They’ve got intimate knowledge of the place, both of having been in the building when it’s an emotional power keg, when the hometown fans are cranked up and caught up in the atmosphere of a big game.
They’ll be on the other side this time, though, wearing the wrong colored jerseys for Game 3 Thursday night (7 ET, TNT). But that doesn’t change the fact that these games serve as a homecoming of sorts for these Heat stars whose careers took off in “Brew City.”
Wade came to town as an unheralded Marquette recruit and left a lottery pick, beloved by the locals as the star who helped restore a once proud program to national prominence. His college jersey hangs in the rafters of the arena, one of the retired numbers of the greats to have called the city home at some point.
Allen’s future Hall of Fame career started in Milwaukee, he played the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Bucks, helped them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 and earned three trips to the All-Star game as a Buck before being traded to Seattle in February of 2003.
“I went to Milwaukee with not a lot of expectations and I came out of Milwaukee the fifth pick of the Draft,” Wade said. “Milwaukee has been special to me. It has helped me get to this point. Going back there in the playoffs is a cool thing. It’s very humbling (having his jersey retired). Every time I look up there, I think about how far I have come. It’s special to be able to play in an arena where your jersey hangs.” (more…)
HOUSTON – State Farm All-Star Saturday night is minutes away from lift off. Nick Cannon and Rob Nice are hosting the in-arena festivities.
I don’t know what everyone else came to see, but for me, All-Star Saturday night is always about the finale. It’s a chance for someone to etch their name in All-Star lore with a mercurial performance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, much like that fella wearing No. 23 above did back in 1987.
Some of the All-Stars made their own predictions, several of them, assuming that James “Flight” White will rise above the crowd and do the most damage on his way to the title.
But first up we have the Sears Shooting Stars competition. I’m going with Team [James] Harden and the hometown advantage (he’s rolling with Sam Cassell, a man anyone would want on their team requires you to make clutch shots. (Team Westbrook should be dangerous, though, with Robert Horry and Maya Moore rocking with Russell Westbrook.)
– 8:37 — Team Westbrook handled business with the fastest time at 29.5 seconds. Team Harden kicked it off with a 37.9 as the West finished their business.
– 8:44 — Dominique Wilkins still has the touch. Knocks down the 3-ball for Team Bosh. They needed 50 seconds to finish, though.
– 8:45 – What’s up with Brook Lopez shooting 3-pointers like free throws? 1:07 for Team Lopez. The East is down 20-0 going into the championship.
– 8:47 – So much for prediction. Team Bosh and Team Westbrook squaring advance and ready to square off in the championship round.
– 8:52 – I root for Swin Cash in whatever she does. Too bad she’s stuck on a team with Bosh and ‘Nique instead of say, myself and John Schuhmann … 1:29 for them in the championship round. The pressure is on Team Westbrook.)
– 8:54 – Team Westbrook can’t get it done. Team Bosh gets the win and Nique gets the MVP for knocking down both of his team’s half court shots. As my man Randy Moss would say, Straight (Swin) Cash Homie!
– 8:56 – Team Bosh collects the first hardware of the night in the Sears Shooting Stars. Nique is feeling good. Says he wants in on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, too. (I’m kidding.)
– 8:58 – Gold medal winners from London, both men and women, getting some love on the big stage between events.
TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
– 9:03 – Sounds like the dude from the Price is Right is reading off the rules for this event. I’m ignoring him and checking the shoe game of the contestants. Jeremy Lin kicks are wicked. Need to see an up-close shot.
– 9:05 – Hawks guard Jeff Teague clocks a 49.4, couldn’t get his passes or his 3-pointer from the top of the arc down. And he had the nerve to blow his final shot, going for the layup instead of the dunk. Later son.
– 9:06 – Pistons guard Brandon Knight learns from Teague’s mistakes and finishes with a dunk and a 32.2.
– 9:08 – Sixers guard Jrue Holiday rocks it with a 29.3. Made it look effortless. One of my favorite young players in the league. West has to beat 1:50.9 to topple the East in the contest.
– 9:12 –Jeremy Lin finishes in 35.8 but could have finished faster. He was stylin’ for the home crowd.
– 9:13 –Damian Lillard rips the course in the fastest time of the night so far, 28.8.
– 9:15 – Defending champ Tony Parker bows out with a 48.7. The East picks up 30 points thanks to Lin and Parker. Knight and Lillard move on to the championship round.
–9:17 –Alicia Keys gets some jumbotron love (she’s sitting next to Spike Lee). She looks marvelous, of course. We need to get her to do a theme song, “Hang Time is on fire!”
– 9:20 – Holiday with a 35.6, but Lillard snags a 29.8 for the win, 10 more points for the West and a trophy to go alongside that T-Mobile Rookie of the Year trophy he’s going to get in a few months. Well done young fella, the first rookie to win the event.
