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NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

MINNEAPOLIS -- At 37 years old and having never played in the NBA Finals, Jamal Crawford certainly could have gone ring chasing when he received a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, who have met in the last three finals, were both interested in the veteran scorer. LeBron James was calling Crawford personally to recruit him to Cleveland.

So naturally, Crawford chose ... the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Wolves have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons. But after Minnesota added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague this summer, Crawford decided to join Tom Thibodeau's team in hopes of being an integral part of a team trying to break through as opposed to the latest hired gun on an established contender.

"I want to experience it with these guys and go through the wars and the struggles and just really embrace the journey with these guys," Crawford said Wednesday. "To me, that can be even more gratifying than just going to a team that's already made and ready to win a championship. Hopefully, we'll get there, but we'll all go through it together" (see full story).

Spurs: Ginobili indicates he’ll return for 16th season
SAN ANTONIO -- As the clock ticked down on the Spurs' season and Manu Ginobili was pulled from the game, a thunderous roar from the home crowd guided him to the bench.

Ginobili wore an appreciative but quizzical look on his face as he put a warmup shirt back on and prepared to head off into the summer. Clearly, the fans were saying goodbye to one of the most popular players in Spurs history.

Ginobili was not ready to do the same: The Argentinian posted a message on his Twitter account on Wednesday that he is re-signing with San Antonio for another season, which will be his 16th with the Spurs.

"It felt like they wanted me to retire," Ginobili said with a smile after the Spurs were swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Golden State Warriors. "Like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I'm getting closer and closer."

Save those goodbyes for at least another year (see full story).

Clippers: Griffin calls decision to stay a ’no-brainer’ 
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin was back in his usual place, front and center on a Clippers stage.

After opting out of his contract, Griffin didn't spend the offseason toiling over whether to sign with another team -- like his teammate DeAndre Jordan famously did. For Griffin, it was an easy decision to sign a max five-year deal to stay with the only NBA team he's played for in his seven-year career.

"I want to say how excited I am to be back. This has been my home since I was drafted. A lot went into this decision," Griffin said Wednesday. "In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me. This is the place where I want to start and finish my career. . This next chapter and next season for the Clippers and myself, I've never been more excited about an opportunity."

Griffin, 28, is undoubtedly the star of the Clippers with Chris Paul gone in the trade with the Rockets that sent Pat Beverley to Los Angeles.

Griffin said he and Paul talked about his decision to want to leave the Clippers.

"No hard feelings," said Griffin, a five-time All-Star. "I think we're all professional enough to know and we've all been in the situation now to know sometimes you have to do what's right and what's best for yourself and your family. I've never had hard feelings with any of my teammates who decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave. I wouldn't start now" (see full story).

Wizards: With Porter deal done, team keeps core intact
WASHINGTON -- Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards' talented young core. He is also now Washington's highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league's top shooting guards.

"You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did," Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. "They set the bar high. I'm going to set my bar, high, too" (see full story).

Grizzlies: PG Chalmers signs contract
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have signed guard Mario Chalmers, nearly 1 1/2 years after he ruptured his right Achilles tendon playing for the team.

The Grizzlies announced the deal Wednesday. Terms of the contract weren't disclosed.

The 31-year-old Chalmers was injured in March 2016. During the 2015-16 season, Chalmers played 61 games for the Grizzlies and Miami Heat, averaging 10.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds.

Chalmers played for Miami from 2008-15 and was part of the Heat's 2012 and 2013 NBA championship teams.

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

---

Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.