Biggest winners and losers at the All-Star game

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The All-Star game is an exhibition first and foremost, and when players are trying harder to entertain the crowd than they are to play good basketball, it’s hard to put too much stock into the results. Still, this year’s All-Star game was one of the most entertaining and competitive games in years, and a few players did put on virtuoso performances while others struggled. Without further ado, let’s take a look at who had the best and worst All-Star Game:

Winner: Kobe Bryant

On Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant shot 8-24 and committed 7 turnovers in a loss to one of the worst NBA teams in decades. On Sunday night, a rested, motivated Bryant torched the best players in the Eastern Conference for 37 points, and was probably the player most responsible for making the game unusually competitive.

Kobe wasn’t interested in trying to pull of behind-the-back passes, intricate Alley-oops, left-handed threes, or any of the other shenanigans that usually take place in the All-Star game; he was taking Dwyane Wade to the post, getting back on defense, and throwing down some of the most vicious dunks he’s had in years.

Bryant was, by his own admission, exhausted by the time the fourth quarter came around, but still had enough in the tank to seal the game by preventing the East from pulling down a key rebound with seconds left to play. Bryant didn’t break Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record, but he did more than enough to win his fourth All-Star MVP and elevate the level of the game as a whole.

Loser: Dwight Howard

Howard played 21 minutes on Sunday, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember any of them. Howard showed little interest in playing offense or defense, didn’t block a single shot, and half of his four field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. That’s not what you want to see from Dwight Howard.

Winner: Kevin Durant

Durant bounced back from his embarrassing three-point contest with a vengeance. Kobe was the only player to have scored more than Durant, who looked like he was in a groove for most of the game and ultimately closed the game out by scoring seven points in the final 2:18 of play.

Losers: Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan

It’s hard to call KG and Tim Duncan “losers,” but they helped prove that the All-Star game is not the ideal environment for aging big men who make a bigger impact on defense than they do on offense. KG does get some points for being the loudest cheerleader on either bench, even when he was cheering on LeBron James.

Winner: Amar’e Stoudemire and Blake Griffin

The All-Star game WAS made for big men like Stoudemire and Griffin. Griffin dunked all over the court, managed to record five assists, and got the crowd chanting for him in fourth quarter, while Amar’e racked up 29 points with an efficient mix of dunks, jumpers, and drives to the basket.

Losers: Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony

New York rumors have been circling Carmelo and, to a lesser extent, Williams all weekend — both of them seemed distracted, and they combined to shoot 6-17 from the field on Sunday.

Winner: LeBron James

LeBron’s team didn’t get the win, but he recorded the second-triple double in All-Star history and made the game competitive again with a series of awe-inspiring drives to the basket. It’s hard enough to stop LeBron in a game played at a normal pace with normal defensive intensity — with the speed of the game ratcheted up and the defense a bit lax, James is impossible to stop.

Winner: Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s line wasn’t amazing, but he had some of the most incredible plays of the night — a rim-rocking dunk in transition, a nasty crossover on Dwyane Wade that set up a step-back jumper, and an incredible scoop shot. This year’s All-Star game was one of the best in years, and the play of guys like Westbrook, Durant, and Blake Griffin is a sign that there are more great All-Star games to come when the next generation takes over.

Why didn’t Lakers trade for Trevor Ariza? Suns owner reportedly blocked it.

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There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.

But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.

However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.

That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.

What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.

Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.

Kings’ rookie Marvin Bagley III out 10-14 days with left knee bone bruise

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The No. 2 pick in last June’s draft, Marvin Bagley III is having a solid season. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a game coming off the bench. He’s got a good 59.2 true shooting percentage and the 6’11” big man gets most of his buckets at the rim or at least in the paint although he can hit threes when he steps out there (taking one a game but hitting 35.7 percent). He’s lost on defense, as most rookies are, but there is some potential there.

The Kings are going to have to get by without him for the next 10 to 14 days due to a bone bruise in his left knee, the team announced Friday night.

The injury happened in the second quarter of Friday night’s Sacramento loss to Golden State, when Bagley was battling for a rebound and landed awkwardly. He got a bucket out of it because he was “cherry-picking” after not being able to run back down the court, but he waved to the coaches and asked out after scoring. Bagley left the game, had to be helped to the locker room and did not return.

With Bagley out expect to see a lot more Justin Jackson. Harry Giles III has been out of the rotation of late but he could potentially get a little run, too.

Kings troll Stephen Curry with moon landing video during player introductions

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Well played Sacramento.

Golden State came to town Friday night and during player introductions the Kings ran a video on their jumbotron of the moon landing to troll Stephen Curry.

Curry this past week said on a podcast that he didn’t think we landed on the moon, later saying it was obviously a joke but he would take NASA up on their offer of a tour of their lunar labs.

Curry can laugh at himself and gave the Kings and “A for effort” with the video.

Reports: New deal, Suns trade Trevor Ariza to Wizards for Austin Rivers, Kelly Oubre (no third team)

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Brooks who? Turns out Phoenix and Washington didn’t need a third team involved to get a trade done.

Phoenix gets a point guard, and the Wizards get a veteran presence in a trade that is straight up between the two: Trevor Ariza heads to Washington while Austin Rivers, Kelly Oubre are going to Phoenix, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The struggling Wizards get a veteran presence in their locker room — something the team where players don’t like each other and it shows on the court could use. Not that one move solves all those problems. Plus, Ariza brings a solid wing defensive and three-point shooting presence (36 percent) to the team (although he has struggled this season inside the arc). That said, there was a lot of trade value in Oubre and to get one player and no picks back in this trade — they would have gotten second rounders in the blown up Friday night deal — feels like the Wizards sold short. Washington also saves about $1.5 million in salary and luxury tax, but they need to add a 14th player to the roster in the next two weeks and even at the minimum that will eat into some of those savings.

Phoenix has desperately needed a point guard and now they got a rotation level one in Rivers, which is an upgrade for this team (whatever you think of Rivers). Plus the young Kelly Oubre fits better on the Suns’ timeline — with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and the rest — than the veteran Ariza, but the Suns are already deep on the wing. Oubre will be a restricted free agent next summer, by then the Suns should have a sense about him and if they want to keep him.