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#pounditSaturday, February 4, 2023

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1 Western Conference All-Star selection sparks debate

Feb 5, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

As big of a storyline as NBA All-Star snubs are every year, a bigger and more controversial storyline might have to do with a player who actually made it.

On Thursday, the NBA officially announced this year’s All-Star reserves for both conferences. In the Western Conference, the reserves were Memphis’ Ja Morant, Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis, the LA Clippers’ Paul George, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Utah’s Lauri Markkanen, and Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Dallas’ Luka Doncic, the LA Lakers’ LeBron James, Golden State’s Steph Curry, and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson were named as the All-Star starters in the West last week.

The selection of Jackson as an All-Star was by far the most divisive. Jackson, who has solid but unspectacular numbers of 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season, was selected over deserving candidates like De’Aaron Fox, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Aaron Gordon, Anthony Edwards, and CJ McCollum. Furthermore, Jackson has only played 35 games this season (which is the fewest of any of the above players except Leonard and Davis).

Here were some of the funny Twitter reactions to Jackson’s All-Star nod.

In fairness to Jackson, he is having an impressive impact for the second-seed Grizzlies. He cleans up shots on the interior, shoots 36.3 percent from deep, and plays absolutely magnificent defense (averaging 1.0 steals and 3.3 blocks per game). But even Jackson’s defensive impact, which has him as a DPOY frontrunner, came under fire recently thanks to a (since-debunked) conspiracy theory.

Sacramento Kings tried to bribe coaches to pick their players for All-Star team

Dec 23, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings power forward Domantas Sabonis (10) smiles after a play against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings did not get the All-Star Game selections they were hoping for, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

The Kings entered Thursday third in the West at 29-21. They seemed like a good candidate to have De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis make it as All-Stars reserves. The Kings apparently sent some nice gifts to the Western Conference coaches to drum up support for Fox and Sabonis.

Each NBA coach vote on the reserves for their respective conferences. Coaches choose two guards, three frontcourt players, and two players at any position to comprise the seven reserves.

According to what Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said Thursday, the Kings sent West coaches wine and basketball cards.

“Jason Kidd commends the Kings for sending West coaches wine and basketball cards to promote the All-Star candidacy of Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox,” MacMahon tweeted.

While Kidd appreciated the gifts, the efforts didn’t produce the desired results.

Though Sabonis made it as a reserve, Fox did not.

The full reserves in the West include: Ja Morant, Sabonis, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Lauri Markkanen and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Fox is averaging 24.3 points on 50.6 percent shooting this season with 4.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.

Andy Reid already ruling out 1 key Chiefs offensive player for Super Bowl?

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid against the New England Patriots during the AFC championship game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LVII is still a full ten days away, but that may not be enough time for one Kansas City Chiefs offensive weapon to get back on the field.

Addressing reporters on Thursday, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid spoke pessimistically about wide receiver Mecole Hardman’s chances of playing in the Super Bowl. Hardman is dealing with a pelvic injury and was one of three Chiefs receivers (along with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kadarius Toney) who did not practice on Thursday.

“I doubt that he’ll make the Super Bowl,” said Reid of Hardman, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic. “He was not going to be denied the other day [last Sunday in the NFC Championship Game]. That’s a tribute to the kid. He pushes himself like no other. He’s a tough, tough kid.”

The former second-round pick Hardman plays a meaningful role in the Chiefs’ passing game with his speed and explosiveness, appearing in all 49 games for them from 2019 to 2021. But Hardman was limited to just eight games this season with his pelvic injury and missed the divisional round against Jacksonville. Hardman did make it back for the AFC title game against Cincinnati but caught just two passes for ten yards before aggravating his injury again and having to exit.

Even with Hardman likely out for the Super Bowl and Smith-Schuster and Toney ailing, the Chiefs still have many talented pass-catchers. They include tight end Travis Kelce, running back Jerick McKinnon, plus wideouts Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Justin Watson. But Kansas City will need to throw everything they have at the Eagles, especially since the Eagles may have an advantage heading into the Super Bowl showdown.

