Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was named the winner of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award Thursday, just edging out Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul after voting by more than 300 NBA players.
The award, named after Hall of Fames Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman and their legendary friendship, is given to a player that is deemed the league’s best teammate — an honor determined by “selfless play, on and off court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.”
Lillard, who received 40 first place votes, and Paul, who finished just 11 points (1,012-1001) behind Lillard for the honor, were two of 12 players nominated for the award, along with (in voting order): Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Dallas Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris, Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, New York Knicks guard Theo Pinson, Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles, Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.
The nominees were selected by panel of league executives, with six coming from each conference.
Lillard, who averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 67 games during the regular season, is the ninth player to win the award, which was created beginning with the 2012-13 season. He was preceded by Chauncey Billups, Shane Battier, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Jamal Crawford, Mike Conley and Jrue Holiday.
The award became permanently linked after Stokes was injured in the final game of the 1957-58 regular season. He eventually fell into a coma and was permanently paralyzed. Twyman, his teammate with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), became his legal guardian and advocated and supported him for the rest of his life.
Milwaukee Bucks use ‘defense first’ mentality to get critical win over Brooklyn Nets
The Milwaukee Bucks are still breathing in the playoffs — barely.
Already trailing 2-0 in an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Brooklyn Nets, and finding themselves trailing by 3 with 83 seconds to go in Game 3 Thursday night at Fiserv Forum after a Kevin Durant 3-pointer, the Bucks scored the final six points of the game to emerge with an 86-83 victory to claw their way back into this best-of-seven affair.
And afterward, Bucks guard Jrue Holiday — who hit the go-ahead layup with 11.3 seconds to go — said that if Milwaukee needs to continue to make it ugly to grind out victories on the defensive end moving forward in this series, the Bucks will be more than happy to do so.
“Defense first,” Holiday said. “Defense wins games, and it wins championships. I think to be able to get a stop even down with two seconds left means a lot. Them scoring 83 points, I feel like for us that’s the type of defense we want to play.
“If we got to muck up the game, then we got to muck it up. But when it comes down to it, we want to be aggressive on everyone.”
After the Nets breezed their way past the Bucks in each of the first two games of this series in Brooklyn, as the series shifted back to Milwaukee, it was clear from the moment the game began the home team was desperate to make sure the tone was different in this one. The Bucks, led by P.J. Tucker, who spent most of the night guarding Durant, came out far more aggressive — at both ends — to jump out to a 30-11 lead, only to score 56 points in the final 36 minutes as Brooklyn slowly dragged itself back into the game.
The result was a game that resembled something out of the 1990s more than the 2020s, with lots of tough defense and long stretches with no made baskets on either side.
All that mattered to Milwaukee, though, was that Durant, who finished with 30 points but shot only 11-for-28 from the field, had his final shot of the game hit off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Bucks to give themselves a chance to even the series at two games apiece when these teams meet again Sunday in Game 4.
“Shoot, man, they did what they were supposed to do: Come out aggressive, backs against the wall, and we had to weather that storm,” said Kyrie Irving, who had 22 points in 45 minutes. “So, definitely kind of put us on our heels for the rest of the game just playing catch-up, playing their style of basketball, and then they made some big timely shots, which carried them forward.
“But we had our chances down the stretch. It was a possession-by-possession game. Both teams battling. So that’s a good ol’ fashioned playoff game right there.”
Style points don’t count for anything in playoff games — which is a good thing, because this game wasn’t exactly overflowing with them. Only five players finished in double figures — Durant, Irving and Bruce Brown (16 points) for the Nets, and Khris Middleton (35) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33) for Milwaukee. For most of the first half, the rest of Milwaukee’s roster combined to make one field goal. Things weren’t much better for Brooklyn, which fell behind 30-11 after the first quarter, only to storm back into the game with a big second quarter of its own.
Brown, who has been the unsung hero for Brooklyn in this series after replacing injured star James Harden in the starting lineup, repeatedly had success throughout the game getting into the lane for floaters.
But in the final seconds, Brown missed a pull-up jumper that could’ve given the Nets a 3-point lead with 20.8 seconds go, was beat by Holiday for the go-ahead layup with 11.3 seconds to go and then, after the inbounds pass was nearly turned over by Brooklyn, Brown wound up taking the ball to the basket and missing a layup with 6.4 seconds to go.
“It was a tough, tough playoff game where neither team was really shooting the ball well, creating good opportunities,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.
“Someone was gonna win ugly and it was them tonight.”
The only thing the Bucks were focused on was getting a win, period, after two rough games in Brooklyn — especially the 39-point shellacking Milwaukee absorbed in Game 2. And while the Bucks managed to do that, it didn’t come without some tense moments.
Part of that was because of the lack of production from the rest of the Bucks’ offense, as the team outside of Middleton and Antetokounmpo combined to score 18 points on 8-for-34 shooting overall, including 2-for-17 from 3-point range, and took (and missed) just one free throw.
“Try to get in the paint and make something happen,” Holiday said of his offensive mindset, after he went 4-for-14 and scored 9 points in 46 minutes. “But I do think at some point today I got a little bit discouraged because I’m getting in there and put it in there and my shots aren’t falling.”
And part of that was because of Antetokounmpo’s ongoing struggles shooting both from the perimeter and the free throw line. Antetokounmpo took a playoff-career-high 8 3-pointers Thursday — making only one, which came early in the fourth quarter. He also went 4-for-9 from the foul line, and he was called for a 10-second violation for the second time in the playoffs that removed another possible attempt from his ledger.
But Antetokounmpo said that as long as teams are going to play off of him, he’s going to have to continue to make the right play — which, he said, would sometimes include taking 3s.
“It’s all about instinct,” said Anteokounmpo, who also had 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 turnovers in 43 minutes. “Basketball is all about instincts. At the end of the day, my instinct is telling me that’s the right decision to take it, I’ll live with that.
“It’s the same … like, everybody, if you wake up in the morning and think you’ve got to drink a cup of coffee, and that’s what you want to do, that’s what your instinct is telling you, that’s what your soul is telling you. Whatever the case may be, that’s what you do. You know, it doesn’t matter what happens next, because you live with the decision you make.
“And at the end of the day, I was just trying to make the right decision in the right moment and today it was shooting 8 3s, and next game it was shooting zero 3s. Who knows? I’m just going to try to keep making the right decision.”
After the Bucks managed to get themselves back into this series with a win, Antetokounmpo was just happy to be able to go home and celebrate a victory that kept Milwaukee’s chances of advancing out of the second round alive. No team has come back from a 3-0 playoff series deficit in NBA history.
“A win is a win,” he said. “Today we didn’t score a lot, but at the end of the day, we got a win and that’s all we came for tonight. We knew it was a very, very tough game, and we needed this game as much as possible, and hopefully we get the next one.
“But at the end of the day, a win is a win. When you can go back home and celebrate a W … it feels good.”
Chicago Bulls’ Coby White out at least 4 months after injuring shoulder, having surgery
The Chicago Bulls announced Thursday that guard Coby White will be out until at least the latter stages of training camp after undergoing surgery to repair a left shoulder injury he suffered over the weekend.
The team said the injury occurred while White was “engaged in basketball activities away from the team.” After the surgery, which was performed Thursday at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, the team said White would be re-evaluated in four months. That would mean an update would come just before the mid-October start of the 2021-22 regular season. The NBA will reorient itself to its typical calendar after the past two seasons were thrown off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
White, 21, is coming off an up-and-down sophomore season, having averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 41.8% from the field and 35.9% from 3-point range in 69 games, including 54 starts, after almost exclusively coming off the bench as a rookie.
“It was up-and-down for him this year,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters in Chicago last month. “But I’ve always said this about him, he’s got great resolve. He’s got resiliency, and he’s got great bounce-back ability. After the trade was over with, I think he kind of found his footing and played really good basketball for us.”
After missing the playoffs, the Bulls will wait to see whether they retain their draft pick — which Chicago traded to the Orlando Magic in March as part of the deal for All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Chicago, which is currently slotted into the eighth spot in the lottery, will keep its pick if it jumps into the top four spots in the lottery, which is set to take place June 22. Chicago had the fourth pick in last year’s draft, which it used to take Patrick Williams, after having the seventh pick the previous two years, when it took White (2019) and center Wendell Carter Jr. (2018).
Jordan Clarkson, after aiding vandalized food truck — ‘Just no room’ for racist attacks
SALT LAKE CITY — Jordan Clarkson saw the hateful racial slur spray-painted all over a well-known Filipino food truck in Utah on social media and was overcome with raw emotion.
“F— C—-s” and an offensive image of a face with slanted eyes was sprayed on the side of the World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck last weekend, and it didn’t take long for the images to reach Clarkson’s phone. The Utah Jazz Sixth Man of the Year knew he had to do something after seeing the graffiti of the derogatory ethnic slur and hurtful image often used against Asians.
“If you want me to be real honest, my first reaction was, ‘This is bulls—!'” Clarkson told ESPN on Thursday. “I was just like, we can’t be f—ing doing this. Those were the exact words that came out of my mouth to my boys, my family and everybody that was around me. So they were like, let’s do something [about it].”
“There’s just no room for that,” Clarkson added, “especially right now. It’s been tough, tough years on this Earth, this country, this world. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain’t got no room for the hate no more. That’s got to go out of the window real quick.”
For Clarkson, who is Filipino American, the vandalism of the Filipino food truck hit home on many levels. It is just the latest example of the hate and violence that many Asians have experienced, especially over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 29-year-old Clarkson was one of many, including local politicians and businesses, who wanted to help restore the food truck. Clarkson paid for interior cleaning and detailing and joined with vehicle wrap company Identity Graphx, which designed a new exterior for the truck that will be unveiled Saturday at the Philippine Independence Day celebration in Salt Lake City. Clarkson also offered the owners, Ben and Erin Pierce, with significant financial support to get the truck up and running again.
Clarkson said the Jazz invited the truck’s owners and employees to Game 2 against the LA Clippers on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“I didn’t even want this to really get out,” Clarkson said. “My team was like, do you want to go public with this or not? And I was kind of like no in the sense of I want to do this out of straight love and support. But for them, they came to me and said you got to show the people that you are there for them and let them know that you are supporting them, and that is what I am doing. I am here to support, show love and just try to make a change. That’s it.”
Clarkson said his father detailed cars for a living and had a trailer in their front yard where he worked. Seeing the food truck vandalized reminded Clarkson of how hard his father worked to provide for his family and how such an act of hate and racism would have done serious damage to his father’s business.
“There’s just no room for that, especially right now. It’s been tough, tough years on this Earth, this country, this world. There’s a lot of stuff going on. I feel like us together, and everybody finding a peace, will make things a lot more comforting in this world. We ain’t got no room for the hate no more. That’s got to go out of the window real quick.”
And the hateful slurs hurt the Jazz point guard deeply. Many Asians are living in fear in the United States amid a surge in hate crimes. From March 2020 to March 2021, there were more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents documented by Stop AAPI Hate. Asian-targeted hate crimes in the biggest U.S. cities spiked 145% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. There have been verbal and physical attacks, with some ending fatally, such as the March 16 shootings that killed six Asian women in the Atlanta area.
“It is a big thing that we are trying to really change and really be a part of, especially here in Utah,” Clarkson said of trying to create awareness and combat racism and racial inequality. “It is kind of a worldwide thing that is going on that you see is a movement with everything. Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, all of these things are being put into really the eye of everybody now because everybody has social media, everybody has phones. I feel like a lot of this has been going on for a long time.”
Clarkson said he is finding his voice and becoming more active and involved.
“It has been powerful, and for me, it’s been a lot,” Clarkson said. “But you know, I am learning and doing a lot of things as well to try to catch up on a lot of this stuff. Being young in the league, you are kind of not really paying attention to a lot of this stuff. As you get older, you really kind of embrace this role of who you are. It really hits home in those times.”
Clarkson said that new Jazz ownership, led by Ryan Smith and including Dwyane Wade, has tried to use its influence to promote diversity and inclusivity and speak out against hate.
“They have really done a good job already of really trying to change this culture in Utah and really trying to just make a change period,” Clarkson said. “Like all the hate and stuff, if you come to our arena, you’ll see the message that’s put on the board before games [asking fans to curb hateful behavior].
“You saw what our organization did with Ja Morant‘s family. What we are trying to do is commit to change. Since we are the leaders around here in this community, this state and this city, I feel like it is our duty to do that. I feel like if people see us doing that, they’ll follow.”
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