Charlotte awarded 2019 NBA All-Star Game

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This isn’t a surprise.

Disappointing by the NBA, but not a surprise.

A month after the NBA Board of Governors cleared the way for the NBA’s showcase All-Star Game to return to Charlotte — saying the steps the state took to reverse the controversial “bathroom bill” that cost the state the 2017 game were enough — the NBA has awarded the 2019 game to Charlotte.

“For three decades, the NBA has had a home in Charlotte. Generations of families have attended games there, and fans from many different walks of life have come together to share a passion for a team that is an anchor in the community,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We have decided to award NBA All-Star 2019 to Charlotte based on this deep connection and the belief that we can honor our shared values of equality and inclusion, and we are excited to bring the All-Star Game back to Charlotte for the first time in 28 years.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law. Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies. All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.”

“We are thrilled the league has awarded NBA All-Star 2019 to the city of Charlotte,” Hornets primary owner Michael Jordan said. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”

The weekend of events will take place Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17, 2019, mostly at The Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte. (The 2018 All-Star Game is in Los Angeles.)

All the controversy was due to the discriminatory bill HB2, commonly called “the bathroom law,” which was passed by the North Carolina legislature in 2016. The law restricted transgender bathroom use (you had to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from the city, one of a number of events that pulled, or businesses that reduced their footprint in the state due to the bill, ultimately costing North Carolina $3.76 billion in economic impact, according to an Associated Press report.

The repeal of the law was not complete, some LBGT restrictions remained in place, such as a ban on cities (such as Charlotte) passing any nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation until 2020. Gay-rights advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, and mayors from multiple other cities (which did not lift their government business travel bans to the state) said the compromise repeal did not go far enough. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was elected in part due to this issue, said this compromise repeal was the best that the legislature would approve.

This was not enough of a repeal. The NBA returning the All-Star Game to Charlotte is the moral and economic equivalent of liking a post on Facebook complaining about Chick-fil-A’s history of anti-LGBT donations and activism, then going and eating at the restaurant.

But the NBA is a business and it wants to make that fan base happy. No doubt Jordan and his ownership group have brought stability to the franchise and worked hard to rebuild an NBA market that the previous owner had completely destroyed (ending with George Shin moving his team to New Orleans, if it wasn’t for Donald Sterling Shin would be seen as maybe the worst NBA owner of the past couple decades).

So the 2019 game is headed to Buzz City.

Klay Thompson back on practice court with Warriors Friday

Klay Thompson cleared
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The last time Klay Thompson was on an NBA court, it was Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals when an ACL tear both ended those playoffs for him and caused him to miss all of this season.

Friday, Thompson was back on the court.

The three-time champion and five-time All-Star cleared quarantine and was in the “Dubble” where the Warriors are conducting a two-week minicamp at their facility to help prepare for next season (whenever that starts).

It’s a good sign. When next season starts, the Warriors hope he, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green are all healthy and running at 100%.

Another good sign for the Warriors, Kevon Looney has been working out and reportedly looking good at the Warriors minicamp (take all the “he looks great” reports with a grain of salt, but the fact he is on the court is a good sign).

Looney played through injuries in those 2019 Finals, and has missed parts of four of his five NBA seasons due to injuries — he played just 20 games last season and had surgery on his core in May. It led to whispers around the league he may never again find his form as a quality role player. If Looney can stay healthy — coach Steve Kerr said he went “full bore” at the team’s first practice — he becomes a solid, athletic interior presence the Warriors need to balance their elite perimeter players.

 

Jamal Murray lived in “Schitt’s Creek” Rosebud Motel for two years

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A once-rich-now-suddenly-poor family adjusting to living cramped together in a roadside motel is the premise behind “Schitt’s Creek” — the Canadian comedy that just annoyingly dominated the Emmy comedy categories. (It’s not that “Schitt’s Creek” isn’t deserving, I enjoy the show, it’s just annoying when any single show/movie dominates an awards broadcast.)

Jamal Murray watches that show and sees his former home.

Murray, Denver’s breakout superstar and a Canadian, lived in the “Schitt’s Creek” Rosebud Motel for two years, reports Chris Halliday of the Orangeville Banner, via the Toronto Star (hat tip to Hoopshype).

The real-life motel is owned by Jesse Tipping, who also is the president of the Athlete Institute Basketball Academy and Orangeville Prep.

Tipping purchased the motel in 2011 to house recruits for what’s become the most successful prep school basketball program in Canada. Former Orangeville Prep alum and budding NBA superstar Jamal Murray, of the Denver Nuggets, lived there for two years — so did Miami Heat training camp invitee Kyle Alexander.

It’s also been a filming location for a number of things, including “The Umbrella Academy” and “A History of Violence.” “Schitt’s Creek” has used the place for about a month every year for the past six years.

The popular comedy, which just ended its run, features veteran comedic actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, plus Eugene’s son Dan Levy, plus many more. “Schitt’s Creek” was first produced by the CBC for Canadian television, came to America on POP TV, but exploded when it got to Netflix and people discovered it.

Jamal Murray went from the “Schitt’s Creek” to Kentucky for a year, before being drafted by the Denver Nuggets as their point guard to pair with Nikola Jokic. Murray has had a breakout playoffs, leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. He’s made ridiculous plays on the court and powerful statements off it about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rumor: 76ers could hire Mike D’Antoni to lure James Harden

Mike D'Antoni and James Harden at Rockets-76ers game
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Former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni seemingly has a good relationship with James Harden.

The 76ers are reportedly interested in hiring D’Antoni.

Coincidence?

John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

If this is the 76ers’ plan, it’s foolish. Stars don’t pick teams to play for a specific coach.

Stars want, among the things in Philadelphia’s control, winning environments. Pick the coach who can help build and maintain that.

Maybe that’s D’Antoni. He had plenty of success with the Rockets and Suns. But choose him for the right reasons – not some Harden pipe dream.

Harden can become a free agent in 2022, but he’d have to decline a $47,366,760 player option for his age-33 season. Otherwise, he’s headed toward 2023 unrestricted free agency. The 76ers would have a tough time clearing max cap space in either offseason.

A trade is possible. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are intriguing chips if Philadelphia becomes willing to trade one. Harden has the cachet to have some say in a trade destination. But Houston has been committed to winning around Harden. With an older team built around Harden, the Rockets couldn’t simply pivot into a new direction with Simmons or Embiid.

In fairness to the 76ers, this is the type of rumor that spreads baselessly. People see D’Antoni’s awkward fit with Philadelphia’s roster and make wild guesses about the team’s motivation. That doesn’t necessarily match the 76ers’ internal reasoning.

Jamal Murray is having a great playoffs. Has he arrived for good?

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray
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Jamal Murray shot 4-for-18 in the Nuggets’ Game 7 loss to the Trail Blazers last year.

“I didn’t have the game I was supposed to have,” Murray said.

Supposed to have. What a telling glimpse into Murray’s mindset. He was raised to be an NBA star. Anything less was just… wrong.

Well, Murray is having the games he’s supposed to have now.

The Denver guard is the breakout star of the playoffs. He’s averaging 27 points per game while shooting 54% on 2-pointers and 47% on 3-pointers. He’s passing better and playing sharper defense, helping the Nuggets reach the Western Conference finals

Not bad for someone who not only has never been an All-Star, but hasn’t drawn much serious All-Star consideration.

Is this sustainable? Has Murray made The Leap? Or is a streaky player having a well-timed hot stretch? Is he somehow particularly benefitting from the unique conditions of the bubble?

Murray has increased his PER from 17.7 in the regular season to 24.7 in the playoffs. That’s one of the biggest jumps in NBA history – especially among players on such a deep postseason run.

Marcus Camby posted a PER of 17.8 as a rookie with the Raptors and hovered around that mark with the Knicks in his third season. Then, he broke out during New York’s run to the 1999 NBA Finals. The big man played well off the bench then really elevated his game once Patrick Ewing got hurt. He finished with a postseason PER of 24.8.

Camby had several productive seasons with the Knicks and Nuggets afterward. But he never quite matched the hype he built during the 1999 playoffs.

Which is the norm for players who made postseason surges like that.

Here are the largest PER increases from a previous regular-season high to a postseason (minimum: 500 minutes in each segment):

Just four of the 15 players on that chart matched their breakthrough playoff PER in a future regular season:

  • As a rookie, Oliver Miller came up big off the bench for the Suns in their run to the 1993 NBA Finals. He continued to improve in his second season then signed a lucrative contract with the Pistons in 1994. But amid weight issues, never sustained his production.
  • Anthony Mason began his professional career overseas then spent a couple seasons hopping between minor leagues and deep-bench roles in the NBA.  He signed with the Knicks in 1991, played well and got a bigger role the next season. By the 1993 playoffs, he was really clicking. That was truly a sign of things to come. Mason became a quality starter for the Knicks, Hornets and Heat, even making an All-Star team with Miami.
  • Danny Ainge really stepped up during Celtics’ legendary run to the 1986 championship. He was in his fifth season and seemed to understand his capabilities as a player. His prime continued from there with Boston then the Kings, Trail Blazers and Suns.
  • Gail Goodrich began his career with the Lakers, grew steadily, got picked by the Suns in an expansion draft, made an All-Star team while shooting a lot for a lousy Phoenix team then got traded back to the Lakers. That’s when he really found himself. Goodrich parlayed his strong 1971 playoffs into a higher level of play and four straight All-Star selections with Los Angeles.

Otherwise, these were blips – magical runs that couldn’t be repeated. LeBron James is great. He can’t sustain the 37.4 PER he had during the 2009 playoffs. (For perspective, Giannis Antetokounmpo broke the single-season PER record with a 31.9 this season.)

But could Murray be another exception?

Maybe.

For one, this wasn’t completely out of left field. The Nuggets already gave him a max extension expecting this type of growth. (That might have turned into a super-max extension if All-NBA included the playoffs).

Murray is just 23. This looks somewhat like natural progression.

He has excelled against tough defenses in the Jazz, Clippers and Lakers. Murray wasn’t merely taking advantage of favorable matchups. He’s producing, regardless – though the challenge is rising.

Murray also appeared on the chart last year (as did teammate Nikola Jokic). Murray is clearly improving. Maybe there’s something in his ability to rise to the occasion in the playoffs, too.

On the other hand, some of this is clearly unsustainable. Though Murray is good at making difficult shots, his 47% shooting from beyond the arc will come back down to earth.

Denver’s playoff run will likely end soon, too. Despite the easy 3-1 jokes, the Nuggets will probably fall to the Lakers. There’s a reason Denver’s comebacks against the Jazz and Clippers were so impressive. Teams down 3-1 almost always lose. That’s still true.

But Murray’s run could be just beginning.