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Tracy McGrady, Tim Hardaway, Chris Webber headline Hall of Fame nominated finalists

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NEW ORLEANS — Tracy McGrady was one of the great scorers the NBA has ever seen. There was once a time when the debate was “McGrady or Kobe,” he was that good and went on to be a two-time NBA scoring champion, an All-NBA player multiple times, and a seven-time All-Star.

And now he’s on the cusp of being in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

“This isn’t a dream come true because when I was a kid I didn’t even know what the Hall was,” McGrady said.

McGrady was one of the Hall finalists announced on Saturday in an event surrounding the NBA All-Star Game. He, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber headline the North American class for the Hall. Who will be voted in gets announced at the NCAA Final Four in April.

Also, legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager and the New York Time’s Henry Araton will be honored with the Hall’s Curt Gowdy Media Award.

During his playing days, McGrady knew how to put on a show.

But the Hall announcement humbled a man not exactly known for that side of his personality.

“This is so surreal, I’m only 37 years old, I’m not old,” McGrady said. “For me to be up for this, I still, can’t fathom it.

“This is unbelievable, and I was truly shocked… on our show (ESPN’s The Jump) Rachel (Nichols) told me the news, I was extremely shocked about it. Seriously. I didn’t think I was eligible at the time, and here I am as a finalist. I’m nervous about what’s to come.”

Joining him near the top of the class was the crossover king Tim Hardaway — the other two-thirds of the Warriors Run TMC — Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond — are already in the Hall. Hardaway is a favorite to join them, and his influence is still felt in the game today.

“One of my favorites was Tim Hardaway,” All-Star Kemba Walker said this weekend when asked who he watched and idolized as a youth. “Another small guard, and I just loved the way he played. There’s a lot of similarities in our game.”

Here are the other nominees.

• Chris Webber, the former Michigan standout who was part of the best Kings teams in that franchise’s history. Webber was an NBA Rookie of the Year, a four-time All-NBA player, and he averaged at least 20 points a game for nine consecutive seasons.

• Sydney Moncrief, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an All-NBA player, and a five-time All-Star known then as what would now be called a two-way player.

“I grew up under Eddie Sutton, where if you didn’t play defense you didn’t play. Then I played under Don Nelson, where if you didn’t play offense you didn’t play,” Moncrief said. “So I guess I had some good teachers.”

• Rudy Tomjanavich, the former Rockets coach who also coach USA to gold in 2000.
• Rebecca Lobo, college national champion, gold medalist, and one of the first stars in the WNBA.
• Hugh Evans, who spent 28 seasons as a referee and officiated more than 2,000 NBA games, then served as the Supervisor of Officials for the league.
• Bill Self, the Kansas coach who won a national championship with that program in 2008.
• Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin coach who won four Division III national titles before turning Wisconsin into a powerhouse.
• Rollie Massimino, the legendary college coach who led Villanova past Georgetown to a national title in 1985 and well as four other Final Four appearances.
• Robert Hughes, a legendary high school coach from Texas who won 1,333 games over 47 seasons.
• Muffett McGraw, the coach of Notre Dame’s national powerhouse women’s team.
• Kim Mulkey, the Baylor women’s coach who led that program to two national titles.
• The Wayland Baptist University women’s team from the 1950s that was a groundbreaking program for the women’s game.

Russell Westbrook dogs Warriors, Damian Lillard after Paul George misses All-Star roster

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Ah yes, let the mud-slinging begin.

Russell Westbrook is on a team with three huge stars in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was always going to be difficult for all of them to make the 2018 NBA All-Star team out west.

But that doesn’t matter to Russ.

After Tuesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets (where Westbrook hit the game-winning shot, no less) the reigning NBA MVP had some thoughts about teammate Paul George missing out on the All-Star Game, calling it “outrageous”.

Westbrook wasn’t too happy with teams getting “four people” onto the team (a dig at the Golden State Warriors) and that players are, “Talking about getting snubbed until they get in.”

That last part seems to have taken aim at Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, one of the most talked about snubs in recent years who finally got another All-Star bid.

Via Twitter:

Westbrook also said that George was “Top 2 at his position” which really colors the underlying issue at hand: Russ likes PG and wants him to stay in OKC.

Nobody reasonable would say that George is a Top 2 player on the wing. Not while LeBron James and Kevin Durant are alive, at least. And Westbrook’s comments about folks being stars vs. not stars, even if the voting goes one way says a lot.

The Warriors are the best team of all time. A bunch of guys getting on All-Star teams in their heyday makes sense, even if one of those guys is Klay Thompson (sometimes). We all have Warriors fatigue, I guess.

Meanwhile, Lillard is one of adidas’ biggest athletes when it comes to basketball, the face of a franchise, and has put up numbers deserving of making the team in years past. He’s also a big personality and a rapper. Lillard’s name is in lights each and every night. The issue with him sees to be that nobody watches him consistently east of the Cascades.

But all this arguing gives legitimacy to Westbrook’s point, which is mostly personal. George’s numbers have taken a dip in some areas, particularly when it comes to things like VORP, assist percentage, and true shooting. They’ve gone up in others, like 3-point shooting. He’s still a very good player and very valuable to the Thunder.

Each year, guys get left off the All-Star team for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just their turn to be on it or be off it. Nice of Westbrook to stop by with some takes.

Here’s hoping for him that George stays in OKC.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning shot to beat Nets (VIDEO)

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Spencer Dinwiddie hit the game-winning shot for the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. At least, many thought he did.

But that honor actually went to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who had hit the real game winner with a little more than three seconds to go.

Westbrook’s bucket came on after a sideline inbounds play led to a hard drive to the right side of the bucket for the reigning MVP.

Then, Dinwiddie got the ball and had appeared to make a 3-pointer to win the game for the Nets. However, it clanged off the side of the rim, moving the net in a way that many watching on TV and in the arena thought had gone in.

Via Twitter:

OKC beat Brooklyn, 109-108.

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

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We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.