The Plug, ‘Awards Season: Jemele Hill’ (Episode 7): Who’s the Best of the Best?
The co-host of ‘SC6’ talks about meeting Issa Rae — and Hill also talks about Tom Brady’s dominance
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It was only a matter of time before this happened: Chiney, Kayla, Tes, Terrika and I nabbed none other than friend-of-the-family, SC6‘s Jemele Hill. We wasted no time getting Jemele to spill the beans about she and Michael Smith’s time at the recent NAACP Awards. While there, Hill met Issa Rae as well as Congresswoman Maxine Waters. On The Plug, we also got Jemele to weigh-in on the NFL’s run-up to Super Bowl, and our NBA mid-season awards…with a twist. Also on deck? The Houston Rockets’ dominance, Kawhi Leonard’s supposed San Antonio angst, and this weekend’s Grammys. As always, the support is absolutely appreciated, my people. Continue to tell your circle to to subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app! Until next week…
With Steve Wilks hire, the top three football teams in Arizona are headed by black men, and more to know
The former Panthers defensive coordinator got his coaching start at HBCUs
10:17 PMSteve Wilks has not been a head coach in almost 20 years since he took the helm at Savannah State in 1999. But early Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Josina Anderson broke the news that Wilks is getting a second chance to lead a football team.
With Bruce Arians’ retirement, the Arizona Cardinals concluded their coaching search by naming Wilks as his successor. The former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator agreed to a four-year contract with the Cardinals, which includes a fifth-year option, bringing the number of black coaches in the NFL back to seven and coaches of color to eight, which ties the largest number the league has had (2017).
Wilks will be formally introduced as the team’s head coach during a news conference on Tuesday. Here’s a quick introduction of Arizona’s new lead man.
1. Wilks completes the black head coaches trifecta in Arizona
It’s been a good year for black coaches landing head coaching gigs in the Grand Canyon State. First, former ESPN analyst Herm Edwards secured the Arizona State job. Then former Texas A&M head honcho Kevin Sumlin took over at Arizona.
Bingo if you had Wilks winning the Cardinals job for Arizona’s three largest football teams going three-for-three with black coaching hires. Wilks also interviewed for the Tennessee Titans’ and New York Giants’ head coaching vacancies.
The Cardinals’ three-week coaching search took the longest of any team this offseason. This is the first minority hire, as the four other new coaches have been white. The Fritz Pollard Alliance recommended Wilks, 48, as one of the minority coaches whom NFL teams should consider.
2. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
On the eve of Super Bowl 50, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s international headquarters released a statement congratulating seven of its members for reaching the marquee game. Wilks (a 1994 initiate) was one of five on the Carolina Panthers team. At the time, he was Ron Rivera’s assistant head coach and secondary coach.
3. HBCUs provided Wilks his first opportunities
After playing a year with the Arena Football League’s Charlotte Rage as a defensive back/wide receiver (1993), Wilks’ first job in coaching was as defensive coordinator for Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1995. Two years later, he took over as Savannah State’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming the program’s head coach in 1999. As a coach with the Tigers, his 1998 defense led the nation in total defense (166.3 yards per game) in Division II. American Football Quarterly named him the Division II defensive coordinator of the year. Four players earned All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, including linebacker Reginald Jackson, who was named Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
4. Of the seven black head coaches in the NFL, Wilks is the fifth with a defensive background
When black coaches become head coaches, they overwhelmingly come from a defensive background. There have been 18 black head coaches in the NFL’s modern era, and only four of those — Art Shell, Dennis Green, Hue Jackson and Anthony Lynn — have been promoted after coaching the offensive side of the ball. Wilks continues the trend of defensive coaches moving up at a much higher rate than their offensive counterparts.
Live from Sundance: Spike Lee says he’ll celebrate iconic Air Jordan ads at NBA All-Star Weekend
The legendary director is on top of the world with his Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’
1:49 PMSpike Lee was center stage at a brunch Monday morning to celebrate his successful Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It.
The series, he says, was the brainchild of his wife Tonya Lewis Lee. The idea for doing the series on the digital streaming service was born two years ago, at Sundance, which is the largest independent film festival in the country. “From day one I told people we’re not making television — we’re making cinema. I directed all 10 episodes. We’re making a long a– movie. I was never making this for TV,” Lee said. “When the original film came out in 1986 it was only 86 minutes, so it was a joy to come back and revisit this.”
