Andre Drummond named MVP of Rising Stars Challenge

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NEW ORLEANS — Andre Drummond finished with 30 points and 25 rebounds in his team’s 142-136 win in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, a performance which earned him the game’s MVP trophy.

Few will remember him for it, however, thanks to an extended one-on-one shootout that went down between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters.

The two guards began going at each other in the first half and then continued it on through the second, matching one another with shots that increased in both difficulty and range. Waiters finished with 31 points, while Hardaway ended up with a game-high of 36.

Drummond was dominant, however, and deserving of the game’s Most Valuable honor. His 25 rebounds were just three fewer than the entire opposing team amassed, and the fact that he missed last year’s event as a rookie had more than a little to do with the energy he put forth in this one.

“Missing the game last year was tough for me,” Drummond said. “I hated watching every second of it. It was tough I couldn’t be out there. It was my mindset to come out and play with energy like I had been all year. I had my mindset to win the MVP and win the game, and I went out and did it.”

Drummond started off the game with a ridiculous 16 points and 10 rebounds in under 10 minutes of action, fighting for inside position and scoring repeatedly on putbacks after hauling down offensive rebounds. When he did get the ball in the post, he attacked aggressively with spin moves before going up for strong finishes.

The hot start was almost for nothing the way Waiters and Hardaway stole the show, but Drummond didn’t mind having a front row seat.

“It was just like last year with Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving,” he said. “There’s always going to be two guys that just decide to go after each other, and it was an excellent battle. Last year, it was attacking the cup, but this year it was back-to-back threes, nonstop. I got to sit and watch for a couple of minutes, but it was very interesting to see that.”

Putting in a monster performance against other stars in their first or second seasons was satisfying for Drummond, and may have provided a little motivation for him to continue to work on his game until he’s invited to the main event on All-Star Sunday.

“I had the mindset this year of coming out here and playing with energy to show the league that I could play in Sunday’s game,” Drummond said. “And that I’m able to hang with the big guys.”

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.