PBT’s All-Star Game live blog

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HOUSTON — Enough with the preliminaries — especially the pregame Ke$ha concert — let’s get on with the real show. Time for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.

We’ve got this show covered for you. First, over on the mothership NBC site is a running log of everything tweeted by myself, PBT’s Brett Pollakoff, as well as CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely and CSN Houston’s Dave Zangaro, Howard Chen and Sara Eckert. It’s a great running stream of our reactions and our attempts at humor.

Also below is my running blog from the game. And pregame. And Alisha Keys show. And whatever else happens and grabs my attention. Comment below and let’s have fun.

PREGAME: They are showing the pre-game concert from All-Star Jam in the arena. Which means a lot of Ke$ha. I’m sure moments like this is what Bill Russell dreamed of back in the day.

PREGAME: Dwight Howard, out taking warmup shots, takes a half courter, knocks it down, then jogs of the court. He knows when to make an exit… well, he’s learned when to make an exit.

PREGAME: If you’re looking for something to watch other that Charles Barkley’s pregame insights — and you should be — may I recommend the guys from The Basketball Jones asking All-Star weekend players what they could beat Michael Jordan at.

PREGAME: The Western Conference players have taken the court for warmups, going through layup lines with less energy than even a regular season game. My two impressions are that James Harden’s beard is glorious; and that Carmelo Anthony can’t take his eyes off Craig Sager’s jacket. That can lead to blindness.

PREGAME: The Eastern Conference comes out for about two minutes of warmups. I am thinking about predicting Jrue Holiday to win MVP. Just to go off the board.

PREGAME: But before we get to basketball,  don’t we all need some Ne-Yo? Doesn’t matter, about to get him anyway.

PREGAME: I’m not Ne-Yo’s biggest fan, but I’ll take him over KeSha any day.

PREGAME: I’ve always waited for the moment Ne-Yo and Gregg Popovich shared the stage together. I bet they would make great friends.

PREGAME: Kevin Durant’s cheers almost as loud as those for hometown boy James Harden.

PREGAME: We are 44 minutes past the start of the broadcast time, how about playing some basketball? Just an idea. Wanted to put it out there.

PREGAME: I will say I liked John Legend’s national anthem. Simple, clean, good tempo.

TIP OFF: Finally.

11:45 1st Q: Opening play looks like every Clipper game, CP3 to Blake Griffin. Griffin ends up with the game’s first two buckets.

8:55 1st Q: Chris Paul with the first huge highlight of the game — hits a three, steals a pass intended for Carmelo then gets a between the legs assist pushing back the other way. LeBron James then answered with a dunk.

7:55 1st Q: The MVP always goes to the guy who wakes up Sunday morning and says “I want to be MVP.” So far the guy hustling like that is Chris Paul.

7:45 1st Q: LeBron with his second huge dunk. Can we retroactively give him the Dunk Contest title?

5:34 1st Q: Great in house reaction to a video of NBA players singing love songs. No, Dwyane Wade can’t sing. But he’s selling it.

4:24 1st Q: And another big dunk by LeBron. He and Carmelo Anthony each have 7 to be game highs so far.

2:44 1st Q: Waiting to see who decides to take this game over. It’s 23-20 West right now. By the way, Rockets dancers performing to Salt ‘N Pepa.

2:01 1st Q:  Joakim Noah works hard for the offensive board, gets the putback and sprints back down court. He knows it’s an All-Star Game, right?

:15 1st Q: Erik Spoelstra trying a defensive lineup with Noah, Luol Deng and Tyson Chandler all on the court at the same time.

END OF 1st Q: West 31, East 26. It’s pretty low scoring for an All-Star game.

END OF 1st Q: Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon. That’s a lot of Rockets center right there.

9:23 2nd Q: David Lee enters the game. He’s the first Warrior to play in an All-Star game since the Garfield administration.

7:48 2nd Q: The East bench got up and was screaming after that Jrue Holiday dunk. He can get up.

7:39 2nd Q: Bill Russell shown on big board. He got more applause than “Diddy” but less than Jay-Z with Beyonce.

6:00 2nd Q: To this point Kevin Durant is the game’s high scorer with 14.

4:25 2nd Q: Blake Griffin has eight points, all on dunks. So, pretty much your standard Clipper game.

