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#pounditMonday, March 8, 2021

Basketball

DeMar DeRozan calls his All-Star snub ‘bulls–t’

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan is sounding off after failing to make the All-Star Game as even a replacement of a replacement.

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley received an invite to replace Phoenix Suns counterpart Devin Booker, who is dealing with a knee injury, at this year’s festivities. Booker had originally been named as the All-Star replacement in the West for Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis.

Right after news of Conley’s selection broke on Friday, DeRozan sent a cryptic tweet that was pretty clearly a reaction to being snubbed.

“Gets to a point where you just gotta laugh at the bulls–t!!” he wrote.

The San Antonio Spurs guard had previously tweeted his displeasure just last week about not making the All-Star team outright.

DeRozan, 31, made quite the case for himself in the first half of the season. He is averaging 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and a career-high 7.2 assists per game. Those are all better numbers than what Conley is posting. But Conley plays for the team with the best record in the NBA. He had also never made an All-Star team before, despite many deserving seasons, giving Conley a lifetime-achievement advantage of sorts over DeRozan, a four-time All-Star.

Regardless, DeRozan has been getting disrespected left and right lately. You can’t fault him for being frustrated about this latest slight.

Photo: Game Face/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Larry Nance Jr. and Channing Frye have hilarious Twitter interaction about trade rumors

Larry Nance Jr

Channing Frye loves to troll his ex-teammates on Twitter, but this time when he did it, one of those former teammates had a perfect response to him.

Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. jokingly remarked on Friday that he wanted people to stop including him in hypothetical trades. That prompted a response from Frye — and an even better retort back from Nance.

It’s true: the Cavaliers acquired Nance and Jordan Clarkson in 2018 in exchange for Frye, Isaiah Thomas, and a first-round pick. In other words, Nance was a bit more valuable than broken shoelaces, at least in Cleveland’s eyes.

Frye and Nance were teammates during the 2018-19 season, and Frye clearly gets on well with those he played with. This is evidence of that.

Michael Jordan canceled his famous comeback press conference for crazy reason

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan stepped away from basketball twice during his career before announcing returns. He ultimately retired in 2003 after his time with the Washington Wizards.

According to Antoine Walker, MJ actually delayed the press conference announcing his return to basketball in 2001 for a wild reason.

Walker joined Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden on CBS Sports’ “All Things Covered” for an episode published on Thursday. In the episode, Walker talked about a time he and MJ teamed up for a game of spades against two others.

Walker says that he and Jordan were down $900,000 at one point. He says they made back nearly all of the money during the gambling session, but they ended up losing six figures.

The crazy part about the story is Walker says the game lasted 36 hours and Jordan even sent out for $500,000 at one point. He says the game went so long that Jordan had to cancel the press conference announcing his return to the NBA.

“What made it even more interesting, it was the day he actually was supposed to make his announcement he was officially coming back. He canceled the press conference, everything. We played for 36 hours, man,” Walker recalled.

Jordan eventually announced his second return to the NBA on Sept. 25, 2001. He played two seasons for the Wizards before retiring for good.

As for Walker, stories about his gambling are all too common, which is how he ended up in such a tough spot later in life.

JaVale McGee could return to Lakers?

JaVale McGee

The Los Angeles Lakers could be getting their secret weapon back just in time for the stretch run of the season.

Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that veteran big man JaVale McGee shares interest with the Lakers in a potential reunion. Woike notes however that McGee would have to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers to a third team and then bought out in order for him to return. The Lakers would otherwise be ineligible to re-acquire McGee after trading him to Cleveland in November.

McGee, 33, is a misfit on the sub-.500 Cavs, especially after they landed 22-year-old Jarrett Allen to soak up most of the minutes at center. The Lakers are hurting for size with Anthony Davis out and Marc Gasol, whom they traded McGee to create room for, visibly in decline. Journeyman Damian Jones started at center in the Lakers’ final game before the All-Star break.

The Lakers are also eyeing seven-footers elsewhere in the league. But McGee is already acquainted with the team’s style, having played the previous two seasons with them, including their NBA championship victory. He had also accepted and flourished in a limited role for the Lakers, making him an attractive option if he can make it through the procedural hoops first.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Luke Walton’s job with Kings is safe despite struggles?

Head coaches for the Sacramento Kings tend to last about as long as Defense Against The Dark Arts professors in “Harry Potter.” That said though, Luke Walton may be bucking that trend, at least for now.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Friday that Walton is not in immediate trouble. Amick adds that Walton is expected to last at least through the rest of the season, barring a complete nose-dive in the second half.

Walton is in his second season as Kings head coach with two years and $11.5 million left on his contract with the team. But Sacramento is faltering again this season, currently sitting 13th in the West with a 14-22 record.

The 40-year-old Walton is the seventh Kings coach in just the last decade. Top assistant Alvin Gentry is also breathing down his neck as a possible replacement. But the Kings have kept the same energy with Walton throughout his tenure, so it sounds like he has a long enough leash.

Gary Payton had great response to Michael Jordan ‘The Last Dance’ reaction

Gary Payton

One of the more memorable moments of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary was Michael Jordan laughing at a confident Gary Payton’s recollection of the 1996 NBA Finals. Now, Payton has finally had the chance to respond.

The Chicago Bulls famously jumped out to a 3-0 Finals lead on Payton’s Seattle SuperSonics in 1996, with Payton kept off Jordan defensively to try to keep him fresh on offense. The Sonics won two in a row after Payton took over guarding Jordan, but ended up losing in six games. In the documentary, Payton said he had taken a toll on Jordan and wished he had moved over to guard him sooner. Jordan’s response to Payton spawned one of the documentary’s more memorable memes.

When asked about Jordan’s laughter in a Bleacher Report AMA, Payton said he’d do the same thing.

“He wouldn’t be Michael Jordan if he would have bowed down there,” Payton wrote. “Everybody knows about his competitiveness. He was a guy who came every night to play. I respect him for that because I came every night to play. I was never gonna back down to him and he knew that. If it was my documentary and they asked me the same thing I would have laughed too. …

“Wish I could have started off on him in the championship and it would have been better, but their team was better than mine at the time and they won it all. He did a documentary, he felt the way he felt. What I can do is I can say the same thing hahaha.”

In a way, Payton is demonstrating what made both him and Jordan great — mutual respect, but an unbreaking belief that each would get the better of the other.

It’s neat to see Payton taking it like he did. Some rivals featured in the documentary were caught a bit off-guard by Jordan’s reaction to them, but not Payton.

Mike Conley has made his first career All-Star Game

Mike Conley Jr

Utah Jazz players were pushing for Mike Conley to make the All-Star Game, and their wish has finally come true.

Conley has been named to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement for Devin Booker, who is out with a knee sprain. Conley will replace Booker in both the All-Star Game and 3-point contest.

Conley spoke two weeks ago about how badly he wanted to make his first All-Star Game.

The veteran guard has been in the NBA for 14 seasons and is highly respected, but he has never quite been good enough to get an All-Star nod. Now he finally has gotten it, thanks to injuries and a combination of Utah’s success and his quality play.

Booker replaced Anthony Davis in the game, and now Conley is replacing Booker. Utah has the best record in the NBA at 27-9. Conley is averaging 16.1 points on a career-best 42.2 percent shooting on threes.

Details of Blake Griffin’s Pistons buyout revealed

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin gave back a hefty chunk of money to get his freedom from the Detroit Pistons.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Griffin gave back $13.3 million of the $75 million remaining on his contract as part of his buyout with the Pistons. The buyout was officially announced and finalized on Friday, making Griffin a free agent.

Griffin does, of course, keep a pretty substantial sum. In the end, he will receive just shy of $62 million to cover the rest of his deal with Detroit. That said, it’s increasingly easy to see why the Pistons struggled so much to trade him given the cash tossed around here.

Though Griffin only just became a free agent, we seem to have a decent idea of where he’ll be going.

Blake Griffin expected to sign with Nets?

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is drawing interest from several contending teams now that he has reached a buyout agreement with the Detroit Pistons, but the six-time All-Star may have already made his decision.

The Brooklyn Nets are considered the favorite to sign Griffin, Shams Charania and James Edwards III of The Athletic report. While several teams are pursuing Griffin, the belief is that he will wind up in Brooklyn.

There are at least four other teams that have entertained the idea of signing Griffin.

The Nets have hit their stride now that they are at full strength with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. They entered Friday a half-game back of the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn has won 10 of its last 11 games.

Griffin is nowhere near as explosive as he used to be, but you can understand why contenders want to sign him. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists on a Pistons team that is one of the worst in the NBA. He’d be a great addition to the Nets and further cement their position as the favorite in the East.

Report: These five teams have interest in Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after reaching a buyout agreement with the Detroit Pistons on Friday. As you might expect, the six-time All-Star is drawing plenty of interest from contending teams.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Griffin has generated interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, those teams include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors.

All of those teams are either a lock to make the playoffs or squarely in the hunt. While Griffin has lost a lot of his explosiveness due to injuries, he still averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists on a Pistons team that is one of the worst in the NBA.

The Pistons announced last month that they would be sidelining Griffin while they pursued trade possibilities for him. They then struggled to find a trade partner for the 31-year-old, so a buyout was the most likely outcome all along.