Friday night of All-Star weekend is when the NBA likes to show off it’s future All-Stars. Or, at least the guys who seem like they are going to stick around the league for a while.
It’s the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge — what the rest of us still call the rookie/sophomore game. Although for the second year in a row the teams of rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams selected by Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley during the TNT pregame show Feb. 7. This morning, PBT’s D.J. Foster and I took our shot at picking the teams.
Wednesday the official list of players came out and it features the big names you expected — Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and more. Here is the pool of players
• Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
• Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
• Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons)
• Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
• Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets)
• Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
• Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
• Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
• Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats)
• Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
• Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
• Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
• Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
• Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
• Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)
• Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves)
• Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers
• Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Each team chosen by Barkley/Shaq will have nine players for a shortened game that traditionally features less defense than the All-Star Game itself and is filled with some ridiculous shots because of it.
Check out the teams D.J. Foster and I picked for our game. It follows this pool pretty closely with a few differences — they do not have Ricky Rubio available, but as he is in his second season we took him (they had Shved in there instead). Rather than Vucevic we had Andrew Nicholson, who Foster likes better. Rather than Tristan Thompson I chose Jared Sullinger, and I also took Isaiah Thomas and had him playing, they went bigger with Zeller.
But this is a good group of athletes and shooters — it should be a fun game come Feb. 15.
The rumor had been out there for a few days, the Houston Rockets would be interested in trading Ryan Anderson — a contract and player they have tried to move for more than a year now — to the Miami Heat for Tyler Johnson or James Johnson. Rockets’ fans liked that idea, for good reason.
The Heat… not so much. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Regarding rumors about a Heat trade involving Houston forward Ryan Anderson, that’s not something that interests Miami at this time, according to a league source.
Both USA Today and ESPN have floated the idea of Houston trading Anderson and a draft pick to Miami for Tyler Johnson or James Johnson. But while that would appear to interest the Rockets, it’s not something the Heat has found appealing.
Acquiring Anderson would increase Miami’s luxury tax bill, because Tyler Johnson is making $19.2 million each of the next two years compared with $20.4 million and $21.3 million for Anderson. James Johnson is due to make $14.4 million, $15.1 million and $15.8 million the next three seasons, but the Heat values his skill set.
This is often how rumors get more momentum among fans than they have traction with teams. The USA Today’s Sam Amick is incredibly well connected and doesn’t publish things frivolously, and this was clearly something that the Rockets kicked around. As they should. However, to make a trade work both sides need to feel they are winning it, and it’s hard to make a good case the Heat thought they were going to be in a better position after this trade. So it dies. As do 98 percent of trade talks between teams.
It takes two sides in getting something they want (or, in some cases, can live with) to make a trade actually work. Which is why they are hard to pull off.
Oscar Robertson, one of the NBA’s all-time greats and one of only two men to average a triple-double for a season, was recently given the NBA’s Lifetime achievement award. And with good reason — he was a legend on the court, but off the court his lawsuit paved the say for the NBA/ABA merger and the freedom of modern free agency.
In his career, he won just one title, with the Bucks in 1971. (He got it when he joined the Bucks and paired with a young Lew Alcindor — not yet Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — just a reminder for the “count the ringzzzz” crowd that basketball is now and always was a team sport that requires multiple stars and quality role players, plus a little luck, to win a title. Nobody can do it on their own and context matters.)
Robertson recently put his championship ring up for auction, and it fetched $75,948.
That was one of 51 items from The Oscar Robertson Collection put up for auction, which also included game-worn jerseys, his Indiana State championship ring from high school, and more.
Jahlil Okafor is trying to take advantage of his chance with the New Orleans Pelicans this season.
He talked about it in an Instagram post, and most people focused on the pictures of his improved physique. Which is improved.
However, the text was interesting:
I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them…. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal.
NBA players stepping forward and admitting they need help dealing with mental challenges and illness is a good thing. Kevin Love helped Okafor, and hopefully Okafor talking about it will help others.
Okafor has a clean slate in New Orleans. He missed much of last season due to injury, and between his time with the Sixers and Nets he was on the court for just 353 minutes total. In New Orelans there are bench minutes available (behind Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle, but Okafor needs to show he can run the floor and play the up-tempo style the Pelicans employ. Okafor’s below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, plus he poor defense, have held him back. If he’s got his body and mind right, maybe some of that can change.
R.J. Hunter has just not been able to find a home and stick in the NBA. He was a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 2015 and expected to be a sharpshooter at the NBA level. He went on to play in 35 games for Boston his rookie season, but during the following training camp they cut the former Georgia Tech shooting guard. The Chicago Bulls picked him up on a non-guaranteed minimum contract, he played a total of three games for them, then was cut loose. Houston eventually had him on a two-way contract the second half of last season, where he played five games for the big club and spent most of the season in the G-League.
He played for the Rockets at Summer League and averaged 11.2 points a game on just 40 percent shooting. Now, the Rockets have cut him loose, too. Via Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (for now, he moves over to The Athletic in the coming weeks).
Hunter will look for another chance in the NBA via the G-League, although he may be at the point he considers the overseas money he could earn.
In the G-League last season, playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he averaged 20.4 points per game with an impressive 60.4 true shooting percentage, and shot 37.7 percent from three. However, he has never been able to transfer those numbers, or anything close to it, over to the NBA level. He has tried to broaden his game and be more than a shooter, but the consistency has just never been where he needs it to be.
He has talked about learning and maturing through all of this. Hopefully he has, and it pays off for him at his next stop. Wherever that may be.