deal with as a result.

Lillard dealt with a lot and come through it a better, more mature man. That may make him a better basketball player, but any on-court benefit is secondary. The world just needs more stand-up people, thoughtful people.

Lillard told Yahoo he is trying to set up some programs for youth in Oakland (something Gary Payton and other Oakland natives have tried to do there). It may be a small step toward helping an area dealing with a rash of murders and violence, but it’s a step. And the fact Lillard is doing something says something about him.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.