LeBron James likely to start at center for Eastern Conference All-Stars

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The NBA changed the way they categorize players for All-Star voting purposes last season, eliminating the center position (and all others) from the ballot entirely and replacing those with either a frontcourt or backcourt player distinction.

While it won’t affect superstar big men like Roy Hibbert making the All-Star roster, it will change the way the starting lineups shake out.

The more exciting players who fill up the nightly highlight reels are the ones who the fans will vote in as starters, and that means we could see a highly unusual jump ball situation to start the midseason exhibition on February 16.

From Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

The first set of results won’t be released until Thursday, and voting won’t conclude until Jan. 20, with the starters named Jan. 23. But James, Anthony and George are heavy favorites to gain the top three frontcourt spots. All three are technically small forwards, though Anthony and James both play in the post quite a bit. And of the three, James is the one who has actually guarded centers at times.

Therefore, he would be the center by default.

“That is hilarious,” James said. “That is crazy! I would start at center in the All-Star Game? Against Dwight Howard?”

Very possibly.

Howard’s reputation has taken a ht over the past couple of seasons due to the way he handled things in his final year in Orlando and his lone season in Los Angeles, but he has historically ranked very high in the All-Star voting process, and that isn’t likely to change this season.

If not Howard, it could be Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge. But at this point, it appears more than likely that James will be matching up at center against somebody when the All-Star game tips off.

Kevin Durant apologizes for telling fans ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,’ reiterates stance

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Kevin Durant told fans, dismayed by the lack of competitive games and series this postseason, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

Daring customers to choose another form of entertainment might not be good business for the NBA, but it’s not as if many fans needed an invitation. I doubt anyone was on the fence about watching then made up their minds after hearing Durant’s comments.

Yet, the Warriors star offered an apology.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“I mean, life can be simple, man, Durant told ESPN. “If you don’t like the way the game is going, just turn it off. If you’re enjoying it, just keep it on. Life is simple. I didn’t mean it to disrespect anybody, but if you felt disrespected, I’m sorry. But if you don’t enjoy the game, turn it off [and] turn something else on. If you do, enjoy the rest of it, man.”

This is just a softer touch on the same sentiment – and just as reasonable.

People who love the NBA will watch. People who hate the NBA won’t. And people in the middle will fluctuate depending on the quality of the product.

Anyone mad at Durant the first time was just looking for a reason to get upset. That group will probably find a source of irritation in the follow-up quote, too.

The rest of us didn’t need this (half-hearted) apology, anyway.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.