Tag: Orlando Magic

2014 Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Lillard repeats as Skills Challenge champion, partnered with Trey Burke

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NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard’s busy All-Star Saturday night started out pretty darn well — with a repeat win.

Lillard will be in all three major events on the evening and first out of the gate he and Trey Burke teamed up to win the NBA All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge — by just one tenth of a second over the all-rookie team of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo. Lillard was the defending champion in this event.

The event was changed up this year. First it became a tandem of players trying to work through the challenges passing off the ball in between, not an individual event (part of the NBA’s effort to make All-Star Saturday more of an East vs. West event). Plus, the challenges themselves were changed — gone was the bounce pass station, for example.

Didn’t matter to Lillard.

Lillard and Burke advanced to the final by first beating a team of Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson (who lollygagged through the course) and Phoenix’s Goran Dragic. In their first run Burke and Lillard’s time of 40.6 was the best of any tandem all night.

Carter-Williams and Oladipo (your two Rookie of the Year leaders) advanced by knocking off a team of Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. We at PBT are big Antetokounmpo fans but this is not an event in the raw rookie’s wheelhouse — he missed on the chest pass and knocking down a top of the key jumper.

In the final showdown, Carter-Williams and Oladipo both missed on the chest pass and struggled with the jumper.

It seemed like something Lillard and Burke could beat as both were just quicker with the ball in this event, but a couple missed shots made it go right down to the wire.

“I started to hear the crowd and you continue to glance up and looked up at the clock and I knew it was close,” Burke said, adding he thought it was going to be a tie.

Still it’s a win is a win, and Lillard is your repeat Skills Challenge winner.

There is zero chance the Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony, can we stop talking about it?

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks

I’ve been surprised how often this has come up lately. During radio talk show interviews, in emails, I even had a friend ask me:

Are the Knicks trading Carmelo Anthony?


Not even close.

I’m not sure how this delusion even became a talking point. Yes, the Knicks do know Anthony can opt out of his contract this summer, and they do know that this season’s struggles has opened his mind to considering his other options.

However the Knicks reaction to this is to find a way to make Anthony happy and keep him a Knick, not trade him away for pennies on the dollar and rebuild. Why do you think owner James Dolan recently skipped band rehearsal (or whatever he was doing) to come down to the locker room and meet with Anthony and take his temperature on coach Mike Woodson? Because what Anthony wants Anthony gets right now. He is the organization’s priority. Everyone else on the roster could be moved for an upgrade — I’m looking at you, Iman Shumpert — but not Anthony.

Don’t take my word for it, here is Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, in his recent power rankings.

There is “no chance” the Knicks will deal Carmelo Anthony, who owns a contract opt-out this summer, before the trade deadline, a source said.

Besides, the Knicks know if they tried to trade Anthony they couldn’t get anything near value back. Offers would be lowballs. Nobody is sending a young, elite player back to the Knicks for Anthony. Did you really read the story when the ridiculous-from-the-start Anthony for Blake Griffin rumor got thrown out there — the two teams hadn’t even discussed it, this was an internal Knicks conversation. I don’t think people outside Los Angeles grasp how invested in Blake Griffin the Clippers are — he is the face of the team marketing more than Chris Paul, he is the last player introduced, he is the fan favorite. After a long history of blown draft picks the Clippers finally got one right and he is their guy. They will not move him, certainly not for Anthony.

The reality is the Knicks are going to make whatever roster moves they can this summer and they will sell Anthony on the future (particularly 2015), on the extra $30 million guaranteed, and they will sell him on ending his career a Knicks’ legend. And he will probably take it. (The Lakers idea isn’t happening, they are lukewarm on adding him next to Kobe Bryant; and while the Bulls idea is more interesting on paper it is far from likely. After that, well, he is not going anywhere else to a non-major market.)

There are a lot of interesting names out there for trades before Feb. 20: Pau Gasol, Arron Afflalo, Thaddeus Young, Brandon Bass, Spencer Hawes, Marvin Williams and more. Some, not all, but some of those guys will be moved before Feb. 20.

Let’s focus on them and stop talking about Anthony. Please.

