Author: Kurt Helin

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard “disappointed,” “disrespected” not to make All-Star team

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I pity teams that have to try to stop Damian Lillard the next few weeks.

He is the most glaring omission from the All-Star rosters. Lillard is scoring 21.7 points and dishing out 6.1 assists a game as one of the two leaders for the third best team in the West (fourth best record in the NBA). Lillard was an All-Star last season, took on more of the Blazers offense this season and has played improved basketball at both ends, and didn’t make the cut. Then on Friday, forced with a difficult choice between two deserving players to fill Kobe Bryant’s spot on the team — Lillard or DeMarcus Cousins — Commissioner Adam Silver went with Cousins.

Lillard is frustrated, he told Jabari Young of CSNNW.com.

“I just felt disrespected,” Lillard said, “because I play the game the right way. I play unselfishly. I play for my team to win games and I produce at a high level. I think what I bring to the game as a person, my makeup mentally, how I am towards my teammates, how I am towards the media, how I am towards fans, I think what an All-Star represents in this league and what you would want people to look at as an All-Star, I think I makeup all those things….

“I thought I did all that I could do individually,” Lillard said. “I thought my team has been successful. It was something that I can’t control. Everything thing I can control to give myself the best shot, I did.”

Lillard didn’t just vent a little to the media, he posted this on Instagram Friday along with a picture that reads “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” (That post has since been removed.)

I just want to thank the coaches who feel I wasn’t good enough, the fans that didn’t think I was good enough , and Adam Silver also for not thinking I was good enough. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for me , it’s actually what my life has been inspired by. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed or that I don’t feel disrespected but it’s not too much to handle. Not the first or last guy to be snubbed. “You should have been there” isn’t good enough for me. But anyway, The reason I’m in these shoes is because I’ve always use the hand I was dealt to my advantage… A wise man once told me… ” it ain’t always gone be peaches and cream but somebody has to pay for the reason it’s not … One way or another ” … #ImThankful #Real #NonAllStar #RipCity #YellowTape

Silver was going to make someone unhappy, but the league office says that the commissioner chose Cousins because he was next highest in the coach voting. (Fans vote for the All-Star Game starters, but coaches from around the league vote to round out the roster, and they rank players as they vote. Cousins apparently was ahead of Lillard on that scale.)

For Lillard, it doesn’t matter why, he just knows he’s not going to be playing in New York.

A frustration he’s going to take out on teams for a few weeks.

Kobe Bryant on if he returns next season: “Yeah, that’s the plan”

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers
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Kobe Bryant, arm in a sling and looking a little groggy — that happens when you’re medicated the day after your surgery — came to Staples Center Thursday night to see his friend Pau Gasol. The two shared a nice moment before the game.

But of course, Kobe can’t casually stroll through Staples Center without getting noticed by the media, and he was asked by ESPN if he planned to return next season.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” he said.

Did anyone really expect anything else? Did anyone who has watched Kobe over the past 19 years think he was going to let an injury dictate the terms on which he would leave the game? Of course he’s coming back, and the Laker GM said as much earlier in the day.

Then the reporter threw an odd question at Kobe — would the opinion of some media talking heads that he should retire influence his decision?

“I don’t really listen much to what people have to say, to be honest with you,” Bryant said.

That was a classy answer, considering what likely ran through Kobe’s head. Any professional athlete or organization that considers what sports pundits will think as part of their decision making process is doing it wrong. Kobe, maybe least of all, is not concerned with what the outside world thinks of him.

At some point in the coming month or so, Kobe likely will expound upon his decision, probably when he’s a little more clear headed and in less pain. But the answer isn’t changing.

Joakim Noah with sweet bounce pass to Pau Gasol for dunk (VIDEO)

Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol
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There were stretches Thursday night where the Bulls played energized, exciting basketball. The problem was those only came when their backs were against the wall and it never lasted, which is why the Lakers — who played aggressively all night — won in double overtime.

This came during one of the Bulls good stretches.

