The Extra Pass: Vince Carter had a front row seat for the “Miracle on Hudson” plane crash

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LOS ANGELES — “They have to be shooting a movie or something.”

That was Vince Carter’s first thought.

Five years ago yesterday, the morning of Jan. 15, 2009, Carter woke up in the bedroom of his home in Edgewater New Jersey, and was lazily sitting on his bed just looking out the window of his home with a view of the Hudson River, when into his peripheral vision he sees a plane flying entirely too low and looking like it was going down.

That turned out to be US Airways Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia Airport — the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane. It had taken off like thousands of other flights out of that airport when a couple geese flew in front of the plane, got sucked into the engines and sent the plane down. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III became a national hero that day for safely landing the plane on the water in a way that all of the 155 passengers and crew survived.

Carter had no idea what he was witnessing at first.

“I was sitting in my bedroom looking out the window, and all of a sudden, like not a minute later a freakin’ plane lands in the Hudson,” Carter said before his current team the Mavericks took on the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.

“I was sitting in my bed and it was literally right outside my window,” Carter said. “So when the plane lands, I see the current turning the plane, I see the door open and the first two people jump out, and it was cold that day, and they start swimming, swimming, then they turn around because it’s a little too cold and the next thing you know everybody is on the wing.”

Within a couple minutes Carter was outside talking to his neighbors, they heard the sirens of the first responders racing to the scene, and they saw the rescue efforts first hand as ferries started to swing by and pick up the stranded passengers.

You can put Carter in the Sullenberger fan club, one a lot of people were in after that day.

“When it hit the water it was a smooth landing, like he was landing on a runway…” Carter said while using his hands to show how it came in relatively parallel to the Hudson, like a seaplane landing. “He put it right down, smooth. I mean of course that big ol’ plane hitting the water was loud, there was a ‘boom’ but the plane was intact. It was amazing.”

Carter called the Nets’ trainer and said he was going to be a little late to shootaround that day, and this was a pretty good excuse. Carter said he tried to offer tickets to Sullenberger for the game that night, but as you might imagine by that point the pilot had a few other things going on.

“I was in awe that it happened and I got to witness it.”

So how did that impact a guy whose job has him flying around 100 times a year?

“You’re a little leery of course when you get on planes,” he said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘he’s not flying? I’m nervous.’ It was just amazing, he saved a lot of lives.”

—Kurt Helin

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Wizards 114, Heat 97: Maybe it was the trade, maybe it was the distraction of Greg Oden being activated for the first time this season. But whatever it was, Miami was nowhere near ready to compete when the ball was tipped in Washington on Wednesday. The Wizards scored 43 points in the first quarter, and led by as many as 34 points before the end of the first half. The only thing relevant in this one was Oden, who dunked almost immediately after entering the game, and finished with six points and two rebounds in just over eight minutes of action. — Brett Pollakoff

Bulls 128, Magic 125 (3OT): Triple-overtime games can make for some gaudy stat lines, and this one was no different. Magic rookie Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 35 points, to go along with eight assists in 57 minutes of action. Jimmy Butler played over 60 minutes for the Bulls, the most anyone’s played since Jalen Rose played 61 for the Pacers back in 2001. — BP

Sixers 95, Bobcats 92: Thaddeus Young hit a three-pointer with a few seconds remaining that allowed the Sixers to snap a four-game losing streak. Spencer Hawes finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in 38 minutes, and Michael Carter-Williams added 20, eight, and seven to the winning cause. — BP

Celtics 88, Raptors 83: Go ahead, try to predict this league. The Raptors had recently emerged as the third best team in the East, and had been playing much better as of late, while the Celtics came into this one riding a nine-game losing streak. So naturally, Boston came away with the victory. Toronto shot just 38.5 percent from the field and got crushed on the boards, thanks largely to the work of Jared Sullinger who finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds. — BP

Grizzlies 82, Bucks 77: Milwaukee has the worst record in the league, and managed just 10 points in the first quarter and 17 in the fourth, yet the Grizzlies will take the win nonetheless, as it gets them back to .500 on the season. Marc Gasol went scoreless with five rebounds in under 15 minutes in just his second game back from injury, and Mike Conley was the only Memphis starter to finish in double figures scoring. Brandon Knight continued his stellar play for the Bucks, and led all scorers in this one with 27 points. — BP

Kings 111, Timberwolves 108: The narrative surrounding Rudy Gay throughout his career just hasn’t held true during the short amount of time he’s played for the Sacramento Kings. Instead of a high-volume chucker, Gay has been the model of efficiency since being traded from the Raptors, and his performance against the Timberwolves was yet another example of his transformation. Gay finished with a game-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and six assists. — BP

Rockets 103, Pelicans 100: James Harden hit a jumper with 28 seconds remaining that ultimately gave the Rockets the victory, but he may have pushed off on Austin Rivers to create the space to shoot it, so purists may not have been thrilled with the game’s ultimate result. Harden is talented, but he’s also skilled in using the rules of the game to his advantage; often times, the way the game is officiated will determine whether or not Harden has a strong showing. He finished with 26 points and seven assists in this one, and negated a strong performance from Eric Gordon, who finished with 35 points on just 17 shots, to go along with six assists. — BP

Spurs 109, Jazz 105: San Antonio was in control of this game from when they went on a 20-5 run in the third quarter, and in typical Spurs fashion you expected them to coast in for the victory. But just like when the Spurs blew a big lead to the Grizzlies last week, Utah came back from 10 down inside the last two minutes thanks to 11 fourth-quarter points from Trey Burke and 14 in the final frame from Enes Kanter. Utah’s size made you realize how much San Antonio misses Tiago Splitter. Tony Parker had 25 points and 9 assists for the Spurs. — Kurt Helin