Report: Wizards interested in Nuggets’ Andre Miller, but a trade is difficult

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets

It’s always about the money. As we near the trade deadline remember that: It is always about the money.

The Washington Wizards could argue they are the third best team in the East. It’s a dubious honor this season and the title seems to change hands weekly between the Wizards, Raptors and Nets, but all three of those teams have legitimate dreams of making the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs (and the Hawks could surprise us all). When healthy, with the John Wall/Bradley Beal backcourt and Nene up front, the Wizards pose some legitimate challenges to other teams.

But they could use depth at the point guard spot, as the seemingly smart pickup of Eric Maynor has not worked out (he’s shooting 29.2 percent on the season, has a PER of 6.1 and is playing less than 10 minutes a game).

The Denver Nuggets have the exiled Andre Miller as an option… so yes, there is something to that, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland. But again, the money is in the way.

The Wizards, meanwhile, may have to settle for a smaller deal — if they can manage any at all. They’d surely love to upgrade the backup point guard slot after the Eric Maynor flop, and given the front-office connections between Denver and Washington,4 a deal involving the exiled Professor Andre Miller, PhD, would seem to make sense. But the Wizards are just $1 million under the tax line, meaning they’d have to send out significant salary to offer Miller tenure.

The Wizards are not a team seen around the league as a big spender (to put it kindly) and they are not likely to venture into the tax territory, certainly not this season. As Mike Prada of SBN reminds us, in addition to the tax threat the Wizards are paying Andray Blatche even though they amnestied him (players still get paid their salary, it just comes off the official books). That’s extra money out the door for a franchise not known for spending. Which means Washington would want to make a deal where it sends out more money than it takes in, keeps its picks and upgrades its backup point guard spot. Good luck with that.

We’re going to see these kinds of issues a lot now. The value of the expiring contract has gone way down in the NBA (in part because contracts are shorter under the new CBA). Also, teams are not looking to move draft picks this year or next because of the quality of players coming in.

There will still be deadline deals, it’s hard to imagine Brandon Bass still being in Boston or Arron Afflalo still being in Orlando come Feb. 21. But the blockbusters may be missing and the volume of moves may be down. It may be this summer before we see a ton of deals.

Minnesota’s Flip Saunders says strength of draft could dampen trade deadline

Minnesota Timberwolves 2013 NBA Draft Picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng Introduced to the Media

Last season’s trade deadline was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing — it was a very slow trade deadline, the bigger deals having already happened.

This season seems to be more active and with some bigger names — Pau Gasol could be moved, as potentially could guys like Greg Monroe. Names like Brandon Bass and Arron Afflalo seem more likely to be traded in the next 10 days, before the Feb. 20 deadline hits.

However, the big draft this summer could dampen moves at the trade deadline now, something Minnesota’s decision maker Flip Saunders told the Pioneer Press.

Saunders said there is a reluctance to deal around the league because of the perception that this year’s draft class is strong….

“Either everyone wants to keep their picks or if you want to trade players, people are trying to get your pick and people aren’t as apt to do something like that — not only this year, but next year, too,” Saunders said. “I think it might be a good draft the next couple of years…..

“When you look, I think a lot of time teams make trades to satisfy fans, to make them look like they are really trying to do something to make their team better. And I think sometimes teams make trades to make it look to their owners like they are working. If you want to make a trade to make yourself significantly better right now, then those have to be blockbuster-type trades,” Saunders continued, “and I don’t think there are a lot of teams that are leaning toward doing something like that.”

We saw a little of this already this year — Phoenix was talking with the Lakers about acquiring Pau Gasol but the Lakers were reportedly demanding one of the Suns top picks in this draft (Phoenix has four first rounders this draft, the Lakers wanted one of the top two). Phoenix walked away from the table.

We’ve already seen one All-Star change hands this season with Luol Deng going to Cleveland. Like last season, that could be the biggest move we see.

There will be more small deals this season, like we said there seem some very likely candidates to be moved off rebuilding teams. But with teams hoarding picks, this may not be a blockbuster deadline, either.

