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

Chris Paul scores 33, Rockets topple Warriors 116-108

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.

“Obviously they’re a championship caliber team for the past four years … and that’s what we’re trying to build our way up to,” Harden said.

Harden stepped back from Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left, then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the performance of the 32-year-old Paul .

“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts and 6 of 20 overall. It was just the sixth time in his career that he’d attempted 20 or more shots while making six or fewer.

“It was just one of those nights where I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor,” he said. “So I’ve got to take that responsibility for that one. It was pretty bad.”

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half.

It was Harden’s second game back after missing seven with a strained hamstring. He was in a much better rhythm than in his return Thursday night, when he scored a season-low 10 points. He had eight assists, two steals and two blocks Saturday.

The Rockets got the victory despite missing Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were both serving the second game of a two-game suspension for an altercation with the Clippers. Clint Capela added 18 points for Houston on a night when top reserve Eric Gordon went 0 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with just six points.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

 

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safety

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?