SH Blog: The tale of Antetokounmpo, Noah wants Melo to join Bulls

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Milwaukee BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo has truly come a long way to be where he is right now: a wide-eyed, just-turned 19-year-old kid who is learning the ropes of being an NBA player in his first season.

He came from a poor background – so poor that he actually shared a pair of sneakers with his brother whenever he had to play basketball. He is a fun character and has shown flashes of brilliance so far, so when you read about the road taken to be the person he is today, it makes him that much more likable. Amos Barshad of Grantland has a very, very detailed story on how he picked up on the game of basketball and what made him nearly give it up:

It starts in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Greece was transformed by a wave of immigrants — including Giannis’s parents, who left their native Nigeria and had four sons in their adopted country. Velliniatis had played pro ball in Germany before he began pinging around Europe as a “have clipboard, will travel” type of coach. He saw Greece’s changing demographics as a way to help others (and perhaps boost his own career). He began scouring Athens’s new immigrant communities, seeking transformative basketball talent. And for a decade, he failed.“My personal life was going to nothing, my basketball career was not successful, and I said to myself, ‘I will not have big goals in life anymore,’” he tells me over the phone from Greece. He hadn’t played in the NBA; he hadn’t become a big-time coach. Then, a week after he had decided to give up: “I see Giannis.”It wasn’t one of his regular scouting trips; he was just walking through the neighborhood of Sepolia to visit a friend. This is not happening to me! This is not possible!, he said he thought when he spotted the 13-year-old Giannis. “You are chasing for 10 years immigrant kids to play basketball for a mediocre level, and suddenly you have in front of you Julius Erving! Magic Johnson! Michael Jordan!” Never mind that Giannis wasn’t actually playing basketball when Velliniatis first saw him. He was just running around with his brothers. But Velliniatis knew.

“It was mostly like a blackmail,” Velliniatis says, explaining how he convinced Giannis to hoop. “I told him, if I find work for your parents” — their work papers had long expired — “will you play basketball for me?” Then he took Giannis and his brothers to Filathlitikos, a smaller club where he hoped they would get more personal attention. He talked the club into providing a 500-euro monthly stipend — without Giannis ever touching a ball.

For the first few years, it was tenuous. “Many times the kid stopped,” Velliniatis says. “He was going and working, selling little things in marketplaces. I had to go back to the family and drag Giannis back to basketball.” The family had no money; at times, Giannis could go two or three days without eating. The fear of hunger was always a concern, Velliniatis says. “You could see it in the hardness of the kid.” Meanwhile, as Antetokounmpo recalls, “I get taller and taller and taller.”

It’s a long article (fine Grantland articles usually are), but it’s an intriguing story worth reading.

JOAKIM NOAH TELLS MELO TO JOIN CHICAGO:

JoakimNoahSH1Can you imagine Carmelo Anthony playing alongside the kind of gritty defense the Chicago Bulls have? Joakim Noah can, and according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the two All Stars had a meaningful conversation about teaming up next season in Chicago during All-Star weekend last month:

All-Star Convo btwn @carmeloanthony & @JoakimNoah began as discussion on what it’s like to play for Tom Thibodeau. With rumors about Bulls going 4 Melo as well as Thibs coaching NYK, Melo wanted to know about Thibs. From there, convo turned to Noah telling Melo he should join Bulls if he wants to win ring & secure winning legacy. Melo responded to Noah that he admires how hard Bulls play & how hungry they are. Also told him his son’s favorite player is D-Rose. I’m told D-Rose would love for Melo to join Bulls as well. If Bulls ask Rose to help recruit, he will. Sources add tho that it’ll be hard for Melo to turn down the $ and leave NYK.

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Anthony, Taj Gibson and Noah. That sounds scary for the rest of the league and ideal for Anthony if all he wants to do is win. The upcoming summer should be a very intriguing one.

