The Latest: NBA renames All-Star Game MVP award for Bryant

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver unveils the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award during a news conference Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

The Latest on Saturday night at NBA All-Star weekend. (all times local):

6:43 p.m.

The NBA has renamed its All-Star Game MVP award in honor of Kobe Bryant.

Commissioner Adam Silver announced the move on Saturday. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain near Los Angeles on Jan. 26.

Bryant became the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game when he made his debut in 1998 at age 19. He made the All-Star team 18 times during his stellar career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning the MVP award a record-tying four times.

Silver says Bryant “is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game.”

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4:00 p.m.

Toronto Raptors and All-Star coach Nick Nurse was in Las Vegas last summer when he got the news that Kawhi Leonard was leaving the defending champions after just one season to join the Los Angeles Clippers.

Soon after, Nurse headed down to the hotel lobby and ran into two of his players, Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet.

“I thought the guys might need some cheering up, so I said, ’Hey, look at it this way: Kawhi leaving means we just freed up something like 20 shots per game,” Nurse said.

It was 18.8 per game to be precise, but who’s counting? Well, plenty of Leonard’s former teammates, apparently.

“Siakam immediately starts doing this,” Nurse laughed, swinging his right arm in widening circles, like a baseball pitcher loosening up before entering a game. “And Van Vleet just breaks into a crazy grin.”

Small wonder. Those two became the biggest beneficiaries of Leonard’s departure. Siakam is averaging 7.3 more shots and 6.6 more points per game at the break; Van Vleet, 5.3 and 7, respectively. The remainder of Leonard’s shots were scooped up by Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby.

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3:55 p.m.

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is grateful for the All-Star break.

He had to pull out of the All-Star Game and Saturday night’s 3-point competition after he strained his groin during Wednesday night’s 111-104 loss to Memphis. He was replaced by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.

Lillard is averaging 29.5 points and 7.9 assists.

“Tough injury,” he said during Saturday’s All-Star media session. “Came at a tough time. Fortunate for me, that game was on the 12th, we don’t play again until the 21st. So that’s at least nine days of being able to see where I am, get some treatment, do some rehab and go from there.”

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Source: Associated Press