Author: Kurt Helin

NBA All-Star Practice 2015

Steve Kerr changes mind, LaMarcus Aldridge to start in All-Star Game in place of Anthony Davis

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NEW YORK — All signs were pointing toward Kevin Durant getting the start in Sunday’s All-Star Game in place of the injured Anthony Davis, including Durant himself thinking that would be the case.

But Kerr had a change of heart.

Kerr has selected Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge to get the start on Sunday night.

That’s a huge coup for Aldridge, a guy who struggled to get recognized despite years of fantastic play up in Portland. Portland was going to build around Aldridge and Brandon Roy until Roy’s knees gave out, but now it is Aldridge and Damian Lillard.

Through it all Aldridge has been as good and consistent a power forward as the league has seen. This year is fourth straight All-Star Game. (Check back later in the week at PBT for our exclusive interview with Aldridge.)

West coach Steve Kerr had three starters to replace — Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Davis were all voted in by the fans but can’t play due to injury. Commissioner Adam Silver picked the roster replacements, but Kerr gets to choose the starters.

James Harden and Klay Thompson were chosen to replace Kobe and Griffin, but it took a while for the decision to be made on replacing Davis. Aldridge may be a better fit in terms of balance; now the West has three guards (Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Harden) balanced by two big men, Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Then again, it’s an exhibition, so the balance isn’t that important.

Kerr just went with a very deserving guy.

Andrew Wiggins wins MVP of Rising Stars, just first award he wins this year

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2015
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NEW YORK — Andrew Wiggins got a little practice Friday in talking to the media after winning an award. He’s going to need that.

Wiggins scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and picked up the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s a nice piece of hardware Wiggins was handed, but he’s going to pick up a far more coveted one for rookies after the season ends. Friday night was just the appetizer.

Wiggins scoring helped lead the World to a 121-112 win in an exhibition game that has about as much defense as you’d expect.In that kind of free-flowing atmosphere Wiggins’ athleticism is on full display.

“It was all fun,” Wiggins said after the game. “It was competitive, but it was fun too. I think we gave the fans and all the people watching something to watch, some entertainment.”

Wiggins was the No. 1 pick of the Cavaliers last June but by the time he was playing for Cleveland at Sumer League he was forced into the middle of one of the biggest NBA stories of the year — Minnesota demanded him in return for sending Kevin Love to Cleveland (to pair with LeBron James). At the time it was incredibly awkward for Wiggins. However, in the end this path may be better for his game because he’s getting more minutes and being put in more pressure situations with the Timberwolves than he would have been for the win-now Cavs.

“I think it was the best move for me,” Wiggins said about the trade. “It gave me more room and put me in a position where I could grow up faster. In the league, that’s always what’s best for you. (In Cleveland) I would have been more of a role player. Here I’m getting more time to shine and do what was put in this league to do.”

Wiggins is growing. Fast.

He had a rough start to the season, but in his last 20 games he’s averaged 17.4 points a game, shooting a respectable 45 percent from the floor. His jumper still needs work, he is turning the ball over almost as much as he is making an assist, but he is getting better. He is figuring out how to use his athleticism in the NBA.

But put him in a defense free exhibition and he will put on a show. And win a nice trophy for the case.

It will not be the last trophy he picks up as a rookie.

Mo’ne Davis puts spin move on Kevin Hart, blows past him for layup (VIDEO)

Sprint Celebrity Game 2015
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Mo’ne Davis can do more than throw a baseball.

The Little League World Series star took part in the NBA All-Star weekend Celebrity Game and gave us the highlight of the night — a spin move right past Kevin Hart for the layup.

Hart went on to win the MVP — that’s four of them for him, it’s a February tradition like Groundhog Day — but all we’re going to talk about is this. Well, that and that Davis is about the same height as Hart.

Paul George says he plans on mid-March return to Pacers

Paul George
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NEW YORK — Eight months after Paul George suffered as nasty an injury as you will ever see on a basketball court, he intends to get back on the hardwood. George is planning on a mid-March return to the Pacers, he told ProBasketballTalk on Friday.

“I want to (play this season),” George said. “March 1st was the date I wanted to be able to full on practice without limitations or restrictions, and from there see where things go. But mid-March is ideally where I want to be able to make a comeback and play my first game.

“But it’s so many steps I have to take to get to that point it’s just a date I threw out.”

It’s a date that should make Pacers fans happy. At the All-Star break, the Pacers are just two games out of the playoffs in the East and George’s return could push them into the eight seed in a season that at one point early on seemed lost.

George, a two-time All-Star, who averaged 21.7 points and 6.8 rebounds a game, said he believes he will come back a better player than the one we last saw.

“The only thing that I could have done for three or four months was dribble the basketball and shoot the basketball,” George said. “So I definitely think my ball handling, and my shooting has improved, and my strength is improved. Those three were the biggest things I needed to work on going into the next season. It’s almost been a blessing in disguise that I was injured, to really focus on those points. So I’m excited to make the comeback.”

Back in July, George was going to be a key part of Team USA’s defense of its World Championship. Then in an exhibition game in Las Vegas he went up to block a shot on a fast break, his leg caught the stanchion just wrong as he landed, and George suffered a compound fracture that had his bone sticking up through his skin. The gruesome nature of the injury was a key reason Kevin Durant walked away from Team USA this summer.

“Now it’s just about getting the confidence going forward….” said George, who was promoting his new line of New Era Pacers caps he helped design. “The amount of work you have to put into it, not only to strengthen the injury, but to strengthen the whole body. Really, not to disengage from what I do. That’s been the hardest part, remaining a basketball player and without actually playing.”

Pretty soon, he could be actually playing again.

 

 

PBT Extra: Highlights of NBA All-Star media day; talking Three Point Contest

Manteo Mitchell
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The NBA doesn’t call it by the same name, but the Friday of All-Star weekend for the league is a lot like Super Bowl week media day — all the stars are out, a lot of ridiculous/pointless questions are asked, a few players get annoyed.

Jenna Corrado and I were on hand with our amazing video crews to get highlights of this event.

The interesting discussion is Saturday’s Three-Point Contest — players and spectators alike may be more interested in that than Sunday’s game itself. We get Kyle Korver and some of the other participants to talk about what should be an amazing shootout.