CLIP OF THE DAY: 

Paul George is widely recognized as a great two-way player around the league, but sometimes, even the simplest move can throw off a great defender. Case in point:

OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE:

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NOLA Nightlife at All-Star Weekend — Insider’s Diary

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2014 NBA All-Star Game LogoNBA All Star weekend never fails to disappoint with its fair share of shenanigans. Whether it was the snow holding half the TNT staff hostage at Atlanta-Hartsfield airport or Kevin Hart swearing that if he won the MVP award for the 3rd time at the Celebrity game, he’d strip naked and do wind sprints, the parties are only HALF the fun that is NBA All Star Weekend. It’s an honor to get to GO, let alone be responsible for the Party Circuit Report.

Due to inclement weather, (aka Snowmageddon 2014), my accommodations changed from the JW Marriott with the TNT staff to the REGULAR New Orleans Marriott (the media & NBA Legends hotel) across the street. I can’t lie. We have had nothing but fun since we set foot in this place and the lobby bar is always hoppin’ with old timers, media types like myself that keep the martinis flowing and the bartenders busy and busting with laughter over stories. Strangely, my story of SnowMageddon 2010 when we all had to get to DALLAS which I aptly titled Ain’t Snow Stoppin Us Now has made the rounds, and we have all come to agree that this is SnowMageddon 2.0 considering the drama that has ensued to get the band back together.

Friday Night: Cannon Ball

The Annual Kenny “The Jet” Smith All Star Bash DID NOT disappoint, as per usual. Held at The Metropolitan Club (310 Andrew Higgins Drive), the theme of the party was “grown sexy” (which seems to be the latest and greatest phrase to come along in a long while and was seemingly crafted by The Bachelor “winner’ and now WIFE, Catherine Guidici-Lowe) and looking around the room, there certainly were a lot of people who took that concept to heart when getting dressed for this party.

Nick Cannon was KILLING IT on the 1′s and 2′s, as you will see below, and even Shaq jumped in for a few seconds to strap on the headphones and scratch up a few records. Unfortunately I did NOT get footage of Shaq jumping in to DJ a few songs (SO SORRY!), but I DO have one of him in Vegas during All Star Weekend 2007 at the House of Blues. I’ll dig that up out of the archives for a Throwback Thursday coming soon :-) Here’s a little taste of THAT night.

 

My pseudo companion for the evening was my good friend Baron Davis, who I ran into walking INTO the party, and a few friends I met along the way at dinner at Palace Cafe 50 yards from my hotel (after having run into LaMarcus Aldridge AND Jemele Hill while trying to finish my meal in peace and hit on the cute bartender. Shout out to Chad!).

We arrived at about midnight after attempting to get a cab for 20 minutes (seriously, we could’ve WALKED in the time it took to get the stupid cab) to go not even 2 miles from my hotel. Unfortunately that meant we had to blow off the “Tip Off Party” thrown by the NBA at the Bud Light District BUT it was WELLLLLLLL worth it.

No food was served and the bar wasn’t free but the music was loud (hence my complete lack of voice the following day) and BUMPIN. The era of the night seemed to be centered around late 90′s to early 2000′s hip hop. Think Bay Area rappers and songs like “Back That Thing Up” and Paperboy’s “Ditty” and you have the makings of a “Shake It Fast, Show Me Whatcha Workin With” kinda party….. which is exactly what it turned out to be.

I ran into the lovely Sage Steele from ESPN at the bar as well as The Leglers (Tim & his beautiful, fabulous wife Christina) as well as Mark Spears from Yahoo, David Aldridge, Jared Zwerling from Bleacher Report (an old friend of our editor-in-chief, Mr. Sheridan), and of course, our host, Kenny “The Jet ” Smith and his lovely wife, Gwen, who is drop dead gorgeous, by the way.

Friday night also featured the “Secret So Big They Have To Text You The Location At The Last Minute” Nike/Jordan party. Needless to say I didn’t not attend that because I was having far too much fun at Kenny’s shindig but I did see some pictures and hear some stories from some of the invitees. Apparently it was in some mansion waaaaay outside of town that they’d “converted”. Not sure what that MEANS but there was food and of COURSE, an open bar. It was veritable who’s who in celebrity and sports. I think I’m going to have to make it my personal quest for next year to get closer to Mikey Nike so I can get on this exclusive list.

