Sports Basketball

Durant, Westbrook NBA All-Star showdown gets standing ovation

By Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors in action during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center on February 19, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors in action during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center on February 19, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS — All weekend leading up to Sunday’s game the focus seemed to be on how the ex Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would interact.

Western Conference head coach Steve Kerr said his goal coming into the weekend was to make it as comfortable as possible for everyone involved regardless of perceived or real feuds.

Kerr had the two on the floor together midway through the first quarter and after Durant fed Westbrook a perfect lob for an alley-lop, the West bench called a timeout. It was at that point that the entire bench got up and gave the two a standing ovation.

Whether that ends the perceived feud or not, only time will tell, but what was telling was the almost omnipresent smile on the normally surly Westbrook’s face from that point on as the West went on to win this defence-less spectacle 192-182 over the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

The second half in particular was a a far cry from Saturday’s Western Conference practice when the two former teammates were filmed passing each other in a hallway, Durant making a very wide turn to avoid any interaction with Westbrook while Westbrook turned his back on Durant to shake a random fan’s hand.

DEMAR CHIPS IN

The NBA never ceases to amaze when it comes to taking care of one of its own and quite often in the process, a charity. They hit both marks Saturday night when they raised $500,000 for the SagerStrong Foundation in honour of recently passed away and ultra-popular NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager.

DeRozan was one of a handful of present and former NBA stars pulled out of the crowd Saturday night to take part in a three point shooting contest with each made bucket netting the charity $10,000. DeRozan made at least two buckets from our vantage point helping raise the total to $130,000.

TNT host Erine Johnson then brought Steph Curry out of the stands hoping to see him hit one from half court and bump that total to a cool half million.

Curry though couldn’t find the range after multiple attempts leaving Johnson to call on Craig Sager’s young son Ryan to come out and complete a lay-in with a big helping hand (lift) from Shaquille O’Neal which bumped the money raised to that half million mark.

HOMETOWN EDGE

As the lone representative of the host New Orleans Pelicans, centre Anthony Davis had his plate rather full all weekend so it was only fitting that when it came time to hand out the hardware he was front and centre too.

Davis broke Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record of 42 points going off for 52 making 26-of-39 shots, the vast, vast majority of those dunks.

Not surprisingly he was named Game MVP.

His only real competition came from Russell Westbrook who matched last year’s total of 41 points.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

A wrap around his right wrist last in the first half of the all-star game had the twitter-verse humming about Kyle Lowry.

But according to Lowry the injury occurred initially on Wednesday in the Raptors win over Charlotte.

“I hurt it Wednesday night but I’ll be okay,” Lowry said. “It’s all right, you know me. Soldier.”

THE RUMOURS ARE STARTING

With the NBA trade deadline just around the corner this Thursday, the trade talk has already shifted into high gear.

It threatens to make the Raptors acquisition of Serge Ibaka look like small potatoes by the time all is said and done.

The previously untouchable DeMarcus Cousins is now back in player according to no less authority than Adrian Wojnarowski of the Verticle who was reporting initial talks between Cousins’s Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans for a return that would include lottery pick Buddy Hield and multiple first rounders for Cousins.

Also still simmering is a possible deal that would have huge Raptors implications if it came to fruition.

Watch Chicago closely where ethe Bulls are playing with the idea of basically tearing it all down by sending Raptors-killer Jimmy Butler to the Celtics for an as yet unknown package.

Also worth watching are the Washington Wizards who are said to be looking for some bench depth which may include former Raptors Sixth Man of the Year winner Lou Willliams. Should the Wizards land Williams the irony would not be lost on Raptors fans who will recall that it was an eventual reliance on Williams and his scoring prowess that played a big role in their disappearing defensive culture which then played a large part in that four-game sweep by the Wizards in the first round two seasons ago.

QUICK HITS: Pity the guy who put money on James Harden to win All-Star game MVP honours. The Beard was the lone player in the game not to score a single point in the entire first half … Lowry wasn’t far behind Harden in the lack of first half production department … In that first half DeRozan had eight points and five assists or just one fewer than Eastern Conference leader at the half Kyrie Irving … One of the funnier moments of the game came early in the second half when Steph Curry just lay down in the key and covered his head with Giannis Antetokounmpo driving to the basket. The Greek Freak deftly sidestepped the prone Curry and windmilled home the dunk … Kerr got to his four-man Golden State lineup in the third quarter and filled it out with Anthony Davis from the Pelicans … Both coaches Kerr and Boston’s Brad Stevens agree the onus is on the players to bring more defence into the game if the game is to become more competitive and less gimmicky. Kerr sounded somewhat disappointed that the last six or seven minutes of the game that are usually a little more serious didn’t happen this year.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca