Kurt Helin

2012 NBA All-Star Game

Kevin Durant: If you want my All-Star slot beat me one-on-one for it

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When the NBA coached voted in Kevin Durant as an All-Star reserve there were plenty of people — we’re looking at you, Charles Barkley — who said he didn’t deserve it. Not because of Durant’s talent, but because he’s missed too much time this season due to injury (he’s missed 29 of the Thunder’s 47 games so far).

His response?

Well played.

I’m good with Durant in the All-Star Game (he was on my list as a reserve). It’s an exhibition; there is nothing on the line here. It’s not like the NBA does something stupid and puts home court in the Finals on the line for this popularity contest. So with that, I want to see the very best players in this show. Kevin Durant is one of those, and to me has played enough — and been good enough in the games he played — to make the cut.

What I really want to see: Elite NBA players in a one-on-one tournament. I probably would take Durant in that.

Kevin Durant to return to Thunder lineup Friday vs. Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic
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If Oklahoma City is going to catch the Phoenix Suns for the eight seed in the West, sweeping a home-and-home against New Orleans would be a significant step in the right direction. The Thunder won the first game of that series on the road Wednesday thanks to Russell Westbrook going off for 45 points.

Now they get Kevin Durant back for the next one Friday night.

Durant had missed four of the Thunder’s last five games due to a toe injury (he’s missed 27 of 49 on the season), but he went through shootaround on Friday morning and is set to go that night, the team confirmed.

Durant described it this way, via Royce Young of ESPN.

“I feel like it’s better now. I can push through it,” he said. “I’ve been out for so long this year as far as injuries are concerned, so I pushed it when I shouldn’t have. That’s part of the game sometimes, you’re still learning your body and trying to figure out the best way to do it and put myself first. It’s definitely been a tough year as far as injuries for me.”

The Thunder enter Friday night as the 10 seed in the West (two spots out of the playoffs), two games back of eight seed Phoenix and one back of nine seed New Orleans. Win on Friday night and Oklahoma City will have tied New Orleans.

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The Thunder then face the Clippers on Sunday in a national television game between two teams that should be Western Conference powers but have had their ups and downs.

NBA Referees Association comes to defense of Holtkamp: “She belongs”

Los Angeles Clippers v Cleveland Cavaliers
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The National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA) isn’t going to just let the head of the NBA players union call out a female referee and not respond.

The night after Clippers point guard Chris Paul questioned if rookie referee Lauren Holtkamp was cut out for the NBA, NBRA General Counsel Lee Seham said his association reviewed the calls and “deems them fully justified.”

“The NBRA deplores the personal and unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. She belongs,” Seham said in a released statement.

Paul was frustrated after the Clippers were blown out by the Cavaliers on national television Thursday night, and in that game the Clippers picked up five technical fouls. His comments in a postgame interview have created a firestorm online and a debate about officiating in the NBA.

“I think we’ve got to show better composure, but at the same time some of ‘em was ridiculous. Like the tech I got right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody say, I don’t care what she say, that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a technical. We try to get the ball out quick every time down the court and when we did that she said ‘Uh-uh (no)’ and I said ‘Why uh-uh?’ and she gave me a tech. That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case then this might not be for her.”

Paul will get fined by the league for his comments — not because she’s a woman but because any time a player publicly criticizes a referee to the media they get fined.

And I expect at some point Monday Paul will say publicly what people around the Clippers have said privately, that this was about his frustration with a rookie referee and quick whistles, not about her being a woman.

The entire officiating crew was quick to blow their whistles and hand out technicals Thursday night. Matt Barnes’ first technical for grabbing Kevin Love was a foul but not worthy of a tech. The technical that Holtkamp gave DeAndre Jordan for yelling “g–d—–” after a big dunk also seemed like a young referee trying to control something that a veteran would have let go.

That said, the Clippers complain about calls on the court more and more demonstratively than any team in the NBA — they complain about every call seemingly every game. I’m not sure Blake Griffin has ever gone to the rim and thought he wasn’t fouled. The Clippers had to expect there would be a backlash at some point, the officials are human beings and there are consequences for actions in life.

Report: Lakers would like to trade Jeremy Lin but market is “weak”

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers
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Once the Lakers traded for Jeremy Lin they had to know he was going to be with them all season. It’s mostly about the contract, which counts for $8.4 million against the cap but is actually north of $15 million in money paid out (part of the poison pill contract he signed with Houston back in 2012).

The fact that he has been in-and-out of Byron Scott’s doghouse hasn’t helped matters.

The Lakers are shopping Lin around but not with any success, reports Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.

He still would make a good backup point guard, and the Lakers would move him if they could get an asset in return, but the market for Lin has been weak.

Lin does some things well — he is aggressive and attacks off the pick-and-roll, he can finish around the rim or knock down threes — but he’s not a great assist guy, he turns the ball over too much, and he’s not a great defender.

Deveney hits the nail on the head: Lin is a solid NBA backup point guard. If it weren’t  for “Linsanity” and his oversized contract, the expectations of him would not be so high and he could blend in around the NBA.

But that’s not the case, and because of the contract he’s not getting traded. (It’s much the same with Jordan Hill, the Lakers are not finding a huge market for the big man, his hip injury is not going to help matters.)

This summer some team will pick Lin up as a free agent for $5 million or so a year to use as a reserve point guard behind their more established star, and that role will work for Lin. He’s a solid player who is still defined by a hot month a few years back.

LeBron James had his own dunk contest vs. Clippers in first half (VIDEO)

LeBron James, JaKarr Sampson
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The Clippers played some matador defense Thursday night — Olé — and LeBron James took advantage. He drove the lane with impunity, he got out on fast breaks, and he had his own little dunk contest.

LeBron had 15 points in the first half (and was +20) as Cleveland cruised to a 105-94 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. That made it a dozen wins in a row for Cleveland.