PBT NBA Power Rankings: Thunder stay on top, Bucks stay on bottom

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

More and more I think Adam Silver’s first NBA Finals as commissioner will feature Indiana and Oklahoma City — which would be good basketball but not exactly Super Bowl ratings. Things can change, but those are the two best teams right now.

source:  1 Thunder (41-12, Last Week No. 1). We gave been praising Kevin Durant for his play with Russell Westbrook out, but lets not ignore Serge Ibaka — he is averaging 19.3 points a game on 65.7 percent shooting, plus pulling down 8 boards a game in his last 10. Really fun showdown Tuesday at Portland.

source:  2. Pacers (39-11, LW 2). They were winners of five in a row including an OT victory over the Trail Blazers before they decided to take the second half off Sunday against Orlando. Lance Stephenson will use his All-Star snub (I would have picked him, but he was a bubble guy) as fuel the rest of the season, but he has to keep playing within himself and not try to do too much.

source:  3. Heat (35-14, LW 3). They feel pretty locked into the second seed in the East — 3.5 back of the Pacers, 9.5 games ahead of the three seed Raptors. With that lack of motivation they still seem to coast and do things like drop games to the Jazz. Last season they snapped out of it and won 27 in a row, this team doesn’t look like a team with that kind of run in them.

source:  4. Rockets (34-17, LW 9). Winners of five in a row, and that includes victories over the Spurs and Suns. The real fuel of the run is an offense scoring 112.1 points per 100 possessions (third best in the NBA for that stretch) thanks to Dwight Howard and James Harden going on scoring streaks.

source:  5. Spurs (37-14, LW No. 10). Tim Duncan is not playing in the All-Star Game this year, and that is the league’s coaches gift to him — he certainly deserved a spot but it is known he wanted the weekend off. He got it. By the way, injuries or not the Spurs are 3-1 on the rodeo road trip so far.

source:  6. Clippers (36-18, LW 5). They got Chris Paul back Sunday night and the offense exploded (thanks in large part to the Sixers “defense”). Now come the two big questions: Can they build on the impressive play of Blake Griffin and the offense while CP3 was out? Can they improve their defensive consistency to a level that has them challenging the Thunder?

source:  7. Trail Blazers (36-15, LW 8). They are 5-5 in their last 10 and that includes losses to the Thunder, Warriors, Grizzlies and Pacers (although they did go to OT with Indy on the road). Read into that what you wish. The tough schedule continues this week with the Thunder then the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back.

source:  8. Suns (30-20, LW 7). Goran Dragic is the biggest All-Star snub in the West, no doubt, and he showed it with a 34 points, 10 assists game against the Warriors. But in the end the NBA is about marketing and Kobe’s spot went to New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (the game is in New Orleans).

source:  9. Mavericks (31-21, LW 11). Winners of five in a row, they have moved up to a tie for the sixth seed in the deep West (tied with Phoenix). This race down the stretch for the final spots in the West will be one to watch — three games separate the six and nine seeds in the conference

source:  10. Grizzlies (27-23, LW 6). They simply did not look good in their last few games (a 1-3 week), Saturday night they set a record earning only one free throw all game. Which is really all about how much they miss Mike Conley.

source:  11. Warriors (30-21, LW 4). You think they are an offensive force, but they score 103.7 points per 100 possessions, which is 15th in the NBA. Middle of the pack. Average. In their last 10 games its 103 per 100. The defense and some spot shooting carries this team but they need to get more easy baskets and rely less on the jumper.

source:  12. Raptors (26-24, LW 12). In an ideal world, Kyle Lowry would have been an All-Star for Toronto. It’s not an ideal world. The Raptors went 2-3 on a tough road swing through the Western Conference but now are home for 8-of-10.

source:  13. Wizards (25-25, LW 14). How does the team that beat the Thunder and Blazers let Cleveland do whatever they want to them on offense? Tough couple games before the All-Star break, at Memphis and at hot Houston.

source:  14. Nets (23-26, LW 16). They have won 3-of-4 thanks to their radically improved defense (allowing just 97 points per 100 possessions in their last five games) but the real test for this team comes after the All-Star break when they head out on a seven-game road trip. They can win or lose the Atlantic Division in that stretch.

