Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard is amused you think he’ll get tired doing five events All-Star weekend

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NEW ORLEANS — All-Star weekend is supposed to be a few days off in the middle of the season for players. A chance to relax, hang out with family or go sit on a beach in the Caribbean or whatever they want to do. A needed break in the middle of the marathon NBA season, a break the league is talking about making even longer.

So what is Damian Lillard thinking?

The Portland point guard is in five events this weekend. It starts with the Rising Stars challenge Friday night (you still call it the rookie/sophomore game). Saturday he’s in the Dunk Contest and the Three Point Contest and the Skills Challenge. Sunday he’s got a spot in the All-Star Game itself.

That’s no break.

Of course if you suggest to Lillard that’s too much he pretty much laughs at the idea.

“I don’t see it problem,” Lillard said Friday when speaking to the media. “It’s not like I’m playing 35 hard minutes like I do for the Trail Blazers. However many minutes I play in the All-Star Game, it’s not like we’re gonna be picking up full court, or playing ball screen defense in the Rising Stars tonight. The other competitions are maybe five minutes a piece. So it’s not much effort or exertion like that. It’s a friendly competition.”

It also helps that he is 23 years old. As players get older they cherish the weekend off more and more — when I asked Tony Parker if he tried to drag Tim Duncan to the game this weekend he laughed and said, “No way, he didn’t want to come and I couldn’t have changed his mind.”

For Lillard, this weekend is all about improving his personal brand (and the Trail Blazers were okay with it, he said). He came out of a mid-major at Weber State, it wasn’t like he came out of Duke or Kansas or some school that gave him a built in massive fan base. He’s got to earn it now, so he’s trying to do that. He’ll put himself out there every night.

He can sleep when he’s as old as Duncan.

So what skills event does he stand the best chance of winning?

“If I didn’t think I had a chance to win all of them I wouldn’t put my name in them,” Lillard said. “I really feel strong about the three-point shootout.”

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.