Three Stars of the Night: Almost Perfect

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You never know when it’s going to be one of those nights. You know, when regardless of what you do the shots just fall. It doesn’t matter if it’s a twisting drive to the rim, a deep three pointer, or your standard pull up from the elbow. Some nights the rim just seems bigger. Tonight, we honor three guys who really had it going; three guys who whenever the ball left their hands, you thought the ball was going in. Let’s get to it…

Third Star: David West (29 points, 11-18 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks)

When we talk about all-star snubs, it’s a wonder David West’s name doesn’t come up more often. Maybe it’s because his numbers don’t jump out at you or the fact that he doesn’t play a flashy game. Or maybe it’s just because his consistency is just a bit…boring. Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t let it distract us from the fact that West is really very good. Against the Bulls, West showed why scoring from all over the floor with his patented arsenal of mid-range jumpers and power post ups. West’s presence became so forceful that the Bulls started to send a second defender his way and he ended up just passing to open teammates for assists (or making the pass that led to the pass that became the assist). Other Pacers may have had the more highlight worthy plays, but it was West that was the catalyst for their win over their division rival.

Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 12-17 shooting, 13 rebounds, 5 assists)

Aldridge once again showed why he’s an all-star with a fantastic two way performance against the Timberwolves. He dazzled with his typical array of made jumpers, making minced meat of any defender that was tossed at him with either a face up shot or a post up that turned into a turnaround (that he sunk over either shoulder). At the end of the game, when the ‘Wolves made a fantastic run to get the game within a single point, it was Aldridge who sunk a deep two from the right wing to give the Blazers a 3 point cushion. On top of his shot making however, it was his defense that really saved the day. On back to back possessions, he snuffed out two Minnesota scoring chances, once contesting a Ricky Rubio short jumper that would have tied the game and again on the Wolves last possession by contesting a Dante Cunningham shot that would have tied the game at the buzzer.

First Star: LeBron James (31 points, 13-14 shooting, 8 rebounds, 8 assists)

What more can really be said about LeBron at this point? He truly is the most dominant force in the game today. Against a game Bobcats team, LeBron dominated the paint by relentlessly attacking the rim via post ups, drives, and in transition. No defender could stay between LeBron and the rim and continuously made the ‘Cats pay by not settling for anything less than a high percentage look. The best part about his game, though, was the fact that he dominated late in a game that was close down the stretch. LeBron scored 10 of his 31 points in the final period, while also dishing out 3 key assists when the defense tried to collapse on him. When it was winning time, it was LeBron that took over and made it so his team would leave the arena victorious.

Jimmy Butler on Markelle Fultz: ‘I know how hard he works’ (VIDEO)

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Much discussion has taken place about the potential impact that new Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler might have on the development of struggling young sophomore Markelle Fultz.

Fultz has had the yips for over a year, and Butler did not garner rave reviews from the young stars on his last team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There does seem to be some worry that Butler might not respect Fultz, or that Butler might push him even further into whatever psychological hole he’s currently in.

Butler joined the Sixers organization this week, and during his introductory press conference said that he knows that Futlz is a hard worker. It was the right thing to say, perhaps the first in many weeks after Butler went off the rails in Minnesota.

Via Twitter:

That’s promising at this moment. Fultz needs all the help he can get, and not having Butler going directly at him is additive in and of itself.

Sixers fans are hoping things work out with this new group in Philadelphia. Time will tell if Butler will be able to solve some of the issues they’ve had on offense to start the year.

Raptors players say emotions will run high when Dwane Casey returns

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TORONTO (AP) Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas spent a dozen years between them developing their games under coach Dwane Casey. Valanciunas had never played for any other NBA head coach before this season.

When they welcome Casey and his Detroit Pistons back to Toronto on Wednesday night, the two longest-serving current Raptors know emotions will be running high.

“It’s going to be different, but hey, I’m still going to try to take his head off, the team’s head off,” Lowry said with a laugh.

The Raptors will face Detroit for the first time since Casey was fired, just days after Toronto was ousted from the playoffs by Cleveland for the third consecutive season.

Lowry became a four-time NBA all-star under Casey’s watch, while Valanciunas has grown into a multi-skilled big man. Casey had kind words for both Raptors on the eve of his visit. Lowry got off to a rocky start with Casey when the Raptors acquired the temperamental guard in 2012, but he and Valanciunas returned the compliment.

“(Our relationship) changed a lot,” Lowry said. “It went from a guy who kind of wasn’t trusting in what I did, and me not trusting in what he wanted, and kind of us battling back and forth, to him being like, `Hey listen, I believe in what you can do, you show me what you can do,’ and me saying `All right, if you show me that and I’ve showed you what I can do, I’ll listen to you more and we’ll have a good relationship.”‘

“It turned into a great coach-player relationship. And him having young kids, and me having … they played soccer together, so we created a bond off the court also.”

Nick Nurse, who was promoted to head coach after Casey’s dismissal, insisted he was looking forward to seeing his former boss despite rumors the two were not close.

“My communication with whoever is between me and whoever I’m communicating with, whether it’s between Kyle and me and Kawhi (Leonard) and me or Case and me. . . or whoever,” Nurse told The Canadian Press. “I’ll keep that to myself. I am looking forward to seeing him.”

Nurse characterized his relationship with Casey as “good.”

“We have five years together and a lot of success. A lot of battles and a lot of long hours together, working hard,” Nurse said. “He took a team from relative obscurity or the hinterlands to relevance, and that may be the hardest thing to do in this league. I’m glad I was a part of it for five years. We had a lot of success and I learned a lot from the guy and have a lot of respect for the guy.”

The 51-year-old Nurse said the biggest lesson learned under Casey was professionalism and diligence.

“The seriousness of the day-to-day, the grind and probably most importantly is the work ethic,” Nurse said. “He used to say it to us a lot. He’d put his work ethic up against anybody in the league and he was right in that. The guy always had our staff prepared and our players prepared, he taught me all those things.”

After leading Toronto to a team-record 59 wins and the top seed in the East last year, Casey was also named the NBA’s Coach of the Year – after his firing.

The Raptors have a video tribute planned for the 61-year-old Casey early in the game.

“He did some really good things for the city, for the team. I think everybody respects him,” Valanciunas said. “(But) as a business we’ve got to move on and he (ended) up pretty well, so that is life. Sometimes we’re separating.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Steve Kerr jokes after Durant-Draymond spat: ‘I kicked MJ’s ass’

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Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers said on Tuesday that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green had not yet spoken after the two had a dust-up during Monday night’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Green was suspended for one game, apparently for repeatedly calling Durant “bitch” while the two were still on the court with the Clippers. It was testy, and Durant was even seen saying what appeared to be the words, “That’s why I’m out.”

Things didn’t calm down when the Warriors returned to the locker room after the game, and a suspension was issued by the team.

Meanwhile, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that he felt that the team would be fine. He reiterated that no team he had ever been on had always experienced smooth sailing. Kerr famously got into a scuffle with Michael Jordan in Bulls training camp in 1995.

To that end, Kerr joked on Tuesday that he had, “Kicked MJ’s ass.”

Via Twitter:

Will things be okay in the Bay moving forward? The team has such a strong culture it’s hard to bet against things getting patched up, especially with regard to how the team will play as they seek another championship this season. Remember, Green was one of the guys who recruited Durant to Golden State in the first place, and the two have the same goal.

The real question many have is whether this spat will have an impact on Durant staying with Golden State this offseason. That’s anybody’s guess, seeing as how Durant is nearly impossible to predict.

For now, we just have to wait.

Kevin Durant appears to mouth ‘That’s why I’m out’ after Draymond Green dustup

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Is Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors? That has been the question on the minds of many NBA fans for some time now, and the big dust-up between Durant and teammate Draymond Green on Monday night has continued to fuel the speculation that the superstar wing might be headed elsewhere.

That was before any of us saw the following video, where Durant appears to mouth the words, “That’s why I’m out” after he and Green had to be separated during their OT loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Take a look for yourself and tell me that’s not what it appears Durant is saying in this clip.

Via Twitter:

I’m no professional lip-reader, I just play one here on the internet. But it does seem that Durant said to himself, “That’s why I’m out.”

Meanwhile, Green will serve a one-game suspension and new doubt has been cast on the inevitability of the Warriors sweeping through the rest of this season.

I don’t know where Durant will end up next year, but the journey we’re going to be on until he decides is going to be a bumpy one.