Kurt Helin

Damian Lillard expected to return to court for Trail Blazers Thursday vs. Lakers

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Damian Lillard has missed five games with a sprained ankle, and the Trail Blazers went 2-3 in those with an offense that fell 5.3 points per 100 off its season average. C.J. McCollum had some monster nights, but they need both guys at the head of the attack.

The Blazers will get that back Thursday night when the Lakers come to town for a nationally televised game.

The challenge for Portland is that their defense has been better of late, including during the five-game stretch without Lillard. Having two smaller guards in Lillard and McCollum creates problems. If Portland can keep defending, they can climb back up into the playoff mix in the West.

They were also going to need Lillard to do that.

Don’t like two-minute report? Sounds like 48-minute report eventually on way.

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Adam Silver’s march toward a more transparent NBA is not taking a step back — it’s going full steam ahead.

After the Christmas Day games, when the NBA admitted that Richard Jefferson fouled Kevin Durant on the final play of regulation and KD should have gone to the line with a chance to win the game, there has been a backlash against the NBA’s Two-Minute Reports, which break down the officiating in close games and explain each call. Durant said it was unfair to officials. Dwyane Wade flat-out hates the reports. Stan Van Gundy, Gregg Popovich, and Steve Kerr have all questioned them at times. The list of coaches/players/GMs who despises those reports is too long to list here, and they all need to get in line behind the referees union.

The NBA’s response? Probably going to start releasing full game reports someday. That’s what Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, told Zach Lowe at ESPN.

(As an aside, Vandeweghe confirmed the controversial last-two-minute reports aren’t going anywhere. In fact, he said the NBA would “probably” start releasing full game reports at some point.)

I’m one of the few supporters of the Two-Minute Reports — I would rather have a league that owns up to its mistakes in critical moments rather than taking some dictatorial, monolithic stance that everything is right. Transparency is a good thing.

But there can be too much of it. I don’t like the idea of a 48-minute report. Do we really need to go back and hash out a first-quarter block/charge call and how that may have impacted the game? Do we need to expose the NBA officials — who make hundreds of decisions a game and get almost all of them right — to more criticism?

I hate to sound like a stodgy old baseball fan, but the game is refereed by humans, and on some level we have to accept and live with the mistakes officials make. They are not robots, and if Westworld has taught us anything it’s that we may not want to put too much faith in androids anyway.

But it sounds like the 48-minute report is on the way, want it or not.

Report: Cavaliers keeping eye on Rajon Rondo, Mario Chalmers. As they should.

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When Kyrie Irving is on the bench — as he was Wednesday night with a mild hamstring strain — the Cleveland Cavaliers lean on DeAndre Liggins and Kay Felder as their backup point guards. Liggins brings some defense, and it’s worked well enough so far, but is that the rotation the Cavaliers want when the playoffs start?

There are veteran point guards out there. Jarrett Jack will be having workouts for teams soon. Mario Chalmers also is nearly healthy and wants back on the court after an Achilles injury. And then there’s the Rajon Rondo situation in Chicago — signs are pointing to an eventual buyout there.

Are the Cavaliers keeping an eye on guys like Rondo and Chalmers? Despite some earlier reports that they were not interested, Joe Varden at the Cleveland Plain Dealer said the Cavs are watching those situations.

Seated on the Bulls’ bench for the third consecutive game was Rajon Rondo, a former All-Star who signed a two-year, $27 million deal in the offseason to come to Chicago. If the Bulls aren’t going to play him, he’d like to be traded or bought out of his contract so he can choose his next team.

The Cavs are watching this development.

Mario Chalmers is a free agent now. He’s recovering from a torn Achilles suffered last season. He hasn’t worked out for any teams, but he remains on Cleveland’s radar.

