Wizards rookie Chris Singleton shows some perspective on the lockout

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The NBPA hasn’t done the best job of managing their PR front. David Stern has done his damnedest to control the public message of the lockout, all while the factions that have reportedly formed among the players threaten to decertify the union entirely and rip the 2011-2012 season apart.

Yet individually, the lockout has provided certain players a chance to show their reasonable perspectives, in spite of the ridiculous actions and comments of their peers and negotiating opponents. For every JaVale McGee there is a Shane Battier or a Raja Bell – a player in a non-leadership role who demonstrates an awareness and an understanding of the negotiations and the lockout’s sticking points.

Among that group is Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, who, in an interview with Jared Zwerling for TrueHoop, gave some thoughtful answers to questions about the players’ position in the lockout, and the nature of an inevitable deal that they’ll eventually have little choice but to accept:

Are any of the players saying to each other, “Let’s just get this thing over with and earn your stripes on the court to make that extra million or two you think you deserve?” 

I mean, that’s in some peoples’ minds, but our board members are just trying to do the best for everybody. You know the superstars are going to get their money. We’re trying to see how much the max contracts are going to be. I feel like the superstars are going to be fine, but it’s just how much money are the owners wiling to put out now? They’ve given 15 to 20 million — some ridiculous amount — to some people who don’t even play 85 percent of the season. You’ve got to go out there and earn it; that’s how I feel. But, I mean, we’re together and I’m behind whatever they do.

Do you think the owners are trying to get the players to cave in? Is there any thought from the players that you won’t get the best deal once you start missing paychecks? 

I mean, we’re not going to get the best deal. We’re not going to get the deal we hoped for. It’s a business, I know that. I’m just hoping that it’s something that works out for both sides.

What has the experience of the lockout taught you? 

I don’t take for granted the opportunity that I have every day to be able to go out and showcase my abilities to the fans who are watching. I just take it all in and just try to be the best person I can be, the best player I can be. You grow up faster, especially because you don’t have anything. You’re depending on a check. That’s why you get a job; you try to earn a living. I have a job, I have a title, but I don’t get compensated by the league.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that in itself may be notable. The NBA’s PR front would love nothing more than to have us all believe that the players are not only the problem, but oblivious to the actual goings-on of the negotiating process and the economics of a deal. Demonizing the locked out party — or at least framing them as inept — is one of the only ways to justify the league’s actions without being tagged as “greedy.” If the public thinks that the players just don’t get it, they’ll naturally side with the financially sound businessmen who are shackled from success by an allegedly broken system. Players salaries are rising! Look at the difference between the Lakers and Kings! We’ve heard it all before, framed so conveniently to exclude pesky facts and context.

Singleton, and his many informed peers, stand antithetical to the perception that the league strives for. The players may have conflict within their ranks, but that dissensions shouldn’t be confused with incompetence, even if it does stifle their efficacy. The players have reportedly made concessions in almost every area of the negotiations. They’ve made legitimate strides toward a potential deal. Yet Singleton knows and willingly tells us that the players aren’t going to get the kind of agreement they had hoped for — a softer contrast to the owners’ hard line. He may not be deeply involved in the negotiating process, but he shows flexibility and perspective, things which — although the league’s spin machine would have you believe otherwise — aren’t at all uncommon among the player ranks.

Watch Paul George drain game-winning floater in 2OT, lift Thunder past Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George floated in a basket with less than a second remaining in double-overtime, capping a 45-point night with the winning shot in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 148-147 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday.

George dribbled out the final seconds before splitting the Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio double team then hitting a rainbow floater over Rudy Gobert 0.8 seconds left that gave the Thunder the win.

Kyle Korver got off a desperate 3 for Utah, but it went long as the buzzer sounded.

Russell Westbrook added 43 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, helping Oklahoma City overcome 38 points from Donovan Mitchell. Westbrook fouled out with 1:09 left in the first overtime, ending his NBA streak of 11 consecutive games with a triple-double.

The game went to overtime after the Thunder’s Jerami Grant completed a tying three-point play, then blocked Mitchells shot at the other end. Grant had 18 points.

In the first overtime, Abdel Nader hit a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 139-137 lead in the final minute after Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson had fouled out. Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped in the tying basket with 33.7 seconds left, and George and Mitchell eached missed jumpers in the closing seconds.

Gobert hit two free throws with 1:10 left in the second overtime for a 147-146 lead, but Utah went cold from there. Mitchell’s driving shot off the glass missed the rim, and Joe Ingles missed on a long 3-point try as the shot clock expired with 13.2 seconds left.

Steven Adams played a game-high 47 minutes for Oklahoma City, returning from a pre-All-Star break ankle injury to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds to go along with five steals.

Derek Favors hit his first 10 shots, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds for Utah. Gobert had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz.

The teams were physical throughout. Westbrook got a flagrant foul for crashing into Gobert while defending a layup, and there was a fracas late in the first half after Jae Crowder fouled the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder.

 

Jeremy Lin says “at times it kind of sucks” being only Asian-American in NBA

Associated Press
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When Jeremy Lin landed in Toronto — after being bought out and waived by the Hawks, clearing the way for him to sign with the Raptors for the playoff push — the number of cameras and reporters in the Raptors locker room instantly ballooned. Lin remains one of the most popular players worldwide in the NBA, he’s a social media phenom, and there are cameras there to track his every move and send it around the world, particularly back to Asia.

Lin isn’t in the NBA because he’s famous and sells tickets — he’s a quality guard who can help a team, there’s a reason the contending Raptors picked him up — but he inhabits the role of both player and groundbreaker.

Lin talked about that (and Asians in popular culture) with Cary Chow of the Undefeated in an interesting Q&A at The Undefeated, where he said being the only Asian-American in the NBA is not easy.

At times it kind of sucks. At other times it’s amazing. Amazing because you get to challenge everyone’s viewpoints and perspectives. I’m rooting for so many more Asians to come in. Last year, when I was with Brooklyn and we had Ding [Yanyuhang] on the summer league team, I was like, ‘Dude, please make the team. We’d have so much fun together during the season.’

On the feeling that he has to represent an entire race.

Yeah. At first it was something I ran from and really struggled with. Now I embrace it way more and am more equipped to handle it. I’m not perfect, but I kind of know who I want to be at this point in my career, so I keep trucking along and doing things the right way and stay above all the distractions.

Lin has handled his fame deftly over the years. He has challenges and opportunities not open to other players, and that’s the balancing act. It takes someone smart, but also grounded and balanced to pull it all off. The Raptors got all that, along with the extra cameras around the team.

Mostly, though, the Raptors got a player who is going to help them make a deep playoff run.

 

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

Associated Press
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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.