On the night where Zion bent a backboard, USA wins Rising Stars game

Leave a comment

CHICAGO — In an unusually entertaining All-Star Friday night Rising Stars game, fans got to see Luka Doncic draining halfcourt shots, Miles Bridges putting on a personal dunkfest then hoisting the MVP trophy, and, for anyone that cared, a 151-131 Team USA win.

That’s not how any of us will remember this game.

This will forever be the game where Zion Williamson broke the backboard.

“When it was halftime, my teammates started telling me about it,” Williamson said, adding he had no idea when it happened. “I don’t think it was me, honestly.”

It was him.

And it was the most memorable highlight of a surprisingly entertaining game.

The Rising Stars game is usually a fairly predictable affair, with a couple of highlights punctuating a game with all the structure of a YMCA pickup run. That’s kind of how this edition started.

Usually, this game has all the fundamentals of a Venice Beach playground game — a whole lot of showboating and attempted spectacular plays — but the first quarter was strangely unenergetic and filled with the “right” basketball plays. Not that there was any defense, but there were kick-outs to the corner instead of dunks, lay-ups, and Rui Hachimura knocking down midrange jumpers. RJ Barrett even used a Euro foul to stop a Williamson alley-oop chance (which drew some boos from the crowd).

But in the final minutes of the first half the game opened up, starting with Ja Morant finding Zion Williamson for the alley-oops everyone came to see.

Then Doncic drained a shot from halfcourt, joking with Trae Young.

The World led by 10 points at the half, led by Barrett’s 15 points, but Charlotte’s Bridges Tweeted out during halftime the USA would get serious when they came out of the locker room.

“The World team was killing us, so we said let’s play for real and I Tweeted that,” Bridges said.

The USA did start to play for real. Bridges and Collin Sexton started to lead a comeback, with the USA eventually grabbing the lead on back-to-back Devonte Graham deep threes. Not long after, Graham’s teammate Bridges had maybe the dunk of the night (at least that didn’t break any equipment).

The USA pulled away in the fourth and the final minutes of the game became a dunkfest, with everyone clearing out and guys trying to put on a show — but Zion could not get his to go.

The World team’s Barrett led all scorers with 27, and Memphis’ Brandon Clarke added 22. Sexton had 21 for the USA squad, with Bridges adding 20. For a

“I stayed at the YMCA in Flint [Michigan] all day and night just trying to get to this level,” Bridges said.

Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis has 20 and 11, leads Pacers past Blazers

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS — Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 106-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, eight assists, and six rebounds while T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo scored 15 points each for the Pacers, who have four of their last five.

CJ McCollum had 28 points and eight assists, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points, and five rebounds, and Hassan Whiteside had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who have lost five of six.

The Pacers were able to hold off the Blazers’ late push.

After Brogdon made a jumper to give Indiana a 103-93 lead with 1:54 remaining, Portland went on a 7-0 run. McCollum’s floater made it 103-100 with 30 seconds to go.

Myles Turner drilled a 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining to seal it.

The Trail Blazers went on a 10-1 run late in the first half to push ahead.

McCollum made a 3-pointer to give Portland a 42-40 lead with 3:13 to go in the second quarter. After a free throw by Oladipo, McCollum made another three and then a fadeaway to put the Trail Blazers in front 47-41.

Portland led 49-43 at halftime.

Report: Magic and Pistons talked trading for Nets Spencer Dinwiddie

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Leading up to the NBA trade deadline, at least two NBA teams talked about making a trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. SNY’s Ian Begley reports that the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic had internal discussions about trading for Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie started his NBA career with Detroit before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. After being waived following his only training camp with the Bulls, Dinwiddie signed later that season with the Nets.

That signing has proven to be one of the best finds of Sean Marks’ diamond mining process in Brooklyn. With the Nets, Dinwiddie has become a key rotation player. Last December, Brooklyn inked Dinwiddie to a three-year contract extension that started with this season.

This past summer, Dinwiddie was a key part of the recruiting process to bring free agent Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. Dinwiddie did that recruiting even though the addition of Irving cost him a spot in starting lineup.

Oddly enough, it’s the presence of Irving on the roster that could lead Marks to consider trading Dinwiddie. With Irving, Durant and Caris LeVert, that’s three players who need the ball a lot. And there is a lot of overlap in position there as well. With a hole at power forward, Begley posited that a Dinwiddie for Aaron Gordon swap might make sense for both Brooklyn and Orlando.

While no trade agreement was reached prior to the deadline, it’s possible that either Detroit (who projects to have $34 million in cap space this summer and needs to add talent) or Orlando (who needs offensive creators) could engage Brooklyn in trade talks this summer. It’s much easier to make a deal that involves big salaries in the summer when teams have more roster flexibility.

Report: Joel Embiid out at least one week with shoulder sprain

Leave a comment

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters reports that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will be out at least one week due to a sprained left shoulder.

Embiid underwent further evaluations Thursday after being injured the previous night in a game at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those evaluations showed no structural damage. Embiid will be re-evaluated in one week.

That timeline makes it likely that Embiid will miss the entirety of the Sixers upcoming west coast trip, including games against both Los Angeles teams. Embiid’s absence, combined with that of Ben Simmons, will make it hard for Philadelphia to improve upon their woeful 9-21 road record.

With Simmons out due to an impingement in his back, and Embiid joining him on the sidelines, the 76ers have returned Al Horford to the starting lineup. Horford started with regulars Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, and fill-ins Glenn Robinson III and Shake Milton in Philadelphia’s home victory over New York on Thursday. That group is likely to continue to open games for Brett Brown until he gets his All-Star duo back in the lineup.

Report: Clippers would like to re-sign Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris as free agents

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Leave a comment

The Los Angeles Clippers will have to focus on building their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George moving forward. They locked up several role players to long-term contracts over the summer, but face two critical free agent situations this offseason with Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reports that the Clippers would like to re-sign both players.

Harrell has blossomed into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate while with the Clippers, and will be one of the better big men on the market this summer. Only six to seven teams project to have cap space this summer, but all of them have a need for a player like Harrell. That means LA will likely need to pony up this summer to keep their reserve big man.

The Clippers likely face the same sort of situation with Morris. They acquired him at the trade deadline and gave up a first-round pick to do so. With several picks and swap rights pending to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Paul George trade last summer, that was a heavy price for Los Angeles to pay.

With the team capped out and lacking draft picks moving forward, LA has little ability to replace either Harrell or Morris if they leave. On the other hand, it could push the Clippers deep into the luxury tax if they retain both Harrell and Morris. Steve Ballmer has the deepest pockets in the NBA, but every owner has their limits. In the end, everything might come down to just how the Clippers season ends. Winning a title, or at least making the NBA Finals, would make it a lot easier to pay to keep the team together.