– 9:24 – East leads the west 40-30 after two events. They are playing for $500,000 in cash for charity.
FOOT LOCKER THREE-POINT CONTEST NEXT
– 9:32 – I had no idea this Phillip Phillips cat (or band, I’m not sure) sang this song. That’s my jam. I don’t watch American Idol, though, so I didn’t connect the dots. He smashed that performance.
– 9:35 –Steph Curry just warmed up from the corner rack and knocked down the first four without even looking at the basket. Ridiculous. Save some for the contest fella!
– 9:40 – Curry started slow but finished like … well, a Curry. He nets 17 points and Ryan Anderson is up next. He goes off from the start but struggles at the end, finishing with 18. Matt Bonner closes out the order for the West. His shooting stroke is awkward. But he finishes with 19 points, for a total teams score of 54.
– 9:46 – These Knicks kid reporters have stolen the show, clowning everyone and Nick Cannon on the big stage. You gotta love the kids.
– 9:52 –Kyrie Irving forgot to take his warm up shirt off and still finished with 18. And as you might expect, he knocked down his money ball on the last rack to beat the buzzer. Paul George is up next. Love this cat but he’s in the wrong contest. Maybe he meant to sign up for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest? Steve Novak has to make up for PG’s 10. Novak finishes with 17 and the West wins the 40 points. Bonner and Irving for the title. Who picked those two for the final round? I had Curry and Novak. I’m done with the prediction business tonight.
– 10:02 – Kyrie just put on a show. Knocked down eight of his first nine and 17 of his first 18 shots before finishing with 23, two shy of the record. He even got LeBron James up out of his seat during his wicked stretch. Kid is on his championship grind. Bonner goes for 20. The Cavaliers might still be a lottery team but at least they’ve got Kyrie!
SPRITE SLAM DUNK CONTEST IS ON DECK
– 10:07 –Fall Out Boy is on stage and they must be from Chicago because they are wearing their Jordan throwbacks. Rock stars love skinny jeans and tattoos more than NBA youngsters. Now they’ve got 2 Chainz up here with them and he’s singing the hook after doing his rap verse. The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest participants come out while they remain on stage.
– 10:16 –Rudy Tomjanovich, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler are the judges tonight. Houston’s hoops Mt. Rushmore?
– 10:20 – Houston’s own Gerald Green kicks off the contest with a perfect 50 on his first dunk, a reverse tomahawk dunk where he had to duck his head or risk a concussion after he bumped his head on the rim. Crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
– 10:22 –James “Flight” White with the 45 on the two-handed runaway dunk from a step inside the free throw line. He missed his first attempt. Had he made it, the 50 would have been a lock.
– 10:24 –Terrence Ross gets an A for persistence, finally making a behind-the-back 180 after five misses. That was generous for a dude who missed that many dunks.
– 10:26 –Kenneth Faried nets a 39 for a 360 off-the-backboard dunk that looked way better on the replay than it did in real time.
– 10:28 –Eric Bledsoe missed his more aggressive between-the-legs dunk four times before opting for something a little easier to complete. He matched Faried’s 39.
– 10:29 –Jeremy Evans bags a 47 with an assist from Mark Eaton, he jumped over the big man’s head while the former Jazz center was sitting and holding a ball.
– 10:31 –Kevin Hart and Cannon are doing their stand up routine while clowning the All-Star’s baby pictures. I’m going home and burning every baby picture in the house!
– 10:35 – Flight White’s inability to dribble the ball up the floor is going to cost him the title. He’s got all the hops in the world. But he has to go back to the lab and work on the handles. He botched his second dunk attempt and during the allotted 90 seconds and ended up missing his one untimed attempt. That 32 should end his night.
– 10:40 – Green just cut the nets out and is attempting to dunk it twice. Loving the idea. But this is a tough one, even for the cupcake dunker. And now we have to wait for someone to find the replacement nets for this rim. He timed out as well and then missed his untimed attempt for a matching 32. Somebody get Nique some shoes.
– 10:45 – Ross only needs a 33 to represent the East. Just do something normal and you are in. Hang time … he’s got a 49 and moves into the final. There is going to be some serious complaining about this format.
– 10:47 – Faried with a 50 for his between the legs jam after just two steps. Is it me or do the 50s get tossed around rather liberally these days.
– 10:48 – Bledsoe with a 50 of his own for the sick reverse windmill off the bounce.
– 10:49 – Evans dunks two balls but with no authority whatsoever, collects his 43 and advances from the West. There won’t be a whole lot of debating about what went on here.
– 10:53 – Judging by the looks on the faces of former dunk champions sitting around the floor, they’re not impressed with what they have seen tonight. Power used to be a dunk contest staple. Now the apparent degree of difficulty has trumped raw power. I’m trying to be diplomatic tonight. I’m going to need some time to digest what we’ve seen tonight before I start shredding these performances.
DUNK FINAL ROUND
– 10:56 – Evans goes over a the cloaked painting of himself jumping over a cloaked painting of himself dunking and then he signs it. Nice touch but I’d have been more impressed if he snatched the cloak off the painting on his way up.
– 10:58 – Ross throws down a grimy leaning reverse jam that Rockets forward Terrence Jones bounced off the side of the backboard. Arguably the second best dunk of the night behind Green’s first attempt in Round 1.
– 11:01 – Evans has outlandish hops. Jumping over Dahntay Jones and doing his own version of the Jumpman pose showed off just how ridiculous his vertical is folks. RIDICULOUS!
– 11:03 – Ross trumps him with a between-the-legs, jump over the ball boy dunk that should seal the crown for the Raptors rookie.
– 11:06 – Ross takes the title. He made up for his rough start to the competition by bring out his best when it matter most. The West won the night, though, finishing with 140 points to the East’s 125.
Let the debate rage on about the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, though. Because no one leaves the Toyota Center tonight feeling like we saw the absolute best of the best ply their trade in this contest. Someone out there, someone hungry and creative, needs to step up. MJ and Nique aren’t walking through that door!
HANG TIME, Texas — The last time James White and Gerald Green were in a slam dunk contest together, they practically blew the roof off with a 2010 Russian Cup performance that’s become a YouTube cult classic.
The Pacers’ 6-foot-8 Green won the event in 2007 at Las Vegas when he leaped over a table to dunk in the final round to beat out Dwight Howard and finished runner-up to Howard in 2008 despite a crowd-pleasing first-round dunk where he blew out the candle on a cupcake that was sitting on the back of the rim.
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, an all-inclusive skills showcase, will take place on Feb. 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston and will be televised live by TNT at 8 p.m. ET.
Two of the league’s long-range shooters — Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Steve Novak of the Knicks — will lead opposing teams in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Curry’s West teammates will be Ryan Anderson of the Hornets and Matt Bonner of the Spurs. Joining Novak on the East team will be Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and Paul George of the Pacers.
It’s worth noting that Novak will be returning to the Toyota Center court where he broke into the NBA with the Rockets in 2006, while the league’s top 3-point percentage shooter — Kyle Korver of the Hawks — will not take part. But Anderson has the most 3-pointers this season.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will have Texans Tony Parker of the Spurs and Jeremy Lin of the Rockets joining forces with Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard for the West against the Hawks’ Jeff Teague, the Sixers’ Jrue Holiday and the Bucks Brandon Jennings.
The Sears Shooting Stars Competition, which features NBA players, WNBA players and NBA legends, will have James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Maya Moore, Robert Horry and Sam Cassell of the West taking on an East team of Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Dominique Wilkins and Muggsy Bogues.
As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night champion. Dwyane Wade of the Heat will serve as the East team captain and the Clippers’ Chris Paul will lead the West.
In addition, NBA Cares and State Farm will make a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the event, with $350,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $150,000 to the runner-up conference’s charities. All of the charities will be selected by the conference captains, the NBA, and State Farm.
In drafting players for Team Chuck and Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal went in opposite directions with their top picks. Shaq built his foundation on the high-scoring backcourt of Irving and Lillard, while Barkley went for big men in Anthony Davis and Faried.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The craziest thing about the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles this season is that the Boston Celtics have been dealing with very similar issues. The two franchises with the most NBA championships have been this season’s two most disappointing teams.
Yet, both teams are playing their best basketball of the season. The Celtics have gone 5-0 without their point guard, while the Lakers have won six of their last seven.
So it’s a great time for these two teams to meet tonight (8 ET, TNT) for the first time. The Lakers, still three games out of a playoff spot, have more on the line. But the Celtics can move up a spot to seventh (avoiding the Heat in the first round would probably be a good thing) in the Eastern Conference standings and surely would love to knock off their cross-country rivals.
Kevin Garnett is six points away from being the 16th player in league history to score 25,000 career points. Garnett’s scoring average has dipped quite a bit over the last five years, but he still ranks second on the all-time list among active players.
Most career points, active players
The 10 guys listed above have all scored in different ways. Garnett has been Mr. Mid-range, attempting 52 percent of his shots from between the paint and the 3-point line, the highest rate of the group.
Garnett has never been a traditional big man and has always attempted about half of his shots from mid-range. But over the last two seasons (strangely coinciding with his move from power forward to center), that number has been at 58 percent.
Of the group above, only Antawn Jamison has had a higher percentage of his shots assisted. Since the 1996-97 season (his second year), Garnett has been assisted on more than 68 percent of his buckets, by 101 different teammates.
Most assists to Garnett since 1996-97
Among the players with exactly one assist to Garnett are former Celtics Rasheed Wallace and Brian Scalabrine. TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal had exactly four assists to KG.
Because he spent 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett has scored his most points against Western Conference opponents. The Lakers are currently fifth on the list, but could be third by the end of the night.
There were no Cadillac Eldorados or steak knives to be had, a la “Glengarry Glen Ross.” In the ruthless world of the NBA, at least as it pertained to the woeful Washington Wizards Tuesday morning, there was only third prize: You’re fired.
Oh, and fourth prize: You’re hired. As the interim replacement for coach Flip Saunders, terminated after a 2-15 start in his third season with Washington. Assistant Randy Wittman will take over for the rest of the season in a move that figures to bring more aggravation to Wittman than change to the Wizards’ failing, flailing culture.
This move was, of course, only a matter of time in coming. When I wrote this earlier this month about Saunders and the dysfunctional team that soon would cost him his job, I didn’t even have the confidence to wait for Washington to come to me in Chicago; I jumped on it a day early because the ax seemed that ready to fall. Two weeks later, it did, a 2-7 mark since then and looking little different from the disarray, lack of purpose and absence of development that preceded it.
The Wizards — especially Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and increasingly John Wall — seem like raw, incorrigible talent, oblivious to the value of coaching, committed only to their knucklehead ways. They knew that Saunders was a dead man walking, whether he stayed or went, because they had tuned him out. There are no old heads on the roster, no veterans both respected enough and involved enough to act as the coaches’ trustees in that locker room. (more…)
HANG TIME MIDWEST BUREAU — Sombreros are wrong on a couple of levels. First, it’s a little shaky to reduce anyone’s ethnic heritage to an article of clothing and a clichéd one at that. (There, HTB’s political correctness obligation is officially met.)
Second, and more pertinent, the big, floppy brimmed hats that dotted Target Center Friday night are a product of Mexico. Ricky Rubio is an import from Spain.
But a little misdirected enthusiasm – along with the “Ole! Ole!” calls – was understandable given the excitement and the circumstances Friday night in Minneapolis. Rubio, the much ballyhooed No. 5 pick from the 2009 NBA draft for whom Timberwolves fans had waited two years, had the locals en fuego and the mighty Miami Heat in trouble. For a while, anyway, in the Heat’s 103-101 victory.
In only his third NBA game, Rubio scored 12 points with 12 assists and six rebounds – the first Minnesota player with a stats line like that since Sam Cassell in 2004. He ran the Wolves’ attack in nearly 31 minutes off the bench. Hit a pair of 3-point shots among his 4-of-7 shooting. Dazzled the joint several times with uncanny, casual reckless (for most guys, at least) passes that generally found their marks – except for that costly fling past Wayne Ellington, out of bounds, in the final minutes. It was one of Rubio’s five turnovers.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A rematch is the easy box to place these NBA Finals in after the 2008 title chase won by the Celtics in six games.
Not exactly, warns the Prime Minister, who pointed out a major difference in the Celtics now compared to a two years ago.
Sure, that 2008 Celtics team was led by the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. But the supporting cast was led by veterans Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown. They were the ones that provided the glue work that kept things together for the Celtics throughout the playoffs and particularly against the Lakers in the Finals.
Fast forward to Thursday night and ask yourself if you believed that Nate Robinson, Glen Davis and Tony Allen would play critical roles for a team trying to win a second NBA title in three years?
I know it sounds crazy. It sounded the same way when we started bouncing the idea around here at the hideout (prior to our Memorial Day grill-a-thon that will commence this afternoon or whenever the rain stops).
They’ve certainly relied on their youngsters (Rajon Rondo is included in that group) during this Finals run. Robinson’s 13-point outburst in the first half of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals (below) was the difference in the Celtics leading at the half in a game that, had it gone any other way, might have cost them this opportunity to snag banner No. 18.
The Celtics have two veterans (Rasheed Wallace and Michael Finley) I suspect will be called upon for major contributions in the Finals, so maybe we’ve seen the last of Robinson. And perhaps Tony Allen and Davis won’t need to perform any superhuman feats this time around.
But this idea that the Celtics are the Geritol Gang is pretty misguided.
They’ve had a steady flow of contributions from their youngsters this season. Whether that continues or not, remains to be seen. But you can be sure that Celtics coach Doc Rivers will push every button he can to get his team going.
“I told him I loved him, and I told him at some point it was going to happen for him,’’ Rivers said. “And it was all up to him to stay engaged. And he did. I get no credit out of this. Nate Robinson stayed focused in 30-straight-whatever games without playing, and stayed focused. And to me, that is more important than anything he’s done tonight.’’