The Extra Pass: Vince Carter had a front row seat for the “Miracle on Hudson” plane crash

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LOS ANGELES — “They have to be shooting a movie or something.”

That was Vince Carter’s first thought.

Five years ago yesterday, the morning of Jan. 15, 2009, Carter woke up in the bedroom of his home in Edgewater New Jersey, and was lazily sitting on his bed just looking out the window of his home with a view of the Hudson River, when into his peripheral vision he sees a plane flying entirely too low and looking like it was going down.

That turned out to be US Airways Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia Airport — the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane. It had taken off like thousands of other flights out of that airport when a couple geese flew in front of the plane, got sucked into the engines and sent the plane down. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III became a national hero that day for safely landing the plane on the water in a way that all of the 155 passengers and crew survived.

Carter had no idea what he was witnessing at first.

“I was sitting in my bedroom looking out the window, and all of a sudden, like not a minute later a freakin’ plane lands in the Hudson,” Carter said before his current team the Mavericks took on the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.

“I was sitting in my bed and it was literally right outside my window,” Carter said. “So when the plane lands, I see the current turning the plane, I see the door open and the first two people jump out, and it was cold that day, and they start swimming, swimming, then they turn around because it’s a little too cold and the next thing you know everybody is on the wing.”

Within a couple minutes Carter was outside talking to his neighbors, they heard the sirens of the first responders racing to the scene, and they saw the rescue efforts first hand as ferries started to swing by and pick up the stranded passengers.

You can put Carter in the Sullenberger fan club, one a lot of people were in after that day.

“When it hit the water it was a smooth landing, like he was landing on a runway…” Carter said while using his hands to show how it came in relatively parallel to the Hudson, like a seaplane landing. “He put it right down, smooth. I mean of course that big ol’ plane hitting the water was loud, there was a ‘boom’ but the plane was intact. It was amazing.”

Carter called the Nets’ trainer and said he was going to be a little late to shootaround that day, and this was a pretty good excuse. Carter said he tried to offer tickets to Sullenberger for the game that night, but as you might imagine by that point the pilot had a few other things going on.

“I was in awe that it happened and I got to witness it.”

So how did that impact a guy whose job has him flying around 100 times a year?

“You’re a little leery of course when you get on planes,” he said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘he’s not flying? I’m nervous.’ It was just amazing, he saved a lot of lives.”

—Kurt Helin

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Wizards 114, Heat 97: Maybe it was the trade, maybe it was the distraction of Greg Oden being activated for the first time this season. But whatever it was, Miami was nowhere near ready to compete when the ball was tipped in Washington on Wednesday. The Wizards scored 43 points in the first quarter, and led by as many as 34 points before the end of the first half. The only thing relevant in this one was Oden, who dunked almost immediately after entering the game, and finished with six points and two rebounds in just over eight minutes of action. — Brett Pollakoff

Bulls 128, Magic 125 (3OT): Triple-overtime games can make for some gaudy stat lines, and this one was no different. Magic rookie Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 35 points, to go along with eight assists in 57 minutes of action. Jimmy Butler played over 60 minutes for the Bulls, the most anyone’s played since Jalen Rose played 61 for the Pacers back in 2001. — BP

Sixers 95, Bobcats 92: Thaddeus Young hit a three-pointer with a few seconds remaining that allowed the Sixers to snap a four-game losing streak. Spencer Hawes finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in 38 minutes, and Michael Carter-Williams added 20, eight, and seven to the winning cause. — BP

Celtics 88, Raptors 83: Go ahead, try to predict this league. The Raptors had recently emerged as the third best team in the East, and had been playing much better as of late, while the Celtics came into this one riding a nine-game losing streak. So naturally, Boston came away with the victory. Toronto shot just 38.5 percent from the field and got crushed on the boards, thanks largely to the work of Jared Sullinger who finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds. — BP

Grizzlies 82, Bucks 77: Milwaukee has the worst record in the league, and managed just 10 points in the first quarter and 17 in the fourth, yet the Grizzlies will take the win nonetheless, as it gets them back to .500 on the season. Marc Gasol went scoreless with five rebounds in under 15 minutes in just his second game back from injury, and Mike Conley was the only Memphis starter to finish in double figures scoring. Brandon Knight continued his stellar play for the Bucks, and led all scorers in this one with 27 points. — BP

