PBT’s All-Star Game live blog

3 Comments

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.

Report: Chris Paul increasingly expected to start season with Thunder

Tim Warner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last week, the Thunder had an expensive point guard who’s into his 30s and didn’t fit a team shifting into rebuilding without Paul George.

Same story now.

Oklahoma City traded Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul to acquire draft picks and shed long-term salary. Getting Paul as a player was of minimal concern. That’s why the Thunder worked with him to flip him. But a team like the Heat wanted draft picks just for taking the three years and $124,076,442 remaining on Paul’s contract.

So, Oklahoma City might hold onto Paul, after all.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The 34-year-old Paul is past his prime. But he’s still good. It’d be interesting to see him once again as his team’s best player after he spent so much time stuck in the corner watching James Harden.

Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams could form the core of a solid team this season. Paul can run an offense, and Adams (pick-and-roll) and Gallinari (pick-and-pop) offer nice complementary skills. If Andre Roberson is healthy or if a young player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nerlens Noel, Terrence Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo takes the next step, Oklahoma City could make real noise.

The Thunder’s biggest challenge: They play in the loaded Western Conference. That makes it far more difficult to make the playoffs. But in terms of team quality, Oklahoma City could be in the thick of competitiveness.

If Paul and Gallinari stay healthy. That can’t be assumed, though Adams can do some dirty work to keep those two clean.

The Thunder have tremendous draft capital – so much of which is tied to the fates of the Clippers, Rockets, Heat and Nuggets. Oklahoma City could tank and improve its draft position further and sooner. But owning so many picks from other teams allows the Thunder to try to win now while simultaneously rebuilding. They don’t necessarily have to waste seasons in the basement just to build themselves back up.

It will probably be easier to trade Paul on Dec. 15. That’s when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be traded. Right now, too many teams have untradable players, making it difficult to match Paul’s high salary. Generally, the more of Paul’s contract the Thunder pay out, the easier it’ll be to trade him.

But if Paul declines sharply or gets hurt, his value could diminish even further. There’s risk in waiting, though an injured Paul might allow Oklahoma City to tank anyway.

The Thunder must also cut a few million of salary before the final day of the regular season to avoid the luxury tax. That’s a priority.

So, Oklahoma City will make some move – Paul or otherwise.

But it appears likely we’ll see Paul play for the Thunder. It’ll be a return to Oklahoma City after he played home games there with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets following Hurricane Katrina.

This isn’t the reunion Paul or the Thunder appeared to desire when the Westbrook trade was agreed upon. I still think it could be pretty cool.

Ben Simmons reverses course, withdraws from Australia’s Word Cup squad

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
1 Comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ben Simmons‘ new contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers came with bad news for Australian basketball fans: The Melbourne-born NBA All-star won’t play for the Boomers at the World Cup.

Hours after Simmons and the 76ers agreed to a $170 million, five-year contract extension on Tuesday, Simmons said he preferred to spend time with his new teammates in September instead of travelling to China for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 World Cup.

“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” Simmons said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Simmons had been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad and had earlier indicated he planned to play the tournament in China.

He now plans to play only for the Boomers in two exhibition games against the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 at a stadium that is expected to be sold out – 50,000 fans – for each game. He also said the Olympics next year in Tokyo remain on his schedule.

“I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games,” Simmons said. “I’m really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving closer to 2020 where I will be honored and humbled to represent my country on the world’s biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.”

Simmons was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was the Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists in his two seasons.

Australia’s World Cup lineup is set to feature San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, Phoenix center Aron Baynes, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut, Detroit center-forward Thon Maker and Simmons’ 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden.

 

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

Getty Images
1 Comment

Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.