All Star Saturday Night: Up Jumped The Boogie

The Adidas Party was jumping at the House of Blues and they were having 2 Chainz & Pusha T performing. Nothing special, to be real honest with you. LaMarcus Aldridge was in attendance, as was John Wall….and speaking of him…

Just when you thought he brought the house DOWN with that last dunk, across the parking lot of “Smoothie King Arena” (I still have a hard time saying that) the house was going UP in order to accommodate the Annual TNT Bash. What can I say but that this party was PANDEMONIUM. I used to have a saying during and after Dallas All Star Weekend in 2010: “Ain’t No Party Like The ESPN Party”. Well, guess what Worldwide Leader, you have been OFFICIALLY REPLACED.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@ThatSportsBabe & ThatSportsBabe) saw my running commentary of all things this weekend but for those of you who weren’t dialed in, I want to try to give you the best virtual experience you could possibly have.

The Annual TNT Bash is USUALLY held at the House Of Blues but this year, they opted to go with this self-made party depot called “The Bud Light District.” (The Benson’s, owners of The New Orleans Pelicans, also put together a nice welcoming party for us there on Thursday night but unfortunately I didn’t make it due to my late arrival).

The Bud Light District LITERALLY is this GIGANTIC 2-story tented make-shift mega-club with 6 bars (7 if you count the one Charles Barkley reserved strictly for himself and his friends in the upstairs corner, LOL), 2 entirely separate rooms bridged together by archway, multiple areas carved out for VIP couches/table seating and a beautiful grand staircase that you never would believe was actually the same type of material they use for risers at a Pop Warner football game. Check it out:

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Myself and buddy Lemont Williams from Comcast Sportsnet Southwest had a little trouble getting into the party because I was told I would be “on the list”. Turns out, there was no list and there were actual tickets handed out to this festivus for the rest of us and I couldn’t for the life of me get ahold of my TNT contact to rectify the situation.

ENTER: Wolf Blitzer.

Now, once again I reference Dallas All Star Weekend 2010 in saying that this is when I first MET Wolf. Jemele Hill of ESPN introduced us and we became fast friends. SO MUCH SO that when I saw him in the stands at Jerry World (aka Cowboy Stadium) and I had a hot dog that he wanted a bite of, I obliged. He liked it so much and was complaining of the egregious lines for food (what are ya gonna do? There was 100,000 people there!) that I GAVE HIM my hot dog. Well, god bless him, HE NEVER FORGOT THAT, said he “owed me for that gesture” and whipped out two tickets to this shindig and suddenly I was his “+1″.

You could hear the music from a block away (Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”) but I thought it was just a DJ…..until I walked in and my eyes just about popped outta my head. IT WAS THE REAL KID ROCK UP THERE ON STAGE…..and he was belting it out like it was his last day on earth (or he needed everyone to remember this party the next time he decided to tour so that they’d PAY to come SEE him LOL). Seriously, he went Steven Tyler on this performance.

 

When it got REAL crazy was when he busted out his hit “Bawitaba”. There were 45 year old KIA executives head-bopping to this high-energy/half-heavy-metal song. LOVED IT. It was absolutely my favorite song of the night. Check it out.

 

And then of course there was Sweet Home Alabama, a tribute to Charles Barkley’s home state.

 

I would say there was easily 700 people there at that very moment. By the end of the night after talking to our lovely caterer Vanessa, who was kind enough to guard my backpack with laptop and accessories, she said she thought that about 1100 people had slipped in and out of the facilities between the time the party started at about 10:30 til about 3:30am when we were walking out the door. I took that opportunity to snag a couple of quick pictures of the FOOD they were serving in our VIP area and yes, you see that right, CHICKEN AND WAFFLES, baby. It was a chicken strip wrapped in a mini-eggo, glazed with syrup and then quickly deep fried. I could’ve eaten those for DAYS. The little balls were andoullie sausage and rice balls deep fried. The rest speaks for itself. Check it out below.

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I made the rounds to say hi to some of the KIA execs (hey Dennis Flaherty & Jesse Herrera who kept me in cocktails and cuisine throughout the evening!), ran into Adam Silver who gave me a check peck, wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day & we talked about how great the party was on the stairs as he was going down and I was going up. I said “This is AMAZING”. His response: “Well for what it cost…..” Yeah, I can only IMAGINE. We wished each other well and I wished him an exciting rest of the weekend with his girlfriend and made my way to find my TNT fam.

I caught up with David Aldridge, Steve Smitty Smith, Grant Hill and of course, Chuck and Deezy, the Dynamic Duo. Just as Kid Rock started to wrap it up, I made my way over to plop down for a few on one of the incredibly comfortable couches and chairs that they had set up as if this really were an actual club. Rita Benson LeBlanc came over to give me a hug and say goodbye and “wish [my] footsies well after a night like this.”

She didn’t even know the half of it…..because we had yet to even BEGIN to bring this man-made house tent down.

Now, I am great friends with Charles Barkley and even BETTER friends with Dennis Scott. Say what you will about Deezy, his grumpy days are behind him and he is an INCREDIBLY fun person to hang out with and always gives me sage advice, huge hugs and is a killer dance partner (although I swear he only has about 3 moves LOL) . Today’s lesson was, of course, foot relief for when I got outta my dancing shoes. An “old trick we old heads pull out from time to time after a pick up game.” I was told to order an extra ice bucket from room service and put my feet in them and then pour the ice over it. “It’ll help with the tissue breakdown and swelling pain from the humidity that you’re not used to and your arches from those damn stilettos, girl!” Yeah, gotta love Deezy. I DO call him Big Papa when it comes to stuff like that.

Chuck took that moment of us talking to disappear suddenly and you can know that means only one thing: Turrrible TROUBLE. Chuck is like a 5 year old when he drinks. You need to watch him constantly or he WILL wander into traffic …or in this case: THE DJ BOOTH.

SMDH.

We all know Chuck is from Alabama and earlier, as you saw, Kid Rock sang Sweet Home Alabama and gave him a shout-out to his section up above the stage but apparently Chuck wasn’t done hearing it just one last time:

 

I went downstairs to get some more food and cocktails and the next thing I know, both Chuck AND Deezy are in the DJ Booth and it’s getting downright WILD despite some of the crowd dissipating a bit after Kid Rock had wrapped.

 

As crazy as these two maniacs are, I love them more than life itself. They are seriously like a real life Laurel and Hardy if you hang out with them. (True story: I HAVE actually said “Wait a second, who’s on first? What the hell are you two talking about?” to them a few years back when we were hanging out in Orlando). Now Laurel, that would be Charles now that he’s knocked a few pounds off (Sorry Deez!!!!) decided to push the DJ aside and get on the 1′s and 2′s while Hardy played choir director. It was the Church of Chuck and Deezy and EVERYBODY was feelin it.

 

They went on to do a couple more of these laryngitis-filled karaoke sets and then Deezy came down off the stage to dance with ME to Bruno Mars “Treasure” and a few others. (Yeah, no video on that one, guys. Sorry! Had my hands full!)

At that point, the evening started to wind down and I managed to sneak away with some leftovers that I’d been nibbling on all night from the VIP area we were allowed access to, thanks again to Wolf Blitzer. I guess our friendship will always be based upon FOOD somehow.

I went to grab my shoes and bag in the other room and use the ladies room (which was a TRAILER on wheels….not a port-a-potty….an ACTUAL bathroom made from a trailer) as Deezy said that we were all “bouncing” and when I got back, Chuck gave the last shout out of the night to all his haters and his fans. Ya can’t help but laugh at this:

 

Walking out we realized it was damn near 4am and we were actually all proud of each other for hanging in there as long as we did. I was told by Chuck that “Girl you prolly out like this 3x a week in Vegas and if you not, you OUTTA be.”. Deezy gave me a big hug and said “You keep us young, baby girl. Get home safe and get some sleep for the brunch tomorrow.”

