Eric Gordon returns to New Orleans and reminds locals he can shoot, wins Three-Point Contest

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NEW ORLEANS — After playing five injury-plagued seasons in New Orleans, where he was frustrated and a common whipping boy of fans by the end, Eric Gordon heard a smattering of boos every time he walked up to the racks in the All-Star Saturday Three-Point Shootout.

Then he reminded those fans why he the Pelicans signed him and paid him big cash — when healthy he can shoot the rock.

Gordon, now representing the Houston Rockets, won the NBA Three-Point Contest on All-Star Saturday night. He had to go to an “overtime” extra shootout round to beat Kyrie Irving for the title.

“Well, no, it’s not really weird,” to win in New Orleans, Gordon said. “I am used to these rims here. I’ve been here for five years. I’ve always been a pretty good shooter. I’m just happy to win it, just to win it.”

Did he hear the boos?

“Yeah, I heard a little bit, but I’m not worried,” Gordon said. “I was focused on trying to win. That’s all that matters.”

Golden State’s Klay Thompson, the defending champion in this event and heavy favorite to repeat, did not even advance out of the first round.

Gordon has been hot from three all season, hitting 38.5 percent from three and hitting more total threes than anyone else in the league. He’s healthy and happy in Houston and Mike D’Antoni’s system, and his play has him as the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

Gordon set the tone in the first-round with a score of 25  (players shoot 25 threes from various spots around the arc, with some balls designated for two points, called “moneyballs.” Kemba Walker with 19 in the first round as he was draining money balls from the right corner, while Irving came through with 20 to top him. Klay Thompson couldn’t match that with 18 and the defending champion was out in the first round. Kyle Lowry’s cold shooting of late continues with an event-worst nine points. Wesley Matthews was not as hot as the Mavericks of late and had just 11 points, C.J. McCollum had just 10, while Nick Young had a respectable 18 but it wasn’t enough to advance.

That advanced Gordon, Irving, and Walker on to the final round. Walker was slightly off his first round with 17 points in the finals. Irving got hot with the moneyball rack and put up 20 points again. Then Eric Gordon matched it with a hot middle to racks, so they had a shoot again. 

That Final round saw Gordon stay just a little hotter.

 

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.