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After years of anguish and accomplishment, Kyle Lowry finally in NBA Finals

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TORONTO – Each player’s press conference at NBA Finals media day began the same way. A player sat down. NBA communications director Jim LaBumbard immediately called on a reporter for a question.

Except Kyle Lowry‘s.

Lowry sat down smirking at LaBumbard, who previously worked for the Raptors.

“You ready?” LaBumbard asked.

“Sure, go ahead,” Lowry said.

Lowry has been preparing a long time for this moment.

He has spent most of his career just trying to prove himself as a full-time starter, getting bounced from the Grizzlies to the Rockets to the Raptors. He found a home in Toronto and developed into a star. But that just set him up to be tormented by LeBron James nearly annually in the playoffs.

Now, Lowry has finally reached the pinnacle of his sport, the NBA Finals.

“He’s been hit upside the head from every different angle and every different angle in the world – whether it’s personal, everything,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said, “and he survives it.

“There’s something about that guy that I just believe in. It’s incredible. We have been through so much, and he’s a winner. There’s no other way to put it. He’s a winner.”

Lowry is a five-time All-Star in his 13th season. Just seven players have hit that honor-longevity combination then played in their first NBA Finals:

  • Tracy McGrady (2013 Spurs)
  • Mitch Richmond (2002 Lakers)
  • Kevin Garnett (2008 Celtics)
  • Alonzo Mourning (2006 Heat)
  • Reggie Miller (2000 Pacers)
  • Chris Mullin (2000 Pacers)
  • John Stockton (1997 Jazz)

Only Garnett, Miller and Stockton were still stars by their Finals debuts. Mourning was a role player. McGrady, Richmond and Mullin were deep reserves.

Lowry is still a star.

He’s an unconventional one who does so many little things to help his team. He takes charges, sets screens, tips loose balls, makes extra passes, directs teammates. Of course, he scores and assists plenty. But traditional box-score stats don’t fully capture his impact on the court.

They certainly don’t capture his impact off it. Lowry, who spent a while moping about his close friend DeMar DeRozan getting traded, has become an ally of Kawhi Leonard. Though not facing his own contract-year speculation, Lowry understands the pressure stars face. He also relates to younger teammates just tryin to establish themselves in the league, a predicament he faced early in his career.

“He’s a better teammate than he is a player,” Fred VanVleet said.

But for everything Lowry did right, postseason success eluded him.

His individual performances were up-and-down through the playoffs. He wasn’t as bad as his critics made him out to be, nor did he sustain the high level of play he demonstrated in the regular season. But Toronto consistently struggled.

So, when he finally won the East, Lowry – who’s often brooding publicly – became uncontrollably overjoyed:

Yet, as the NBA Finals approach, he’s locked back in.

“Getting here doesn’t do anything but getting here,” Lowry said. “We still want to try to win this.”

It’s the right approach and of course the won Lowry would take. He’s a true competitor. A championship would be so satisfying.

But, after all he’d been through, getting here did mean something to him. You could see it all over his face.

Frank Vogel earns spot as coach of Team LeBron in All-Star Game

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LeBron James will have a familiar coach on the sideline with him in Chicago for the All-Star Game.

With the Lakers’ win in Brooklyn Thursday night — thanks to LeBron’s triple-double — the Lakers clinched the best record in the West by the Feb. 2 cutoff date, making Frank Vogel the coach for Team LeBron.

Vogel has done this before. Back in 2014, he was the coach of the Indiana Pacers, a team had the best record at the All-Star break. Vogel’s squad won 163-155 behind 31 points from Kyrie Irving (he was named All-Star MVP).

This will LeBron’s 16th All-Star Game as a starter (an NBA record) be and it is his third year as a team captain (he is 2-0 so far). LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo are team captains for the second consecutive year, and in two weeks they will choose their teams playground-style from a list of starters (named Wednesday) and reserves (named next week).

Vogel’s counterpart is not yet known. The Bucks will have the best record in the East but Mike Budenholzer coached the All-Star Game last season and the rule is coaches can’t do it two years in a row (called the “Phil Jackson doesn’t want to be here rule,” unofficially). After him, Erik Spoelstra (Miami), Nick Nurse (Toronto), and Brad Stevens (Boston) are all within a game-and-a-half of each other, any of them could end up coaching Team Giannis.

 

 

Watch LeBron James rack up triple-double, help Lakers pull-away from Nets

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NEW YORK — LeBron James had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in his 10th triple-double of the season and the Los Angeles Lakers made a season-high 19 3-pointers to pull away and beat the Brooklyn Nets 128-113 on Thursday night.

James closed within 17 points of Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list with a flurry in the fourth quarter. He can pass Bryant on Saturday at Philadelphia, where the five-time champion with the Lakers was born.

James has 33,626 points. Bryant finished with 33,643.

A back-and-forth game for nearly three quarters turned into a rout after the Lakers broke the Nets’ spirits with four straight 3-pointers spanning the third and fourth quarters, extending a one-point lead to 107-94, and Los Angeles coasted from there.

Anthony Davis had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 12 boards in his first start of the season.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 points after missing a game with right hamstring tightness, but the Nets lost their fifth straight. Brooklyn has won just two of its last 14 games.

The Nets were without backup centers DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton, leaving them without many options behind starter Jarrett Allen. But they struggled just as badly guarding the perimeter. Los Angeles was 19 of 38 behind the arc.

The Lakers led 38-35 after one, before both teams made seven 3-pointers in the second. Howard went 4 for 4 for eight points in the period, helping the Lakers take a 75-70 lead to halftime.

Danny Green made three 3s in the first four minutes of the third, pushing the lead to 88-75, but the Nets had it down to 95-94 after a 3-pointer by Irving with 49 seconds remaining. But then Davis and Rajon Rondo hit 3s before Jared Dudley, who played in Brooklyn last season, hit one from near the Nets’ bench to beat the buzzer and make it 104-94.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made it four straight 3s to open the fourth, extending the lead back to 13. James then scored eight in the period before taking a seat for good.

 

Check out Jordan Brand/Nike designed All-Star Game uniforms

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It’s only fitting that Jordan brand has a significant role with the All-Star Game coming to Chicago.

Jordan Brand designed this year’s ASG uniforms and took its inspiration from the Chicago transit line. Here’s the explanation, straight from the press release (because you don’t want me trying to describe fashion, trust me):

Jordan Brand and Nike designers incorporated the color of each track into the uniforms as a base: blue and red for the NBA All-Star Game; purple and orange for NBA Rising Stars; green and pink for the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles; and brown and yellow for the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game. The Jordan Brand official NBA All-Star game uniforms add the six-pointed star from the Chicago flag as the symbolic refrain while inviting the attitude of the ‘90s-era alternate uniforms worn by the hometown Bulls.

Take a look at them yourself:

The red and blue will be worn by Team LeBron and Team Giannis during the All-Star Game, with other colors for the Rising Star and Celebrity games.

Of course, they are available for sale at NBAStore.com and Nike.com.

Watch Trae Young’s emotional reaction to being named an All-Star Game starter

Trae Young
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Trae Young is an All-Star Game starter at age 21 in just his second NBA season.

While that was not a total surprise — he had led the fan voting in the East among guards since the start — it still was an emotional moment for Young when it was announced (as filmed by his teammate Brandon Goodwin for IG).

Young and Kemba Walker were named the backcourt starters for the Eastern Conference (although both will go into a pool of players picked playground-style by the captains to form teams).

There are two 21-and-under starters in this All-Star Game, Young and Luka Doncic of Dallas. The last time there were two starters under age 21 was 1998 with Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.