Posts Tagged ‘All-Star Weekend’

NBA Might Extend All-Star Break So All-Stars Get A Breather, Too

VIDEO: CP3 arrives in in New Orleans for the All-Star Game

NEW ORLEANS – As Chris Paul returned to the city he considers an adopted hometown, and worked his way Thursday through both his obligations as a West All-Star and several community events pegged to this showcase weekend, one thing became increasingly clear:

The All Stars need an All-Star break. Even new NBA commissioner Adam Silver thinks so.

Paul’s hectic Thursday schedule — arriving in the Big Easy at 5 a.m. after his Los Angeles Clippers’ game against Portland Wednesday night at Staples Center — was just a sample of what he faces over what essentially is a five-day commitment. Keep in mind, Paul also is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, so he has a meeting to run Saturday afternoon squeezed in between all the basketball, commercial and charity events. Add travel time at both ends and it’s a grind.

Like folks who really cram in the fun on their vacations, some of these guys need a breather from what, for most of the league’s players, actually is a bit of R&R.

“I definitely think it’s something that should happen,” Paul told NBA.com while attending a pep rally and press conference at a New Orleans grade school, where he was inducted into the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation ambassador program.

Paul said he spoke with Silver about the possibility of a longer All-Star break.

“Obviously All-Star Weekend is all about the fans and showcasing our game to the entire world, but it would be nice to get a little break,” the Clippers guard said. “Not saying the all stars are unhappy or ungrateful for being all stars, but to enjoy your family for a couple days would be nice.”

Silver — also busy Thursday making the rounds in New Orleans, including opening the annual Jam Session at the city’s convention center — said he supports the idea. Silver also spoke about it in the offseason with other NBA players, including Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“I said, ‘We’d be happy to look into it,’ ” Silver said. “The notion is that, in addition to the All-Star Game and the events itself, there would be a break built into the schedule. Maybe we could resume play on Thursday night, later in the week, to insure that the All-Stars got time off as well.”

Matt Winick, the NBA’s senior vice president of scheduling and game operations, said Thursday that under the current agreement between the league and the players, the only provision is that teams that play on the Thursday before All-Star Weekend aren’t booked to play again until the following Wednesday. This year, that applies to Brooklyn, Chicago, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers, who were active in TNT’s doubleheader.

This season, 10 of the league’s 30 teams will have six days between their pre-break finale and their post-break opener (Phoenix, Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans, Boston, Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Utah and Oklahoma City). Everyone else gets five days between games. No one gets a full seven.

Winick said no allowances have been made in next year’s penciled-in schedule to accommodate a longer break, but that doesn’t necessarily block an extension.

Said Silver: “I was explaining to [the players] that our buildings are so full [with other events], it’s complicated making the schedule. But it’s not impossible. It probably means pushing the season back a couple of days, but I said ‘We’re very open to it.’ I think it’s fair and guys need a break, there’s no question about it.

“The ‘All-Star Game’ turned into ‘All-Star Weekend,’ and that turned into ‘All-Star Week.’ There are enormous amounts of pressure and pull on their time. So, it seems like a very fair request and something we should address.”

Three Flavors Of All-Star PF

A lot of people don’t like Neapolitan ice cream. They say it’s nothing but a boring compromise, maybe even a sign of commitment issues. Chocolate and strawberry and vanilla? Pick one!

But the NBA fans and coaches who put together the Western Conference’s All-Star roster this season felt neither sheepishness nor pressure when choosing their favorite flavor of power forward. The final verdict was more inclusive than decisive, an opportunity to have their cake and their ice cream, too. And their ice cream and their ice cream.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Pick any comparison of three you want. Even select, Goldilocks-style, the one with whom you’re most comfortable. The fact remains, each of them takes an interesting and different route to reach, more or less, pretty similar destinations. In this case, New Orleans for the 63rd NBA All-Star Game.

Percentage of shots by location

Player Paint Mid-range 3-point
Aldridge 35.8% 63.4% 0.8%
Griffin 64.3% 32.2% 3.6%
Love 44.3% 22.5% 33.1%

“When you mention each of those guys, you envision a different type of power forward,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said the other day. “With LA [Aldridge], I think it’s his length and his mid-range shooting that come to mind. All of ‘em have improved. But they score in different ways, they rebound in different ways, they defend in different ways, they have different ways in how they move.

“The only comparison is when you look at their numbers and the impact they have on their teams.”

Here are snapshots of the three West All-Star power forwards – Griffin and Love were voted in as starters, thanks to the openness of the “Frontcourt” category, with Aldridge added by the conference coaches – along with some eyewitness testimony:

Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers
6-foot-10, 251 pounds
Key stats:
23.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.6 apg
53.7 FG pct, 28.1 3FG pct., 70.2 FT pct.
Misc.: 16.6 FGA, 0.6 bpg, 1.1 spg, 24.1 PER


VIDEO: Blake Griffin’s Top 10 this season

Karl Malone, the NBA’s second-leading points leader and a Hall of Fame prototype for a traditional power forward, recently gushed about all three of the big men. But he especially lavished attention on the Clippers’ brawny “four” man.

“I would love to spend some time with Blake Griffin,” Malone said while sitting in on the TV broadcast of the recent Golden State-Utah game. “The first hing I’d do is say, ‘Blake, the next time a guy cheap-shots you, just lose your mind. I’ll pay your fine. If a coach grabs you, throw him too and [later] say you’re sorry. I don’t like the cheap-shots people are taking at him.”

Griffin’s muscle-beach build is tailored for physical play, and his notorious posterizations of foes with spectacular, vaulting slam dunks has a lot of them on guard even before the opening tip. But it’s his game that has grown in Kia-leaps and bounds, particularly during L.A. point guard Chris Paul‘s recent injury layoff.

Here are some who have noticed:

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “He’s seen a lot of different defenses now. I think he knows what he’s trying to get to. They’re doing a good job of moving him around. They play off him well.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers: “He’s facing up guys far more. That’s the only thing I wanted him to do more. He’s a big with a tremendous first step, and the way I look at it, if you face ‘em, you can use your first step. If you play with your back to ‘em, you can’t use your gift and they are allowed to get their hands on him. When he turns and faces, the guys guarding him, you’ve got problems.”

Griffin, in a recent Los Angeles Times story: “My biggest pet peeve is probably the ‘All I do is dunk’ thing, just because I’ve felt like even from day one, I’ve done more than that. But you understand that people are going to … be critical of you no matter what.”

Kevin Love

Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Stats: 6-foot-10, 260 pounds
25.5 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 3.9 apg
45.5 FG pct., 36.4 3FG pct., 82.0 FT pct.
Misc.: 18.3 FGA, 0.4 bpg, 0.9 spg, 27.3 PER


VIDEO: Kevin Love’s top 10 this season

The opportunity for Love and Griffin to play on the same floor might give fans a chance to see some dazzling power forward-to-power forward alley-oop dunks. If, that is, Griffin can pinpoint his outlet pass downcourt timed perfectly to Love’s skywalking.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what everyone’s going to see,” Love said, smirking at the tease.

What folks will see is a hybrid player, somewhere in between Griffin’s power and Aldridge’s finesse along the talent spectrum. Love is a dominant rebounder who isn’t much of a leaper and he’s a 3-point shooting champion who will try to win that title again on All-Star Saturday.

Here are some views of Love, his game and the competition:

Love: “I’m a little more of a stretch-4 than Blake. I’m sure we’ll split our share of rebounds, but if I’m rebounding the ball and trying to outlet the ball to him, you’ll see some of those highlight dunks. Going against him when he’s dunking like that, it’s not too much fun, but playing with him, I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun.”

Rivers on Love’s uncanny nose for rebounds: “I played with Dennis Rodman in San Antonio – we’d laugh when we were watching the film. You could see him breaking toward the ball before it hit the rim. I just thought that was crazy, and he did it over and over again. So you just felt like he kind of knew where it was going. Kevin’s like that.”

Veteran NBA power forward Al Jefferson: “Kevin Love was my rookie when he first came in [with Minnesota] and I knew right away he was going to be something special, because his IQ was so high. Then me and LaMarcus been going against each other since high school, so the things he do out there don’t surprise me. I knew he was a very talented player and works his butt off. But the guy I have to say has really surprised me on another level, just so quick, is Blake Griffin. [Early] he was more about athleticism – he really couldn’t shoot, he really couldn’t make free throws. Going toward the rim, he was amazing but I always said, if he ever loses that athleticism, he’s not going to be a top player. The last two years, the way he just improved his game – his post game, his jump shot, his free throws – now if he loses all his hops and athleticism right now, he still could be a 20-10 guy in this league.”

Aldridge, who hears a little too much gushing about Love when their teams meet because the Wolves’ forward grew up in the Portland area, was a little more tight-lipped. “He’s just versatile. A good rebounder. Really good passer. And he can shoot it.”

Houston coach Kevin McHale: “All those guys are unique. Aldridge long, with his high release, beautiful 17-, 18-footers. Love has taken his game out to the 3-point line. Griffin is just so athletic off the dribble. If you took Griffin and said, ‘We want you to get a high release and be a 17-foot jump shooter only,’ he would suck. If you took Aldridge and told him, ‘I want you just to drive and spin and dunk,’ he would suck. And if you took Kevin and said, ‘I want you to be them’ … they’re all individuals. Kevin’s one of the few players – him and Ryan Anderson – in our league who can make shots and rebound. Most of those guys who are making shots at that position aren’t getting anywhere near the boards.”

LaMarcus Aldridge

Portland Trail Blazers
6-foot-11, 240 pounds
Key Stats: 23.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.8 apg
46.5 FG pct., 11.1 3FG pct., 81.8 FT pct.
Misc.: 21.0 FGA, 1.0 bpg, 0.9 spg, 22.4 PER


VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge’s Top 10 this season

Aldridge might be the most defensive of the three PFs – not in his game as much as in sticking up for his game. Playing in Portland, making it to New Orleans as an All-Star sub rather than starter, he tapped into his pride when talking about his season and his style.

“I do post up. I do go to the basket,” he said after a shootarond in Indiana last week. “I do have a jump hook and a fadeaway, but I have to bang to get to my fadeaway. I still get a lot of my points on the block and I do go to the basket. I’m shooting something like 60 percent at the rim, so if I was just a finesse player, I wouldn’t be so high.

“I feel like people get so caught up in, ‘If you’re a power player, you should be at the rim.’ If I’m blessed with the skill level to be able to do both, then why not do both?”

Aldridge recalled the game at New York last week when he had to adapt to what the Knicks were throwing at him. “They doubled me on catch every time I caught it on the block. I ended up finding my rhythm going isolation at the elbow and on pick-and-pops. If I’m one-dimensional, I don’t score. They’d have totally taken me out of the game. The fact that I’m versatile, it was easier to find a rhythm by taking my jump shot out there.”

He need not protest so much. The admiration society for Aldridge is a large and growing club.

Chicago’s Taj Gibson: “He runs like a deer still and he’s more physical down low now. But yet he’s so finesse and has so many counter-moves. Other guys, they tend to have one or two moves. But he has a load of options in his pocket.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel: “It’s his shot-making. He’s got that unguardable turnaround. His quick release on the catch-and-shoot. His pick-and-pop game is awful tough to guard, and he can put it on the deck and make plays off the bounce. With that high release and that quick release, it’s near-impossible to get to it sometimes. He’s playing with such confidence, you have very little margin for error.”

And here’s Love summing up the rivalry among them and how it most often shows itself:

“There’s not much talk. The media try to make it out that we don’t like each other. But really, we just all have an edge to us and a competitive spirit that we want to be the best.

It’s no secret when I take the floor, I want to kick their ass. And they would say the same about me – I hope so.”

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 7


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Paul expected to return Sunday | Lillard looking forward to busy All-Star weekend | Pistons’ Cheeks, Bynum not talking to each other | Sixers’ Noel continues to progress

No. 1: Paul expected to return to lineup Sunday – The L.A. Clippers have held up pretty well since All-Star point guard Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury on Jan. 3, going 11-6 during that stretch. They’ll likely be happy come Sunday, though, as Paul is expected to be back in the starting lineup, writes Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Point guard Chris Paul, who has been sidelined since Jan. 3 with a separated right shoulder, likely will return to the starting lineup Sunday when the Los Angeles Clippers play the Philadelphia 76ers.

Paul has been participating in contact drills and shootarounds, but the Clippers have not had a full practice in almost two weeks, preventing him from practicing with the team.

The Clippers canceled practice Thursday and are expected to sit Paul for Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. If Paul practices Saturday without any problems, he will play Sunday.

“He did some one-on-ones today at shootaround and looked pretty good, so I think he’s very close,” coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday. “I don’t think he’ll play Friday but he could play after that. He took contact today in one-on-ones, but it’s still not a 5-on-5.”


VIDEO:Doc Rivers talks about how Chris Paul is healing up and more

***

No. 2: Lillard embracing his busy All-Star weekend As of a week ago, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard locked up his first All-Star berth when he was named as a Western Conference reserve. Apparently, just playing in the NBA’s showcase event wasn’t enough for him as Lillard yesterday was announced as a participant in All-Star Saturday’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the Foot Locker 3-Point Shootout. In short, Lillard is going to be a busy guy in a week or so, but tells USA Today‘s Sam Amick he’s more than looking forward to a jam-packed couple of days in New Orleans.

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity,” Lillard told USA TODAY Sports by phone.”So I just felt like it was something that had never been done, and I’m capable of doing all the things that need to be done in all the competitions, so I figured why not go out and be the first one to do everything and get that experience?”

As Lillard knows, though, there will be some who question his decision to take on so many tasks during this time that serves as a much-needed breather for most of his colleagues. And as is typically the case when it comes to Lillard, he’s not concerned with the critics.

“The skills competition takes two minutes on the court, the dunk contest maybe will be three or four minutes on the court, and three-point shooting is about two minutes,” said Lillard, whose Blazers (35-14) are the surprise team in the NBA this season. “And it’s not like the rookie-sophomore game is a real regular season game, so I mean I’m looking at maybe an hour total of actual activity with all five things. People think there’s more energy being exerted than there actually is. It’s really not that much when you think about the time that you actually spend doing it.”

Lillard said he’s looking forward to the three-point contest more than the rest.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

As for the dunk contest, he’s in the beginning stages of coming up with a creative way to compete with the likes of defending champion Terrence Ross (Toronto), Paul George (Indiana), John Wall (Washington), Ben McLemore (Sacramento) and Harrison Barnes (Golden State).

His personal favorites from years past were Dwight Howard’s 13-foot dunk in 2007 and James “Flight” White‘s flight crew jam from the most recent All-Star weekend.

“I like stuff like that,” Lillard said. “When there’s a story attached to it, I like all that…The dunk (contest) will be fun. I think there will be a lot of surprises. People don’t really know that I can dunk.”


VIDEO: Damian Lillard has had plenty of memorable dunks this season

***

No. 3: Tension rising between Pistons’ Cheeks, Bynum A near-complete overhaul of the on-court product in Detroit hasn’t gone how the Pistons’ brass has hoped it would this season. New coach Maurice Cheeks has had his struggles with frontcourt stars Josh Smith and Andre Drummond this season and now, he and veteran Detroit guard Will Bynum aren’t getting along. In Detroit’s blowout loss to Orlando on Wednesday, Bynum was pulled from an ugly loss to the Magic about midway through the second quarter. Bynum got into a heated argument with Cheeks and had to be pulled away from him by Chauncey Billups and Smith. Brendan Savage of MLive.com has more on the spat between player and coach:

After practice Thursday, Cheeks said he hadn’t spoken with Bynum about the incident – Cheeks also became testy when pressed about it – while Bynum said he wouldn’t initiate a conversation with Cheeks and didn’t think they’d speak.

“It was in the heat of the moment,” said Bynum, who was the last player off the practice floor. “I care. It’s hard for me to sit back and act like I don’t care because I do. All I’m really concerned with is winning. If I see something that’s not right, sometimes in the heat of the moment you kind of say something.

“I don’t regret it. I regret the fact that maybe I was a bit too passionate about it. But other than that, I don’t.”

Will Bynum approach Cheeks?

“Nope.”

Does he think they’ll speak?

“Nah.”

“We’re going to have disagreements,” Cheeks said. “You’re not always going to agree. That’s part of it. At times you’re going to have disagreements. That’s OK. They don’t agree with everything I say and I don’t agree with everything they say.

“That’s part of it.”

Bynum, in his sixth year with the Pistons, has come off the bench in 28 of the 31 games he’s played this season. Bynum started the first three games of the season when Brandon Jennings was sidelined with a fractured jaw and impacted wisdom tooth.

Cheeks admitted that – like many coaches – he’ll give his starters a little more leeway when they make mistakes.

“That’s been around a long time, been around for years,” Cheeks said. “Starters sometimes get a little bit more leeway than guys come off the bench. That’s the way it is.  I’m probably a little bit harder on guards and point guards than normal because I think they have a huge impact on the game.”

When the line of questioning went back to the incident with Bynum, Cheeks appeared a bit irritated and asked a reporter if he was defending Bynum.

“If I’m going to have a conversation with Will, if I have a problem with Will, he and I will probably have a conversation at some point,” Cheeks said. “I will say this again: Through my years – coaching, playing – starters usually have a bit more stretch. They do.

“That’s probably not going to change. That’s it. I don’t know any other way to say it.”

***

No. 4: Noel looks solid in drills for Sixers — The last we heard about Philadelphia 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel in mid-January, he was cleared by the team for some on-court work and could play in an actual NBA game in a few weeks from now. That timeline appears to be in tact as Noel was seen working out yesterday with Philadelphia’s assistant coaches and put on an impressive display of low-post moves, writes Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:

For nearly 30 minutes after the team’s practice yesterday, Nerlens Noel put on an impressive display of moves close to the basket under the guidance of assistant coaches Greg Foster and Billy Lange. The workout mostly consisted of baby hooks from each hand after quick moves across the lane. Noel also caught passes on the wing and made quick, one-dribble moves to the basket, mostly finishing with dunks where his head was close to the rim. His surgically repaired left knee seemed very sound for the workout and his excitement couldn’t be denied.

“You can see, even though it’s just sort of shadow boxing, you can’t help to see how quick he jumps, his athleticism, his length,” said coach Brett Brown. “It is exciting to just look out there and see what you project to be. He doesn’t appear to favor [the knee] at all. Things are going well. All those things that we have to get through in order to at some point get him on a court, are going well.”

Brown said that the next steps are to get Noel to play with others and, of course, against others. That’s when he will have to make unscripted cuts that will be the true test of how strong his knee is.


VIDEO: Sixers coach Brett Brown talks after the team’s Thursday practice

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carlos Boozer sat out the Bulls’ game against the Warriors because he hurt his calf muscle while warming up in the locker roomKemba Walker thinks the Bobcats deserve (and need) to be in the playoffs more than they need to be in the Draft lottery again … Former Knicks, Nets and Timberwolves star Stephon Marbury was ejected from his first game back in the Chinese Basketball Association for throwing a punch

ICYMI of the Night: Two blowout-ish games last night but that doesn’t mean we’ll deny Draymond Green his props for this nice dunk on Joakim Noah


VIDEO: Draymond Green finishes strong over the Bulls’ Joakim Noah

Hall Of Fame Alters Election Routine

In a change of policy from past years, the Hall of Fame will not be releasing a list of nominees for the Class of 2014 but otherwise will stay on the same schedule of announcing inductees in five categories and the finalists from two other committees as part of All-Star weekend.

The nominees who made the first cut and reached the finalist stage via the North American category, the group that includes most of the candidates with NBA backgrounds, will be revealed next Friday in New Orleans. Finalists will also be named in the Women’s category.

As has been the case in the past, the players and coaches in those fields who survive a second round of voting to reach enshrinement in Springfield, Mass., will be announced at the Final Four, which will be held this year in Arlington, Tex.

The inductees from five committees will be revealed next Friday in New Orleans in direct elections that do not require a second balloting: ABA, Early African-American Pioneers, International, Veterans and Contributor.

No Magic Way Out In Orlando





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Foolish me, I thought cooler heads might prevail and that they’d be able to salvage a little something in Orlando this season.

They’re all grownups, right? They’ve learned from the mistakes of others, seen how dangerous that road to breakup can be. No one wants this to be more painful than it has to be. So I assumed that no one would let this situation deteriorate into some sort of mess.

Again, I was wrong. (I know, plenty of  you tried to warn me last week. Silly me.)

There is no magic way out for the Magic and their Dwight Howard dilemma. I just don’t see it right now on the heels of the Magic losing four of five games and coming apart in the process.

Howard started the weekend blasting his teammates after a despicable loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets:

“I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play,” Howard said following the lopsided loss. “I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.’ “

“It hurts to get out there and you play your hardest and you expect everybody to play the same way, and I’m not calling anybody out by no means because we all have to get better … but if you don’t want to be out there, don’t dress up,” Howard said. “If you don’t want to play, stay home. People work too hard. I want to win a championship. I work too hard every night for anybody to not want to go out there and play hard. …

“None of the — whatever, trade stuff — none of that stuff matters. Play basketball. That’s why we all get paid to do this, because we love the game and it’s basketball, so why not give it your all?”

He finished the weekend with crickets … Howard didn’t make himself available after the Pacers waxed the Magic in the second half Sunday at the Amway Center. And his silence says more to me than any emotional words he might utter after an ugly loss.

The fact is, five games in seven days has a way of exposing a team, and the cracks within its foundation, that the good times simply do not.

(more…)

D. Rose Needs To Dunk

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We already have four contestants for next month’s Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend.

But why not add one more?

I wonder if anyone even bothered asking Derrick Rose if he’d like to participate?

Next time we bump into Chi-Town’s favorite son, we’re going to ask!

Trick-Shot Griffin: Video

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Blake Griffin is more than just a dunking machine. He has a few more tricks in his arsenal, as he showed off here for the LA Clippers TV:

Instead of a Griffin-Dwight Howard face off in the slam dunk contest during All-Star Weekend, maybe can get them to go toe-to-toe in a trick-shot contest?

Howard has been known to partake in the fine art of the trick shot: