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LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo lead 2023 NBA All-Star Game votes

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks lead the third and final round of the 2023 NBA All-Star Game vote count. James has received 6,506,682 votes, whereas Antetokounmpo’s count is 5,970,196.

Both fan favorites lead their respective conferences. For the Western Conference frontcourt selections, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets trails James with 4,718,218 total votes. Anthony Davis ranks third with 3,838,171 votes. For the Eastern Conference frontcourt, Kevin Durant ranks second behind Antetokounmpo with 5,838,182.

Per multiple NBA betting sites, LeBron James is not a top candidate to win MVP this season. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo possesses the fifth-bests odds, ranking below Jokic, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Joel Embiid.

Through 35 starts this season, LeBron James is averaging 29.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. The soon to be 19-time All-Star is also shooting 50.9% from the floor and 29% from 3-point range.

On Jan. 16, in the Lakers’ 140-132 win over the Houston Rockets, the 38-year-old logged a season-high 48 points in 36 minutes of action. In addition to recording eight boards and nine assists, James shot 16-of-26 (61.5%) from the field and 5-of-10 (50%) beyond the arc.

Lakers superstar LeBron James, MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo of Bucks lead the 2023 NBA All-Star Game vote count

While James’ performances this season are not his best, the four-time NBA champ is still the most popular player in the league today. During the second half of the 2021-22 season, the Lakers forward outsold James Harden and Stephen Curry in jersey sales. Win or lose, his impact on the game is duly noted.

Last season, in 37 minutes on the court, LeBron James posted 24 points, six boards, eight assists, three steals, and one block in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game. Curry won his first All-Star Game MVP award after dropping a dazzling 50 burger on 56.7% shooting.

Equally important, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-high 31 points per game, along with 11.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists through 35 starts. The six-time All-NBA member is shooting 52.4% from the floor and 65.3% at the foul line. Not to mention, he’s averaging a career-best usage percentage of 38.2%.

In Milwaukee’s 123-113 win against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 3, the Greek Freak scored a career-best 55 points in 37 minutes played. He shot 20-of-33 (60.6%) from the field and 15-of-16 (93.8%) at the free throw line. LeBron James and the 10-year veteran are carrying their teams.

Now, Antetokounmpo is aiming to earn his seventh consecutive All-Star Game selection as a starter. In the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, the Bucks forward finished with 30 points, 12 boards, six assists, three steals, and one block in less than 27 minutes. At the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, he scored an All-Star Game career-high 38 points.

Fan voting for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game closes on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Of course, the All-Star Game is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 19 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The tip-off time has not yet been announced.





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Pelicans sign guard Malcolm Hill to a two-way contract

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The New Orleans Pelicans are signing guard Malcolm Hill to a two-way contract, according to sources. Hill, 28, went undrafted in 2017 out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and signed his first deal with New Orleans in October 2021.

Hill played for five international teams overseas before beginning his NBA career — Star Hotshots (2017) of the Philippine Basketball Association, Telekom Baskets Bonn (2017-18), MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg (2018-19), BC Astana (2019-20), and Hapoel Jerusalem (2020-21).

Although his first NBA deal was with New Orleans, he was waived days later and signed with the Birmingham Squadron as an affiliate player. In 14 games, he averaged 16.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.6 steals.

Moreover, Hill signed a 10-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks in December 2021. In three games off the bench with Atlanta in the 2021-22 season, he averaged 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 15.3 minutes per game while shooting 62.5% from the floor.

In Atlanta’s 131-117 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 29, 2021, he recorded a career-high 13 points on 5-of-8 (62.5%) shooting from the field and 3-of-5 (60%) from deep.

Malcolm Hill to join guard Dereon Seabron as the New Orleans Pelicans’ two-way players

Additionally, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard then inked a 10-day deal and a two-way contract with the Bulls in January 2022. In 16 games as a reserve with Chicago, he averaged 3.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 10.4 minutes per game while shooting 43.2% from the field.

Last season, Hill made five appearances off the bench with the Bulls. Though, he averaged career lows of 1.0 point, 0.6 rebounds, and 1.8 minutes per game. Chicago waived the Illinois product in February 2023.

Hill returned to the Squadron ahead of the 2023-24 season.

In 17 games off the bench this season with Birmingham, the guard has averaged G League career highs of 24.6 points and 2.6 steals, along with 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 35 minutes per contest.

He’s also shooting career bests of 52.2% from the floor, 44.3% from 3-point range, and 90.8% at the foul line.

On Jan. 27, Hill signed a 10-day contract with New Orleans, but he didn’t play for the club. The Missouri native returned to Birmingham again on Feb. 8.

Hill now joins fellow two-way guard Dereon Seabron on the Pelicans.





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Shannon Sharpe wonders if next face of NBA should be a married man

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One of the main topics of discussion during this All-Star Weekend was how the younger generation will start to transition into the new faces of the NBA, especially considering how LeBron James is in his 21st year in the league and many other veterans are starting to wind down into retirement. 

In the latest show of First Take, the ESPN panel ran a rather interesting debate over the next faces of the NBA. Shannon Sharpe explained why he considers a player’s relationship status to be an interesting criteria to consider when giving a young superstar the responsibility of leading the pack.

“What about relationship status?” the panelist pondered “Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird was married. LeBron was in a relationship with Savannah. How do we look at it? Because when we look at presidential candidates, we look at candidates, we want them to be secure. We want them to be foundational pieces.”

As for the rest of the First Take panel, they were mostly bewildered over the former NFL’s consideration, as some couldn’t even believe he brought it up. “I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know what the hell you’re asking,” Stephen A. Smith said.

However, host Molly Qerim took the time to consider Sharpe’s question. “I know what you’re saying like the ‘First Lady of Basketball,’” she contributed. “They would say Steph Curry and Ayesha Curry, and we know them. The example, the role models. I get what you’re saying.”

Former player JJ Redick paused, gave it a thought, and then explained why he believes a player’s marital status shouldn’t matter when establishing the new face of the NBA.

“Let’s not act like some of the faces of the league have been perfect with their off-court behavior,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s a precursor, and you’re obviously using Steph and LeBron in sort of the present sense. By and large, those guys are scandal-free. But let’s not act like the past faces of the league have been perfect.”

Redick indirectly was talking about players like Ja Morant, who definitely has the potential and talent to dominate the league for years to come, but has endured many suspension due to his off-court antics.

LeBron and Curry both mention Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as potential next face of the NBA

One topic of discussion that has been debated on most shows since the All-Star Weekend is about the next face of the NBA. During the league’s showcase events in Indianapolis, superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry agreed that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of next ambassadors of the league.

Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] and [Anthony Edwards], I feel like those are two of the guys that could continue the torch after I am done, after Steph [Curry], [Kevin Durant], the guys have had carried the standard for years…Those young guys are amazing, looking forward to just see those guys going out and show what they are capable of,” the Lakers star said on Sunday.

The Thunder guard has played in 53 matches so far this campaign, and is currently averaging 31.1 points on 54.6% shooting, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds, so it’s very clear why his fellow stars consider him to be a candidate to lead the NBA.

However, others like Jayson Tatum believe that he is meant to become the next face of the NBA. “I feel like it’s mine to take,” said the Boston forward. “I do feel like, if we win a championship, it would be more distinguished and clear. But I understand I’m in that shortlist for sure.”





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Trail Blazers convert Duop Reath’s deal into a three-year contract

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The Portland Trail Blazers have converted rookie center Duop Reath’s two-way deal into a three-year contract, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

His standard contract is fully guaranteed through the 2024-25 season and non-guaranteed for the 2025-26 season. Reath, 27, went undrafted in 2018 out of LSU.

However, he did not make his NBA debut until this season with Portland. Reath first joined the Trail Blazers for the 2023 NBA Summer League and signed a one-year deal with the club in October.

He was waived on Oct. 21 prior to the 2023-24 season and later signed a two-way contract with the team.

Through 40 games (11 starts) this season with the Blazers, Reath is averaging 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 17.4 minutes per game while shooting 47.5% from the floor, 38.5% beyond the arc, and 74.1% at the foul line.

Reath made his NBA debut in Portland’s 116-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 12, scoring 11 points with three 3-pointers. On Dec. 26, he recorded a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds in a 130-113 win over the Sacramento Kings.

The South Sudanese hooper grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 7. He logged 17 points in back-to-back games against Phoenix (Jan. 14) and Brooklyn (Jan. 17) as well.

Duop Reath helped Al Riyadi win the 2023 WAL title before joining the Portland Trail Blazers

Furthermore, Reath joined the Dallas Mavericks for the 2018 NBA Summer League. However, he went on to sign a three-year deal with the Serbian team FMP. The former Tiger then joined the Nets for the 2019 NBA Summer League.

On Aug. 1, 2020, he signed a contract with the Serbian team Crvena zvezda for the 2020-21 season. Following the season, the 6-foot-9 center inked a deal with the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League for the 2021-22 season.

Although Reath played for the Phoenix Suns in the 2022 NBA Summer League, a deal was never offered. After that, he signed with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The big man averaged 18.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game in 39 appearances.

In April 2023, Reath joined Al Riyadi Beirut of Lebanon. He made his team debut on April 19 in the West Asia Super League (WASL) and scored 24 points in Al Riyadi’s win over Beirut Club in the division semifinals.

The LSU product helped Al Riyadi win the WASL championship following a team-high 29 points in Game 2 of the finals against Shahrdari Gorgan.





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