Kyle Lowry

Devin Booker’s 3-point-contest victory bright spot for Suns (video)

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Los Angeles – Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).

“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”

A 3-point contest victory.

Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.

That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.

Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.

“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.

Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.

“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Full results

First round

Klay Thompson 19

Devin Booker 19

Tobias Harris 18

Wayne Ellington 17

Bradley Beal 15

Eric Gordon 12

Kyle Lowry 11

Paul George 9

Second round

Devin Booker 29

Klay Thompson 25

Tobias Harris 17

Three reasons to be excited about NBA All-Star Weekend

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Usually, this spot is our three things to know from the night before in the NBA, but for one day we’re changing our focus onto something to look forward to — three things to be excited about for the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

1. Dunks and threes — All-Star Saturday night is better than the big game itself. We all know this is true, can we just admit it. Sure, the actual All-Star Game on Sunday has all the biggest names (of non-injured players) in one place, but it’s not basketball. Not in any sense we recognize. It’s an exhibition played with less defensive effort than the average pickup game at the Y. We get to see dunks and slick passes, but it feels hollow.

All-Star Saturday, on the other hand, is genuinely competitive. Light-hearted, skills competitions only, but at least genuinely competitive. It’s way more entertaining.

This year’s three-point shooting competition is stacked: Eric Gordon, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Devin Booker, Wayne Ellington, and Tobias Harris. Thompson is the obvious favorite, and I’d put my money on Beal, but the thing is any one of these guys could walk away with the big prize. They can all shoot the rock.

Then comes the skills competition, where bigs like Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Andre Drummond go up against little guards such as Spencer Dinwiddie and Lou Williams — the evolution of the game is on full display.

Then there’s the highlight of the night, the dunk contest — every year I get my hopes up (and most years those hopes get dashed). This one has serious potential. Three guards with mad hops — Victor Oladipo, Dennis Smith Jr., and Donovan Mitchell — and then Larry Nance Jr., who has had a couple of the best in-game dunks of the past two seasons (plus his dad won the Dunk Contest). This should be high-flying and intense.

It will be the best show of the weekend… well, outside the Kendrick Lamar performance across the street. It’s all the stuff around the big game that makes the weekend work.

2. Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo — the NBA’s youth are taking over. The NBA’s old-guard — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc. — will be in Los Angeles and will have the cameras of the world (and plenty of eyeballs focused on them).

But this All-Star Game is about the future — it’s already here and taking over the All-Star Game.

Sunday we will see All-Star first-timers Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal and Goran Dragic. Then there are second-timers such Andre Drummond and Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s putting the best and brightest of the next generation out there on the big stage. Joel Embiid on this stage? He’s going to say/Tweet something that will have us talking all weekend. Even if the game and the Dunk Contest fall flat, Embiid alone will be worth the price of admission.

And that’s just the Sunday game — the Rising Stars game on Friday has Ben Simmons, Lauri Markkanen, Jamal Murray, Jayson Tatum, not to mention Smith Jr., Mitchell, and more. Sure, the Rising Stars game has less defense played than the All-Star Game — heck, the stationary defender cutouts used in Saturday’s Skills Competition may play better defense than we see in this game — but there is a raw energy in the USA vs. The World Rising Stars game that is just fun to watch.

3. The new All-Star Game format… it’s got to make the game better. Right? The last couple of years the All-Star Game has been such a dud in terms of effort, defense, and entertainment that the Chris Paul and the players’ union sat down with Adam Silver and the league office to figure out how to make it suck less. They decided to shake up the format.

No East vs. West. It’s Team LeBron versus Team Stephen Curry with teams those guys drafted (unfortunately behind closed doors, but the NBA will hopefully get that part right in the future). The draft already led to some drama — LeBron picking Kyrie Irving to be on his team, plus the reuniting of Durant and Westbrook on a team. James Harden throwing lobs to Joel Embiid. Antetokounmpo driving and dishing to Towns. There is so much potential with this format.

I doubt the addition of the increased payout to the winners ($100,000 per player) is going to motivate them much, and the winning team getting to donate more to charity is a nice touch but likely not doing too much. Rather, the hope is that pride — wanting to play for the guy that drafted you, against teammates and friends — will motivate the players. The dream is that will bring some level of effort and caring lacking in recent years.

We’ll see. I’m not sold. But it certainly can’t be worse.

Kyle Lowry hits ridiculous buzzer-beater three at half against Heat (VIDEO)

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Dwyane Wade may be back, and the Heat were wearing their Miami Vice look uniforms, but it was the Raptors that won by three at home on Tuesday night, 115-112.

No one shot or play is ever the difference in a 48-minute game, but if you’re looking for three unexpected points for the Raptors, check out Kyle Lowry‘s buzzer-beater three to end the first half. It’s ridiculous.

DeRozan brings the ball up looking for his own shot, but he finds his shot well contested from a range that would make Stephen Curry blush, so in the air he changes his mind and dumps it off to Lowry, who has to just throw it up over Goran Dragic, who is there with a good contest of his own.

Nothing but net.

Lowry was 4-of-8 from three on his way to 22 points in the Toronto win.

If things stay the way they are, this would be your first-round 1 vs. 8 matchup in the East.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: What to make of Cavaliers radically revamped roster

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For the first couple of months of this NBA season, the conventional wisdom around the league was “Sure, Cleveland is struggling, their defense has real issues, but nobody sane is picking against LeBron James in the East.”

However, as the season ground along, and especially when wheels completely came off the Cavaliers in January and the finger-pointing reached a peak, it became evident this team probably was not even be good enough to reach the conference finals — and that’s assuming LeBron turned it back on and tried to dominate again. The Cavs were dispirited. Cleveland’s defense was legitimately terrible (second worst in the NBA) and lacked effort and help rotations, Isaiah Thomas was not right and a shadow of his former self, and Jae Crowder may be the most disappointing player in the league this season. The Cavaliers looked old and slow, and nobody could see how one trade at the deadline would change that.

It wasn’t one trade, it was two, and it was stunning. A couple of bold strokes from GM Koby Altman and owner Dan Gilbert, who deserve credit for taking a big swing.

The first trade sent Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and the Cavs 2018 first round pick (top three protected, so it will convey this year) to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

The second trade was a three-team one with Sacramento and Utah that shakes out like this:

• Cleveland receives Rodney Hood and George Hill
• Utah receives Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose (who will be waived, likely to end up in Minnesota)
• Sacramento receives Iman Shumpert, Joe Johnson (expected to ask for a buyout), and a 2020 second round pick

Finally, the Cavaliers agreed to send Dwyane Wade to Miami as a favor to the veteran. Wade’s minutes would have been squeezed with the new roster, now he gets to go home to close out his Hall of Fame career.

Let’s break all the Cavaliers moves down Clint Eastwood style, with the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly.

THE GOOD: The Cavaliers desperately needed to get younger and more athletic, and they did that. Watching the Cavaliers this season felt like watching some of the last dinosaurs before they all died off (or, what I imagine that looked like, it was a little before my time). Cleveland looked old, and like time had passed its players by. LeBron played like an MVP for the first 10 weeks of the season, and Cleveland was still just hanging on to the three seed by a thread.

These trades were needed and they make the Cavaliers better — they are short-term upgrades. Clarkson is a solid (maybe average) NBA point guard, but that’s a step up from what Thomas and Rose were giving them. Rodney Hood is a quality two who is redundant in Utah because of Donovan Mitchell, but in Cleveland Hood provides the kind of shooting they need. George Hill — if he’s healthy and back to playing the way he did before Sacramento — would provide defense and be a good fit next to LeBron James. Larry Nance Jr. is the kind of dynamic athlete off the bench the Cavaliers’ had lacked, a guy happy to run flair screens and do the right thing. These were the kinds of guys the Cavaliers did not have with the old, disgruntled lineup.

THE GOOD: All of this should make the Cavaliers defense better. And the locker room, too. It can’t really make them worse, can it? More than just adding athleticism the change brings guys who will try on defense. There is now length and a couple switchable defenders. That combination should make the defense better — how good is up in the air, but better. That’s what matters. Maybe the Cavs just get close to a league average defense, that’s a serious upgrade. With LeBron and a top flight offense the defense doesn’t need to be top three for the team to win, but it can’t be 29th where the only way the Cavs win is in a shootout.

These trades also shake up the locker room — and the Cavaliers needed that as much or more than on the court. Things felt toxic. Thomas had barely played this season, played poorly when he did suit up, but was calling out players and coaches. Kevin Love was a scapegoat again because Kevin Love is always the scapegoat. Now it’s a fresh start in the locker room. The Cavs need to spend part of All-Star Break working out new complicated handshake routines, but that is a small price to pay.

THE GOOD: Cleveland has roster space to go after a couple of guys on the buyout market. The Cavaliers are not done making additions, there will be interesting guys available on the buyout market they can add. Joe Johnson will be available, he’s the kind of veteran shooter they can use. There are reports they want to call up Kendrick Perkins from the G-League to provide locker room stability, that could happen. There will be other options, but the simple fact is the Cavs are not done remaking the roster.

THE BAD: But does it all fit together? This is an unprecedented experiment, to completely overhaul what was seen as a contending-level roster in the middle of the season. The Cavaliers have 29 games left to figure out the rotations, develop chemistry, get comfortable with one another, and turn into a contender. Can they do that? It’s falls in the bad category because of the level of risk (even if it was the right thing to do).

A lot is being asked of guys. Clarkson (overpaid at $13.5 million next season) is a solid NBA guard who put up 14.5 moderately efficient points a night off the bench of a struggling team. Now he’s going to be asked to play a major role on a LeBron team that will face other point guards in the playoffs such as Eric Bledsoe, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and/or Kyle Lowry. That’s a whole new level of ask for Clarkson. How does he handle it? Similar questions can be asked of Hill, Hood, and Nance.

Simply, we don’t have any idea how good this Cavaliers team is going to be. It should be better than it was. Is it ready to challenge Boston and Toronto? Too early to say. LeBron James makes this team legit, but just how good we have no idea. (We won’t ask the Warriors/Rockets version of that “are they good enough” question because we know the answer.)

THE BAD: The Cavaliers took on a lot of future money. The Cavaliers were going to be a repeater tax team next season anyway, but now they have about $110 million locked in on the books for next season (the cap is going to be around $101), and they still have to re-sign LeBron James and Rodney Hood. Bring them back and Dan Gilbert is going to write one massive, massive tax check to the league.

The Cavaliers will spin that this shows their long-term commitment to winning, an effort to keep LeBron. They’re not completely wrong. But if he leaves, this is a lot of money on the books that drags down the rebuild start.

THE BAD: Is this enough to keep LeBron James in Cleveland? Nobody has the answer to this. Probably not even LeBron. He is going to get to the end of this season (whenever that is for the Cavaliers), assess where his current team is, where he can best go chase a title and improve his brand, he will think about his relationship with Dan Gilbert, then make his call. He will listen to a few trusted advisors, and not any of us on Twitter.

But if Cleveland did nothing he was gone for sure. What the Cavs did at the deadline was something. It improves the odds LeBron stays in Cleveland, but how much is a very open-ended question.

THE UGLY: Cleveland just opened the door for LeBron and Paul George to go to the Lakers together. I doubt this happens. LeBron wants to win and even those two top-15 players with the nice core still in Los Angeles — Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — is not a real threat to Golden State and Houston.

Still, LeBron coming to L.A. is not out of the question, and Lakers are one of the few teams that could lure James and steal him from Cleveland (and George out of OKC where he says he’s happy but left the door open). The Cavaliers just made a deal that makes this Lakers’ fans’ dream scenario possible. If not, LeBron could sign a short-term deal with the Cavaliers and be a free agent again in a year, when the Lakers could still have all that free agent money and a larger crop of second guys to bring in. The Cavaliers made a move that helped themselves, but they helped the competition, too. That could come back to bite them.

Trade Deadline day tracker: All the latest rumors, deals in one place

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The NBA Trade Deadline is a frenzy of activity — with all the civility and patience of a piranha feeding. Rumors fly, misinformation is leaked, and through it all trades are made.

It’s been a wild day of rumors and trades. It’s almost impossible to keep up, but we’re going to do our best in this one place to encapsulate all of it for you. In the hours running up to the deadline — 3 p.m. Eastern of Thursday, noon Pacific — we’re going to do our best to encapsulate all of it right here. Consider it a little bit news scrawl, a little bit running diary, but we will have everything you need to know right here. Then as the day goes on check back to NBC Sports and its NBA page for a podcast breaking down the trade deadline, plus analysis of the Cavaliers moves, and Winners and losers. 

3:14 PM: Joe Johnson was moved from Utah to Sacramento as part of a three-team deal, and he’s understandably going to ask for a buyout.

3:05 PM: Adding to the wild day — the guys we expected to see traded, and teams we thought would be active, were quiet. At the top of that list, Tyreke Evans, the man most expected to be traded, stayed in Memphis because nobody would cough up a first round pick for him.

Also, DeAndre Jordan is still a Clipper. Los Angeles couldn’t get an offer it liked, and now with DJ, just re-signed Lou Williams, and Tobias Harris, Los Angeles will try to make the playoffs in the crowded back half of the West.

Also, Boston did not pull the trigger on anything. They will play the cards in their hand (which may well be good enough to reach the NBA Finals).

3:00 PM: We have reached the trade deadline. Teams can no longer submit deals to the league office, but some deals that just snuck in under the wire will still trickle in.

Be sure to check back at NBCSports.com throughout the afternoon as we will have stories on what the Cavaliers have done, winners and losers, and a podcast breaking down a wild day.