Suns 121, Lakers 114: The Lakers made a push after Nick Young got ejected in the second quarter and pushed their lead up to 13. However, the Suns closed the first half on an 11-2 run and for much of the second half it was close. Channing Frye had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Suns held on for he win. Gerald Green led the way for the Suns with 28 points, Markief Morris added 24. The Lakers got 18 from Chris Kaman. — KH

Trail Blazers 108, Cavaliers 96: The score deceives that this game was close for 45 minutes, but in the final 2:31 Portland went on a 12-0 run to make it look like they were in more control than they were. LaMarcus Aldridge scored nine straight points in that window and he finished with 32 points. Damian Lillard chipped in 28. Portland is now a ridiculous 29-9 on the season. Luol Deng had 25 points to lead the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving had 21 points but needed 20 shots to get there. — KH

Nuggets 123, Warriors 116: Rule number one in basketball is the team that shoots better wins — Denver shot 54.2 percent Wednesday night, Golden State 43.3 percent. That’s your ball game. The Nuggets went on a 13-4 run to take the lead at the end of the first quarter then answered every Warriors’ run the rest of the way. Ty Lawson continued his run of strong play finishing with 22 points (his ability to finish through contact is amazing) and 11 assists. Good Nate Robinson showed up and had 24 off the bench. Mostly, Denver is good when Randy Foye is good and he was this night with 21. David Lee had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 24 for Golden State. — KH

Clippers 129, Mavericks 124: This felt like a mid-80s Denver Nuggets game — fast paced, lots of threes, not a lot of defense but a whole lot of entertainment. Doug Moe would have loved it. The Clippers got the win and we broke the game down in more detail here. — KH

Pacers’ Myles Turner fined $15,000 for flipping bird at Sixers fans

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Myles Turner had to know this was coming.

Frustrated after fouling Joel Embiid under the basket and being taken out of the game, the Pacers’ big man flipped off some Sixers fans as he walked to the bench.

Saturday the league announced Turner was fined $15,000 for “making an inappropriate gesture toward the spectator stands.” The league, understandably, is not a fan of its players flipping off fans.

That fine is pretty much the going rate for these kinds of incidences.

Embiid went on to score 40 Friday night in a dominant performance, but the Pacers won the game 113-101.

Why are Lakers saving their young core? Reportedly to chase Anthony Davis.

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Anthony Davis is the target at the top of the Lakers’ wish list.

He’s also at the top of the wish list for the Boston Celtics and about 27 other teams, too. But if Davis is put on the trade block — something that is not likely until this summer, New Orleans is working to keep him — the Lakers and Celtics will be at the front of the line.

Which is why, when reports that the Lakers would not include any of their young core in a trade for Trevor Ariza came out, it fit with the Lakers’ long-term thinking. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed this on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency…

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

The dream is to sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant and get Davis, and while that dream may be a long shot the only chance they have is if they still have their core players to throw in a package.

The larger point also is valid — the Lakers are not going to beat the Warriors come the playoffs this season (assuming the Warriors are healthy) and L.A. should keep its powder dry for bigger battles. And Davis will be the biggest of battles.

New Orleans wants to keep Davis, they are actively trying to be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. Sources have told me the Pelicans’ plan is to win as much as possible this season and show Davis they are serious, then come July 1 offer Davis a designated veteran contract extension worth $230 million (or a little more, depending upon the cap). It’s roughly $40 million more than any other team can offer guaranteed. If Davis and his agent Rich Paul — the same agent as LeBron James — turn down that contract then the Pelicans will be forced to consider a trade.

If we get to that point, then all bets are off and the Lakers are all in. Until then, the Lakers are wise just to be patient.

Despite fast start in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard reportedly still eyeing return to Los Angeles

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The Toronto Raptors are making their case to Kawhi Leonard this season — Toronto is 23-8, in first place in the East by 2.5 games, and look like a real threat to make the NBA Finals. Leonard, averaging 26.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, is a guy who has returned to the MVP conversation.

Still, the Raptors don’t know if he’s staying, or what he’s thinking, because Leonard doesn’t talk about it in a meaningful way.

“It’s been good so far,” Leonard told NBC Sports of the fit in Toronto. “Like I said, we’ve been winning, everyone’s playing well. Can’t complain.”

Nothing he’s done has slowed the speculation and buzz about what Leonard will do as a free agent next summer… which Leonard is working to ignore.

“I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me,” Leonard said before the Raptors faced the Clippers last week. “At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.”

A lot of the speculation around the league has remained that Leonard is headed back to Los Angeles next summer, most likely with the Clippers. Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”

“Just wear a jacket,” Leonard said about the weather. “We’re in a building. We’re not outside playing in the snow. And it’s good scenery.”

Clippers president Lawrence Frank and other Clippers executives have been a fixture at Raptors games this season, doing their part to recruit him early. They are going to make a strong play for him. So will the Lakers, although I have heard from multiple sources he’s not likely to play with LeBron and in that spotlight.

Nobody knows what Leonard will do next summer, or even what he’s thinking. Leonard doesn’t speak much, and when he does it’s in cautious cliches providing little if any insight. As long as that is the case, the speculation will continue.

Why didn’t Lakers trade for Trevor Ariza? Suns owner reportedly blocked it.

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There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.

But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.

However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.

That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.

What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.

Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.