3:33 2nd Q: Kevin Durant with a huge dunk to get his 19th point. So yes, if West wins he is your MVP.

1:01 2nd Q: It was a two-on-one with Chris Bosh defending CP3 and Griffin. Bosh conceded the layup to take away the alley-oop. Ugh. He know’s it’s an All-Star Game, right?

HALFTIME:  69-65 West. If this thing is still close in the fourth quarter, it will get fun as guys really start to try and defend.

HALFTIME: Chris Bosh was just painful in the first half. Bad shot after bad shot (2-for-7 with three airballs), CP3 just clowned him dribbling between his legs, and Bosh took away a couple lobs to surrender layups.

HALFTIME: Fun with halftime stats — Wade leads the East with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He also leads the East with 6 assists. Durant leads all scorers with 19 on just 12 shots. Chris Bosh had three airballs. Blake Griffin with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and I don’t remember him missing a dunk. Chris Bosh had someone dribble or pass between his legs twice. Russell Westbrook had 8 off the bench and looked like a guy who could really step up.

HALFTIME: On twitter, people were hating on Alisha Keys. In the arena, from behind the stage where I could see almost nothing, she played pretty well. I think. I couldn’t really see.

HALFTIME: The West is back out warming up with 11 minutes before play starts again. Popovich apparently not much of a halftime speech tonight.

10:12 3rd Q: LeBron with a couple early buckets, he may decide to assert himself. Because he can. Kobe with a couple early shots, too. Still a one-point game.

7:27 3rd Q: Let it be noted that at this time Tim Duncan got his first points of the night.

5:56 3rd Q: Inflatable mascots are so much better than the regular mascots.

5:56 3rd Q: Heat taking over East, Wade with 21 and LeBron 18.

2:34 3rd Q: James Harden knocks down a three for his seventh point. Crowd wants him to turn it on, gets loud.

END OF 3rd Q: Jrue Holiday knocks down a jumper with .02 left on the clock to make it 108-104 West with 12 minutes to go. The final quarter could be a lot of fun.

END OF 3RD Q: Noah seems pretty impressed with the end of quarter acrobat entertainment. Then Griffin and Dwight pretended they were going to try moves.

11:05 4th Q: Local fans getting their wish as Harden has stepped up and knocked down a couple more threes. He’s got 13. Can he win MVP? It’s fan voting, anyone could win MVP.

8:42 4th Q: West creating a little space, with 119-111 lead. It’s not much but the East is going to have to get a little focused now. Holiday did, played some actual defense on Westbrook, who seemed almost confused by it.

4:59 4th Q: Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin with back-to-back big dunks keeps the West ahead by five. But the final five minutes of this game is going to get interesting. You can see the intensity ratcheting up.

3:31 4th Q: Chris Paul with a couple big plays, a driving layup past Kyrie Irving and a three over Chris Bosh makes it 132-126 West. East just cannot close the gap completely.

2:33 4th Q: That felt like the game — Kobe Bryant swat blocked LeBron James, Durant chased the ball down and dunked it for his 30th point. Durant is your MVP…. don’t screw it up fans voting at home.

2:17 4th Q: You get the feeling LeBron is about to try to take over this game. To own it. Durant played some good defense but LeBron drew the foul. 8 point game.

1:06 4th Q: Great job by Chris Paul who dragged out the clock and hit a three over Noah. Paul has been huge this game with 19 points, 15 dimes.

:47.7 4th Q: The dagger is the Blake Griffin breakaway, off the backboard to himself dunk. Ballgame West.

:22 4th Q: A Carmelo Anthony three keeps it within four, so the East is playing the foul game. Truly a great All-Star moment.

END OF GAME: Your final score, West 143, East 138   Kevin Durant will be the MVP…. actually you have it to Chris Paul and I’m not going to argue that. As I said above he was in it early then hit the key shots down the stretch. No argument.

Thanks for following along everyone. It was fun (well, except for the wi-fi issues in the arena).

Check back to PBT to catch a boatload of stories and video out of tonight. Then come back this week for the trade deadline, we will have everything you need to know. And probably a few things you don’t. We’re like that.

New Kings’ GM doesn’t change fact De’Aaron Fox expects max contract extension

De'Aaron Fox sprained ankle
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New Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair is just getting the photos of his family framed and settling into his office, but he’s made one critical decision already: Luke Walton will be back as Sacramento’s coach. McNair also decided he wants to see the Kings return to more of the up-tempo style of a couple of seasons ago (before Walton arrived). Looming after that is the 2020 NBA Draft, where the Kings have the No. 12 pick.

When free agency comes, the question becomes: Will the Sacramento Kings offer De'Aaron Fox a max contract extension?

The young point guard expects one, reports James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension.

Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

If the salary cap were to remain flat for two years (possible, but not probable), a five-year max extension to Fox’s rookie contract is $158 million. The number will likely be higher than that, and if Fox makes a huge leap and becomes an All-NBA player, it jumps up to nearly $190 million (not likely to happen, but not impossible).

Fox averaged 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, but fully healthy he stepped up his play in the bubble averaging 26.2 points a game on 50.4% shooting and dishing out 7.3 assists a game. He was by far the Kings’ best player.

In the bubble, the Kings seemed to lack an identity. What kind of team did they want to be? McNair has come in and decided that — this is going to be an uptempo, transition team. Fox would be at the heart of that plan.

McNair said at his introductory press conference he sees Fox as a cornerstone piece.

“De’Aaron is an incredible young talent,” McNair said. “I’ve loved to see what he’s done and what he’s improved on over the years and he’s got a very bright future ahead of him.”

If this team is going to get back to running more, Fox is as good a ball-handler and decision-maker in transition as the league has. The Kings need to pay to keep him happy, then get players to go around him that fit that style. Expect McNair to spend the next season evaluating and shifting the roster around to fit that style. The problem is the pressure of the playoffs — the Kings haven’t been in 14 years, one short of tying the Donald Sterling Clippers for the longest drought in league history. There is pressure from ownership to make the playoffs and start winning sooner rather than later. It will be a tough balancing act for McNair. Welcome to sitting in the big chair.

Deciding to pay Fox may be the easiest of his decisions.

 

LeBron James one win away from history: 10th NBA Finals apperance

Lakers star LeBron James
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — LeBron James can reach a 10th NBA Finals, done by only three greats of the game.

Anthony Davis is on the verge of his first.

The final step for the Los Angeles Lakers shapes up as the toughest.

They have to knock out the Denver Nuggets, who have been on the brink of dismissal from the bubble six times and every time refused to go.

“You can never be comfortable around this team,” Davis said. “They have been in this situation twice. We’ve been in the situation twice. But both teams are familiar with these situations, but this team is not going to go away.”

Game 5 is Saturday. The Lakers have ended both their series thus far in five games.

But the Nuggets were also down 3-1 against both Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers, fell far behind in Game 5, and then battled back to not only win the game but eventually the series.

No team had ever erased two 3-1 deficits in one postseason and now the Nuggets need to do it a third time. It’s a predicament they could have avoided, if they’d gotten one more defensive stop in Game 2 or given up a few less second-chance points in Game 4.

“These are all close games we’re playing,” guard Jamal Murray said. “Going to keep battling it out.”

Murray was sensational again in Game 4, though James slowed him enough down the stretch after taking on the defensive assignment to help the Lakers pull out a 114-108 victory.

One more win, and James ties NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for third on the career list with 10 NBA Finals appearances. Only Hall of Famers Bill Russell (12) and Sam Jones (11) of the Boston Celtics have gone to more.

It would be James’ first with the Lakers after five appearances in Cleveland and four in Miami, and the Lakers’ first trip to the finals since winning the last of their 16 championships in 2010.

James and Davis have been the unquestioned catalysts of this run, and they’re good strong support from some playoff-tested veterans. Dwight Howard had 12 points and 11 rebounds Thursday in his first start of this postseason, helping send Los Angeles to its overwhelming 25-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Rajon Rondo contributed 11 points and moved into eighth place on the career list with seven more assists.

“In the postseason, every possession is so important,” James said. “When you can have guys that have been in the moments and can understand and also be able to make adjustments on the fly, and know that you can count on them down the stretch, it just makes the team and you individually feel so much more confident in the outcome.”

The younger Nuggets don’t have those type of veterans, but they have the experience of this historic postseason run that could have ended on Aug. 25, the night of Game 5 against Utah. A month later, they are still at Disney World, still trying to prove that hope is not lost until four games are.

“I think people out there probably think this is exactly where we want them. It’s not. We would much rather be up 3-1, but it is what it is. We put ourselves in this position,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

“Our team has shown tremendous resiliency and grit in getting out of these before. I have no doubt that tomorrow night we’ll bring that same fight to the game and hopefully we can keep this series alive.”

If they do, Game 6 would be Monday night. If not, the Lakers will be preparing to face Miami, in its first appearance since James left in 2014, or the Celtics, their greatest rival they could tie with a 17th NBA title.

The Lakers won’t think about any of that until the Nuggets are finally gone.

“Like I said last game, we’ve got to put them away,” Davis said. “They are going to continue to fight, no matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is. We just have to make sure we counter everything they do.”

Report: Mutual interest in Cavaliers keeping Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson
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Tristan Thompson has played every one of his nine NBA seasons in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.

There have been questions about where the free-agent big man will play his 10th season. The Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond to become their starting five, limiting both Thompson’s role and the money Cleveland would spend for the backup center role.

There is still “mutual interest” in a return, Cavs GM Koby Altman told Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s mutual interest for sure,” general manager Koby Altman said about the possibility of re-signing Thompson. “He’s been with this franchise his entire career since we drafted him. He’s won a championship here. Obviously, he means a lot to the players on the team right now, but it has to make sense. There are some events coming up — the draft, free agency — where we have to see if it makes sense for him. He’s earned the right to be an unrestricted free agent and explore opportunities at this point in his career. So, we’ll see.”

Tristan Thompson, 30, has battled nagging injuries in recent seasons but started most of the Cavaliers’ games before the shut down of the league last season, stayed healthy, and averaged 12 points and 10.1 rebounds a game playing 30 minutes a night.

How much of a market there will be for Thompson remains to be seen, especially in uncertain financial times around the league, but it will not be anywhere near the $18.5 million he made this season. He brings rebounding, defense, and a veteran presence to a team, but in general teams are not spending on the center spot right now, seeing that as a mercenary position where they can get a solid player at a cheap price. Thompson may have other suitors offering a larger role than Cleveland can, but the money is not likely to be much different.

Thompson’s camp asked for a trade at the deadline this past season (Cleveland couldn’t find a deal it liked), but when it comes time to decide this offseason he may want to stay with the organization he knows not a new one, if the money is the same. It’s going to be an interesting offseason for Thompson and the Cavaliers.

 

Bam Adebayo: “I played like s***… I’ll put that game on me.”

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The Miami Heat were one half of basketball away from the NBA Finals when a desperate Boston team cranked up its defensive intensity, started attacking the rim, and started playing at a level Miami didn’t match. The Celtics dominated the final 24 minutes of Game 5, forcing a Game 6 and keeping the Heat out of the Finals for now.

Bam Adebayo took the blame for the Heat loss. Via Manny Navarro of The Athletic.

“I played like s***. Bottom line: I can’t. I’ll put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made… I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”

Game 5 was not Adebayo’s best outing: 13 points, eight rebounds, and Boston did a better job with its scheme pulling him away from the basket to defend smaller players on the perimeter, opening up the paint. Adebayo and the Heat as a whole struggled to slow the Celtics’ pick-and-roll actions, and Boston has figured out how to play against Miami’s zone (so the Heat have gone away from it).

“It’s not (Adebayo’s fault). It’s on everybody,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “He does so much for us that it can feel like that at times but it’s definitely not on him. It’s on us as a whole. We all understand that because nobody was playing the way that we are supposed to play; the way that we have to play in order for us to win, nobody. And for him to say that, I respect it. I love him for it. But he can’t do it by himself. We’ve got to be there with him.”

Bam Adebayo was wearing a sleeve over his left arm, where he aggravated a wrist injury at the end of Game 4. Both Adebayo and coach Erik Spoelstra said that was nothing and not what led to his off night.

Miami needs a lot of things to go differently in Game 6: It needs to start hitting its threes again (19.4% from beyond the arc in Game 5, and below 30% from deep in each of the last three games). Miami has to take care of the ball and it has to get back in transition defense — Boston ran right past the Heat in the second half and got a lot of easy transition buckets. Mostly, however, it comes back to Miami shooters hitting more of their threes — the Heat halfcourt offense needs that.

The Game 5 loss was not on Adebayo. But he can be part of the solution.