2012 All-Star

Curry, Lee Could Split Warriors Vote

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OAKLAND – The fact literally looms over the Warriors every time they practice at their downtown facility, the way the long rectangular sign attached high on one of the walls lists their All-Stars of the California era.

The recent history – or lack thereof – is impossible to avoid. Players have learned it by osmosis by now. Latrell Sprewell made the 1997 showcase in Cleveland as a reserve and no Warrior has since. It looks down as a constant reminder.

That will almost certainly change in the 2013 game in Houston. Golden State is 22-10, has the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and is playing particularly well as coaches begin to focus on the vote to fill out the roster following the fan selection of starters. The Warriors have two deserving candidates, David Lee and Stephen Curry. At least one should make it.

Should.

Unless Lee and Curry come close enough to splitting the coach’s balloting, Lee in the frontcourt and Curry among the guards, that they cancel each other out and end up hurting the Warriors’ chances of ending the dry spell.

Will it happen? Probably not.

But could it happen? Yes. Agonizingly, frustratingly, disappointingly yes.

“Who knows,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who will be able to lobby colleagues but not vote for his own players. “I can’t figure out these coaches sometimes.”

Lee is averaging 20.2 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 53.8 percent. Curry is at 20.4 points, 6.5 assists and, although 43.6 percent overall, 45.6 percent from behind the arc. Both are leaders in a very good locker-room atmosphere. Both have been huge factors as Golden State made the move from lottery regular to playoff possibility and then kept going, all the way to being part of the lead pack for home-court advantage as the season nears the midpoint.

Western Conference coaches will reward the Warriors for the start, made all the more impressive because it has come mostly without Andrew Bogut and entirely without Brandon Rush. Exactly how they will reward is where it could get interesting. Golden State expecting two representatives in Houston is probably overly ambitious given how many other teams need to be similarly saluted, and so it becomes a numbers game at some point. Curry over Lee, Lee over Curry – this could become a conflict.

“Great problem to have,” Curry said. “That’s all I can say. You can play out all the scenarios and say who deserves what. But the fact that you have two legitimate shots at having a Warriors representative in Houston after 15, 16 years, that’s a big deal.”

External factors are at play as well. If Jeremy Lin of the Rockets moves back ahead of Chris Paul of the Clippers in fan voting and joins Kobe Bryant as the starting guards, Paul takes one of the reserve spots and hurts Curry’s chances. But if Lin does not win the popularity contest and Paul is in the opening lineup, there is more room for Curry.

This may end up with Jackson on the spot, with coaches asking him who is more deserving of the two. He wouldn’t like that and he would never say which Warrior got his nod if it came down to that, but it’s realistic to think he will have some voice in a situation where his team may not get the ideal outcome of both Lee and Curry going.

“I would hope that it’s realistic,” Jackson said of the chances of having two representatives. “And again, if we continue to do what we’re doing. I will say that because there’s some tough games coming up. But to me, as a coach, I would get phone calls from coaches last year asking or making their case for their players. I think it’s important for coaches around this league to not just jot down names because they’re names. I think it’s important. And I’m not saying this because it’s my guys. I took pride in doing it last year and there were none of my guys. Whoever it may be, if there’s a guy that’s deserving of an All-Star opportunity, put his name down and disregard that his name does not sound as hot when you write it down as somebody else’s.”

Jackson is partly wrong – Curry and Lee are hot names, not long-shot underdogs trying to establish themselves in the league. But point taken. It could get that interesting come voting time.

Dwight Howard Was The Perfect Host But Noticeably Absent On Game Night





ORLANDO – At the end of a long and entertaining All-Star weekend, Dwight Howard could sit back and survey all that he had done and know that his mission was accomplished.

He put on a show for his city, made sure the stars turned out here and covered all of the All-Star weekend bases with parties, events and all the bells and whistles revelers have become accustomed to with the NBA’s version of the Super Bowl, or as NBA Commissioner David Stern called it on the Hang Time Podcast last week, “the best three and a half days in sports.”

Howard was the perfect host all the way through Sunday night’s pregame announcement at Amway Center, when he greeted the crowd and thanked them for helping make the event what it was.

And then he promptly vanished into the ether for the next three hours. The game itself, a tight-in-the-final-minutes 152-149 win for the Western Conference, was played with Howard as little more than a set piece. His Eastern Conference teammates did their best to keep him involved and Howard flashed his trademark smile aplenty, but it was a largely forgettable performance from the big man on his home floor and in the splendid building built in his honor.

It was the strangest thing I saw all weekend, and that includes Nikki Minaj‘s space age pregame performance that included six or seven wig changes before the All Stars took the floor for the game. After spending 72 straight hours as the non-stop life of the party, it was like someone flipped a switch and turned Howard off once the game tipped off.

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Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan For All-Time All-Star Game Scoring Mark





ORLANDOKobe Bryant is still chasing Michael Jordan‘s record of six championships, but he’s already snagged another of Jordan’s hallowed records.

Bryant passed Jordan for the All-Star scoring record on a fast break dunk with 4:57 to play in the third quarter here Sunday night, with 264 points. He tied Jordan minutes earlier with two free throws and finished the night with 27 points and total of 271 points

LeBron James is next on the active list with 207 points.

Most career points, All-Star history

Player GP PTS AVG
Kobe Bryant 13 271 20.8
Michael Jordan 13 262 20.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 18 251 13.9
Oscar Robertson 12 246 20.5
Bob Pettit 11 224 20.4

Pat Williams had the Magic vision





ORLANDO – Before Dwight Howard took Orlando’s NBA team hostage … before Shaquille O’Neal stole and then, three years later, broke the hearts of Magic fans everywhere … before Howard, O’Neal and dozens of other terrific players delighted folks in what had been all football and Mouse ears in central Florida, there was Pat Williams.

Williams was the hustler, huckster, salesman and veteran NBA visionary who, about 25 years ago, got it into his head that pro basketball could thrive where it never had existed.

“It was a wild [vision],” Williams said Sunday morning at the annual NBA Legends brunch, where he was honored with the Hometown Hero award. “It was still kind of an overgrown citrus community. There was no downtown skyline. No Universal Studios. No big airport. … Our pitch was, ‘Don’t look at Orlando today. Look at it 10 years from today. Twenty years from today. Fifty years from today.’ “

The Magic entered the NBA that day in 1987, joining with expansion teams in Miami, Charlotte and Minnesota for the buy-in price of $32.5 million. Today, the Magic franchise is worth an estimated $385 million, according to a story last month in Forbes. The team is in its second season, in its second downtown area, with its second Hall of Fame-worthy big man making folks nervous on the day of its second NBA All-Star Game – none of which would have happened even once if not for Williams’ passion.

“Pat was such a pain in the neck trying to get an expansion franchise in Orlando that we finally granted it,” NBA commissioner David Stern teased.

The man to whom Orlando owes its NBA experience, at 71 still a senior vice president of the team, has had his plate full lately: Williams has been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact, which affects blood plasma in his bone marrow. He went through traditional chemotherapy treatments and, when that didn’t achieve the results he needed, underwent a stem cell transplant. He is said to be holding the cancer at bay now, Magic president Alex Martins said after the brunch.

Williams long NBA career took him from public relations duties in Chicago to general manager responsibilities in Atlanta and Philadelphia before he took on the Orlando quest. He was the lucky Magic executive who saw his club land consecutive No. 1 lottery picks in 1992 and 1993, which he parlayed first into O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, then into a 1995 Finals appearance for the young team.

Williams’ busy private life is just as remarkable, filled with books he has authored, endless speaking engagements as a motivator and, with his wife Ruth, as a parent to 19 children, 14 of them adopted from four countries. At one point, 16 of them were teenager, when “I realized why some animals eat their young,” Williams quipped.

Others honored at the 13th annual Legends brunch, with Mt. Rushmore types such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the audience, were:

  • Hall of Fame scorer Dominique Wilkins as the Legend of the Year, for his basketball achievements but also for his work in fighting diabetes and as a Boys & Girls Club Alumni Hall of Famer.
  • NBA/ABA center Artis Gilmore, finally inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame last summer, received the Legends’ Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Nick Anderson, Orlando’s first-ever draft pick (No. 11, 1989), was presented with the Humanitarian Award for his work in the Magic’s community.
  • Hardaway received the Young Legends Award.
  • Magic Johnson also was recognized in a tribute to his All-Star MVP performance in the previous ASW held in Orlando. Diagnosed in November 1991 with the HIV virus, Johnson came out of his abrupt retirement to score 25 points in game and set up his participation later that year in the original Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Needs Yet Another Tweak, Or Two … Or Three!





ORLANDO – The silence, and we’re talking crickets, in the Amway Center after several of the dunks was the first sign that All-Star Saturday night’s signature event was going to be a little off.

That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.

The 4 million fans that cast the deciding votes on NBA.com, Evans snagged 29 percent of them compared to Chase Budinger‘s 28 percent, were drowned out after Evans was handed the trophy by a flood of Tweets from other players around the league who didn’t agree with the results.

A small sampling of the instant, and at times brutal, reaction that reflected the mood in the building:

  • Roy Hibbert: Robbery!!!!
  • Jason Richardson: I think Paul George or Chase Budinger should of won…. Guess all [4] million votes came from Utah lol
  • Hassan Whiteside: u tellin me I could of won a NBA slam dunk contest in HIgh school Jump over 5’5 Kevin hart n a reserve dunk with a cam n dunk 2 balls smdh
  • Stephen Curry: Even though the 2 ball dunk was nice prolly the best of the night, u can’t have the WORST dunk ever and win.
  • Hasheem Thabeet: “@MAL___: This is what happens when you let half a million ppl that probably can’t touch the backboard vote. Jeremy Evans?!? Smh” LoL
  • Shane Battier: Evans had the best single dunk, but this voting process was seriously flawed. #airbudwazrobbed

There are so many elements involved in pulling it off just right, but Battier said it best, the voting process is seriously flawed. We need the on-site, human element involved. Evans admitted that his first dunk was “awful” and that if not for his splendid two-ball dunk where he jumped over the head of a sitting Gordon Hayward, who tossed the balls into the air for Evans, the trophy probably would have gone to either Budinger or George.

(For the record, my ballot would have had George edging Budinger for the top spot with Evans and Williams rounding out the field.)

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Stern: Negotiating Doesn’t Stop

 



ORLANDO – Life, David Stern said, is a negotiation.

The NBA commissioner said it a couple of times, in fact, during his annual “state of the league” address at All-Star Weekend. If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought the rancorous collective-bargaining talks that nearly wiped out the season and this particular celebratory weekend still were ongoing.

Labor peace prevails. But several of the topics that were in play Saturday night at Amway Center, prior to the All-Star Saturday events, fit the commissioner’s fortune-cookie philosophy as well: the fate of the Sacramento and New Orleans franchises, as well as the future whereabouts of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

The most pressing, on paper, is the Kings, their unsettled arena issues and the threat of relocation to Anaheim, Seattle or elsewhere if the Maloof family that owns the team can’t come to terms with the city. Stern said he met with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Saturday and that representatives from all sides also met and would gather again Sunday. “We all consider ourselves to have March 1 deadline to either come up with a financing plan and a critical path to the construction of the arena, or not,” Stern said.

Questioned about the Maloofs’ ability to contribute enough financially to satisfy the city and Sacramento taxpayers, and any other gaps in completing a deal that would keep the Kings where they are, Stern elaborated. “The Maloofs have stepped up, the city has stepped up. … The city has responded with respect to sponsorship and ticket sales. Joe Maloof and Gavin Maloof have been in town, going to games, selling tickets, doing whatever can be done, and the mayor has done wonders in terms of where he’s put this.”

The Hornets currently are operated by the league – that stewardship led to the awkward handling of point guard Chris Paul’s trade first (allegedly) to the Los Angeles Lakers and then, with Stern’s approval as New Orleans “owner,” to the Clippers. Asked specifically if one of the two groups lined up for a potential purchase is from California, the commissioner declined to say. He estimated that the sale and a lease deal with the state of Louisiana could be completed in “a week to 10 days.”

Stern also noted that the second ownership ground is not affiliated with Seattle’s ambitions to replace the Sonics team that moved to Oklahoma City. He added: “The only way to have a team these days is to have a world-class building,” which was the problem with Seattle’s KeyArena.

Regarding Howard, Stern brushed aside the suggestion that a team receive compensation – perhaps a high draft pick – if a superstar left via free agency. He said teams have options – re-signing the star, trading him or losing him – within the NBA system, a structure that generally keeps the top young players with the teams that draft them for seven years. Beyond that…

“We think that’s a system, not a prison,” said Stern, a proponent of players’ access to free agency. Even when a franchise cornerstone like LeBron James exits, a player such as Cleveland rookie Kyrie Irving can fill the void in what Stern called “the rite of renewal.”

Other topics addressed in Stern’s wide-ranging session across 45 minutes included:

  • The frenzy over Knicks guard Jeremy Lin: “It’s a universal story of the underdog stepping forward. We’re proud of him.”
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves’ return to relevancy: “I kid [owner] Glen Taylor a lot about it, how much more fun it is to win than to lose.”
  •  Cities such as Portland that might aspire to host All-Star Weekend need sufficient hotel rooms, since 20,000 people flood into the city and nearly 11,000 room-nights are needed to lodge NBA personnel alone.
  • The commissioner reiterated that he was acting properly in handling the Paul trade proposals. Whether the first or second package of players and draft picks was better, Stern did not offer his opinion.
  • If it were up to him, deputy commissioner Adam Silver — seated to Stern’s right during the presser — would succeed him when he retires sometime in the next six years, Stern said. But he will leave the decision to the Board of Governors, when the time comes.
  • The endorsement deals that sneaker companies cut with individual players are outside the jurisdiction of the NBA, but Silver said the league requires incentives to be based on winning rather than market size. There has been speculation that Howard, for example, might be getting steered to move to a larger market by adidas to boost sales.
  • Expansion beyond the current 30 teams is not in the plans.
  • The NBA might stage one or more preseason games in China this fall. International games were kept off the schedule in 2011 in anticipation of the lockout.

All-Star Saturday Night Predictions



ORLANDO – NBA All-Star Saturday Night tips off at 8:30 p.m. tonight on TNT. With 14 different NBA teams represented in the four competitions, it should be another fun night at the Amway Center.

And it’s time for predictions. Here’s who some of our writers have tonight…

Steve Aschburner
Haier Shooting Stars: Orlando
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Kyrie Irving
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: Kevin Durant
Sprite Slam Dunk: Paul George

Scott Howard-Cooper
Haier Shooting Stars: Texas
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Kyrie Irving
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: Ryan Anderson
Sprite Slam Dunk: Paul George

Shaun Powell
Haier Shooting Stars: Atlanta
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Tony Parker
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: Anthony Morrow
Sprite Slam Dunk: Jeremy Evans

John Schuhmann
Haier Shooting Stars: Orlando
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Tony Parker
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: Anthony Morrow
Sprite Slam Dunk: Jeremy Evans

Sekou Smith
Haier Shooting Stars: Orlando
Taco Bell Skills Challenge: Tony Parker
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: Kevin Durant
Sprite Slam Dunk: Jeremy Evans

Your turn. Tell us who you’ve got in the comments…

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

West Has Been Clutch From the Line

ORLANDO – If the 2012 NBA All-Star Game comes down to clutch free throws, one team should have a distinct advantage.

Check out the free throw numbers from this year’s All-Stars in clutch time (last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less), with the West in gray and the East in white…

Clutch-time free throw percentage, 2012 All-Stars

Player FTM FTA FT%
Chris Paul 23 23 100.0%
Steve Nash 9 9 100.0%
Rajon Rondo 4 4 100.0%
Kevin Durant 22 23 95.7%
Kevin Love 21 22 95.5%
Dirk Nowitzki 15 16 93.8%
Marc Gasol 11 12 91.7%
Tony Parker 27 30 90.0%
Russell Westbrook 16 18 88.9%
LaMarcus Aldridge 7 8 87.5%
Luol Deng 12 15 80.0%
Deron Williams 7 9 77.8%
Carmelo Anthony 12 16 75.0%
Chris Bosh 9 12 75.0%
Andrew Bynum 6 8 75.0%
Kobe Bryant 15 21 71.4%
LeBron James 17 24 70.8%
Paul Pierce 9 15 60.0%
Dwyane Wade 6 10 60.0%
Roy Hibbert 5 9 55.6%
Blake Griffin 11 20 55.0%
Dwight Howard 12 22 54.5%
Derrick Rose 2 5 40.0%
Andre Iguodala 3 10 30.0%
West total 183 210 87.1%
East total 98 151 64.9%

The top nine West stars on the list above are an incredible 151-for-161 (94 percent) on free throws in clutch time. So as the game enters the final few minutes, the East would be best advised to keep their opponent off the line.

Check out more numerical notes from NBA.com/stats: East All-Stars | West All-Stars

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Mullin Wore Jeremy Lin’s Number

ORLANDOJeremy Lin grew up in the Bay Area, in Palo Alto. Chris Mullin played most of his Hall of Fame career in the Bay Area, in Oakland. Lin wears No. 17 with the Knicks. Mullin wore No. 17 with the Warriors.

But, Lin said, any connection is strictly coincidental. While he may have been a young Warriors fan just as Mullin was finishing the first of two playing stints with Golden State, and 17 is an unusual number to choose, it is not a Mully tribute.

“I didn’t even think of that,” Lin said. “But he’s a great player. Trust me, I’m a fan of his.”

Lin prefers No. 7. He wore it last season while playing for his hometown team. When he was sent to the National Basketball Development League, he picked No. 17. When he signed with the Rockets in December, Kyle Lowry had 7, so Lin went with 17. Same thing in New York. Carmelo Anthony wore 7, and Lin took 17 again.

“Seven was my number last year, and it’s one of God’s numbers that he uses throughout the Bible,” Lin said. “And I chose 17 because the 1 was kind of to represent me and the 7 was to represent God. When I went to the D-League, I had 17, and so everywhere I go, He would be right there next to me, and so that’s why I stuck with 17.”

Just as Mullin is scheduled to have his 17 – the other 17 – retired by the Warriors on March 19.

“Luckily they’re retiring my jersey,” Mullin said, “because if he keeps this up, his jersey will be retired throughout the world.”

 

Orlando’s Original Big 3 (Shaq, Penny And 3D) Reunited At The Barbershop

ORLANDO – It’s probably a painful thought for longtime fans in this city, but what if Shaquille O’Neal never left?

What if the Orlando Magic’s Big 3 of Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dennis Scott had stuck together throughout the primes of their respective careers? What might they have been able to accomplish? How many more NBA Finals might they have reached?

Sure, it’s a dangerous game to play, even now after all of these years have passed. But you have to wonder …