Kurt Helin

Eric Gordon returns to New Orleans and reminds locals he can shoot, wins Three-Point Contest

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NEW ORLEANS — After playing five injury-plagued seasons in New Orleans, where he was frustrated and a common whipping boy of fans by the end, Eric Gordon heard a smattering of boos every time he walked up to the racks in the All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout.

Then he reminded those fans why he the Pelicans signed him and paid him big cash — when healthy he can shoot the rock.

Gordon, now representing the Houston Rockets, won the NBA Three-Point Contest on All-Star Saturday night. He had to go to an “overtime” extra shootout round to beat Kyrie Irving for the title.

“Well, no, it’s not really weird,” to win in New Orleans, Gordon said. “I am used to these rims here. I’ve been here for five years. I’ve always been a pretty good shooter. I’m just happy to win it, just to win it.”

Did he hear the boos?

“Yeah, I heard a little bit, but I’m not worried,” Gordon said. “I was focused on trying to win. That’s all that matters.”

Golden State’s Klay Thompson, the defending champion in this event and heavy favorite to repeat, did not even advance out of the first round.

Gordon has been hot from three all season, hitting 38.5 percent from three and hitting more total threes than anyone else in the league. He’s healthy and happy in Houston and Mike D’Antoni’s system, and his play has him as the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

Gordon set the tone in the first-round with a score of 25  (players shoot 25 threes from various spots around the arc, with some balls designated for two points, called “moneyballs.” Kemba Walker with 19 in the first round as he was draining money balls from the right corner, while Irving came through with 20 to top him. Klay Thompson couldn’t match that with 18 and the defending champion was out in the first round. Kyle Lowry’s cold shooting of late continues with an event-worst nine points. Wesley Matthews was not as hot as the Mavericks of late and had just 11 points, C.J. McCollum had just 10, while Nick Young had a respectable 18 but it wasn’t enough to advance.

That advanced Gordon, Irving, and Walker on to the final round. Walker was slightly off his first round with 17 points in the finals. Irving got hot with the moneyball rack and put up 20 points again. Then Eric Gordon matched it with a hot middle to racks, so they had a shoot again. 

That Final round saw Gordon stay just a little hotter.

 

Adam Silver “disheartened” that Charles Oakley public rift with Dolan, Knicks continues

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NEW ORLEANS — Adam Silver tried to heal the league’s black eye when the Knicks had team legend Charles Oakley out of Madison Square Garden and arrested, then doubled down saying he had some “issues.” Silver got Oakley and Dolan in a room together to talk, and Dolan lifted the ban on Oakley from the Garden.

It wasn’t enough.

Within a couple days Oakley was saying he wouldn’t accept an invitation to return to the Garden and comparing Dolan to Donald Sterling, the worst owner in the modern era.

Silver has no regrets and thinks them at least talking was a step in the right direction.

“When I left the meeting with Charles Oakley and Jim Dolan, I did not think things were resolved. I thought they were on the right track, Silver said at his annual All-Star press conference Saturday night. “As I said in the statement that I issued that night, I thought the meeting was important because, back to my NBA family, I do think it’s important that family members deal with each other directly, and I thought it would be helpful if Charles and Jim sat across from each other and spoke directly to each other rather than through the media or through surrogates….

“And so while I’m disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it is not — does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way, right now I don’t regret that I had that meeting. And if there is a constructive role I can play going forward, I’m available to do that. Again, I didn’t compel them to meet with me. I did it because I thought it would be helpful. And frankly, in retrospect, I still think it was helpful.”

Deep wounds can take time to heal, and Oakley was undoubtedly hurt deeply by his treatment at the hands of the Knicks, not just that night but since Dolan took over the organization. Oakley has not held back criticizing Dolan’s ownership and stewardship of the Knicks — another reason he has the support of the fans in New York, many of whom feel the same way.

But the next step in healing this rift falls to Oakley.

“I’m still hopeful that Charles will sort of come back into the family,” Silver said. “Again, when Jim Dolan invited him back to Madison Square Garden, Charles did not say, wonderful, let’s take out the schedule and pick a game. In fact, he was very emotional in the meeting, and he said it was something he wanted to think about.

“And in my subsequent conversations with him, I have said, I think you should continue to think about it. And whether that’s a month from now, six months from now, or a year from now, the fan in me and someone who’s known Charles for a long time, I hope at some point he does decide to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately, that’s his decision.”

 

LeBron James talking a good game, still playing a great one

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Older, wiser and more aware of the world, LeBron James is unafraid to let his views known on politics or social issues or even the business of basketball.

It wasn’t always that way.

But in his 14th season, with more NBA playing years in his rear-view mirror than left in front of him, James doesn’t see much reason to stay silent these days. His voice is louder than ever when he deems it appropriate while his numbers remain as good as ever. It’s one of the reasons why he’ll again be the star attraction on Sunday night when he plays in the All-Star Game for the 13th time.

