Your 2012 All-Star Game winners and losers

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It’s an exhibition, but it’s still a competition. Someone has to win (the West, 152-149). Someone has to lose.

We’re here to sort it all out for you. The winners. The losers. And even how you can be both.

Winner: Kevin Durant. The game MVP did it all — he had maybe the best dunk of the night (off the backboard from Chris Paul), hit 3 threes, and added to his legacy as one of the game’s elite players. When the game was open he owned it, but he only had two points in the fourth quarter as the East picked up its defensive intensity and focused it on him. But his MVP is well deserved and likely the first of several.

Loser: Dwight Howard. This was supposed to be his night and laughed, joked around, played at one-quarter speed and was a complete non-factor. In a sign of how serious he took everything, he was 0-4 from three. He got dunked on by Kevin Love, made a bad inbounds pass after that which was stolen, then five seconds later Kevin Durant dunked on him. He likely was tired after playing host all weekend, but he was a mess.

Winner:
LeBron James. He put up 36 points and if the East had succeeded with their comeback he would have deserved the MVP. In the first half he was a dunking machine, then he comes out at the start of the third quarter and knocks down a couple threes, including one from about Daytona. He had eight points in the fourth quarter and was key to the East’s comeback.

Loser: LeBron James. He is never going to hear the end of that pass with 1.9 seconds left that was stolen by Blake Griffin and cost the East a shot to tie or take the lead. Because it was a terrible pass. Kobe was barking at LeBron to take the shot, but LeBron said afterward he saw Wade come open near the basket the first time but hesitated then when he threw the pass it got picked off. And the “LeBron is not clutch” meme gains more fuel. Only a ring will quiet it (and likely a couple are needed).

Winner: Kobe Bryant. Any time you pass Michael Jordan in anything – this time to become the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history — you are a winner. Kobe being in 14 All-Star Games is a tribute not only to his skill but also to how well he has taken care of his body and how he has been able to stay relatively healthy. Or at least play through the pain.

Winner: Dwyane Wade. He had an All-Star Game triple-double — 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. That’s impressive.

Loser: Andrew Bynum. Finally gets the All-Star nod he has craved thanks to the fans, but a sore knee means he plays just 5:31 and goes 0-3 from the floor.

Winner: Mary J. Blige. She absolutely killed it with an a cappella version of the Star Spangled Banner. Note to young singers: She did it without autotune.

Loser: Nicki Minaj. What was that? And why was there so much of it? She needs to watch Mary J. and see how it’s done.

Report: Lakers eager to use LeBron James at center flanked by top four young players

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Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.

What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.

LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.

But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.

I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?

LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.

But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.

Report: Nuggets lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. undergoes another back surgery

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Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.

The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.

Nuggets release:

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.

Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.

But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

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Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

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The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.