Kings 111, Timberwolves 108: The narrative surrounding Rudy Gay throughout his career just hasn’t held true during the short amount of time he’s played for the Sacramento Kings. Instead of a high-volume chucker, Gay has been the model of efficiency since being traded from the Raptors, and his performance against the Timberwolves was yet another example of his transformation. Gay finished with a game-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and six assists. — BP

Rockets 103, Pelicans 100: James Harden hit a jumper with 28 seconds remaining that ultimately gave the Rockets the victory, but he may have pushed off on Austin Rivers to create the space to shoot it, so purists may not have been thrilled with the game’s ultimate result. Harden is talented, but he’s also skilled in using the rules of the game to his advantage; often times, the way the game is officiated will determine whether or not Harden has a strong showing. He finished with 26 points and seven assists in this one, and negated a strong performance from Eric Gordon, who finished with 35 points on just 17 shots, to go along with six assists. — BP

Spurs 109, Jazz 105: San Antonio was in control of this game from when they went on a 20-5 run in the third quarter, and in typical Spurs fashion you expected them to coast in for the victory. But just like when the Spurs blew a big lead to the Grizzlies last week, Utah came back from 10 down inside the last two minutes thanks to 11 fourth-quarter points from Trey Burke and 14 in the final frame from Enes Kanter. Utah’s size made you realize how much San Antonio misses Tiago Splitter. Tony Parker had 25 points and 9 assists for the Spurs. — Kurt Helin

Suns 121, Lakers 114: The Lakers made a push after Nick Young got ejected in the second quarter and pushed their lead up to 13. However, the Suns closed the first half on an 11-2 run and for much of the second half it was close. Channing Frye had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns held on for he win. Gerald Green led the way for the Suns with 28 points, Markief Morris added 24. The Lakers got 18 from Chris Kaman. — KH

Trail Blazers 108, Cavaliers 96: The score deceives that this game was close for 45 minutes, but in the final 2:31 Portland went on a 12-0 run to make it look like they were in more control than they were. LaMarcus Aldridge scored nine straight points in that window and he finished with 32 points. Damian Lillard chipped in 28. Portland is now a ridiculous 29-9 on the season. Luol Deng had 25 points to lead the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving had 21 points but needed 20 shots to get there. — KH

Nuggets 123, Warriors 116: Rule number one in basketball is the team that shoots better wins — Denver shot 54.2 percent Wednesday night, Golden State 43.3 percent. That’s your ball game. The Nuggets went on a 13-4 run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter then answered every Warriors’ run the rest of the way. Ty Lawson continued his run of strong play finishing with 22 points (his ability to finish through contact is amazing) and 11 assists. Good Nate Robinson showed up and had 24 off the bench. Mostly, Denver is good when Randy Foye is good and he was this night with 21. David Lee had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 24 for Golden State. — KH

Clippers 129, Mavericks 124: This felt like a mid-80s Denver Nuggets game — fast paced, lots of threes, not a lot of defense but a whole lot of entertainment. Doug Moe would have loved it. The Clippers got the win and we broke the game down in more detail here. — KH

DeMarcus Cousins thinks refs are giving him techs off reputation alone

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New Orleans Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins is a fiery personality on the court, often arguing foul calls at length despite no official in NBA history reversing a call directly after player complaint.

Crafty veterans — your LeBron Jameses and your Chris Pauls — slowly and pointedly chatter with officials as a means to influence their subconscious leaning on calls (and to protect them against earning techs when they do decide to straight up yell at refs).

Cousins hasn’t used that kind of angling to success in his career, instead going hard at referees with some consistency. Cousins has tried to change that approach this season, but instead has found that his prior actions have earned him a reputation the Pelicans forward believes doesn’t befit his actions in 2017-18.

Speaking to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, Cousins said that despite letting more calls go and changing his candor, NBA refs are not responding proportionately.

Via The Undefeated:

I am going out of my way. I am going over and beyond,” Cousins said. “I am coming in saying, ‘We can’t do this, this and this …’ Even calls I know I should be arguing, I’m letting go. And they’re still like … it’s a one-sided thing. Everything is changing from one end. But with them, it’s like, ‘We are not letting go of the past. You are who you are. You’re getting a tech.’

