February 18, 2018, 11:55 pm
Damian Lillard‘s third All-Star Game was his best yet. Alas, it didn’t end in victory. Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145 in a spirited, competitive All-Star Game that came down to its final moments. Maybe if Team Stephen coach Mike D’Antoni had kept the Portland Trail Blazers superstar on the floor, Sunday’s contest would have been over before crunch time.
Lillard first entered the game with 5:45 left in the first quarter, replacing James Harden as Team Stephen’s primary ball handler. He wasted little time getting involved, hoisting up a deep triple from the left wing that missed everything but the waiting hands of teammate Draymond Green. Fortunately, that ugly airball wasn’t a harbinger of things to come. Lillard first got on the board with a jumper from the elbow, after walking into a long offensive rebound. He finished the first quarter with four points, two rebounds and one assist, helping Team Stephen to a 42-31 lead.
Lillard remained on the floor for the first few minutes of the second quarter, too. His first triple of the night, a 31-footer, came from the All-Star logo that stretched just past both sides of halfcourt.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 19, 2018
The Blazers’ star mostly played bystander from there, missing another long 3-pointer as Team LeBron made a run. He exited the game with 8:09 remaining before intermission, finishing the first half with seven points, two rebounds and one assist on 3-of-6 from the field, with his squad up 78-76.
All that rest, which included a lengthy halftime performance on the floor and typical amounts of broadcast commentary, did Lillard well. Starting the second half for Team Stephen alongside Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Green and Joel Embiid, Lillard came out aggressive. After misfiring on a designed triple on the opening possession of the third quarter, Lillard scored seven points and found Embiid for a 3-pointer before Curry subbed in for him with 6:04 left in the third quarter. That was a crucial stretch of the game, too, one that kept Team LeBron’s momentum in relative check despite Team LeBron coach Dwane Casey beginning the second half with his starters.
Lillard’s new All-Star career-high, which was previously 11 points, came on a mid-range jumper midway through the third period. Starting the final stanza, he pushed it higher and higher – while also padding Team Stephen’s lead. Lillard had seven more points over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, and gave his squad a 129-120 advantage on another 3-pointer, his third of the night, with 7:52 left.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 19, 2018
His 20-foot jumper less than a minute later extended Team Stephen’s lead to 13 points, its highest since the first quarter. Unfortunately for Portland fans, and those rooting against Team LeBron, Lillard didn’t have the chance to do what he does best late. He exited for good with six minutes and 36 seconds remaining, with Team Stephen up 133-120, a lead it relinquished entirely after late-game heroics from, who else, LeBron James, named MVP after scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and doling out eight assists.
Lillard entered the All-Star break playing the best basketball of his career. After scoring a team-high tying 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and registering an All-Star best plus-minus of plus-18, it’s never been more obvious that Lillard belongs among basketball’s true luminaries. Here’s hoping he not only continues to do so for the season’s remainder, but in All-Star Games to come – perhaps even in Portland come 2022.
June 2, 2020, 12:28 pmStephen CurryPG, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors opened their practice facility on Monday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Slater adds that five players showed up for voluntary workouts. It's the first time that Golden State's gym has been open in over two months, and there are only three teams who have yet to get players back into team facilities. While it must be nice for the players to get back to some kind of business, the Warriors are not expected to be playing any more games this season given their league-worst record and the likelihood that the NBA trims the fat rather than ask every team to play out the season.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter