Chris Paul wins MVP of 2013 NBA All-Star game

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HOUSTON — Chris Paul took home the MVP trophy from the 2013 All-Star game, as he led the West to a 143-138 win in the NBA’s midseason exhibition, and did so in a contest that was close and competitive down the stretch.

The award often times goes to the player who scores the most points on the winning team, but that wasn’t the case in this one.

Kevin Durant finished with a game-high 30 points for the West, while Paul had a more comprehensive stat line of 20 points on 7-10 shooting, to go along with 15 assists and four steals. But the way he closed the game late ultimately made the difference.

“It’s something that definitely coming into the game I wasn’t trying to achieve, or thinking that it might even be possible,” Paul said of winning the MVP award afterward. “I told KD early in the first quarter, I said, ‘man, if they score anything, you run.  I’ll get you the ball, you score, I want to be the one to give it to you.’ In games like this it’s so up‑tempo and fast-paced, for a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy it.”

Strangely enough, it was Paul’s scoring rather than his assists that helped seal this victory. He led the West with nine fourth quarter points, and knocked down two three-pointers during a 10-2 run that put his team up 11 with under two minutes to play.

“Most of the time I was open,” Paul said of his offensive output. “I was wide open for the first two threes that I hit.  The and‑one I got on [Kyrie Irving], Brook Lopez, he kept backing up, so I couldn’t throw a lob to [Blake Griffin].  The other ones the shot clock was running down, so I was almost forced to shoot a couple of times.”

Paul’s impressive performance earned him some high praise from his teammates, as well as from one of his competitors.

“I love Chris, man. He’s intense,” Kobe Bryant said afterward. “He’s a heck of a competitor and I enjoyed spending time with him this weekend even though they served us up pretty good before we got down here. He’s just a great competitor.”

Durant, who had a legitimate shot of taking home the All-Star MVP for the second straight year, was equally complimentary.

“He deserved it,” Durant said. “He had great passes, making steals, made big buckets. He played a hell of a game and congratulations to him. It was a pleasure playing with him.”

Paul seemed humbled by winning the award, and was maybe a little impressed by the way he was able to play against a collection of the league’s best players, even in an exhibition like this. He said winning the award was “pretty special,” and that phrase can also be used to describe the words LeBron James had for Paul’s MVP performance.

“He was unbelievable,” James said. “He’s one of the best players we have in this league. The number one point guard we have in this league and it doesn’t surprise me what he did on the floor tonight.”

Another LeBron James mural vandalized in Los Angeles

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Most of Los Angeles — and the vast majority of Lakers fans — are fired up that LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. They see a return to glory for the franchise (well, once they get the rest of the roster right… sorry Lance Stephenson).

However, there is a segment — particularly the die-hard Kobe fans — who are having trouble assimilating to the new reality.

So when an artist did a LeBron James mural near Venice in Los Angeles recently — a really well-done tribute — it was quickly vandalized. Then eventually covered up.

This week another artist did another impressive LeBron/Lakers mural — this one with LeBron looking up at the Lakers’ legends — and once again, it was vandalized.

I’m not shocked by any of this, but it is depressing. If you’re vandalizing art, you are a cowardly buffoon.

There’s no way to really know the motivation behind the second attack, although the smart money is on it being the same as the first one — a few people think they are protecting the Lakers’ brand by not welcoming the best player on the planet to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but frankly flawed logic has become trendy in recent years, it can get you elected to all kinds of offices.

Credit real Lakers fans who showed up to help fix this.

AP Source: Thunder trading Dakari Johnson to Orlando

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder are trading reserve center Dakari Johnson to the Orlando Magic.

A person with knowledge of the details confirmed the move to The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said Oklahoma City will get guard Rodney Purvis in the deal. Purvis averaged 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16 appearances for the Magic last season. The Orlando Sentinel said the Thunder also sent cash to the Magic.

Johnson played 31 games last season for the Thunder with six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. The 7-footer averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, last season.

Center Alex Len reportedly reaches contract deal with Atlanta

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Five years ago, the Phoenix Suns had just drafted Alex Len at No. 5 overall and thought he would be the big man in the middle the team would build around. It didn’t work out that way, he never averaged double figures in either scoring or rebounding for a season. While Len has said he thought he was not used correctly, and there has been plenty of change and inconsistency in Phoenix, he never grabbed hold of the top job, either.

When the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 last June, there was no chance they were bringing back Len next season. The unrestricted free agent is headed to Atlanta instead, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent center Alex Len has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Len received interest from several teams in recent days before finalizing an agreement with the Hawks on Saturday.

Len is not going to space the floor, 73 percent of his shots came at the rim last season, but he’s become an efficient finisher there. He is good as a roll man, will work off the ball, and can post guys up on offense. He’s also strong on the offensive glass and gets points via putbacks. His game is not that of a modern NBA center, but he’s become efficient at what he does.

Len is going to have to earn his minutes in the ATL, rebuilding team or not there is some quality along the front line. John Collins, who made the All-Rookie team last season and was one of the standouts of Summer League, will start up front, possibly at the four with Dewayne Dedmon at the five. The just-drafted Omari Spellman showed potential at Summer League and could be the backup four, which means Len gets the backup center minutes.

Len is getting his new chance on a team that can give him some run, we’ll see if a change of scenery is what he needed.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.