Going big: Kristaps Porzingis wins Skills Challenge (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Kristaps Porzingis was a half step behind Gordon Hayward as they shot their layups in the Skills Challenge, but the 7-foot-3 Knicks forward had an advantage as each player’s ball fell through the hoop.

“I kind of cheated a little bit,” Porzingis said. “I grabbed the ball before him, because I’m taller. And then I just kept running.”

Porzingis kept his advantage, hitting a 3-pointer on the other end to win the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday Night. He’s the second big man to win in the two years larger players participated, joining 2016 winner Karl-Anthony Towns.

 

 

In an event thought to favor guards considering the emphasis on ball-handling, passing, speed and shooting, the bigs are making their mark. Even Gordon Hayward, a forward shoehorned into the guard division won that to meet Porzingis in the final. But the bigger Porzingis was too quick.

“It’s a good feeling I’m able to showcase my skill with my size,” Porzingis said.

It’s a new era for NBA bigs. What’s next for Porzingis on All-Star Saturday Night?

“Slam dunk competition? For sure not,” Porzingis said. “Maybe one day 3-pointers.”

 

Complete results

Quarterfinals

Gordon Hayward over John Wall

Isaiah Thomas over Devin Booker

Kristaps Porzingis over DeMarcus Cousins

Nikola Jokic over Anthony Davis

Semifinals

Gordon Hayward over Isaiah Thomas

Kristaps Porzingis over Nikola Jokic

Final

Kristaps Porzingis over Gordon Hayward

Adam Silver “disheartened” that Charles Oakley public rift with Dolan, Knicks continues

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver arrives at a press conference before NBA All-Star Saturday Night events in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)
Associated Press
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NEW ORLEANS — Adam Silver tried to heal the league’s black eye when the Knicks had team legend Charles Oakley out of Madison Square Garden and arrested, then doubled down saying he had some “issues.” Silver got Oakley and Dolan in a room together to talk, and Dolan lifted the ban on Oakley from the Garden.

It wasn’t enough.

Within a couple days Oakley was saying he wouldn’t accept an invitation to return to the Garden and comparing Dolan to Donald Sterling, the worst owner in the modern era.

Silver has no regrets and thinks them at least talking was a step in the right direction.

“When I left the meeting with Charles Oakley and Jim Dolan, I did not think things were resolved. I thought they were on the right track, Silver said at his annual All-Star press conference Saturday night. “As I said in the statement that I issued that night, I thought the meeting was important because, back to my NBA family, I do think it’s important that family members deal with each other directly, and I thought it would be helpful if Charles and Jim sat across from each other and spoke directly to each other rather than through the media or through surrogates….

“And so while I’m disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it is not — does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way, right now I don’t regret that I had that meeting. And if there is a constructive role I can play going forward, I’m available to do that. Again, I didn’t compel them to meet with me. I did it because I thought it would be helpful. And frankly, in retrospect, I still think it was helpful.”

Deep wounds can take time to heal, and Oakley was undoubtedly hurt deeply by his treatment at the hands of the Knicks, not just that night but since Dolan took over the organization. Oakley has not held back criticizing Dolan’s ownership and stewardship of the Knicks — another reason he has the support of the fans in New York, many of whom feel the same way.

But the next step in healing this rift falls to Oakley.

“I’m still hopeful that Charles will sort of come back into the family,” Silver said. “Again, when Jim Dolan invited him back to Madison Square Garden, Charles did not say, wonderful, let’s take out the schedule and pick a game. In fact, he was very emotional in the meeting, and he said it was something he wanted to think about.

“And in my subsequent conversations with him, I have said, I think you should continue to think about it. And whether that’s a month from now, six months from now, or a year from now, the fan in me and someone who’s known Charles for a long time, I hope at some point he does decide to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately, that’s his decision.”

 

LeBron James talking a good game, still playing a great one

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Older, wiser and more aware of the world, LeBron James is unafraid to let his views known on politics or social issues or even the business of basketball.

It wasn’t always that way.

But in his 14th season, with more NBA playing years in his rear-view mirror than left in front of him, James doesn’t see much reason to stay silent these days. His voice is louder than ever when he deems it appropriate while his numbers remain as good as ever. It’s one of the reasons why he’ll again be the star attraction on Sunday night when he plays in the All-Star Game for the 13th time.

“I’ve been vocal about a lot,” James said Saturday. “That’s who I am. I’m a vocal guy. I’ve been vocal about a lot of things this year.”

Whether it was his stance on the presidential election where he supported Hillary Clinton, expressing his displeasure about Phil Jackson’s characterization of the people closest to him , speaking directly to fans through video messages or even saying his Cleveland Cavaliers need another playmaker to help with their NBA title defense, James has been taking full advantage of his massive platform .

This weekend, though, he is trying to take a break from any negativity and enjoy the moment.

“Truly blessed,” James said. “This is a special time for me.”

He’s not alone in that sort of thinking. For all the subplots – the Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook drama, Kyrie Irving‘s claim that the Earth is flat and Carmelo Anthony‘s All-Star nod after some trying times in New York – none of the 24 players who’ll be on the floor Sunday night will likely be thinking about anything besides putting on a show.

