NBA’s Rising Stars know exhibition drill, put on dunk fest

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Give the people what they want.

Nobody tuned in to the BBVA Rising Stars game Friday night of All-Star weekend to watch defense — they wanted to see dunks, crazy passes and guys carpet bombing threes. Then more dunks off ally-oops. Then Jeremy Lin.

In that case, the fans got their money’s worth. Friday night in Orlando there was less defense than your average Nets game.

We’ve got Ricky Rubio going through DeMarcus Cousins’ legs then throwing the ally-oop to Blake Griffin. We’ve got Griffin throwing a dunk off the backboard to himself. You got Kyrie Irving raining threes (8-of-8). We got the next generation of NBA stars trying to put on a show.

“It’s important to come out and have fun and compete a little bit,” said the Clippers Blake Griffin (who is playing in this and the big All-Star Game on Sunday night). “These fans come for a reason and we don’t want to disappoint them and not play hard.”

The fans got Lin to Griffin, what more could they want?

Oh, by the way, Team Chuck beat Team Shaq 146-133. They’ll talk about that a lot on Inside the NBA on TNT. Nobody else really cared about the score.

If you want to know why it ended that way, in a game where every three was uncontested Team Chuck shot 55 percent from deep, Team Shaq shot 29.3 percent. Charles Barkley can thank Irving, who had 34 points and was the game MVP.

“He was hot today,” said Irving’s teammate for a night MarShon Brooks of the Nets. “Kyrie can shoot in a real game, so in an exhibition where you’re wide open, I can see that happen. Didn’t surprise me.”

For the guys in the game, this was a chance to have fun and get to know and play with guys they don’t see much.

“We’ve been hearing about Ricky Rubio since like 400 b.c.,” said the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson, who was teamed with him. “So finally he’s here playing with us and it’s fun. He can pass the ball, he was hitting some threes, he’s going to be a great player in this league.”

As in most of these exhibitions, guards tend to shine because they have the ball in their hands.

“It’s definitely kind of harder for big guys because we go out there to dunk and block shots, and you don’t want to block and hurt someone (in an exhibition) so it’s really simple: run the floor and dunk. I can do that.”

He and his friends did a lot of that.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.