Your All-Star weekend schedule

1 Comment

It was so nice of David Stern and the NBA to bring the All-Star Game to the home city of PBT (myself and John Krolik both live here). That way we still have to deal with family and other responsibilities in addition to work. No trip out of town for us. No working vacation. Nope, just our regular responsibilities plus a million new ones. Thanks for that, Mr. Stern.

Still, we will be all over the events and reporting from everything. There will be live blogs and interviews and we’ll do everything but get you invited up to the Playboy Mansion this weekend. Which may not really be the place to be right now anyway.

Here’s a rundown of the weekend events (all times Eastern).

Friday (February 18)

7 p.m. Celebrity Game (ESPN). Have you ever wondered how good Justin Bieber’s crossover is? Of course you have, who hasn’t? Now you can find out in person. There will be former NBA players (Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Bill Walton) trying to set up Bieber, who by my guess is 3’8” tall. Also playing will be Common, because a rapper is a required part of this.

9 p.m. Rookie Challenge (TNT). John Wall lobbing ally-oop passes to Blake Griifin. Normally we don’t recommend watching this game, but Wall to Griffin might be reason to tune in. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will be coaching (and talking about how to exploit free agency).

Saturday (February 19)

8 p.m. We will be live-blogging all of the excitement here at PBT. Well, not just the exciting parts, we’ll do the Shooting Stars, too. Come on by and we’ll ignore that event and talk dunks.

8 p.m. Shooting Stars (TNT). It’s a tough call, but this may be the least watchable of all the All-Star events. If you need to spend 30 minutes of quality time with your family, this is a good time. Teams consisting of an NBA player, a WNBA player and a TNT Analyst shoot shots and get times on it. Your defending champ is Team Texas with Dirk Nowitzki, Roneeka Hodges and Kenny Smith.

8:30 p.m. Skills Challenge (TNT). Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook will dribble around cones and pass through tubes. Basically, they run drills.  This event is sponsored by Taco Bell and it would be appropriate if the Staples Center crowd started chanting “We Want Ta-cos.”

9ish p.m. (after the Skills Challenge ends), Three-Point Contest (TNT). Ray Allen and Paul Pierce take on Kevin Durant and a bunch of guys LeBron James used to or currently set up for threes in this one.

9:15ish p.m. (after the Three-Point Contest) Dunk Contest (TNT). Can Blake Griffin live up to the hype? Does he have jump off the top of the Staples Center scoreboard to meet expectations? Griffin is the favorite but watch out for Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, he can in second last year and is a Los Angeles guy, too (USC, just up Fig a few blocks from Staples Center). Serge Ibaka and JaVale McGee will be there, too.

Sunday (February 20)

8 p.m., another PBT live blog. So that you have a place to laugh with friends when the Staples Center crowd starts booing LeBron James.

8 p.m., NBA All-Star Game, (TNT). Will Celtics players pass to Heat players? Will Heat players pass to Celtics players? Will Kobe Bryant pass to anyone? Remember to relax and remember that this is an exhibition — nobody is going to play defense or anything close to it. Pau Gasol already started practicing that against the Cavaliers. The big question is who decides to demand the ball and goes all out to win MVP. I’ll call my Derrick Rose shot now.

Mike Budenholzer no fan of Drake’s free run on Toronto sideline

Getty Images
5 Comments

Drake is the Mayor of Toronto.

Actually, he does fewer drugs than some former mayors of Toronto, and Drake was not elected, but he’s The Mayor in any meaningful way. The man can do whatever he wants.

Such as walk up and down the sidelines of a Raptors game with impunity, and give Nick Nurse a massage during the game.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has much bigger things to worry about — such as were Eric Bledsoe misplaced his shot — but somehow during his conference call with the media on Wednesday, before a critical Game 5, Drake was the topic of discussion. Budenholzer is not a fan of Drake getting to patrol the sidelines. Via ESPN:

“I will say, again, I see [Drake talking to Raptors] in some timeouts, but I don’t know of any person that’s attending the game that isn’t a participant in the game a coach,  I’m sorry, a player or a coach, that has access to the court. I don’t know how much he’s on the court. It sounds like you guys are saying it’s more than I realize. There’s certainly no place for fans and, you know, whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors. You know, to be on the court, there’s boundaries and lines for a reason, and like I said, the league is usually pretty good at being on top of stuff like that.”

My guess is the league (and maybe the referees before Game 6 in Toronto) will reach out to Drake and tell him he can’t go Joe Biden on a coach during the game, and to stay near his seat. This is precisely the kind of distraction from the game that fans love to talk about and annoys the league office, which wants the focus on the court.

Personally, the more personality around the game, the better. It’s entertainment people, enjoy the show.

Knicks president Mills says Porzingis threatened to return to Europe if not traded in seven days

Getty Images
4 Comments

If you thought the Knicks thrashing or Kristaps Porzingis on his way out the door was over, well, you haven’t been paying attention to the Knicks.

Team president Steve Mills was at a Knicks fan forum on Wednesday and was asked about the Kristaps Porzingis trade and dropped this bomb: Porzingis gave the Knicks the ultimatum of “trade me or I’m going back to Europe.”

“When he walked into our office, my office, and Scott [Perry, Knicks GM] was sitting there with me, and point blank said to us, ‘I don’t want to be here, I’m not going to re-sign with the Knicks, and I’ll give you seven days to try and trade me or I’m going back to Europe.'”

To be clear, Porzingis had to mean going back to Europe to work out and hang out, he could not have played professionally this season. European clubs honor commitments to NBA contracts — they will not sign and play a guy under an NBA contract — the same way the NBA does with European clubs (as well as China and all FIBA leagues).

Saying he wasn’t going to re-sign makes things clear for New York, it’s one of the reasons the NBA touted the “super-max” contract extensions because teams would find out earlier about player intentions. The Europe part, he could have signed there this summer, but the most a European team would pay him would still be more than $20 million less his likely next NBA contract (the top Europeans players make less than $3 million annually). But sure, go ahead and believe Porzingis would leave that money on the table.

For the Knicks brass, speaking in front of Knicks fans, this was the chance to make themselves look good — “see, we already had a good trade in place” — and thrash the guy they had been selling as the franchise savior a year before. It’s all about perception.

The Knicks have a lot of cap space this summer and their perception as a front office will hinge on what they do — or do not do — with it.

Porzingis landed in a good spot with Luka Doncic in Dallas, and the Mavericks will give Porzingis a max contract. Then it’s on him to earn it.

New Suns coach Monty Williams: ‘I’m here at the right time, and I’m here with the right people’

AP Photo/Matt York
4 Comments

PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns have gone through coaches like tear-away racing visors, the count up to five in five years.

The instability has hurt them on the court, the run of playoff-less appearances stretching to nine straight seasons with this year’s 19-63 finish.

Monty Williams, the man GM James Jones hired to coach the Suns, hopes to change the trend.

“Continuity, having a staff here for a while and putting in a system that the players can rely upon, but ultimately it will come down to James, myself and the players pushing this thing forward,” Williams said during his introductory news conference Tuesday. “The players are going to have to embrace a level of work and commitment that it takes to be a champion.”

Williams was hired on May 3 to replace Igor Kokoskov, who was fired after one season in the desert.

Williams’s arrival in Phoenix was delayed while he finished out the playoffs as an assistant to Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. The 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs last week by Toronto on Kawhi Leonard‘s hang-on-the-rim buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Williams’ name had been linked to numerous head coaching jobs, including the Lakers, but he wound up in the Valley of the Sun after multiple discussions with Suns owner Robert Sarver.

“In my conversations with Mr. Sarver, I saw someone who didn’t duck the tough questions,” Williams said. “We both had tough questions for each other and in this day and age where people throw each other under the bus, make excuses, blame, I didn’t see that. I saw a man who really wants to bring success to this city and I mean that with all of my heart or I wouldn’t have come here.”

Williams had a previous stint as an NBA head coach, leading New Orleans from 2010-15. A year after he was fired, Williams’ wife, Ingrid, was killed in a car crash.

He didn’t know if he wanted to get back into coaching after her death, but was pushed by his kids to return to coaching the sport he loves.

“When everything happened to my family, my focus was just take care of my children,” said Williams, who has remarried. “That led me to believe I might not ever be able to coach again, and I was cool with that. But they weren’t. And to have your children want you to go back to doing what you love to do gave me even more confidence, more strength. Hopefully that translates and the players can pick up on that.”

The Suns have been known as a dysfunctional franchise, but were lauded for landing Williams, a well-respected, well-rounded coach.

Williams played nine NBA seasons with New York, San Antonio, Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia. He’s been a head coach, an assistant and spent two years in San Antonio’s front office.

“His experience in all facets of basketball as a coach, player development on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball, in the front office gives him a unique perspective that I think is well suited for our franchise,” Jones said.

In the Suns, Williams takes over a young team with two star-quality players at its core: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Booker has developed into one of the NBA’s best scorers, leading the Suns with 26.6 points per game. He had five 40-point games the final month of the season, including 50 and 59 in consecutive games.

Ayton was the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NBA draft and didn’t disappoint, shooting 59% while averaging 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Phoenix should add to its talent base with the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft.

“There’s so much room to grow,” Williams said. “I think we have a young team that’s learning how to win and they will and I have to do my job. I have to enhance the strengths but be honest about our weaknesses and get the players to consider a new way of doing some things. I think I’m here at the right time and I’m here with the right people.”

Hornets’ Miles Bridges on All-Rookie: ‘I didn’t get snubbed. I played like a— all year’

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA released its All-Rookie teams yesterday. Hornets forward Miles Bridges missed out, getting only one first-team vote and four second-team votes.

Bridges:

I love this attitude. Bridges didn’t deserve to make it. It’s silly to for anyone, including him, to pretend otherwise.

He’s obviously being too hard on himself. He had an OK rookie year. It just wasn’t one of the NBA’s 10 best this season.

Players often hold inflated opinions of themselves. That might help them succeed in a high-pressure job, and that’s obviously their priority. To be clear: I’m not criticizing them for adopting an approach that helped them reach this high level. But it leaves them as lousy analysts of their own performance.

Bridges doesn’t have that problem. It’s easy to see how this will drive him to improve.

His humility won’t work for everyone. But it works for him, and it’s a refreshing change of pace.