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.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.
Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.
Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.
Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.
The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.
BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.
The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.
In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.
Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.
New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.
That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.
First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.
The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.
Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.
That seemed odd.
In fact, it’s unprecedented.
That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron James‘ cachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.
Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.