Here’s why the prior report of a lack of Cavalier interest made no sense: Why wouldn’t they watch those situations? That doesn’t mean that adding Rondo to that locker room is a wise idea, or that they will bring in Chalmers for LeBron to yell at, but Cavaliers management is too smart not to look at those guys and think about how much they might be able to help. Are they upgrades? Maybe, maybe not, but you monitor the situations. LeBron has said before he would like to see a veteran reserve point guard on the team, and what LeBron wants…

This would mean more money spent by the Cavaliers, the team already with the highest payroll in the NBA. They would have to waive a guaranteed salary — the Cavs have guys on the roster — and whoever they bring in costs four times his salary thanks to the luxury tax. So even a veteran minimum contract is a bit of a hit. Likely one Dan Gilbert pays if he can be convinced it helps the team, but for Cavs fans dreaming of bigger fish (like a Rondo trade) realize the cap it would be harsh.

But don’t be shocked if the Cavaliers look for a way to add some depth.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving garnered most votes so far from fans in All-Star Game voting

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Apparently, NBA fans love the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the Golden State Warriors.

The first round of results from fan votes for the NBA All-Star Game Feb. 19 in New Orleans are out, and the two top vote getters were the Cavaliers top two stars, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The top vote getter in the West is Golden State’s Kevin Durant, followed by Stephen Curry — the two biggest stars on the Golden State Warriors.

This year, the fan vote will account for only half of the All-Star starter’s vote (in previous years the fans picked the starters). This time around the fan vote will be combined with a selected media vote (25 percent) and player vote (25 percent) to choose the starters. Why the change? Because last year a social media campaign almost got Zaza Pachulia in as a starter (and the NHL did see a journeyman as a starter), so the NBA modified the system.

Here would be the starters, based on the fan vote so far:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:
Guards: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland), Dwyane Wade (Chicago)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cleveland), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Kevin Love (Cleveland)

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
Guards: Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston)
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Golden State), Zaza Pachulia (Golden State), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)

I had asked you — the PBT readers — who should be the starters in the Eastern backcourt and you were much smarter, picking Irving and DeMar DeRozan, with a big push for Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. Any of those options are better than Wade, who has had a nice season in Chicago but isn’t what he once was.

There is no way Wade starts once the media/player votes are tabulated, same with Pachulia in the West.

Here are the fan votes, as they stand now (that is the number of votes at the end):

Eastern Conference
Frontcourt
1. LeBron James (CLE) 595,288
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 500,663
3. Kevin Love (CLE) 250,347
4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 221,984
5. Carmelo Anthony (NY) 189,817
6. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 189,066
7. Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 184,166
8. Paul George (IND) 138,332
9. Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 72,628
10. Jabari Parker (MIL) 64,141

Guards
1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 543,030
2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 278,052
3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 253,340
4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 193,297
5. Derrick Rose (NY) 129,924
6. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 128,940
7. John Wall (WAS) 87,360
8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 59,562
9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 52,122
10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 32,822

Western Conference
Frontcourt
1. Kevin Durant (GS) 541,209
2. Zaza Pachulia (GS) 439,675
3. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 341,240
4. Anthony Davis (NO) 318,144
5. Draymond Green (GS) 236,315
6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 202,317
7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 125,278
8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 101,724
9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 100,524
10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 97,370

Guards
1. Stephen Curry (GS) 523,597
2. James Harden (HOU) 519,446
3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 501,652
4. Klay Thompson (GS) 293,054
5. Chris Paul (LAC) 173,830
6. Damian Lillard (POR) 117,857
7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 76,609
8. Manu Ginobili (SA) 65,832
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 64,247
10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 53,642

In Orlando, Dwight Howard still heard some boos. He laughed.

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Apparently at least some fans in Orlando have some residual anger toward Dwight Howard.

Howard spent the first eight seasons of his career in Orlando before leaving in 2012, under ugly circumstances, for Los Angeles (then leaving Los Angeles under ugly circumstances for Houston, and so on). The Magic have been rebuilding ever since.

Wednesday night, when Howard checked back into the game for Atlanta in Orlando, he heard the boos (as you can see above) and he laughed and encouraged them. Then everyone moved on.

The up-and-down Hawks went on to win the game, their fourth straight victory.