source:  15. Hawks (25-24, LW 13). They have lost three in a row and 10 of their next 13 are on the road (including the Bulls and Raptors this week). The Hawks continue to play solid defense but their offense in the post Al Horford era is a mess.

source:  16. Bulls (25-25, LW 15). The NBA’s grittiest team continues to do its thing — they are 11-7 since the Luol Deng trade. They just grind you down with defense and Joakim Noah is at the heart of that, he deserves headlines for things other than cursing at officials.

source:  17. Pelicans (22-28, LW 21). While others were deserving also make no mistake — Anthony Davis deserves to be an All-Star. He is putting up numbers, but the Pelicans offense can only go so far with Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson sidelined.

source:  18. Timberwolves (24-27, LW 17). They have dropped five of six and the reason is injuries — Nikola Pekovic is out, Kevin Martin is out and the Wolves are just banged up. The All-Star break couldn’t come at a better time for them.

source:  19. Nuggets (24-25, LW 18). The defense really misses JaVale McGee (he’s not perfect but he’s better than J.J. Hickson on that end) and now the offense is going to miss Ty Lawson for at least a few games with a broken rib. For his sake, let’s hope Andre Miller gets traded at the deadline.

source:  20. Bobcats (22-29, LW 20). Steve Clifford drew up a simple defensive system, one that could use the slower-footed Al Jefferson in the paint, and everyone has bought in, making Charlotte the sixth best defense in the league. That is how you build a foundation for a franchise going forward.

source:  21. Pistons (21-29, LW 22). Mo cheeks is out but there is no coach that was going to win as much as Joe Dumars expected with this roster — the big three of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe don’t mess well together and Brandon Jennings at the point is, well, Brandon Jennings. Keep an eye on Monroe at the trade deadline.

source:  22. Knicks (20-31, LW 19). Carmelo Anthony’s shooting percentage by quarter: 1st 51 percent, 2nd 46.4 percent, third 44.8 percent, fourth 37.3 percent. What this shows me is the load the Knicks are asking Anthony to carry offensively every game is just wearing him down.

source:  23. Celtics (18-34, LW 25). If you were going to bet on one team to make a move at the trade deadline, smart money would go on Boston or Orlando. Teams are interested in guys like Brandon Bass, a veteran that can be pugged in at the four or five, start or play off the bench, and be solid.

source:  24. Kings (17-34, LW 27). They remain the one team in the NBA most capable of beating anyone or losing to anyone on a given night. Nice wins last week over Chicago and Toronto, then they fell to Washington and Boston.

source:  25. Magic (16-37, LW 28). They have won three in a row, the last of those an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Pacers Sunday. Rookie Victor Oladipo sparked it with a hot fourth quarter — his relentless aggressive, hard play is a good piece of the future for this franchise.

source:  26. Lakers (18-32, LW 29). Kendall Marshall is averaging 21.3 points per game created by assists since he joined the Lakers, that would be second best in the NBA for the season (trailing only Chris Paul). Even with all the other point guards healthy Mike D’Antoni needs to play this kid.

source:  27. Jazz (17-33, LW 23). Another team that could be selling at the deadline — Richard Jefferson has played well of late and could be caching the eye or teams looking for veteran with help. Marvin Williams has been solid, too.

source:  28. Cavaliers (17-33, LW 26). Chris Grant got fired and you have the feeling if Mike Brown hadn’t just gotten a five-year deal he might have been gone, too. This is an organization in need of a culture change and that takes time and a GM with a real plan.

source:  29. 76ers (15-37, LW 24). That loss to the Clippers Sunday night — by 45 points and it wasn’t that close — almost dropped Philly into the bottom slot in the power rankings. All this losing just has to wear on coach Brett Brown.

source:  30. Bucks (9-41, LW 30). The future in Milwaukee is Giannis Antetokounmpo and he will be in the Skills Challenge All-Star Saturday night. Focus on that and not the fact the Bucks haven’t won back-to-back games all season.