It was another packed house for a Blackhouse Foundation event — standing room only as people juggled plates of sausage, eggs, fruits, mini pastries and cups of juice. Lee also said this is the 30th anniversary of the commercials he made with Michael Jordan, something he’ll celebrate at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
“We’re going to go in the writers room in February for the second season,” he said of the Netflix series. Lee joked to much crowd laughter that if Malcolm X had been four hours, Denzel Washington might have won the Oscar for best actor instead of Al Pacino.
Up next for Lee is a new movie, Black Klansman, which he said will soon go into production and will star John David Washington.
Sundance 2018: Forest Whitaker, Jada Pinkett Smith, Idris Elba brave the snow, push passion projects
‘Sorry To Bother You’ and ‘Yardie’ are ready for the world
10:48 AMPARK CITY, UTAH — Walking the streets of the Sundance Film Festival, you run into some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Oscar winner Forest Whitaker is one of the many in town pitching a film he helped to produce, Sorry To Bother You, which premiered Saturday night in Park City, and stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews and Danny Glover. The film takes place in Oakland, California: A telemarketer has discovered a magical key to success. Whitaker was seen popping out of an SUV on Main Street, waving at fans as they snapped shots of him.
Navigating the crowds on Park City’s Main Street was the brave Hollywood heartthrob Idris Elba, who premiered his directorial debut with Yardie. The film starts in Kingston, Jamaica, in the ’70s and goes to the Hackney area of London in the ’80s, all the while following a man who is out for retribution after his brother’s murder.
At the DirecTV Lodge, folks were watching the NFL playoff games while staying far away from the cold. The cast members of the social media-themed Assassination Nation, which includes Colman Domingo, Anika Noni Rose and Kelvin Harrison Jr., were there and, as they left, they were greeted by fans holding placards, asking for autographs. A line was wrapped around Sundance’s Blackhouse — people were hoping to get into a panel on which Jada Pinkett Smith was speaking and into the subsequent reception hosted by the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation.
Live from Sundance: Tonya Lewis Lee on why she created a ‘Monster’
The producer — and wife of the iconic Spike Lee — has the hottest film at the nation’s largest film festival
6:34 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Tomorrow is a big day for Tonya Lewis Lee and her team: The Jan. 22 premiere of Monster happens at the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s one of the most anticipated films in Park City. That makes her nervous — “It’s like [people] haven’t seen the movie yet! How do [they] know?!” — but it most certainly also makes her feel good.
Monster is a film that she’s been hoping to get made for a dozen years. There have been a bunch of starts and stops, and finally, here we are. The cast is stellar: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, A$AP Rocky, Nas and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are all part of the film, and it’s helmed by Anthony Mandler in his directorial debut. Mandler is best known for his frequent video collaborations with Rihanna, and he has also collaborated on video projects with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Usher and Lana Del Rey, among many others. The script is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers and was written for the screen by Hampton University’s own Colen C. Wiley and award-winning playwright Janece Shaffer.
And the film’s concept feels very ripped from today’s headlines.
“It’s about a 17-year-old black boy who makes one bad decision and is looking at, potentially, his life being thrown away forever,” Lewis Lee says while sitting in a Park City gallery, one of the many spaces that brands have taken over for the duration of the festival. “For me, I have children and I have a boy, and when I read the book I was so moved. It’s so creatively written … I fell in love with it. This was a chance to tell a story that we don’t often see on film.
“Monster is an opportunity to contribute a dramatic story about a brown boy coming of age that could impact not only the way people look at brown boys but potentially our criminal justice system,” says Lee. “Maybe we can change the way kids are locked up. Maybe we can change the over-sentencing of juveniles. We had to stay with it and make it happen.”
This project — her Tonik Productions teamed with John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. and Bron Studios to produce this drama — is in line with the mission-driven work she adores. “And I’m unapologetic about that,” Lewis Lee says. “I am blessed to be in a position to create content and media. I feel a real responsibility to create something that moves the human condition forward in a positive way. I hope in the work that I do it’s entertaining, but that we’re getting messages out there to impact our world and make it better.”
Toward the back of the gallery space is a makeshift photo studio, and people like director Anthony Hemingway are coming in for portraits. This year, the festival has a record 39 projects that either feature black people as the first, second or third lead, or has a black director, black producers or black writers. This is a moment, and everyone here is buzzing about it.
Lewis Lee, who is married to iconic director Spike Lee, is happy that there’s much to celebrate in Black Hollywood these days. But, she cautions, there’s still so much more work to do. “When Spike started making movies, there weren’t that many people out there doing it. To his credit, he was like if I’m getting through the door, I’m bringing a whole lot of people with me,” she says. “And he’s done that. And those people have brought people. So here we are now in a moment where young people can look to my husband and his colleagues and say, Oh My God! If they can do that, I can do that.” She says that people are seeing now that there is a path.
“I look at people like Issa Rae. … Going back to Spike, Issa will tell you the ’90s formed who she is … to how she can be here. I look at Justin Simien (creator of Dear White People) — that’s a direct line. In terms of women and black people, we have come a long way. We have a long way to go, but it’s exciting to get our voices out there and tell our stories.”
And the stories are robust. Many of the black projects being shown at Sundance this season tap into racism, however nuanced or overt, and the current political climate. “I think we’re trying to grapple with the issues of our time,” says Lewis Lee, who next is working on a film about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. “John Legend said, ‘Preparation meets opportunity.’ And we are prepared. And we’re getting a chance to talk about the issues of our time in a really wonderful way.”
Live from Sundance: From ‘Compton’ to ‘Mudbound’ and ‘The Chi’ — actor Jason Mitchell is the next superstar
Next up? A ‘Get Out’-like film called ‘Tyrel,’ and he’s in the remake of ‘Super Fly’
6:33 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Come Tuesday morning, Jason Mitchell is hoping that he hears at least two familiar names called when the Academy Award nominations are announced. The Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, are the biggest honor in Hollywood, and Mitchell, who starred in both Detroit and Mudbound, is hopeful that the two women who directed him in those films get their due.
You likely know Mitchell’s work from his excellent turn as rap icon Eazy-E in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. Since then, he’s upped the ante by turning in impressive work in 2017’s Mudbound, 2017’s Detroit and most recently in Showtime’s The Chi. It also was announced last week that he’ll be in the Super Fly remake as Eddie; the film will be directed by Director X and also will star Grown-ish actor Trevor Jackson as Youngblood Priest.
“I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of really dope women,” Mitchell said at the Sundance Film Festival. “And Dee Rees and Kathryn Bigelow are two of those people who are being talked about. It would be good … to see them do their thing [at the Oscars]. It’s not my vision. I just came and did my job — they just told me exactly what to do, and I went over the top. [But] I think it would be nice to see women defy something.”
Mitchell is at the festival promoting his latest, Tyrel, a dramatic film about being the only black guy on a dude’s trip the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration that is being called “2018’s answer to Get Out.” It premiered Saturday night to a crowd that included Emmy winner/The Chi creator Lena Waithe. Mitchell said he’s inspired by the #TimesUp movement and is ready to see the progression for women in the industry take place.
“Women know how to … fight for it,” he said, sitting on a couch in the Grey Goose Door Lounge off the city’s Main Street, where actors such as Jeffrey Wright, Debra Messing and John Cho are milling about. “I would just like for female directors to get what they deserve. Not just directors, females in the business in general. It’d be nice to see them on those stages.”
Sundance previews ‘Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’
Will it have the same vibe as FX’s award-winning ‘People v. O.J. Simpson’?
8:15 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Before the start of the panel about Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., a limited series coming to USA Networks on Feb. 27, a DJ blasted tracks that made both of the legendary rappers household names. More than 20 years after the genre-lifting rappers were killed, people are still celebrating, dancing and rapping along to the music that soundtracked much of the 1990s. “We get to see what we’ve rarely gotten to see, which is the friendship between Biggie and Tupac,” said director and executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who shared Emmy victories for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Also on the panel was showrunner Kyle Long, co-producer/music supervisor Lyah Leflore, Josh Duhamel (L.A. to Vegas, Call of Duty WWII) Marcc Rose (Tupac) and Wavyy Jonez (Big).
Before the start of the conversation, guests viewed an amazing never-before-seen trailer. “We get to see them from a young age,” said Hemingway. “We deal with Biggie before he was a celebrity. We get to learn who they were as artists and get to see their pain.”
Actor Duhamel said his series is done very much in the vein of People v. OJ. While in college, he rushed home daily to watch the real-life courtroom drama, and because of that he thought he knew everything about O.J. — but was blown away by the FX because he realized how much he didn’t know. “Even those who grew up on the rappers’ music,” said Duhamel, “and were around during the times of their deaths will be astounded at all that they discover [in this series].”
John Legend at Sundance: ‘We need to humanize the young people’
‘Even when they make mistakes,’ he says of the new film, ‘Monster,’ ‘they’re worthy of our grace.’
6:35 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — At a Saturday afternoon panel discussion, Blackhouse Foundation leader Brickson Diamond touted the record 39 black projects being featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Behind him, John Legend, Tonya Lewis Lee and moderator Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy; chair of SAG-AFTRA’s Diversity Advisory Committee) applauded along with the standing-room-only crowd — which included black-ish creator and Girls Trip co-writer Kenya Barris. This was a moment. Never have so many black projects been a part of the film festival.
This specific panel was set to discuss the hotly anticipated film Monster. Based on Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel of the same name, the film is about a creatively gifted black teen who is accused of a crime he says he did not commit — and who endures an unrelenting criminal justice system. Lewis Lee and Nikki Silver produced. “We were looking for partners who were invested in social justice issues. … [That] led us to John Legend,” Lewis Lee said of the Grammy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning Legend.
Legend, an executive producer of Monster, said from the stage that the project is in line with a mission close to his heart. “Once I read the script, I was on the edge of my seat,” he said. “I was super into what was happening on the page. I spend a lot of time thinking about mass incarceration, and how we end mass incarceration, in America. We’re the only country in the world that puts our kids in solitary confinement. … We need to humanize the young people. We need to … even when they make mistakes, they’re worthy of our grace, our consideration and our love. We failed to protect them from trauma. This film is about … is a kid allowed to make mistakes? Is a kid allowed to be a kid?”
Monster’s ensemble cast includes Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of A Nation), Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), John David Washington (Ballers), Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), A$AP Rocky (Dope), Nas (The Get Down) and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four). Other panelists included director Anthony Mandler, writer Cole Wiley, Silver, Mike Jackson, Aaron L. Gilbert and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the film’s star.
Paul George debuts his second signature sneaker — the Nike PG2
The OKC Thunder star broke them out on Saturday vs. the Cavs
3:29 PMNike just delivered a PG-13 sequel.
Nearly a year after presenting Paul George with his first signature sneaker — the PG1, which he donned on the court for the first time on Jan. 12, 2017 — the brand is back with the Nike PG2. On Saturday, George, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 27-year-old star swingman, unveiled his new kicks in a matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The thing I can do is go after the best players in our league and shut them down in the shoes. That’s the goal. That’s going to be the best way to highlight the PG2 and show all what they can do performance-wise,” George says in a Nike press release. “I got my hands full, but I got the right shoes for the job.”
Nike’s Tony Hardman, the designer behind the PG1, returned to craft the second installment of George’s shoe. Together, they came up with five rules to ensure that the PG2 influenced both basketball and sneaker culture:
- Take it Beyond Basketball
- Give it an Edge
- Fine Tune, Then Fine Tune Again
- Design for the Next Generation
- Let Performance Do The Talking
The PG2 features an improved overall fit through a more traditional tongue construction than what was used on the PG1, as well as new technology developed by Hardman in the form of “dynamic wings” on the shoe’s forefront. The launch color highlights George’s persona as an avid video gamer, with specific design elements nodding to Playstation, his favorite console, reflected throughout the shoe, including a light-up tongue.
“We worked directly with the PlayStation team on every aspect of this shoe,” says Hardman. “One thing that they provided, which was really cool, was the starry graphic from the dynamic theme that will be available for your PlayStation 4 with a code from the shoe. It’s a beautiful graphic, so we made it the sock liner.”
The limited-edition PlayStation colorway of the Nike PG2 will be available at retail on Feb. 10.
With new songs, Drake says his ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is all in ‘God’s Plan’
Drake’s sabbatical appears to be officially over
2010 was when I lost my halo/ 2017, I lost a J-Lo / A-Rod a damn trip, had me on front page though/ I had to lay low.
Drake, “Diplomatic Immunity”
Call Drake a man of his word. The final lyrics on 2017’s More Life set the stage for this very moment. Maybe getting back to my regular life will humble me, Drake rhymes on “Do Not Disturb.” I’ll be back 2018 to give you the summary … More Life.
And that’s exactly what happened. With the pre-midnight drop of two new songs, “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity,” Drake’s musical sabbatical is coming to a close. The two-song project is dubbed Scary Hours, and the records are, in fact, his first official solo releases since last year’s Life. The lone exception is “Signs,” which even then was a record created specifically for Louis Vuitton’s Spring-Summer ’18 collection.
What these records signify, only Drake and the OVO conglomerate truly know. But in the near decade since his third mixtape, So Far Gone, made him a household name, one reality has always remained steady: The guy does nothing without a purpose. And with the Grammys set for next weekend in New York City, best believe the timing isn’t a coincidence. Drake’s been musically quiet for a while now — it could be that he wants his spot back.
Allen Greene to serve as Auburn’s first black athletic director
The former Buffalo AD will be the third black AD in SEC history
3:31 PMAuburn on Friday introduced Allen Greene as the university’s 15th athletic director, making him the first African-American AD in school history and the third ever in the Southeastern Conference.
Greene, 40, served in the same role at the University at Buffalo since 2015 and worked in the athletic department at Ole Miss from 2009-12. He joins Vanderbilt’s David Williams II and former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans as the only black ADs in SEC history.
This hiring brings the number of black athletic directors in the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) to 12, including 11 men and one woman:
- Boston College: Martin Jarmond
- Florida State: Stan Wilcox
- Virginia: Carla Williams (the lone black woman)
- Maryland: Damon Evans (interim)
- Michigan: Warde Manuel
- Ohio State: Gene Smith
- Arizona State: Ray Anderson
- California: H. Michael Williams
- USC: Lynn Swann
- Stanford: Bernard Muir
- Auburn: Allen Greene
- Vanderbilt: David Williams II
Outside of the Big 12, which has zero, each Power 5 conference has at least two black athletic directors. These 12 men and women represent 18.4 percent of the 65 athletic director jobs in the Power 5.
The numbers are not set in stone. California’s H. Michael Williams plans to step down from his position in May. Evans, serving on an interim basis at Maryland since October, may replace an outgoing black athletic director (Kevin Anderson), much like Carla Williams did at Virginia (Craig Littlepage).
Auburn president Steven Leath said Greene had “the right combination of leadership, enthusiasm, experience and management to lead Auburn Athletics to success well into the future.”
N.C. A&T football team didn’t get White House invitation
so there’s nothing to decline, according to the school
11:33 AMContrary to what the internet said in a Thursday night Instagram post, the North Carolina A&T football team didn’t turn down an invitation to visit the White House.
The school and the team never got an invitation to turn down in the first place.
“I am not aware of an official invite from the White House to the football team,” according to N.C. A&T sports information director Brian Holloway.
Just-retired football coach Rod Broadway also told The Undefeated that he knows nothing of an invitation and has nothing further to say on the matter.
S0me folks might have thought an invitation was issued after the undefeated Aggies’ 12-0 season and Celebration Bowl win over Grambling State in December.
In November, 18 different NCAA championship teams visited the White House. Both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball champions, the North Carolina men’s team and South Carolina’s women’s squad, declined.
Ready for a ‘Swaecation’? Rae Sremmurd star Swae Lee confirms solo debut
Fresh off the duo’s gig narrating the NFL Playoffs, Swae preps a spring soundtrack
This will be Swaecation Vol 1 as well as some on melodies on SremmLife 3 know I won’t leave you guys hanging 💪🏽 https://t.co/codMLn2egb
— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@goSwaeLee) January 18, 2018
Definitely in like less than a month confirmed
— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@goSwaeLee) January 18, 2018
Swae Lee’s announcement winds up a very productive 2017 for both him and his partner-in-rhyme, Slim Jxmmi. They are currently the official narrators of the NFL playoffs, with 12 different ads airing nationally on TV and the web. Swae continues to reap the benefits of well-placed musical drops too. His standout appearance on Jhene Aiko’s “Sativa” only whet fans’ appetites for more. His definitive moment came with a feature on French Montana’s international hit “Unforgettable“—undeniably one of last year’s best songs, with over half a billion YouTube views.
With a catalog that includes his own hit records and songs he’s written for other artists — like Beyoncé’s “Formation,” for example — this is a hugely anticipated project. But Swaecation doesn’t spell the end of Rae Sremmurd. SremmLife3 is in production, as Swae confirms. He’s releasing his album just ahead of festival season, though, and with Migos’ Culture II on the way, fests, day parties, cookouts and kickbacks are already heating up.
‘Grown-ish’ gets early renewal for expanded second season of 20 episodes
Yara Shahidi got the news Thursday night in Los Angeles
6:35 AMIt’s back-to-school time already. After only four episodes, the Grown-ish cast and crew finds out that next semester, so to speak, is a done deal. Grown-ish creator Kenya Barris surprised Yara Shahidi with the news at the Freeform Summit in Los Angeles. And the second season? Twenty episodes, up from its freshman 13. Per The Hollywood Reporter, “the show’s Jan. 3 … premiere ranked as the younger-skewing cable network’s best comedy launch in five and a half years.”
NBA All-Stars will have plenty in reserve
We project how the rosters will fill out
There are seven reserve roster spots each in the Western and Eastern Conference, which include three frontcourt players, two guards and two wild cards. The NBA head coaches will vote for the reserves in their respective conferences next week.
The reserves will be announced on Jan. 23 to applause and criticism. It’s inevitable, especially in the deep-in-talent West, that some deserving players won’t make the cut.
For the first time in NBA All-Star Game history, the leading fan vote-getters from each conference (Cleveland’s LeBron James in the East and Golden State’s Stephen Curry in the West) will serve as captains and draft players for their teams, regardless of conference. Each captain’s first four selections must come from the pool of remaining starters. As the top overall finisher in fan voting, James will make the first pick, then Curry. The All-Star Game takes place Feb. 18 at Staples Center.
The West starters announced Thursday: Curry and his Golden State teammate Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
The East starters: James, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
This is how we project the coaches, who have a history of leaning toward winning teams, will fill out the reserves:
Forward: DrayMOND GREEN, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Stats: 11.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Comment: The 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is still playing at a top level. Green does much more than score for the team with the NBA’s best record.
Forward: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 20.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Comment: George’s scoring numbers have taken a dip playing alongside feared scorers Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. But P.G. is widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top players, so he’ll make it.
Forward: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Stats: 20.1 points per game, 12.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Comment: Towns lands the first All-Star selection of his career in his third season. The 7-footer’s versatile game is too much to deny now.
GUARD: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 24.8 points per game, 9.7 rebounds, 9.9 assists
Comment: A little surprising that the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player doesn’t get voted in as a starter. Perhaps it’s market. Here’s to hoping that Westbrook and his former teammate Kevin Durant play against each other under the new All-Star format.
Guard: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota TimberwolveS
Stats: 21.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists
Comment: Butler has played on an MVP level in his first season with the Wolves. Kudos to Butler for landing a hard-to-get West All-Star guard spot in his first season in the conference.
Wild card: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, guard
Stats: 20.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Comment: Thompson may be quiet, but he also is the most feared shooter in the game behind his teammate Stephen Curry. The Warriors get four All-Stars for the second straight year.
Wild card: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs, forward
Stats: 22.7 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Comment: Aldridge is the main reason why the Spurs had one of the NBA’s top records in the first half of the season with star Kawhi Leonard primarily sidelined.
Snubs include Damian Lillard, DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Blake Griffin, C.J. McCollum and Marc Gasol.
FORWARD: Kristaps Porzingis, New York KnickS
Stats: 23.6 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
Comment: Porzingis gets the first All-Star nod of his young career and gives the New York market a representative. The Latvian is the lone European in the All-Star Game.
FORWARD: Al horford, Boston Celtics
Stats: 13.4 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
Comment: Horford beats out Cleveland forward Kevin Love based on Boston’s record. This would be Gordon Hayward’s spot if he were healthy.
Forward: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Stats: 14.0 points per game, 15 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
Comment: Drummond lands his second All-Star nod after being snubbed last year. It would be fun to see East center rivals Drummond and Embiid playing against each other.
Guard: John Wall, Washington Wizards
Stats: 19.6 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists
Comment: Wall’s biggest challenge appears to be staying healthy. While the Wizards are disappointing, he is a top-15 NBA player.
Guard: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Stats: 24.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Comment: Oladipo has been singing well off the court and on it. This will be his first All-Star nod.
Wild card: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, guard
Stats: 16.2 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists
Comment: Lowry’s statistics aren’t gaudy, but they’re respectable and the Raptors are winning. He will make his fourth All-Star appearance.
Wild card: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, guard
Stats: 23.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists
Comment: Beal lands his first All-Star nod with the last East spot, but does disappointing Washington deserve two?
Snubs include Dwight Howard, Ben Simmons, Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, Jaylen Brown, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker.
Broccoli City Festival 2018 to feature the Migos, Cardi B, Miguel, Daniel Caesar, H.E.R., Nipsey Hussle
Start looking for Airbnbs and plane tickets now
12:18 PMMaking this as clear, and as concise, as possible. The Undefeated will be there. We hope you will too.
A Storm is coming — in Ava DuVernay’s ‘Wrinkle in Time’
‘Essence’ cover features the director and her superstar cast
11:37 AMSoon, we’ll all get to see 13-year-old Storm Reid in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming A Wrinkle In Time. And she’ll be glorious — word to the icon that is Oprah Winfrey. Reid, Winfrey and DuVernay all cover Essence’s February issue, where they talk about the power of imagination.
One big dream DuVernay dared to imagine when she was first taking meetings about directing the film? Seeing a brown girl as the protagonist in this epic, fanciful story, which hits theaters March 9. “Sometimes I’d be watching her on set and would really tear up at her performance because she will become for this generation what Judy Garland’s Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was for previous generations,” Winfrey shares in the Essence story. “She gets to be that. This little Stormy, our little Stormy, gets to carry that on for generations to come. She gets to be that light for girls like herself …”
Damian Lillard ends strict vegan diet
Trail Blazers guard says he was losing too much weight
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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is no longer on a strict vegan diet after it became counterproductive.
Lillard, a guest on the ESPN Hoop Collective’s RUN A.M.C. podcast recorded Wednesday, said his five-month run as a vegan has ended because he was losing too much weight. Lillard announced on his Instagram account on Sept. 5 that he had become a vegan with hopes of “getting my life right.” The two-time NBA All-Star reached his goal of getting back to his rookie weight of 190 pounds, but Lillard ended his vegan diet about a month ago because he lost 17 pounds.
“I did it, but I started to lose a little bit too much weight with all the games and practices and all that,” Lillard said on the podcast. “I had to balance it out, so now I’ve been mixing it up a little bit more, having vegan meals, still mixing it up with other stuff.”
Lillard told OregonLive Sports on Sept. 25 that he had been vegan for a month and it allowed him to eat cleaner, create better habits, take more weight off his feet and feel much better. Portland-based newspaper/website Willamette Week also tweeted on Sept. 25 that Lillard loved vegan sloppy Joes and missed eating at Wendy’s fast food restaurants. After the 27-year-old struggled with his shooting the first six games this season, he dismissed a question from Comcast Sports Northwest in late October about whether his vegan diet was affecting his play.
The 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year said he has added beef and chicken back into his diet. Lillard said he has stayed away from Wendy’s and he still eats vegan meals regularly. Other NBA players who have professed being vegan include Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler and Jahlil Okafor.
“I did it to lose some weight and be easier on my feet, knees and ankles,” said Lillard, who is averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds this season. “I had a few injuries, so I was trying to get lighter and trying to get healthier and put better stuff in my body. It helped a lot as far as my energy and how I felt.”