2:57 PM: The Orlando Magic have thrown in the towel on Elfrid Payton, trading him to Phoenix, a team looking for a point guard to put next to Devin Booker and willing to take a risk.

2:53 PM: Time is running out for deals and the big ones — DeAndre Jordan, Tyreke Evans — seem to be without resolution. However, we do have a minor trade that could get Sheldon Mac a little extra run in Atlanta.

2:34 PM: LeBron James was not left in the dark by the Cavaliers before their radical roster makeover on Thursday — and that included letting him know about the Dwyane Wade trade. Ramona Shelburne has it all:


2:32 PM:
The one guy that seemed a sure bet to be traded today, Tyreke Evans, is the one guy who may be staying put. There’s still not a first rounder for him out there.

2:25 PM: When the Nets picked up Rashad Vaughn in a trade just days ago, I thought it might be his last step before sliding out of the league after the season. I was wrong, he’s on the move again to New Orleans for Dante Cunningham. (Brooklyn turns guys like Cunningham into far more productive players, this will be interesting to watch.)

2:22 PM: The Trail Blazers have not been able to add a piece that vaults them up in the Western Conference hierarchy, so they have made a move to save them some cash.

2:18 PM: There are reports that if the Lakers plan to bring Isaiah Thomas off the bench he will ask for a buyout. However, as soon as Lonzo Ball returns from injury (maybe before the All-Star break, or right after) that is exactly what Los Angeles should do — this is all about developing Ball and the other young parts of the Lakers core (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, etc). The Lakers can buy IT out if he gives them a steep enough discout to make it worth it, but they don’t have to.

Thomas is going to be disappointed in the size of the Brinks truck that is going to back up to his house this summer.

2:05 PM: The Knicks have landed another young point guard in a three-way trade broken by Adrian Wojnarowski.

Emmanuel Mudiay is a former lottery pick but one pushed aside in Denver because Jamal Murray is just better at the point. The Knicks can experiment playing him and Frank Ntilikina together to see if that’s a backcourt pairing that works. (With Kristaps Porzingis out and the playoffs dead to New York, they should experiment a lot the rest of the season.)

2:00 PM: One hour to go.

1:58 PM Utah plans to waive Derrick Rose once the trade is complete, which makes sense, he doesn’t fit what they want to do so give him a chance to play for something (including his next contract).

How about with his old friend Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

The problem with this: Tyus Jones needs more run, not less, and to cut his minutes for the empty shell of Derrick Rose?

1:28 PM: We have a swap of project players that have not really worked out well for their respective teams so far. Maybe new surroundings change things up for these guys (probably not, but it’s worth the shot because what the teams have been doing is not working).

The Kings will waive Caboclo, this clears up a roster spot for their involvement in all the other trades involving Cleveland. The Raptors get a guy who a number of teams wondered could be developed into a good shooter and rotation player outside of Sacramento. Good gamble by the Raptors.

1:16 PM: Just to sum up Cleveland’s day:

With more going out than coming in, Cleveland also has a couple of roster spots and can be aggressive on the buyout market.

1:07 PM: NOBODY SAW THIS COMING — Dwyane Wade is being traded out of Cleveland.

That’s LeBron’s buddy, but this is business. The Cavaliers needed to get younger and more athletic and have done that with bold strokes today — long-term payroll be damned — and with that Wade was going to get squeezed. So they offered him an out.

Wade and family are all good with this.

For a Miami team that has lost five in a row and is in danger of falling behind both Philly and surging Detroit — and out of the playoffs — this is a shot in the arm. Limited though he is, Wade can help the Heat.

1:00 PM: Cleveland is going all-in on this season, reworking a roster that needed it to get younger and more athletic, and to add more shooting. The Cavs got Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers first.

Now they have added Rodney Hood from Utah and George Hill from Sacramento in a three-team deal that sees Iman Shumpert headed to Sacramento and both Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder going to Utah. The Cavaliers have completely remade their roster.

12:45 PM: Cleveland took on a big risk with this Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance trade. First, they did it without asking LeBron James about it, and just took on $28 million in long-term salary without a commitment from Lebron he would stay past this season. That’s one big gamble — they can sell it as a sign of long-term commitment, but it’s still a big risk.

The other is on Clarkson himself. He’s putting up 14.5 points a game off the bench for the Lakers this season, but it’s one thing to be the attacking energizer player on a team not expecting wins, it’s another to go against the John Wall/Kyle Lowry/Kyrie Irving group of guards in the East in the playoffs. Clarkson also is an okay but not great shooter from three (32.4 percent). He’s dangerous in the pick-and-roll and in isolation, things Tyronn Lue runs a lot, but he’s not a shooter in the classic sense. Clarkson is an upgrade from where Isaiah Thomas is right now, but is he really ready for this step?

12:25 PM: Detroit is shipping Brice Johnson to Memphis, but not for Dante Cunningham, rather for Long Beach State’s own James Ennis.

Ennis gives the streaking Pistons another solid rotation wing, he can shoot the three (35.7%), finish in transition and at the rim, and is a good defender. He will fit into the rotation where some of those Tobias Harris minutes were (he’s not as good as Harris, but Ennis is solid).

12:20 PM: We have the Luke Babbitt trade everyone has been waiting for. Miami adds a little shooting in this move.

12:06 PM: The Cavaliers needed to add youth and athleticism, and they are doing that by being close to a deal that lands them Jordan Clarkson (the Lakers wanted to move to get off his salary) and Larry Nance Jr., a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For whom? Isaiah Thomas — who did not want to be traded and is not going to be re-signed by the Lakers — Channing Frye and a pick. This deal is reportedly done.

The Cavs get another playmaking guard — one fully healthy and playing better on both ends than Thomas — and some help on the wing with an athlete like Nance. This is an upgrade for Cleveland. Not a “watch out Golden State” upgrade, but one that helps them in the East. Is that enough to sway LeBron James this summer… I doubt it, but they probably think so.

The Lakers get off Clarkson’s salary helping open up free agency room in 2018 to go after both LeBron and Paul George — the Lakers will have the cap space with another couple moves like renouncing Julius Randle, now whether those two big fish are interested is a completely different question — and get a first (Cleveland’s late first, protected). They will not keep Thomas or Frye around after this season but are expected to keep them through the remainder of this season and not buy them out. Both are free agents come July 1.

12:01 PM: Clippers are remaining active trying to find a new home for DeAndre Jordan. The Raptors have long seen him as an upgrade to Jonas Valanciunas but the Clippers don’t want to just take on an inferior big man, so they want a lot more in the deal. The Raptors are trying, though.

11:45 AM: Not much buzz around the Knicks, who aren’t going to make a win-now playoff move at the deadline after the Kristaps Porzingis injury. The Knicks would love to trade Joakim Noah, but I would love to date Margot Robbie. About the same odds. Other teams are circling like vultures.

I have no idea why the Knicks would do this. Noah has zero reason to give the Knicks a discount on the more than $37 million he is owed, and if the Knicks stretch and waive him he’s on the books for five more seasons. Why do that? Just tell him to stay home and eat the cost for a year, maybe find a deal next season.

11:43 AM: The Pelicans and Pistons are talking about switching guys on their bench, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

11:08 AM: We have a trade! A minor trade, but a trade. Chicago is sending Jameer Nelson to Detroit — a team in need of help at the point — for center Willie Reed.

The teams are also swapping second rounders. Detroit had just gotten Reed from the Clippers in the Blake Griffin trade. Expect the Pistons to be one of the teams very active on the buyout market.

10: 55 AM: Not to start this tracker on a down note, but Adrian Wojnarowski just tweeted something along the lines everyone has been hearing — this may be a dull deadline. Teams overspent in 2016 and don’t have cap space to take on money, and with that nobody wants to give up the cheap labor of a first-round pick. So the market has stalled.

10:52 AM: Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Clippers and Cavaliers are still talking DeAndre Jordan trade, maybe even trying to find a third team. I had heard the Clippers were not in without the Brooklyn pick from Cleveland, which is not on the table, so it’s going to take a third team or one side to cave to get a deal done. (The Cavs will give up their own first in the 20s, but the Clippers want more than that and some big salaries.)

10:49 AM: Teams have called the Lakers, who would prefer to move Jordan Clarkson (and his contract), but most teams are interested in Julius Randle. With good reason, he’s a quality rotation big man (he makes a quality small-ball five). But in the theme of this deadline, nobody yet is willing to part with a first-round pick to get him (in part because he’s a restricted free agent this summer) so the Lakers will wait. They don’t mind keeping through the rest of the season.

10:47 AM: The Grizzlies are still not trading Marc Gasol, and they are still holding out for a first-round pick for Tyreke Evans. Memphis is not budging on Gasol. Eventually, they will have to on Evans unless a team panics and caves.

10:45 AM: The Clippers have no intention of moving Tobias Harris, they already re-signed Lou Williams, and it’s hard to see a deal getting done for DeAndre Jordan. But Avery Bradley, he could be on the move. The Clippers reportedly want a first-round pick, but nobody is willing to give one up yet (that may be the theme of the day).

10:40 AM: No, Cleveland is not putting the Brooklyn pick in play. Nor should they.