NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard’s busy All-Star Saturday night started out pretty darn well — with a repeat win.
Lillard will be in all three major events on the evening and first out of the gate he and Trey Burke teamed up to win the NBA All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge — by just one tenth of a second over the all-rookie team of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo. Lillard was the defending champion in this event.
The event was changed up this year. First it became a tandem of players trying to work through the challenges passing off the ball in between, not an individual event (part of the NBA’s effort to make All-Star Saturday more of an East vs. West event). Plus, the challenges themselves were changed — gone was the bounce pass station, for example.
Didn’t matter to Lillard.
Lillard and Burke advanced to the final by first beating a team of Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson (who lollygagged through the course) and Phoenix’s Goran Dragic. In their first run Burke and Lillard’s time of 40.6 was the best of any tandem all night.
Carter-Williams and Oladipo (your two Rookie of the Year leaders) advanced by knocking off a team of Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. We at PBT are big Antetokounmpo fans but this is not an event in the raw rookie’s wheelhouse — he missed on the chest pass and knocking down a top of the key jumper.
In the final showdown, Carter-Williams and Oladipo both missed on the chest pass and struggled with the jumper.
It seemed like something Lillard and Burke could beat as both were just quicker with the ball in this event, but a couple missed shots made it go right down to the wire.
“I started to hear the crowd and you continue to glance up and looked up at the clock and I knew it was close,” Burke said, adding he thought it was going to be a tie.
Still it’s a win is a win, and Lillard is your repeat Skills Challenge winner.
The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.
Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.
At least they’re having fun with it.
On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.
Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.
As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.
For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.
His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).
“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”
Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.
We’re going to miss Kobe.