Chiefs fans, you’ll love this Andy Reid cheeseburger shirt. Reid loves his cheeseburgers, and you can wear it. This makes a perfect gift for you or a friend. You can buy it here.

Arrest warrant issued for Joe Mixon over alleged gun incident

Nov 17, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) gestures on the sideline before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is reportedly in legal trouble over allegations that he pointed a gun at a woman.

Reports Thursday indicated that Cincinnati police have a warrant out for Mixon’s arrest stemming from an allegation that he threatened a woman with a firearm. The warrant states that on Jan. 21, Mixon knowingly pointed a firearm at the alleged victim. Mixon allegedly told the victim that she “should be popped in the face” and that “the police can’ get me.” The charge is for “aggravated menacing.”

The Bengals issued a statement confirming they were aware of the situation and were conducting their own investigation.

If the date is accurate, the alleged incident would have taken place one day before Mixon and the Bengals faced the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round.

This is not Mixon’s first brush with the law. The running back was suspended for the entire 2014 season while at Oklahoma for assaulting a woman at a campus eatery. The 26-year-old just finished his sixth season with the Bengals, which saw him rush for 814 yards and seven touchdowns while playing 14 games.

Report: 1 team emerging as favorite to trade for Jarred Vanderbilt

Jarred Vanderbilt meets with the media.

Jarred Vanderbilt is a candidate to be dealt ahead of the NBA trade deadline, and one team has reportedly emerged as a favorite for him.

Stadium’s Shams Charania reported on Thursday that the Portland Trail Blazers are the favorites to acquire Vanderbilt.

“Portland is among a few teams showing interest in Vanderbilt, who appears increasingly likely to be dealt,” Charania reported.

Vanderbilt was one of the players Utah acquired from Minnesota in the massive Rudy Gobert trade.

The 23-year-old former second-round pick is averaging 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season. He has made 41 starts and played in 51 games, averaging 24.2 minutes per contest for Utah.

Vanderbilt is in the second season of a three-year, $13.1 million deal. The 6-foot-9 forward can provide some good frontcourt depth for a team like the Blazers. Portland has Jusuf Nurkic (calf) and Jerami Grant (concussion) as their bigs, but both are dealing with medical issues.

Top NBA reporter reveals 4 biggest trade candidates at deadline

Jun 2, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver talks to media before game one of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

There could be some former All-Stars and Finals run contributors who are on the move at this year’s NBA trade deadline.

Appearing this week on “Up & Adams,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania, one of the go-to reporters for NBA news, revealed the four biggest candidates for trade ahead of the Feb. 9 deadline. Charania named Toronto Raptors duo Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby as well as Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder.

It is hardly surprising to hear that Crowder and Collins may be getting dealt. The former has held out from the Suns all season as they work on finding a trade for him (with one frontrunner possibly emerging). As for the latter, he has been a trade candidate on the middling Hawks for over a year now, and the rumors have since intensified.

Siakam, an All-NBA big, and Anunoby, a young two-way extraordinaire, are unexpected inclusions though. Lately, it seems like the 23-30 Raptors would be more willing to deal a guy like Fred VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, or Gary Trent Jr, who is more of a role player.

Of course, the “biggest” trade candidates do not necessarily mean the “likeliest” trade candidates. But there have been some signs that Charania may be right on when it comes to those big Raptors players being available.

Travis Kelce has 1 big request for Chiefs fans ahead of Super Bowl

Jan 29, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce speaks during a press conference for Super Bowl LIV at JW Marriott Turnberry. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Kelce is not taking any chances ahead of this year’s Super Bowl.

Speaking this week on the “New Heights” podcast, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end Kelce issued a request to fans of the team before the matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles — to leave Philly’s iconic Rocky Balboa statue alone.

“Chiefs [fans], do not touch the f—ing Rocky memorial, OK?” said Kelce. “Do not do that. Definitely don’t put an 87 [jersey] on there. Do not do that.”

Kelce has good reason to be wary here. Before last week’s NFC title game, fans of the San Francisco 49ers apparently got to the bronze statue of Rocky, located by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “vandalizing” it with 49ers gear (see here). The Eagles went on to stomp the 49ers 31-7. Combined with a few other such instances in the past (most notably in 2018 when Minnesota Vikings fans put their team’s gear on Rocky only for the Vikings to also get shredded by the Eagles 38-7 during that year’s NFC title game), messing with that statue appears to be a great way to put a hex on your own team.

It helps that the Super Bowl is taking place in Arizona, meaning that Chiefs fans will be far away from Philadelphia. But Kelce has something else big to play for this year as well, so it doesn’t hurt for him to be a little superstitious.

Patrick Mahomes responds to accusations of flopping for key penalty

Aug 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) warms up prior to a game against the Washington Commanders at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The unnecessary roughness penalty on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will undoubtedly go down in Cincinnati Bengals lore for all the wrong reasons, which is probably why some have engaged in a bit of revisionist history in the days since.

Mahomes was hit late by Joseph Ossai while going out of bounds during the final minute of the Chiefs’ 23-20 win over the Bengals in Sunday’s AFC Championship. The 15-yard penalty put the Chiefs firmly in range for a game-winning field goal, which is why some Bengals fans tried to accuse Mahomes of exaggerating the contact in order to draw a flag.

Mahomes was asked about this on Thursday and he pretty much laughed off the accusations, adding that his injured ankle prevented him from stopping quickly.

“The most pain I had was stopping. So once he pushed me, it would have been hard to put my foot in the ground and try to stop. So I rolled through it,” Mahomes said, via Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star. “You get over there with the heaters and the benches and people, that’s where a lot of times, people get hurt. I think that’s the reason why there’s a flag for getting pushed out of bounds like that late.

“I mean, I was pretty far out of bounds. It was probably the furthest I’ve been out of bounds before I’ve been hit. So I rolled through it.”

Few argued at the time that the play was not a penalty. Even Ossai himself seemed to know as much.

If Bengals fans want to be mad about something on the play in question, they would probably be better served focusing on one particular non-call as opposed to the flag that was actually thrown.

DeMeco Ryans has brutally honest comment about rejecting Broncos

Jan 8, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans walks off the field after defeating the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

DeMeco Ryans was highly sought after by both the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans as head coach. The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator wound up picking the Texans, and on Thursday, he made it sound like the Broncos never had much of a chance.

Ryans was introduced by the Texans on Thursday and was asked how difficult it was for him to reject the Broncos to take the Houston job. Ryans did not have anything negative to say about the Broncos, but he made clear that it “wasn’t a difficult decision” between the two franchises.

In fairness to the Broncos, some of Ryans’ enthusiasm for Houston comes from the fact that he started his playing career there and spent six seasons with the Texans. Still, this has to sting a little bit from Denver’s perspective, especially since one report indicated they were apparently desperate to hire Ryans.

Denver did not do badly, as they ultimately hired Sean Payton as their new head coach. That may work out for them, but after a search that led to a lot of public rejection and hints of desperation, Ryans’ comments provide a fitting end to the saga.

Report: 2 teams have strong interest in Eric Bieniemy as OC

August 14, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Bieniemy will once again be a coaching free agent after the Super Bowl, and two teams other than the Kansas City Chiefs may be prepared to vie for his services.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said on “The Pat McAfee Show” Thursday that the Washington Commanders and Baltimore Ravens are two teams to watch for Bieniemy. The Chiefs offensive coordinator could get full play-calling duties if he leaves the Chiefs, which may be tempting.

A number of teams, including those two, had been linked to Bieniemy recently. While the highly-touted offensive coordinator has not landed a head coaching position, his work with the Kansas City offense has been widely applauded.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has never hidden his admiration for Bieniemy, so it is entirely reasonable that the Chiefs might try to keep him. The decision might ultimately come down to whether Bieniemy wants more control that he could get elsewhere.