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Donovan Mitchell says Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson were mentors

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Donovan Mitchell learned about the business side of the NBA directly and quickly.

He was selected No. 13 in last June’s NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets and went on stage to shake Adam Silver’s hand wearing a dark-blue Denver Nuggets hat with his grey suit. But within a minute or so of stepping off that stage, he was a member of the Utah Jazz, who traded up to get him. He had been a piece in a trade before he even got his tie loosened on that draft night suit.

In Utah, Mitchell has evolved over the course of the season into a ball-handling, scoring force and a serious Rookie of the Year candidate. He, along with Rudy Gobert, are seen now as the young core that Utah is going to build around for a decade or more. Mitchell is becoming an NBA star.

So much so that he will be showcased All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles where he is part of Team USA in Friday night’s Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge — Mitchell has partnered with Mountain Dew Kickstart as a sponsor, he will be working with them at events around Los Angeles all through that weekend with the public — and he will be on a bigger stage yet in the Dunk Contest Saturday night.

Mitchell is stepping into the spotlight.

All that doesn’t make the business side of the NBA any easier.

Tuesday the Jazz shipped out Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Kings. Mitchell said he leaned on Hood this season as a mentor, helping him adjust to the NBA Game.

“Rodney Hood’s been instrumental in kind of mentoring me throughout this entire season,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Thursday afternoon, hours after the trade was announced. “We play the same position, obviously, and he’s been really, really helpful. It’s his career, and he has he has a really big, big role coming up when he gets to Cleveland, and I’m really excited for him.”

Still, it’s hard to adjust to the game you love and played for fun growing up now being a cold, hard business.

“I’m getting used to the business side of the NBA real fast,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I learned it within my first three minutes in the league being traded from Denver (to Utah), it’s just another part of it.”

Mitchell said he leaned on Hood to help teach him the nuances of the NBA game — coming off picks with the ball, using screens, etc. — but it was the veteran Johnson who helped him understand the business side of the sport better.

“I’ve talked to guys like Joe Johnson. There’s certain times when, I guess, you assume or you kind of know it’s about to happen, so I asked him questions, like ‘what happens in this situation?’ or ‘what happens in that situation?’ and they’re great for answering the questions for me so that way as a young guy coming into the league I know what’s going on or why teams are doing certain things,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s pretty cool I now have the insight because at heart I’m still a fan of basketball and a fan of the NBA so being able to understand why certain trades are happening, understanding what a buyout is — to be honest with you I didn’t really understand a buyout so Joe Johnson explained it to me. It’s pretty cool to have an understanding of these things.”

Tuesday’s trade brings the Jazz Jae Crowder, who had looked lost and dispirited in Cleveland this season, but should be put in better positions to succeed by Quin Snyder. Crowder can defend, hit threes, and blend right in with what Utah likes to do on both ends of the court.

Whoever is in or out, the goal for the Jazz remains the same — make the playoffs. Utah has won six in a row and is back in the postseason mix.

“This doesn’t change much at all,” Mitchell said of the team’s goals. “We’ve been playing well. You know Ricky (Rubio) has been leading the charge, after some time off he’s been great, and we’re just following his lead. Having Rudy (Gobert) back has definitely helped.

“We’re about two-and-a-half or three games out (note: 2.5 games of the eight seed as of today) and we’re making that playoff push. You know, this is around the time when certain teams get tired and kind of get relaxed and we’re using our energy to keep feeding into that and keep going.”

This rookie is learning fast — the NBA is a business and you need to focus past that on the game.

Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash headline 2018 Hall of Fame finalists

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LOS ANGELES — It’s a good year for guards.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced the Finalists for the class of 2018, and you could put together one heck of a modern NBA lineup: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd in the backcourt, Ray Allen on the wing with Grant Hill as your small-ball four and Chris Webber at center.

They were five of the 13 North American nominees for the Hall, men and women. Also very deservedly being honored with the 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Award: longtime and iconic NBA photographer Andy Bernstein, and ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke. There are not two more deserving — or better — people.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced at the Saturday of the Final Four in April.

Here is who voters will be choosing amongst:

RAY ALLEN. Jesus Shuttlesworth should be a lock in his first time on the ballot, he has as pure a jump shot as the league has ever seen. Allen is a two-time NBA Champion (2008 Boston Celtics and 2013 Miami Heat), was named an All-Star 10 times, and (for now at least) is the NBA career leader in three-point field goals made. Before getting to the NBA he was a 1996 First Team All-American at UConn. Just to add to the resume, he has an Olympic gold medal (2000). But when you think of Allen, you’ll think of this shot.

JASON KIDD. Another lock to get in first ballot. Kidd one of the greatest point guards of his generation, he’s got an impressive resume as an NBA champion (2011 Dallas Mavericks), five-time All-NBA First Team, four-times All-Defensive First Team, a 10-time NBA All-Star, and the 1995 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year. At the University of California, Kidd was named Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All American in 1994.

GRANT HILL. If all you remember is the post-2000, post-injury Grant Hill, you missed out. He was the 1995 Co-Rookie of the Year (with Kidd), five-times All-NBA, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and in college at Duke was a member of two NCAA national championship teams (1991, 1992). Hill also has a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, and he’s been very active in philanthropic efforts off the court.

STEVE NASH. Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Nash is a two-time NBA MVP who helped revolutionize the NBA with the seven-seconds or less Suns. He’s an eight-time NBA All-Star, and three-time All-NBA First Team member. Hie is third in all-time assists and holds the NBA record for highest career free throw percentage (.904).

MAURICE CHEEKS. A lock-down defender for most of his 15-year career, Cheeks is an NBA champion (the 1983  Philadelphia 76ers) and a four-time NBA All-Star. Cheeks is still involved in the game and is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

CHRIS WEBBER. Nominated again, we’ll see if he gets in this time, considering his college and NBA impact he should be. Webber is a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year. In college at Michigan he was a key member of the “Fab Five,” that revolutionized the college game.

CHARLES “LEFTY’ DRIESELL. Driesell is the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games at four different schools and just one of 11 coaches to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament. He is remembered as the coach at Maryland for many years as well as the inventor of the “Midnight Madness” concept.

HUGH EVANS. He was an NBA referee for 28 seasons, officiating nearly 2,000 regular season games, 170 NBA Playoff games, 35 NBA Finals games and four NBA All-Star games. In the summer he used to ref at Rucker Park in New York.

RUDY TOMJANOVICH. Tomjanovich coached the Houston Rockets to NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995 and is one of three coaches to win an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. He led USA Basketball to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

From the women’s committee:

KIM MULKEY. Mulkey has led the Baylor Bear to two NCAA National Championships (2005, 2012) and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances.

KATIE SMITH. The WNBA Finals MVP (2008) and a two-time WNBA Champion with the Detroit Shock (2006, 2008), she also has three Olympic gold medals. Smith played for the Ohio State University (1992-1996) and was the first female Buckeye athlete to have her number retired.

TINA THOMPSON. Thompson is a four-time WNBA Champion with the Houston Comets (1997- 2000) and a nine-time WNBA All-Star. She is one of the greatest WNBA players in the league’s history.

WAYLAND BAPTIST UNIVERSITY. Long before women’s college basketball became an NCAA sport in 1982, the Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball team won 131 consecutive games from 1953-58 and 10 AAU National Championships overall.

 

Joel Embiid having fun, will compete in three events All-Star Weekend

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LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid is going to enjoy his weekend in Los Angeles. And his first All-Star Game.

Embiid played 9 minutes for the World in its dominating Rising Stars Challenge win (which is more than most people expected him to play). He’s scheduled to take part in the All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge, then is a starter on Team Steph in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Like he always is, Embiid is just trying to enjoy himself.

“When I have fun, that means I’m dominating on the court, kicking someone’s ass, and I need that,” Embiid said Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. “Every time I have fun that’s what I do. One thing that I told myself when I came back (from injuries), just go out there and have fun because that’s another way for me to dominate the game. If I’m frustrated, usually it doesn’t go well. It can go both ways, but usually, it doesn’t go well.

“Social media, on the court, it’s all about having fun.”

When he returns to Philly, he’s got to focus on the fun of making sure the Sixers make the playoffs. But for a weekend, he’s soaking up the sun and fun in Los Angeles.

LeBron James responds to Laura Ingraham: #wewillnotshutupanddribble

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A month before the latest school shooting and mass killing in a Florida high school, Kevin Durant and LeBron James recorded a video for the Uninterrupted where they vented that president Donald Trump does not care about most people not does he try to unite them. That video dropped just after the school shooting, where the president took heat for his comments on the situation.

Taking a lazy intellectual path designed to fire up her base, Fox News host Laura Ingraham took the “stick to sports” argument to an  offensive level, saying LeBron and KD should “shut up and dribble.”

Jaylen Brown of the Celtics had already done an excellent job taking down Ingraham’s misguided attack, Durant had responded as well and called the comments ignorant and racist.

Now LeBron has responded on Instagram.

#wewillnotshutupanddribble

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron and Durant are citizens with the right to speak out, and they should.

Hopefully, this can be the end of this “controversy,” only because Ingraham isn’t worth it.

Team USA turned Rising Stars into dunking exhibition (VIDEO)

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Nobody tunes into the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night to see a tight defensive shell and quick rotations to help the helper. We want the game’s great young players to entertain us with their skills.

Team USA may have gotten blown out in the game, but they put on a show — they were dunking everything. As you can see above.

The best dunk of the game? Had to be Donovan Mitchell‘s self alley-oop. Which a good sign heading into Saturday’s dunk contest.