“So, when it comes to me getting a tech for saying, ‘Good call, referee …,’ vets and coaches tell me to butter them up. Switch it up a little bit. Do a little reverse psychology. Tell them it’s a good call. And you still getting a tech for it? They’re not trying to make it work. They’re stuck in their ways, and it is so obvious.”

Cousins added that he believes foes are taking advantage of his troubles.

“Now it’s to the point where teams are saying, ‘Yeah, just go over there and beat the s— out of him.’ I don’t get calls, and I’m not protected like other players are,” he said.

It’s interesting to see that Cousins has at least tried to change things up, and indeed acknowledges that he should be trying to work with the officials rather than antagonize them.

Still, we’re not sure what the tone of his “good call” comments are toward the refs. Are they sarcastic? Or are they contrite? You can see how one might earn Cousins a tech from an official — who seem to be particularly sensitive this season — and the other might endear you to them.

James Harden is playing with a bruised right knee

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James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets are on a 13-game winning streak. They have a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. But it’s not all rosy in Space City.

Harden suffered a bruised right knee against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, and almost had to sit out the Rockets’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the win over the Bucks, Harden said that he was in some pain but a doctor told him he would be able to play and that he would not make the condition worse.

Via ESPN:

“I wasn’t feeling well at all, but the doc came in and just told me that there’s going to be pain for a bit, but you can play through it,” Harden said. “It can’t get worse, but it’s going to be pretty painful until obviously you give it some time. Once he said that, I was like, ‘Let’s go.'”

“I wasn’t moving like I usually move, but we won,” said Harden.

If Harden wasn’t feeling well, it sure didn’t show. He had 31 points, although on 8-of-21 shooting against Milwaukee. Chris Paul chipped in with 25 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

It doesn’t sound like Harden will be missing a game any time soon, which is par for the course for him. He’s played in a minimum of 89 percent of his team’s regular season games since entering the league in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Rockets are blasting their way into 2018. They play the Warriors next on January 4.

Nuggets say Paul Millsap won’t return until after All-Star break

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The Western Conference has been a blast this season, with the Houston Rockets playing strong after the arrival of Chris Paul. The team has 13 straight wins, and a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors.

That’s just part of the results of the West getting a boatload of stars sent its way over the summer. One team is lacking their new addition, however, and his absence has been a quiet disappointment. The Denver Nuggets still sit in sixth place out West, but new forward Paul Millsap has been sidelined with a wrist injury.

The original timeline for Millsap said he would be out for three months, which would put him back around the beginning of March. That plan was confirmed by Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, who said that he expects Millsap will be out until at least the All-Star break, which starts on February 16.

Malone also seemed to indicate it’s possible Millsap is out longer than that.

Via Twitter:

At least Millsap is on schedule? It’s hard to tell inflection from text, but let’s just hope Malone’s “at the earliest” isn’t an indicator of slow recovery on Millsap’s part. The Nuggets certainly don’t need to rush Millsap back. They have a 16-13 record and instill more confidence than most the teams floundering below them in the standings.

LeBron James on talk with Lonzo Ball: “Some things could be held private”

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LeBron James was caught on a hot mic this week speaking with Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. The conversation came after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers in Ohio, 121-112.

In their talk, LeBron told Ball that he needed to stay in his zone and be aggressive. Pretty generic stuff, to be honest.

Meanwhile, LeBron was asked about whether he thought having microphones record those types of conversations between players was good for the league. He was less than enthused.

Via Cleveland.com (response is at 0:50 in the video above):

Some things could be held private. Like my conversation with Lonzo. Everything doesn’t need to be said. Should be some type of privacy. I’m OK with it.

It does raise an interesting question in terms of player privacy and separation between media, fans, and players. On one hand, you could see how what they say on the floor, in a public arena meant for spectators, could be deemed public and therefore fair game.

But it’s also common for media not to publish — or for TV not to broadcast — the things players say during the game. We don’t hear trash talking, even if we see it, and if you’ve ever sat near the floor at an NBA game you hear a lot more colorful language than you do watching the game on TV.

However you come down player privacy on the court, it doesn’t seem like LeBron needed to speak with Ball in front of media like that. He could have spoken to him in the tunnels below the Q, or got his phone number and texted him. He could have sent him a DM on Twitter and it would have been more private.

It feels like there was a performative aspect to this, like LeBron wanted to create a mystery around his conversation with Lonzo but it got turned on its head. It’s just too bad what was said between them wasn’t actually that interesting.