“I’ve been vocal about a lot,” James said Saturday. “That’s who I am. I’m a vocal guy. I’ve been vocal about a lot of things this year.”

Whether it was his stance on the presidential election where he supported Hillary Clinton, expressing his displeasure about Phil Jackson’s characterization of the people closest to him , speaking directly to fans through video messages or even saying his Cleveland Cavaliers need another playmaker to help with their NBA title defense, James has been taking full advantage of his massive platform .

This weekend, though, he is trying to take a break from any negativity and enjoy the moment.

“Truly blessed,” James said. “This is a special time for me.”

He’s not alone in that sort of thinking. For all the subplots – the Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook drama, Kyrie Irving‘s claim that the Earth is flat and Carmelo Anthony‘s All-Star nod after some trying times in New York – none of the 24 players who’ll be on the floor Sunday night will likely be thinking about anything besides putting on a show.

James’ two sons are hoping for a show, too. Not from their dad, so much – but rather from their favorites like Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

“LeBron Jr. wore 0 for the longest time because he loves Russ,” James said. “Bryce wore 30 because he likes Steph and likes to shoot the ball from deep. I think that’s pretty cool.”

James’ arrival was the big news of All-Star Saturday, largely because he missed Friday’s events because of family obligations. Durant and Westbrook shared the floor for practice but had minimal interaction – not even looking at each other when they were maybe a foot apart in the back of the Superdome while trying to find their assigned spots for a media session.’

“This game, it’s for the fans,” said Westbrook, the two-time reigning All-Star MVP.

It always is, though this All-Star weekend has a younger feel.

Sunday’s will be the first All-Star Game since 2005 – James’ first All-Star – where no player in the game will be older than 32. Kobe Bryant was 37 when he made his All-Star farewell in Toronto last season, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was two months shy of turning 42 when he played in the game for the last time in 1989.

Anthony is the oldest All-Star, seven months older than James and eight months older than Marc Gasol. They’re all 32.

“It’s pretty weird to be the veterans now when we were the young guys a few years ago, but that’s just the way the league is going, man,” Durant said. “Teams are drafting two or three 18-year-olds a year. … The league is getting younger and at some point we’re going to be the old guys passing the torch to the young guys.”

James is one of those old guys now.

But he’s not ready to pass any torch.

He’s shooting better this season, 54 percent, than he did in his first three MVP years. His 8.8 assists per game have him on pace for a career-best, his rebounding average is essentially the same as it was in all four MVP seasons and his scoring – 25.9 per game – is just a tick below what he did in those years where he was tabbed as the game’s best.

“I take pride in going out every night, and you knowing what you’re going to get from me every night,” James said. “I work on my game. I work on my craft. And to know that my numbers are right up there with my MVP seasons, it just lets me know I’m consistent. You can always book me for whatever my numbers say. Sometimes they’re more. Not going to be less, not that many times.”

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.

Players’ Union officers express concern over Oakley-Knicks conflict

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Officers with the National Basketball Players Association said Friday that the problems between Charles Oakley and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan could impact decisions future free agents make about playing for the New York Knicks.

Oakley was removed from MSG earlier this month, pulled away by security guards, handcuffed, arrested and eventually banned from entering the arena. That ban has since been lifted, but the long-strained relationship between Oakley – a very popular player when he was a Knick – and the team remains tenuous at best.

“I think it’s kind of a personal thing,” said NBPA vice president Anthony Tolliver of the Sacramento Kings. “I think some guys, for sure, notice it and some of those guys have made it known that it will affect them. Other guys, maybe not.”

Added NBPA secretary-treasurer James Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers: “It’s kind of self-evident.”

Tolliver has played for nine franchises in his nine NBA seasons, and said one thing he’s learned in his many moves is how some franchises are just operated differently than others.

“Can’t really put a blanket statement over all players,” Tolliver said. “But for me personally, playing for so many different teams like I have, there’s a big difference between an organization that’s run the right way and an organization that isn’t.”

It’s an issue of particular importance for NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts – not just because of her role in the union, but because she’s a New York fan.

“I have been a fan of the Knicks since I could spell, and I welled up when I saw what happened to Oak,” Roberts said. “So of course I was affected by that.”

Dolan said Oakley was being abusive when he got to his seat for the game on Feb. 8, and later suggested on ESPN New York that the former player “has a problem with anger. He’s both physically and verbally abusive. He may have a problem with alcohol. We don’t know.”

Dolan and Oakley, with help from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, began mending fences this week. But it remains a topic at All-Star weekend, and Silver will almost certainly address it again when he holds his annual All-Star news conference on Saturday.

“I know Oak personally, so that was real tough to watch,” union president Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said. “To hear them say that they hope Oak is going to get some help like he’s mentally ill or something, that was tough. Since I’ve come into the NBA and talking about looking out for younger players, Oak has been a guy who has always checked on me – injury, anything like that. To see him treated in that fashion was tough.”