Celtics Notes: Tatum, Walker, Garnett, Sullinger

Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker have been teammates since Walker signed with the Celtics last summer, including their time together with USA Basketball for the FIBA World Cup, but they will be on opposite sides in tonight’s All-Star Game, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Tatum was drafted by Team LeBron while Walker went to Team Giannis, and they can’t wait to face each other on the court.

“Playing against Kemba’s going to be fun,” Tatum said. “Hopefully we get matched up once or twice so I can take him to the post. I’m going to go right at him, so that should be fun.”

“I’m going to hit him with his own move,” Walker responded. “I already got it down pat. I’m going to hit him with a step-back to the right or left, which he usually does. I’m going to get him. He’s been talking some trash, I seen. Said he’s going at me.”

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Tatum failed to defend his title in Saturday’s Skills Competition, being eliminated in the first round by the PacersDomantas Sabonis, notes Marc D’Amico of NBA.com. Tatum blamed the defeat on a lack of practice time. “I didn’t get no practice in before. I shoulda practiced,” he said. “They let you practice like 30 minutes before they open the doors or something. I got busy taking pictures and other stuff.”
  • Kevin Garnett expressed thanks on Saturday for the Celtics’ decision to retire his number and took a swipe at the Timberwolves, who still haven’t made that decision, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe“Listen, I have some great years in Minny, but when comes to management, it’s not even close,” Garnett said. “Minny, they run their team one way. Boston has a culture of basketball. They run it a whole other way and I respect that.”
  • Evan Turner believes his former Celtics teammate, Jared Sullinger, is capable of returning to the NBA, Bulpett adds in a separate story. Sullinger, 27, is in his third year of playing in China. “He’s supposed to be entering his prime. I mean, it’s crazy when you play with him and he’s not in the league,” Turner said. “But, I mean, the league it’s not easy, but sometimes it’s little stuff. It’s right fit. It’s timing. You know, you went from signing with Toronto, broke his foot, was rehabbing and they trade him off to an organization that was kind of like rebuilding (Phoenix, which waived him a day later), just trying to get rid of stuff, and that’s how he ended up lost in the shuffle. So unfortunately that’s what happens every now and then.”

Marcin Gortat Announces Retirement

Former NBA center Marcin Gortat confirmed his retirement from basketball in an interview with TVP Info (hat tip to Eurohoops).

“It’s time to end my career,” Gortat said. “I think this is the moment when the year has passed – as I said at the beginning, I give myself a year [off] to see what life will bring me – and it brought me to this decision, that I am going to retire, I’m finishing my professional playing.”

The Polish native played 12 NBA seasons, spending most of his time with the Magic, Suns and Wizards. His career ended when the Clippers waived him before the end of the 2018/19 season. He had a chance to play in Poland last month, but turned it down because of health concerns.

After being taken with the 57th pick in the 2005 draft, Gortat went on to appear in 806 NBA games. He averaged 9.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG for his career.

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Bryant, Kidd-Gilchrist, Sonju

Luka Doncic is a little bit starstruck as prepares for his first experience in the All-Star Game, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic will start for Team LeBron in tonight’s game, but first came a weekend that included the Rising Stars Challenge, practice sessions with a more experienced group of All-Stars and a chance to interact with legends of the game, including a Jordan Brand party Friday night where he met Michael Jordan for the first time.

“It was something amazing,” Doncic said. “I was too nervous. I forgot to ask him for a picture.”

A few days shy of his 21st birthday, Doncic will become the youngest European to ever play in the All-Star Game, Townsend notes. He’s the sixth-youngest starter in the game’s history and the youngest since LeBron James was a starter 15 years ago. His coaches will include former Mavericks guard and current Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, who will help run Team LeBron as part of Frank Vogel’s staff.

“I told [Doncic] we’re going to play him 40 of the 48 minutes,” Kidd joked. “When you’re young, you can play all the minutes in the world. So there won’t be any load management.”

There’s more Mavericks news to pass along:

  • One of the most memorable moments of Doncic’s second NBA season was the night in Staples Center when Kobe Bryant trash talked him in Slovenian. The encounter took on added significance with Bryant’s death a few weeks later. Marc Stein of The New York Times says Bryant picked up the off-color phrases from former teammate Sasha Vujacic. “It’s going to be one moment that I remember for the rest of my life,” Doncic said. “Obviously I was hoping there would be more times with him, maybe even practice with him some day, but a terrible thing happened.”
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is grateful for the opportunity to restart his career in Dallas after reaching a buyout with the Hornets, relays Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News, and the Mavs believe he can be a valuable contributor as the games become more important. “The guy has a reputation for being a gamer and a hell of a competitor,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
  • Mavericks co-founder Norm Sonju received the Jerry Colangelo Award at Saturday’s All-Star breakfast, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com. The award recognizes someone in management who lives an exemplary life on and off the court and while expressing high character, leadership and faith. Sonju served as team president and general manager before retiring in 1996.

Latest On The Dunk Contest Controversy

The judges at Saturday’s dunk contest intended for the event to end in a tie, but their plan failed when three of them awarded nines on Aaron Gordon‘s final jam, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

After Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon both received 50s on their first dunks in the dunk-off, Jones finished his night with a running slam from just inside the foul line that received a 48. Gordon sought to clinch the trophy in dramatic fashion by jumping over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, but after a long wait the judges awarded him three nines and two 10s for a final score of 47.

“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” said hip-hop artist Common, who served as one of the judges. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”

A second judge, Candace Parker, confirmed Common’s comments, saying the intent was for the dunk-off to end in a tie, which would have meant a poll of the judges to determine a winner.

“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common said after a breath-taking series of dunks from both competitors. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”

Gordon started the event with perfect scores on his first five dunks. He expected a sixth after dunking over Fall, and he and the crowd at the United Center in Chicago were visibly dismayed when the final results left him a point behind Jones. It was a familiar experience for Gordon, who also lost the 2016 dunk contest to Zach LaVine in a controversial decision.

“We’re here to do four dunks,” Gordon told reporters afterward. “It should be the best of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”

There’s more on the wild finish to All-Star Saturday Night:

  • Despite the controversy, Jones believes he was the rightful winner and was unhappy with the score he received on his final dunk, relays Andre Fernandez of The Athletic“When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school,” Jones said. “I know that’s 50-worthy. There’s no way I should have gotten a 48.”
  • Jones also said he could have kept dunking as long as the contest remained tied (video link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I just turned 23,” said Jones, who had a birthday cake wheeled onto the court before his first dunk. “I’ve got legs for days, bro.”
  • Fall tells Shelburne that his role in Gordon’s final dunk wasn’t pre-arranged (Twitter link). After a night that saw several dunks over other people, Gordon picked out the tallest man in the building. “I was scared for my life,” Fall admitted.
  • Dwyane Wade, one of the three judges who gave Gordon a nine on his final attempt, denied that the score was a favor to Jones, his former Heat teammate. “I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Wade said in a video tweeted by Complex Sports.
  • Several commentators suggested that the controversy may affect the league’s ability to get elite dunkers in future competitions. After watching the event, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who many wanted to see participate this year, tweeted, “Y’all just made my decision easier,” then later sent out a video of American Idol judge Randy Jackson saying, “Yeah, it’s a no from me dawg.”
  • Dwight Howard offered a tribute to Kobe Bryant with his second dunk, taking off his shirt to reveal a Superman jersey underneath, then taking away the S logo to to show a number 24. He told Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that Bryant had agreed to be part of the dunk before his tragic death last month (Twitter link).

Community Shootaround: Was Aaron Gordon Robbed?

After receiving 50s on his first five dunks, Orlando’s Aaron Gordon got a 47 from the judges on his final attempt and settled for second place in a controversial finish to this year’s dunk contest. The score came on a dunk where he leaped over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, and the result was reminiscent of the 2016 dunk contest where Gordon finished second to Zach LaVine.

Gordon thrilled the crowd with a series of memorable slams, but still finished behind Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr., who put on a show of his own. It’s being hailed as of the greatest dunk showdowns in the history of the contest, but it will likely be remembered for its unpopular finish.

TNT announcers Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller both criticized the judging when the final score was revealed, and a host of NBA reporters followed suit on Twitter.

“Call the cops! Aaron Gordon just got robbed! When you dunk over Tacko Fall that’s a 50!” tweeted Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report.

“Aaron Gordon has jumped over Stuff the Magic Dragon and Tacko Fall and he’s somehow 0 for 2,” added Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. “Nobody has ever done more and gotten less.” (Twitter link)

The world record in the high jump is 7 ft 11.67 inches,” noted former NBA executive John Hollinger, who now writes for the Athletic. “Gordon jumped over a guy who is 7-6 in shoes, grabbed a basketball and dunked it.” (Twitter link)

Gordon was among those unhappy with the judging, telling reporters, including Fred Katz of The Athletic, “Jumping over someone who’s 7’5″, that’s no easy feat. … What’d I get? 47? C’mon, man. What’re we doing? … I don’t even know who gave me the 9s. I’m gonna find them.” (Twitter links)

Gordon also said he’s through with the dunk contest and may try the 3-point competition in the future. “It’s a wrap,” he said. “I feel like I should have two trophies. So it’s over for that.” (Twitter link)

We want to get your feedback. Did Gordon deserve to win? Should the judges have declared the contest a tie in recognition of the great dunks from both Gordon and Jones that sent the contest into overtime? Please leave your feedback in the space below.

Five Key Stories: 2/9/20 – 2/15/20

If you missed any of this past week’s biggest headlines from around the NBA, we’ve got you covered with our Week in Review. Here are some of the most noteworthy stories from the last seven days:

USA Basketball announced a preliminary list of 44 players who will be considered for spots on the Summer Olympics team. The Lakers led the way with five selections in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee.

The late Kobe Bryant was among eight finalists announced for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Perennial All-Stars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are also eligible for the first time.

Already sporting the league’s best record, the Bucks added some depth by signing Marvin Williams, who reached a buyout agreement with the Hornets. Milwaukee waived Dragan Bender to make room for Williams.

Darren Collison, who had been pondering an NBA comeback with the Lakers or Clippers, decided to sit out the rest of the season. The former Pacers guard may reconsider his plans this summer.

The Trail Blazers had a setback to their playoff hopes when Damian Lillard suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for one to two weeks. Lillard was replaced in the All-Star Game and Three-Point Contest by Suns guard Devin Booker.

Here are 10 more noteworthy headlines from around the basketball world this week:

  • The TimberwolvesKarl-Anthony Towns may be sidelined past the All-Star break with a wrist injury. Minnesota is in contention for the league’s worst record and figures to be cautious with its franchise center.
  • Paul George‘s troublesome left hamstring flared up again in the Clippers‘ final game before the break. It’s the third time this season that George has experienced a problem with the hamstring.
  • MVP candidate Luka Doncic was back on the court Wednesday after missing seven games with an ankle sprain. He was also healthy enough to play in the Rising Stars Challenge.
  • Knicks consultant Steve Stoute stirred up controversy by stating in an interview that interim coach Mike Miller won’t be brought back next season. In response, the team issued a statement denying that Miller’s fate has already been decided.
  • The Knicks will consider Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau as coaching candidates for next season.
  • A report suggests unrest in Sacramento as owner Vivek Ranadive is unhappy with the direction of the franchise. General manager Vlade Divac and coach Luke Walton aren’t in any immediate danger of being replaced, but Ranadive plans to reassess the situation this summer.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist signed with the Mavericks after reaching a buyout agreement with Charlotte. Dallas waived Ryan Broekhoff to make room on the roster.
  • The Hawks promoted two-way player Brandon Goodwin to their 15-man roster, signing him to a two-year contract. Atlanta had a roster opening after being active at the trade deadline.
  • Dion Waiters expects to talk to the Lakers after clearing waivers. He was released by the Grizzlies this week after being acquired from Miami in the Andre Iguodala trade.
  • The Knicks remain the most valuable franchise in the NBA in this year’s franchise valuations by Forbes.

Knicks Notes: Miller, Barrett, Rose, Dinwiddie

The Knicks should be focused on the future, but interim coach Mike Miller doesn’t appear ready to give more minutes to the team’s younger players, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman suggests Miller is more concerned with his own future in the organization. His 13-20 record is a marked improvement over David Fizdale’s 4-18 start, but there’s no guarantee Miller will be brought back next season, especially after comments this week from consultant Steve Stoute.

Miller’s philosophy is doing nothing to help 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox or Dennis Smith Jr., who was among the keys to the Kristaps Porzingis deal. Knox played just 10 minutes Wednesday in the team’s final game before the break and hardly had any role in the offense. Smith played six minutes and committed four turnovers.

“As we approach this, this is all about development,’’ Miller said. “That will never change. It’s about how these guys get better just if they get 10 more minutes in a game. There are a lot of things that go into the development to make these guys better. Just having minutes isn’t the end-all. I think there are other ways and other factors.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • Before posting a game-high 27 points last night in the Rising Stars Challenge, RJ Barrett assessed the Rookie of the Year race and said he should be a contender, Berman adds in a separate story“A lot of people deserve [Rookie of the Year], a lot of people work hard for it,” Barrett said. “I don’t know. It’s kind of hard not to vote for myself.” The third pick in last year’s draft, Barrett is averaging 13.6 PPG in 44 games and shooting 38.8% from the field.
  • As he prepares to take over as head of basketball operations for the Knicks, Leon Rose is keeping a characteristically low profile at All-Star Weekend, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. Rose hasn’t officially taken on his new duties and is still completing the paperwork to end his time as an agent. A source tells Popper that Rose plans to replace general manager Scott Perry, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
  • Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie doesn’t expect his cross-town rivals to be a threat any time soon, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “They’ll probably have a high draft pick,” Dinwiddie said of the Knicks. “Unless they do something via trade or via free agency, which I don’t know if this free agency class is that spectacular, they’re probably not going to be that good. We’ll see. I can’t tell the future. But more than likely, I mean Kevin Durant is coming back. And he’s Kevin Durant. He’s really good.”

Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Trophy Unveiled

Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA will rename its All-Star Game MVP Award in honor of Kobe Bryant, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star selection and played in 15 of the games. He was named All-Star MVP four times, a record he shares with Bob Pettit (Twitter link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post).

The league is still in shock over the death of Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Silver explained that the NBA decided not to cancel its games on that day because fans were already at several arenas and the league wasn’t able to confirm Bryant’s death in time to call off the games. He adds that the decision to play was made after discussion with the Players Association (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune).

Silver addressed a few other topics in his annual All-Star Weekend press conference:

  • He expects a “return to normalcy” soon in the league’s relationship with China, but can’t predict when that will happen, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Silver adds that NBA games still aren’t being shown on CCTV and said that decision is “outside of our control.” The league won’t press China to begin showing them again (Twitter link). Silver added that the loss of business from China is only partially tied to the league’s revenue decline and expressed hope that the nation might host pre-Olympic games this summer or NBA preseason games in the fall (Twitter link from Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). Silver expects the loss of revenue from China to be “substantial,” estimating it will be “less than $400MM.” (Twitter link“We accept the consequences of our system and our values,” he added (Twitter link).
  • Silver is still optimistic that the NBA’s Board of Governors will eventually approve a mid-season tournament, but nothing is currently imminent (Twitter link). He said discussions are being held with players and media partners about that tournament and a play-in tourney for the final playoff spots in each conference (Twitter link).
  • The commissioner also discussed a Comcast/Altitude dispute that is preventing many Nuggets games from being shown in Denver. Silver said owners are examining the best methods for distributing their games (Twitter link).

Pau Gasol Aims For Olympics, Possible NBA Comeback

Pau Gasol hopes to represent Spain in the Olympics this summer and hasn’t given up on a return to the NBA next season, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Before either of those things can happen, Gasol will need to fully rehabilitate the left foot injury that forced him to undergo surgery last spring. Gasol, 39, signed with the Trail Blazers in July, but was never able to suit up for the team. Portland waived him in November.

“I’m in rehab right now, just focusing solely on and prioritizing getting my foot healed so I can get back out there and try to play again,” said Gasol, who was wearing a walking boot during an interview with ESPN Radio.

He admitted that retirement remains “a possibility” if the foot doesn’t heal the way he hopes. Gasol said it was a mutual decision with the Blazers to release him so he could do rehab work independently.

“We just agreed that it was better for me just to focus on the rehab and not have to be under a team kind of a schedule,” he added. “Just focusing solely and prioritizing my health, and from then we’ll see.”

Gasol played 18 NBA seasons and won a pair of championships with the Lakers. He played a combined 30 games for the Spurs and Bucks last year.

Hoops Rumors Originals: 2/9/20 – 2/15/20

Every week, the Hoops Rumors writing team creates original content to complement our news feed. Here are our original segments and features from the past seven days: