Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Extra Pass: Handicapping the All-Star Saturday events

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A week from now the eyes of the basketball world will be on New Orleans for the NBA’s Damian Lillardapalooza. … er, I mean the NBA’s All-Star weekend.

While Sunday’s All-Star Game is the big show, I’ve always found Saturday night’s series of skill contests more fun than the no-D exhibition that is the All-Star Game itself. So, in the spirit of gambling (I guess), let’s take a stab at handicapping the three big events of All-Star Saturday night.

SLAM DUNK CONTEST

All predictions here must come with this caveat — they have changed the format this season to start with a freestyle round where everyone is dunking, then a series of head-to-head dunk “battles” to decide if the East or West wins. I have no idea how this will change the feel of the event and how the format will effect who wins it. That said, I’ll make a prediction anyway on who wins the “Dunker of the Night” as voted by the fans.

Favorite: Paul George, Indiana Pacers. There are three factors in his favor. First and foremost, the fans vote on the award and George is a popular budding superstar. This is a popularity contest to a degree. Second, he has done this before. George has been in the dunk contest and that matters because there is a distinct difference between an in-game dunk and an exhibition dunk and having done this before he should get it. Third, and most importantly, he can really throw it down.

Others at the front of the pack: Terrence Ross and John Wall. Ross won the Dunk Contest last year and did it without props — he knows how to win and we know he can throw down. Wall has the perfect combination of athleticism and showmanship to win the Dunk Contest, plus he is a name known by fans.

Dark Horse: Ben McLemore of the Kings. He was supposed to be the best shooter in the last draft but he has real hops and has shown some impressive dunks this year.

SKILLS CHALLENGE

Favorite: This is the hardest event to predict, but I’ll take Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns — he’s quick, he’s precise, and he grew up in a European system where they practiced the fundamentals more than most AAU coaches do stateside. Besides, the Suns deserve some recognition.

Others at the front of the pack: Watch out for the two rookies, Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke. This is the kind of event that traditionally goes to skilled guys who are quick with the ball, your Tony Parkers of the world, and these two guys are both quick and skilled.

Dark Horse: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks… okay, I’m not sure he has a real shot at this, but I just want the Greek Freak to win.

THREE POINT CONTEST

Favorite: It’s got to be Stephen Curry. There are guys who have higher in-game shooting percentages but this is a contest about finding a groove and hitting big shots under pressure and nobody in the game right now does that better than Curry.

Others at the front of the pack: Really any of the guys in this group could get in a rhythm and win, but keep an eye on Marco Belinelli — he is knocking down 44.3 percent of his looks from beyond the arc this season, the highest percentage of anyone in the competition. Also don’t sleep on Kevin Love, who won this same competition two years ago and we know he can find a rhythm and win.

Dark Horse: I would say Kyle Korver, but somehow he isn’t there participating. I would say Klay Thompson, but somehow he isn’t there participating. You sense a theme here?

SATURDAY NIGHT’S BIGGEST WINNER

Kendrick Lamar.

He’s performing before the Slam Dunk Contest and he’s the only thing I know I’ll love all night.

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Nets 103, Spurs 89: The Spurs were without their big four (no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard) yet they led in the first half by as many as 12 because they are the Spurs and they run their system. But eventually talent wins out in the NBA and Brooklyn just had more of it — although Alan Anderson may not be the first name you think of in Brooklyn he had the hot hand and had 22 points on the night as the Nets pulled away in the second half for the win.

Warriors 102, Bulls 87: Out of the gate Golden State just was not ready for the hard charging, aggressive style of Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls — they only know how to play one way. But again, as in the Nets game, at some point talent wins out and Golden State has guys who can create on offense that the Bulls just do not — Stephen Curry had 36 points on the night as the Warriors came back to get the win. But it was closer and harder fought than the score indicates (the Warriors closed on an 11-2 run).

Wizards’ Tomas Satoransky says new role making adjustment to NBA hard

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26:  Tomas Satoransky #31 of the Washington Wizards dribbles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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There was a lot of preseason buzz about Wizards rookie Tomas Satoransky — he’s 6’7″, long, athletic, he’s got handles, and he made some impressive plays in preseason.

His regular season has been a disappointment. He’s playing more than 16 minutes a night, but is shooting just 40 percent from the field, is scoring 3.8 points with 2.4 assists per game, and he has a PER at 8 that suggests he could use some D-League run.

Why is he having trouble adjusting? He spoke to gigantes.com and said a lot of it is learning a new position (translation via Sportando).