When Wayne Ellington saved the ball and took himself out of the play doing so, Jimmy Butler got the “pass” and quickly fed Joakim Noah who was diving to the basket. Then Noah made a fantastic behind-the-back bounce pass to Pau Gasol for the dunk. That’s a great pass from the big man.

Gasol finished with 20 and 10 on his return to Staples Center. It just wasn’t enough.

Three Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: The All-Star Rosters need to be expanded

Washington Wizards v Portland Trail Blazers
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while hearing how the Denver Broncos almost traded a young John Elway

1) The All-Star rosters need to be expanded so we don’t have more Cousins/Lillard situations. Yes, DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard got screwed by not being put on the All-Star team. They deserved a spot. The problem is in the West, who do you replace? Tim Duncan? He’s putting up 14 and 10 plus is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. If you think this is a lifetime achievement award you need to watch more Spurs games. And at guard, you want to remove Chris Paul? Then you’re taking him for granted because he’s right at his career average numbers — 17.5 points a game, plus 9.7 assists to just 2.2 turnovers a night.

The problem is there are more deserving players than spots — so why not add more spots? Bump the roster to 15 players. The game is an exhibition, so you cut a few minutes to make room for some other deserving guys, the fans aren’t going to complain. They want a show, they want to see the world’s best players, why not make sure they are all there?

2) Bulls don’t bother against another sub .500 team and lose. Again. The Chicago Bulls have 18 losses on the season and half of them have come against sub-.500 teams. This is a team that for years under Tom Thibodeau had a clear identity — they would play physical defense and just out work the opponent. This season the offense is clicking but Chicago is 12th in the league in defensive efficiency — they are inconsistent with their effort. A couple nights after playing maybe their best game of the season to beat Golden State the Bulls mentally took the night off. The Lakers opened the game on a 6-0 run, were up 11 after the first quarter and led by double digits most of the first half.

“We started the game with low energy, we were badly out rebounded,” Thibodeau said after the game. “They started out shooting 60 percent in the first half and any team that you give confidence too like that, it’s hard to shut them off.

Led by Joakim Noah the Bulls played 90 seconds of defense to end the game, and that was enough to make up nine points, tie the game and send it to overtime. Then double overtime. As it has been all season, the Bulls played a few minutes of good defense then stopped again. To a man the players say they know about the problem and it’s just a matter of effort at the start of games. Maybe so, but we need to see it from them.

3) Zach Randolph can still put up numbers. Maybe not making the All-Star team motivated Randolph, but whatever the reason he put up a quality line against Denver — 15 points and 17 rebounds — as the Grizzlies just rolled the Nuggets Thursday. Randolph is still just a load down on the low block and he may be a third offensive option some nights (behind Marc Gasol and Mike Conley) he can still cause defenses nightmares.

One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol

BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS
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LOS ANGELES — Thursday night the Lakers were paying tribute to Pau Gasol, a thank you to a man without whom the Lakers would not have their last two titles. A man unceremoniously left dangling in trade talks for the better part of two seasons before he left as a free agent last summer.

Kobe Bryant is as big a Gasol fan as there is in Los Angeles and wanted to be there for the tribute — and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like surgery the day before get in his way.

The two men spoke before the game briefly, Gasol said after his Bulls fell in double overtime to the Lakers. While the original plan had been for Gasol and Bryant to address the Lakers fans before the game, Kobe understandably was not up for that.

“I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all,” Gasol said. “I know he just had surgery, I think it’s just an incredible gesture on his part to want to come and say hello….

“He just had surgery, he was in pain, I told him to go rest, get out of here. It was a great surprise to see him. We’ll talk.”

The Lakers passed out “Thanks Pau” shirts and showed a video tribute to a man who played seven seasons with the Lakers. The fans gave Gasol a standing ovation, and he came out to acknowledge them for it.

“I was a bit overwhelmed,” Gasol said. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so it was emotional. You always have a welcome appreciation for that kind of support and love. I’m very thankful to the fans that I played in front of for so many years. We went through so much here.”

Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds, plus had a key tip in to send the game to overtime. But the inconsistent Bulls defense could not slow the Lakers who won 123-118 in double OT.