Oh yeah…. Legends Brunch was in the SIX HOURS. D’oh!!!! How am I gonna pull THIS OFF!?

 

Sunday: Brunchin’ And Ballin’

This was my first Legends Brunch and I really had it in my head that it was this intimate like 100 person thing. Oh no. I dragged my sorry self outta bed, threw on a Balenciaga pantsuit and heels (despite my foot cure from Deezy, they were still not yet NEAR repaired) and got myself on over there.

What I THOUGHT would be a (roughly) 100 person affair turned out to be a TWELVE hundred person extravaganza celebrating legends in the NBA abound and a special tribute to the legend of ALL legends, 11 time champion and 12 time All-Star, Bill Russell, who was celebrating his 80th birthday this past week on February 12th.

Let’s just stop for a second and acknowledge that. Bill Russell….the GREAT, AMAZING Bill Russell….is 80.

EIGHTY YEARS OLD.

Before we got to that though, we noshed on everything from chicken sausage, fruit smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, muffins, shrimp and grits, mashed potatoes, parfait and baby cheesecakes, just to name a few….and of course there were mimosas. I mean, cmon son. I think I caught Moses Malone more than a FEW times picking up a few.

I will save the video I have from the brunch, as I was literally, at one point, nodding off because I was just so worn down but you WILL be able to catch the entire broadcast on TNT shortly and often. One thing I will never forget from that is this: Opening MC, comedian DL Hughley (who I LOVE) saying that he would suggest that the left side of the room “Clear out” when they were to roll out [Bill Russell's] cake with all those candles because “It gonna be hot as hell ova there” from all those candles and that fire goin’. Absolutely epic.

 

The yearly poem by Ernie Johnson, was, of course, hilarious and THEN there was Shaq who described a situation in which he approached a coach at a very young age with the desire to play professional basketball. When he told the coach how old he was (and his height) he got the response of “you’re WHAT!?!? WAIT..”. Here’s some clips of that:

 

Sunday night’s game was an exhibition, of course, and Pharrell blew the DOORS off the joint with that opener (someone actually said “If they get Ludacris up there, life as we know it might just end right here and now”. Ha!

We wrapped the night by trying out the Samsung Galaxy Suite IN our media hotel. Open bar, flatbreads, some finger foods, pool tables, MORE battery change out stations and….wait for it……..A POP SHOT. YES. A Pop Shot. I thought the Adidas gifting suite had it goin on when I came in on Friday and they offered me a beer and a place to charge my phone. Yeah…. not even close to this madness. Here are some pictures of the Galaxy Suite to wet your whistle.

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Samsung Galaxy did it up BIG this weekend, so MAJOR shout out to them. Everywhere you went (Jam Session, the game, the events, the TNT party, the media suite), there was a Samsung rep ready to change out your battery for a fresh new 100% ready-to-go one. You have no idea how valuable that was. Honestly, all these videos and pictures were SHOT on my Galaxy Note 3 so if this doesn’t make you want to go out and buy one right now, well then you just can’t be helped. The battery life is amazing but I KILLED IT (literally and physically) taking pictures and video of everything so, OF COURSE, it ran down after a day. I felt like I was either at the Galaxy STATION or manning my phone somewhere in a corner with a charger 30% of the weekend throughout everything. They must have been so sick of me by the end of the weekend. I think we all knew each by name by Saturday. Ha!

When the lounge shut down it became every man for himself and while that SOUNDS GREAT, some of my monkey friends/colleagues should NOT be left to their own devices with Bourbon Street being 2 blocks away. (You know who you are!) We TRIED to all meet UP on Bourbon Street but got separated amongst the chaos. If we weren’t dodging horse poop from the mounted cops, it was chicks stumbling out of bars needing to be held up in order to walk the godforsaken distance to whatever was where they were going to go in order to get “home”.

God Bless ‘em.

My voice may sound like Dikembe Mutumbo and my feet hurt worse than a hooker in heels on the stroll of a New Years Eve in Vegas but we tore NOLA up BIG and even at 35 years old, although I think this trip might have shaved a few years off of my lifespan, it was worth EVERY SINGLE MINUTE.

There’s nothing like being around your friends while getting to do a job you love in the process. This job makes ME happy and the NBA thanked NOLA for making US happy at the end of Sunday night’s game on the Jumbotron which is must-see TV. My only wish I’d gotten the other 10 seconds of it when it started. Thanks for making ME “Happy”, NOLA. I wish we could do it like this every year.

 

SH Blog: A list of relevant players expected to come up in trade rumors, Howard says he doesn’t have to ask for the ball anymore

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With the trade deadline slowly approaching (next Thursday, to be exact), there are a specific group of players who should concern themselves with the possibility of being dealt.

Whether it’s due to the team’s priorities or their own contract situations, there are eight specific players who will come up in plenty of rumors before it is all said and done, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com. Here are some of the most intriguing thoughts from the piece:

lowryKyle Lowry was supposed to be an early trade chip for relatively cheap this season, but his stock has risen exponentially since Rudy Gay was traded. The point guard has elevated his level of play to the point where most believed he was snubbed from this year’s All-Star team (I thought he should have made it over DeMar DeRozan). If anything, however, all Lowry has done is make Masai Ujiri’s job more difficult:

Now it appears the Raptors are less likely than more likely to trade Lowry by the deadline. If a team overwhelmed them with an offer, they’d most assuredly listen, but the likelihood is growing that Lowry will finish the season in Toronto. The chance of a division championship is too enticing.

That doesn’t mean the Raptors are going to pay him in the summer.

The fear of investing heavily, only to find that this season is fool’s gold, a contract drive by a player with a history of injuries, is likely too great. The best guess is that Lowry plays it out, and, depending on how he and the Raptors do down the stretch, he’ll be in the driver’s seat in the summer.

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SH Blog: Dan Gilbert still has hopes for Cavaliers this season, Barkley says Curry is not a superstar

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Dan GilbertThe Cleveland Cavaliers are an absolute mess this season, and owner Dan Gilbert has finally had enough.

After watching his team suffer a humiliating defeat at home against a depleted Los Angeles Lakers team on Wednesday, Gilbert made the decision to fire general manager Chris Grant, the architect of this currently-disastrous team. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the news:

Gilbert informed Grant of his dismissal late Thursday morning, sources said.

Assistant general manager David Griffin will take over as the interim GM, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Gilbert had grown increasingly frustrated with the losing and dysfunction within the Cavaliers, and the loss to the Lakers – who finished the game with four eligible players – was the breaking point.

Grant had a reputation as a hard-working executive, but failed to construct an infrastructure of talent to return the Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left as a free agent in 2010.

Grant had been responsible for drafting several high lottery picks that have yet to validate themselves, including No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett in the 2013 NBA draft. Grant has been waiting for several top-five draft picks, including Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, to fulfill their promise.

So who are the potential replacements for Grant? Ken Berger of CBSSports says there is no shortage of good general managers to choose from:

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Tweet of the Day: Damian Lillard’s Busy Weekend

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rising-stars-montage

The Inside the NBA crew took to the airwaves, prior to Thursday night’s game between to the San Antonio Spurs and the Brooklyn Nets, to draft the BBVA Compass Rising Stars teams and announce the entrants in All-Star Saturday’s feature events—the Footlocker Three-Point Shootout and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

First up, the draft—which had some hilarious bickering between co-GMs Chris Webber and Kenny Smith over the first pick of the draft. Webber selected New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis without consulting his elder co-GM.

Team Hill, helmed by co-GMs Grant Hill and Charles Barkley, then made the second pick.