“I’m not playing as a point guard, I’m playing mainly as 2 or 3 and that’s difficult for me,” Satoransky said. ‘When you played your entire career as point guard, it’s difficult to adapt to a new role, especially because you have to play defense against bigger guys. I know I have to do better to play in these roles”

With John Wall and Trey Burke on the Wizards, there isn’t a lot of room for run at the point for Satoransky. He also is adjusting to the NBA game — a third of his possessions come as the pick-and-roll ball handler (a big role for an NBA point guard) and he is shooting 34.8 percent on those, although he is passing well out of those situations (with passes the Wizards average almost a point per possession when he comes off the pick, stats via Synergy Sports). Satoransky also is getting a fair amount of spot-up looks but is shooting  28.6 percent on those.

There are a lot of things going wrong with the Wizards’ bench units, Satoransky is part of that but at least he’s a guy the Wizards want to take their time and develop. Scott Brooks is still figuring out how to make all this work at the same time. Which means Satoransky may have a good NBA future ahead of him, but there is a lot of work to come first, and this rookie season is going to be rough.

Grizzlies sign GM Chris Wallace, top executives to new deals

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 24: Mike Conley receives the 2016 Joe Dumars NBA Sportsmanship Award from Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace prior to Game Four of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 24, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. 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 Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have signed general manager Chris Wallace and a pair of executive vice presidents in the front office to multi-year extensions.

The team announced the deals Thursday without disclosing the terms.

Controlling owner Robert Pera said in a statement that Wallace along with John Hollinger, executive vice president of basketball operations, and Ed Stefanski, executive vice president of player personnel, have established the culture he believes is necessary to compete in the NBA.

Wallace has been Memphis’ general manager since June 18, 2007. The Grizzlies have gone to six straight postseasons with 27 playoff victories after having none in the first three appearances.

Hollinger has been with Memphis since December 2012, and Stefanski has been with Memphis since July 2014.

Did Carmelo Anthony throw shade at Phil Jackson on Instagram?

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a shot against the Charlotte Hornets during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in New York. The Knicks won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Phil Jackson, on a CBS show this week, took a little dig at Carmelo Anthony and how he plays in the Knicks offense.

“He can play that role that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played. That’s a perfect spot for him, to be in that isolated position on the weak side. Because it’s an overload offense and there’s a weak-side man that always has an advantage if the ball is swung. Carmelo, a lot of times, wants to hold the ball longer than… we have a rule, if you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold the ball for three, four, five seconds, then everybody comes to a stop. That is one of the things we work with. But he has adjusted to it, he knows what it can do and he’s willing to see its success.”

Anthony didn’t want to talk about it. However, after Knicks got their heads handed to them by the Cavaliers on national television Wednesday, Anthony took to Instagram.

UN-Phased (MyLifeSummedUpInOnePhoto) #StayMe7o

A photo posted by @carmeloanthony on

We can safely assume those were not messages to Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose. Was it intended for Jackson? Anthony has plausible deniability here, but that seems the most likely answer.

To be fair, according to the Sports VU tracking cameras in arenas (stats via NBA.com), this season Anthony is holding the ball for less time and taking fewer dribbles than he did a season ago (1.64 dribbles per touch this season). He’s doing better.

But Jackson can never quite resist a dig. If you want to play conspiracy theory and try to read more into that, well, that seems to be the trend in America, in general, these days.

David Stern blames Rockets, Lakers for “wrong impression” of failed Chris Paul trade

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If was five years ago this week that David Stern canceled a three-way trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers to team up with Kobe Bryant, while Pau Gasol went to the Rockets, and the then New Orleans Hornets would have gotten Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick. The rumor was that angry owners — remember, a new CBA had just been signed with the express purpose of limiting “superteams” — pressured him and Stern, the owner representative of the Hornets at the time (the previous owner sold the team back to the league), and he nixed the trade.

Stern said this week that narrative was all wrong.

In an interview with the Sports Business Radio Road Show Stern said there never was a trade, but what we heard was the spin of angry Laker and Rockets GMs. Via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.

First, this is a bit of semantics by Stern. That there was no trade to “cancel” because all three parties never approved it may be technically correct, but the idea that he was the barrier from that trade happening remained. If the Rockets, Lakers, and Hornets GM Dell Demps were all on the same page and Stern shot it down because he didn’t think it was a good enough deal for the Hornets, the outcome is the same because of him.

Was he the lone reason the trade died? Trades fall apart for a lot of reasons, it depends on who you ask.

Were the Rockets and Lakers ticked after the trade? Try bringing it up with a Laker fan now, there is still plenty of bitterness.

If Stern wants to argue in the long run this was better for the Hornets (who became the Pelicans), he can. Paul was traded to the Clippers for Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a 2012 1st round draft pick (Austin Rivers). The Hornets were so bad the year after the deal they ended up with the No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis.