All-Star Saturday is one of my favorite days of the NBA season, because it’s the best chance we get to see players just having fun. More than just about any other sports league on the planet, the NBA likes to show off its players’ charisma, flair, and general ability to entertain. And it’s working. Just ask every company that uses an NBA player in their advertising. Any of the twenty or so of them.
I rounded up some NBA players’ reactions to the dunk contest, so click through for that. Personally, I thought the freestyle round was a cool addition, and the East team had some really slick teamwork. The battle format was a little iffy, though, and only getting to see one dunk from each competitor was a bit of a letdown. Ben McLemore’s rumored 720 never materialized, though his dunk was pretty easily the runner-up to John Wall’s runaway winner. He also had my favorite individual dunk of the freestyle round and showcased his ridiculous hops. On the whole, the dunkers (especially the East, who clearly had a game plan, whereas the West seemed a little starstruck) brought it, but the format held them back.
The other great thing about All-Star Saturday is that everyone’s in one place, and that means one-of-a-kind trade rumor coverage. It’s like baseball’s winter meetings, only with dunks also. It’s a pretty great time for the basketball blogger.
Now let’s get to the news:
LOVE JUST WANTS TO WIN
There was lots of talk about Kevin Love being unhappy in Minneapolis while David Kahn was in charge, but it’s quieted down since Flip Saunders took over. But the Knicks have reason to believe Carmelo Anthony will stick around, so now they need to look at stars to surround him with.
Love’s name has made the speculation rounds, and with his ability to join the free-agent ranks in 2015, that is not changing. He would be a hit, with his talent, personality and flair. When asked about his future and if he ever gives a thought to New York, he replied with a straight-faced deadpan.
“New York? Right now, I’m thinking about Derek Jeter’s decision. How about that?” Love said.
His standard line is “I want to win” and he’ll think about what he wants to do in 2015 in, well, 2015. He is sharp enough to realize it is a no-win situation.
“If I say that I like Charlotte or ‘Charlotte is a great city, I love spending time there,’ then all of a sudden I’m going to Charlotte,” Love said. “Anything I say is going to be a misconception or be some sort of a headline. It’s silly.
“Sure [free agency] is brought up. It crosses my mind. In a way, I just try to put that aside. It’s a question that’s always going to be brought up. Really, I would love not to talk about it and focus on winning now with the Timberwolves.”
So, Knicks fans must wait.
AINGE HINTS RONDO TO KNICKS ISN’T HAPPENING
The main star that the Knicks have been linked to is Rajon Rondo of the rebuilding Celtics. The main problem is that the Knicks don’t really have anything of comparable value to trade.
“Right now there’s just a lot of people trying to feel out what everybody’s trying to accomplish,” Ainge said. “A lot of it is teams wanting to find out where everybody is in case there’s a chance to do a three- or four-team, multiple-team deal, in case there isn’t something that will work with just two teams.
“But I think everybody’s still trying to figure out what are the goals of each team going forward. And some teams don’t have as clear goals as other teams have.”
The best trade talk seems to be emanating from more creative sources. The only problem is it’s not based in reality. For example, it’s been written that the Knicks would like to have Rajon Rondo and are willing to take on bad contracts and give the Celts more flexibility to do it.
But, of course, Ainge isn’t about to give up his best asset for no real major asset in return.
“I honestly haven’t paid that much attention to it,” he said. “I’ve been asked those questions before, but I don’t know anything about those rumors. It’s all a little crazy.”
RAPTORS CORE UNLIKELY TO BE SPLIT UP
Read into this as much or as little as you’d like, but even as Masai Ujiri has shopped every non-Jonas Valanciunas entity on the Raptors, their core doesn’t feel like they’re in danger of being split up.
Asked DeMar if the team has campaigned to keep the core together, he said no but did not think they had to
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) February 14, 2014
ALDRIDGE EXPANDING HIS GAME A big part of what’s made the Blazers a surprise addition to the NBA’s elite this season has been LaMarcus Aldridge’s maturation as a player. He’s coming into his own as one of the league’s best power forwards, and he’s nowhere near done yet. Via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:
Aldridge is among a group of strong power forwards currently in the NBA, particularly in the Western Conference, where he and Griffin are joined by Minnesota’s Kevin Love, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki on the West All-Star roster. It comes as the position continues to evolve. Two of Aldridge’s power forward role models, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, played a style that Aldridge employs — posting up and hitting midrange shots. But the position is opening up to include more athletic players such as Griffin and Davis, and players who can shoot three-pointers, such as Love. Aldridge – who earlier in his career could run baseline-to-baseline fast enough that former teammate Zach Randolph used to call him “Deer” – has settled into a Duncan-Garnett mode, but said he believes that he will add three-point shooting to his regular arsenal at some point. “As I keep getting older, I’m going to add the three ball,” he said. “But I’m not in any rush right now. I’m still kind of young. As I get slower and older, I’m going to shoot more threes.”
CAVS PURSUING SHOOTERS, LIKELY TO MAKE TRADE
Chris Grant is fired. Mike Brown might be soon. Kyrie Irving seems to want out. It’s not a great time in Cleveland. And yet they’re still only three games out of the playoffs, so there’s an argument that they should be buyers at the deadline. Via Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Expect David Griffin to make some type of trade by Thursday’s deadline. The interim general manager believes the Cavs are close to a playoff team — three games out of the final spot thanks to the current four-game winning streak. Griffin also would love to have the interim title taken away from his name, and he works for an owner (Dan Gilbert) who wants his general manager to be aggressive.
The Cavs are looking for outside shooting. A big problem is spacing. Teams tend to clog the middle on the Cavs because they don’t have a power forward — or even a small forward — with 3-point shooting range. Former General Manager Chris Grant saw the same weakness, which is why he tried very hard to sign Kyle Korver and Mike Dunleavy last summer. But free agents took a little less money to sign elsewhere — Korver with Atlanta, Dunleavy to Chicago.
MAGIC LOVE AFFLALO Arron Afflalo didn’t win the 3-point contest, but it does seem like he has his team’s full confidence when it actually matters. He’s another long-term piece in Orlando, making Rob Hennigan look like a genius with the haul he got for Dwight Howard.
The Magic continue to view Arron Afflalo as a piece that fits the big picture plan. His age and contract are workable no rush to change that
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) February 15, 2014
Magic view Arron as the right kind of veteran for their situation. His work ethic, impact on the team & the culture are valued tremendously.
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) February 15, 2014
ANDRE MILLER RETURNING TO NUGGETS?
Time does heal some wounds, apparently, as Denver’s exiled backup point guard might be rejoining the team. Or maybe it’s just necessity, as the Nuggets are desperately thin at the point due to injuries and they happen to be paying Miller already.
Facing a difficult trade market and a glaring hole at the point guard position, Nuggets officials worked out the banished Andre Miller this week and are considering bringing him back, league sources told CBSSports.com.
Miller hasn’t played since Dec. 30 following a public confrontation with coach Brian Shaw. Despite concerns about the 37-year-old’s tendency to put on weight, Miller has lost 12 pounds since being banished from the team, one league source said.
The difficult prospect of smoothing things over between Miller and Shaw has become a possibility given the Nuggets’ lack of point guard depth and trade deadline conditions that one executive described on Saturday as “a very difficult market.” Even though Miller’s $4.6 million salary for next season is fully non-guaranteed, it has still been difficult for Denver to find a team willing to give up assets to take on what’s left of his $5 million salary for this year.
However, Yahoo Sports quoted a person connected to Miller as saying the point guard does not want to stay with the Nuggets under any circumstances. “It’s a burned bridge,” the person said. “… The relationship is irreparable.”