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ON THE NBA/BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/The best pearls from players and others in 2018

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTOS: JAIME VALDEZ - Denver guard Will Barton (right) still speaks wistfully about the Trail Blazers, his former team.Many years ago, before the Trail Blazers were an NBA franchise, a TV personality named Art Linkletter hosted a show called "Kids Say the Darndest Things."

Though three decades of covering pro basketball, I've learned the same is true with players and coaches.

Herewith our annual end-of-year offering of quotes from the folks who make us chuckle — sometimes on purpose, sometimes inadvertently.

  • Let's start with one of the loop's more controversial figures of 2018, guard Jimmy Butler, who made enough noise that the Minnesota Timberwolves were forced to trade him to the Philadelphia 76ers after he was shopped around the league.

    • "I don't regret nothing. Anything. Zero." — Butler after his tirade during a Minnesota preseason practice that he hoped would help spurn a trade from the Timberwolves.

    • "The first-born of all our kids." — An anonymous Miami executive, asked what the Timberwolves were asking as compensation in a potential trade of Butler to the Heat.

    • "Who is the most talented player on our team? KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns). Who is the most God-gifted player on our team? Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins). Who plays the hardest? Me." — Butler, assessing the situation in Minnesota before the trade.

  • Joel Embiid is in only his third NBA season, but the talented young Philadelphia center already sounds like a seasoned pro in terms of quips.

    • "The past few games, I've been so trash." — Embiid of a three-game string where he shot .341 and averaged 13 points. (Or trashy.)

    • "It's not a rivalry. They always kick our ass." — Embiid after a loss to Boston. Actually, not always. The 76ers won two of nine regular- and postseason matchups with the Celtics in 2017-18.

    • "I think I own a lot of real estate in his head." — Embiid on then-Detroit center Andre Drummond, after the Sixers' 133-132 loss to the Pistons, a game in which Drummond was ejected after two technical fouls.

  • Portland guard CJ McCollum has become somewhat of a sage through his podcast, one of which engaged Golden State's Kevin Durant in some back-and-forth about forming "super teams" while chasing a ring.

    • "I would never do anything of that nature. I think that's disgusting. I would never do it like those guys. I was raised differently." — McCollum, which drew a seemingly good-natured rebuke from Durant.

  • Also from the Blazers backcourt star from Lehigh:

    • "This is the best September I've had. (Cleveland) Browns win, get engaged, 27th birthday." — McCollum, after proposing to his longtime girlfriend, Elise Esposito. And of seemingly equal importance, the Browns on the way to vying for a playoff berth.

  • Carmelo Anthony went from Hall-of-Fame candidate to sixth man to a player without a team in the course of a calendar year.

    • "I'm not sacrificing no bench role. That's out of the question." — Anthony, then with Oklahoma City, asked by a reporter if he would accept a reserve role the following season in the final year of a contract that paid him $28 million.

    • "Hey, P! They want me to come off the bench!" — Anthony, as teammate Paul George walked by during the interview.

  • Manu Ginobili retired at age 40 after 16 NBA seasons, all with the San Antonio Spurs. Before he left, he offered an observation about the reported return (which didn't happen, for a second time) of former teammate Kawhi Leonard, who missed most of the 2017-18 season with an apparent quad injury.

    • "For me, he is not coming back ... We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys (the media) made us fall for it. But we have to think he's not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn't be changing, at least until he is ready for the jungle."

    Another Manu-ism:

    • "Just one more? I was thinking about signing a five-year deal, and now they are throwing me down. Very disappointing."— Manu, after a "Uno Mas Manu" billboard popped up near downtown San Antonio.

  • Golden State coach Steve Kerr has (unwittingly) been a consistent contributor to this column. A few pearls from the one-time Blazer reserve:

    • "I told them we were going to do it. It's their team. That's one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It's not my team, it's not (general manager) Bob Myers' team, it's not (owner) Joe Lacob's team — although I'm not going to tell Joe that." — Kerr after turning the huddle over to veteran players during timeouts in a game against Phoenix.

    • "It's like an average of 6 1/2 (lies) per day ... you almost read it like a sport story: 'Trump led all liars with 6.5 per day in 2019, his best season yet." — Kerr on the president of the United States.

  • Then there was LaVar Ball, loquacious father of Lakers guard Lonzo Ball.

    • "You can see they're not playing for Luke (Walton) no more. Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him." — LaVar Ball, rocking the double negatives on the Lakers coach.

    • "His dad was talking s—t, so I took him out early." — Walton, joking about removing Lonzo from the first quarter of a game.

  • LaVar Ball helped another son, LiAngelo, get hooked up to play professionally in Lithuania after he was suspended from the UCLA team and withdrew from school. From Europe, LaVar continued to drop bombs through the media.

    • "He has become like the Kardashian of the NBA. Somewhere, I guess in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing at all of us." — Kerr.

  • Lonzo Ball and LeBron James have joined forces with the Lakers this season.

    • "We're one and the same when it comes to playmaking ability." — LeBron on Lonzo, waxing overly effusive in praise of his new teammate.

    • "It doesn't matter to me if I'm a six seed or a three seed or a two seed or an eight seed. If I come into your building for a Game 1, I can be very challenging." — James, while still a Cleveland Cavalier.

  • And there were these:

    • "LeBron did a nice job helping his client. It is LeBron's client, right?" — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, after former recruit Darius Bazley, who changed his mind and headed for the NBA G-League, announcing a $1-million shoe internship with New Balance. James' agent is Rich Paul, same as Bazley.

    • "Sounds like a HIPAA violation. That's what it sounds like to me." — Kyrie Irving, dodging a reporter's question about whether or not he would need knee surgery.

    • "Kyrie had some surgery for a deviated septum, so I don't think he wanted to be seen. He's a really good-looking guy. He can't ruin his movie career." — Boston general manager Danny Ainge, joking about Irving not attending the Celtics' Game 7 against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals.

    • "I missed coaching. I miss the three C's — competition, camaraderie and charters. You can't replace any one of those three." — ESPN game analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who hadn't coached in a decade, after coaching the U.S. national team to qualification for next summer's FIBA World Cup in China.

    • "Their play was embarrassing. Me subbing them is me saving them, maybe. Maybe we saved them." — Jim Boylen, on Chicago's starting five after his third game as interim head coach, a 133-77 loss to Boston. No Chicago starter played more than 20 minutes.

    • "Laker fans can come in here, Warrior fans can come in here, Celtic fans can come in here. But take that 'L' on the way out." — Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone, asked about the heavy number of spectators supporting teams from Los Angeles, Golden State and Boston when they played (and lost) at the Nuggets' Pepsi Center.

    • "You have to play two in a row." — New Orleans center Anthony Davis, asked what's the toughest thing about playing back-to-backs.

    • "It reminds you that you're going to take a little hike pretty soon, also. Nobody stays forever." — San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, asked how he feels about guard Dwyane Wade nearing the end of his career.

    • "He wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant — his own version of that." — Personal trainer Justin Zormelo on Washington center Dwight Howard, 34, in the "too-late-for-that" category.

    • "I'm Magic Johnson. I'm still the same dude. I'm not gonna change. There's no pressure on me." — Lakers president Ervin Johnson, asked if he felt pressure to get things done in free agency during summer 2018.

    • "I went from being snitched on to 'put a ring on.'" — Nick Young, on going from the Lakers to the Warriors last season. A Lakers teammate, D'Angelo Russell, had released video of Young admitting to cheating on his then-girlfriend, rapper Iggy Azalea.

    • "It was like the Coors freight train. I almost got a frost on me." — ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, on watching Phoenix rookie center DeAndre Ayton play in college.

    • "A lot of people make jokes about stat-padding or going to get rebounds. The people that's talking or saying what they need to say, they should try doing it and seeing how hard it is, since everybody wants to be talking. Since everybody wants to be talking, I'm tired of hearing the same old rebound this, stealing rebounds, all this s—t." — Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, on chasing extra rebounds or assists to average a triple-double for the season.

    • "It definitely shocked me. I wonder if Beyonce has to buy a ticket when she sings the national anthem." —  Elizabeth Reynolds, third-grade teacher at a lower-income school in San Pablo, California, after students in her class were asked to sing the anthem at a Golden State Warriors game — at $85 a ticket. Team officials later withdrew the charge.

    • "The night I get my jersey retired, I'm not sure I want to look up at the Jumbotron and see Isaiah highlights." — Paul Pierce, not wanting to share the spotlight in Boston when former Celtic guard Isaiah Thomas came to town with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    • "Both my parents were teachers, so we didn't have a lot growing up. They did whatever they could and needed to do to provide for us." —  Detroit's Blake Griffin, on his childhood in Oklahoma City, evidently unaware that many children have much more frugal beginnings.

    • "I wouldn't say I hold any ill will toward them. They drafted me. It was just like, 'Damn, I wish I could have made it work.' It's like your first girlfriend. I was so close to 'Dame.' He has always been one of my biggest supporters. It was a dream of mine to play alongside him. We came in together, played summer league together. How special would it have been with me, him and CJ (McCollum) in the backcourt?" — Denver guard Will Barton on the Blazers.

  • And finally, a fitting display of the Kiwi Way:

    n "I'm comfortable shooting it. The tough part is just making them, you know?" — Oklahoma City center Stephen Adams, a New Zealand native, on taking the 15-foot jump shot.

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    @kerryeggers


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