James’ two sons are hoping for a show, too. Not from their dad, so much – but rather from their favorites like Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

“LeBron Jr. wore 0 for the longest time because he loves Russ,” James said. “Bryce wore 30 because he likes Steph and likes to shoot the ball from deep. I think that’s pretty cool.”

James’ arrival was the big news of All-Star Saturday, largely because he missed Friday’s events because of family obligations. Durant and Westbrook shared the floor for practice but had minimal interaction – not even looking at each other when they were maybe a foot apart in the back of the Superdome while trying to find their assigned spots for a media session.’

“This game, it’s for the fans,” said Westbrook, the two-time reigning All-Star MVP.

It always is, though this All-Star weekend has a younger feel.

Sunday’s will be the first All-Star Game since 2005 – James’ first All-Star – where no player in the game will be older than 32. Kobe Bryant was 37 when he made his All-Star farewell in Toronto last season, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was two months shy of turning 42 when he played in the game for the last time in 1989.

Anthony is the oldest All-Star, seven months older than James and eight months older than Marc Gasol. They’re all 32.

“It’s pretty weird to be the veterans now when we were the young guys a few years ago, but that’s just the way the league is going, man,” Durant said. “Teams are drafting two or three 18-year-olds a year. … The league is getting younger and at some point we’re going to be the old guys passing the torch to the young guys.”

James is one of those old guys now.

But he’s not ready to pass any torch.

He’s shooting better this season, 54 percent, than he did in his first three MVP years. His 8.8 assists per game have him on pace for a career-best, his rebounding average is essentially the same as it was in all four MVP seasons and his scoring – 25.9 per game – is just a tick below what he did in those years where he was tabbed as the game’s best.

“I take pride in going out every night, and you knowing what you’re going to get from me every night,” James said. “I work on my game. I work on my craft. And to know that my numbers are right up there with my MVP seasons, it just lets me know I’m consistent. You can always book me for whatever my numbers say. Sometimes they’re more. Not going to be less, not that many times.”

Carmelo Anthony on All-Star selection: ‘It was a downer’

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (7) walks off the court after the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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NEW ORLEANS — Just three days ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver selected Carmelo Anthony as Kevin Love All-Star injury replacement.

“It was a downer,” Anthony said. “I had to cancel my trip. No refunds.”

The Knicks star said he planned to vacation in Cuba and Puerto Rico over the break. Instead, he had to make travel arrangements to New Orleans as other non-All-Star players not selected made him “jealous” with pictures from their vacation pictures.

“I had to shut my phone off,” Anthony said.

This will be Anthony’s 10th All-Star appearance, whether he likes it or not.

“It’s a good thing,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to seem like I’m not happy about it.”

 

Players’ Union officers express concern over Oakley-Knicks conflict

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2011 photo, then-Charlotte Bobcats assistant coach and former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley directs players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Charlotte, N.C.  Oakley was forcefully removed from his seats at Madison Square Garden and arrested after an altercation near team owner James Dolan. Oakley shoved security guards before they pulled him away from his seat behind the baseline during the first quarter of the Knicks' 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, Feb. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Officers with the National Basketball Players Association said Friday that the problems between Charles Oakley and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan could impact decisions future free agents make about playing for the New York Knicks.

Oakley was removed from MSG earlier this month, pulled away by security guards, handcuffed, arrested and eventually banned from entering the arena. That ban has since been lifted, but the long-strained relationship between Oakley – a very popular player when he was a Knick – and the team remains tenuous at best.

“I think it’s kind of a personal thing,” said NBPA vice president Anthony Tolliver of the Sacramento Kings. “I think some guys, for sure, notice it and some of those guys have made it known that it will affect them. Other guys, maybe not.”

Added NBPA secretary-treasurer James Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers: “It’s kind of self-evident.”

Tolliver has played for nine franchises in his nine NBA seasons, and said one thing he’s learned in his many moves is how some franchises are just operated differently than others.

“Can’t really put a blanket statement over all players,” Tolliver said. “But for me personally, playing for so many different teams like I have, there’s a big difference between an organization that’s run the right way and an organization that isn’t.”

It’s an issue of particular importance for NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts – not just because of her role in the union, but because she’s a New York fan.

“I have been a fan of the Knicks since I could spell, and I welled up when I saw what happened to Oak,” Roberts said. “So of course I was affected by that.”

Dolan said Oakley was being abusive when he got to his seat for the game on Feb. 8, and later suggested on ESPN New York that the former player “has a problem with anger. He’s both physically and verbally abusive. He may have a problem with alcohol. We don’t know.”

Dolan and Oakley, with help from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, began mending fences this week. But it remains a topic at All-Star weekend, and Silver will almost certainly address it again when he holds his annual All-Star news conference on Saturday.

“I know Oak personally, so that was real tough to watch,” union president Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said. “To hear them say that they hope Oak is going to get some help like he’s mentally ill or something, that was tough. Since I’ve come into the NBA and talking about looking out for younger players, Oak has been a guy who has always checked on me – injury, anything like that. To see him treated in that fashion was tough.”