Paul Pierce played underdog role all the way to the Hall of Fame

2021 Basketball Hall of Fame - Press Event
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If it didn’t really sink in when he slipped to the 10th pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Paul Pierce got the message when he went home to Los Angeles to play in the All-Star Game and got booed by his hometown fans.

“That’s just the story of my career: Being the underdog, not really being liked. I guess somebody has to be the villain,” Pierce said Friday, a day before he is to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’m comfortable with that.”

A 10-time All-Star and the MVP of the 2008 NBA finals, Pierce heads a class of 16 scheduled to be honored at the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine Saturday night. Also giving the event a Celtics feel: Bill Russell, who is already in the Hall as a player, will be inducted as a coach, making him the fifth person to be honored for both roles.

Others to be inducted are Villanova coach Jay Wright, defensive Pistons star Ben Wallace, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh, longtime Portland and Sacramento coach Rick Adelman, three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, Washington and Sacramento All-Star Chris Webber and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith.

The Hall’s committees, which are focused on preserving all areas of the game, have also selected former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, longtime coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, scouting pioneer Howard Garfinkel to be inducted as contributors. Clarence “Fats” Jenkins was picked by the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Croatian Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc was tabbed by the International Committee, Bob Dandridge by the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore from the Women’s Veterans Committee.

Pierce has long held a grudge over slipping in the draft – behind such players as Michael Olowokandi (first), Raef LaFrentz (third) and Robert Traylor (sixth). But he conceded on Friday that it worked out for the best.

“I’m happy with my role. It made me who I am: a guy that’s going to scratch and claw. I earned everything I got,” he said during the pre-induction news conference at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Friday.

“When you talk about iconic sports franchises … I couldn’t’ have asked for a better place to land,” said Pierce, who is second only to John Havlicek on the Celtics’ scoring list. “I wouldn’t be the player I am today, I wouldn’t be standing here, if there was any other path.”

Ackerman had worked for the NBA and USA Basketball when she was named the first president of the newly created WNBA in 1996. She guided the startup for its first decade, helping it survive where other women’s leagues have faltered.

“To see them at 25 is first and foremost a feeling of great pride,” said Ackerman, who is now the Big East commissioner. “To see how women’s sports have evolved, and with the 50th anniversary of Title IX that’s another cause for celebration. … It has been really, really great to see.”

Wright was selling tickets for a USFL team when a friend turned down a college coaching offer and passed along Wright’s name instead.

“I was one day on the job at the University of Rochester, and I knew I loved this,” said Wright, who led Villanova to the 2016 and ’18 NCAA titles. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living.”

Webber went from Michigan’s Fab Five freshman class to play 17 seasons in the NBA. He even noted the most ignominious moment of his career: The extra timeout he called in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.

“Calling timeout, one of the worst moments you can have, 60 days later to be drafted, it was a whirlwind,” he said. “I really did enjoy the journey. The ups and downs and everything that came with it.”

Wallace broke down in tears while talking about his road from Virginia Union to a four-time defensive player of the year who won the 2004 NBA title with the Pistons. Going undrafted, he said, was a blessing.

“Either you’re going to find your true strength, or you’re going to prove to me why you want to be here,” he said. “There’s moments on your journey when you have to … stay on your path. If there’s a roadblock in your path, you’ve got to find a way to overcome that roadblock.”

Kukoc joined the Michael Jordan-led Bulls midway through their run of six NBA titles in eight years. Although he was a three-time MVP of the European League Final Four, his new teammates were skeptical.

“When we came here it was different times. People didn’t know about us,” he said. “We were pioneers. … It was a time when the NBA became a global game, not just an American game. And it became open to the entire world.”

Adelman was told he didn’t have enough experience for the high school coaching jobs he was applying for but he landed a position at the Chemeketa Community College in Oregon. “Everything took off from that point on,” he said.

He signed on as an assistant to Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay’s with the Trail Blazers in 1983, took over the top job in ’89, and went on to win more than 1,000 games with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota.

The daughter of two Australian national team players, Jackson was the WNBA MVP three times and she also played for her homeland in four Olympics, winning three silver medals and a bronze.

“Mom and Dad are just over the moon,” she said.

Curry drains 7 3-pointers, Nets start homestand with win over Blazers

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Seth Curry added a season-high 29 off the bench and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-94 on Sunday.

Curry was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and had his highest point total with the Nets and the most by a Brooklyn reserve this season.

“I’ve always felt like if I get good shots I’m going to make them at a high clip,” Curry said. “Our offense was flowing pretty well. Guys found me open early on to start the game and I felt pretty good, aggressive.”

Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets. Ben Simmons took just three shots but had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

“Ben did a great job of getting downhill,” Curry said. “He’s a great passer (and) he knows how to find me out there on the floor.”

Jerami Grant scored 29 points for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Anfernee Simons added 15 points and Justice Winslow had 14.

The Nets have won four of their last six games, while the Trail Blazers, who are playing without Damian Lillard, have dropped five of six.

“Tough little stretch that we’re in right now,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It is what it is. Every team goes through it.”

Brooklyn made 52.6% of its shots from the field overall, and 42.9% from 3-point range, in the second matchup between the teams in 10 days.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “It’s about baskets.”

With the Nets leading by four entering the fourth, Curry scored Brooklyn’s first eight points of the quarter. Royce O'Neale‘s free throw gave the Nets a 93-87 lead and following a Portland turnover, Curry made a 3 that extended the advantage to nine.

Nurkic sandwiched a hook shot and free throw around two free throws by Irving to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 98-90. However, after a timeout, Durant hit a 3 to push the lead to 101-90.

Brooklyn led 58-57 at halftime, and 84-80 after the third quarter.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.

 

LeBron becomes oldest player with 39 points, 11 boards, seven 3-pointers (he’s also the youngest)

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The first question after LeBron James put up 21 and 8 to help the Lakers beat the Spurs Friday night was whether he would play in the back-to-back Saturday. He had just missed five games with a groin strain, after all.

Not only did LeBron play Saturday, he had a historic night.

LeBron had 39 points, 11 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from 3 — making him the oldest player in the history of the NBA with a 35+, 10+ with seven 3-pointer game.

The youngest player ever to put up that stat line? Also one LeBron James.

The 39 points were also the second most points ever scored by a player in his 20th NBA season, trailing only Kobe Bryant gunning his way to 60 in his final game.

The Lakers got the second straight win over the Spurs on Saturday behind LeBron, 143-138, a game more likely to be remembered for Zach Collins getting ejected for a foul that left Russell Westbrook bloody. The Lakers have won three straight and 5-of-6 but have done it against a very soft part of the schedule (three of the wins were over the tanking Spurs). Los Angeles beat the teams in front of it and started to show signs of life this season, but now they have to carry that over into a stretch against better teams, beginning Monday against the Pacers.

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.