Siakam scored a career-high 44 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, OG Anunoby scored a career-best 22 points, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Washington Wizards 129-120 for their sixth straight win. “If he keeps playing like this, he’s a 2020 All-Star,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Siakam.
Ryan Wolstat: I asked Siakam if he was trying to send a message tonight about all-Star snub: “Take it however you want it ... I wish I was going there.” But says he’s just going out and balling, giving his best. “I just wish my dad was there to watch that.”
LeBron James understands how much fans love talking about players changing teams, but said Saturday morning that his All-Star team selections had no ulterior motive. “That’s a great conversation,” James said. “Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk. Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don’t know, player options. That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport. It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”
For the second straight season, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James used the first pick in the All-Star draft to select Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant for his team. For the second straight year, Durant wasn't surprised at all. "What else is he supposed to do?" Durant said after Friday's 117-107 Warriors win over the Phoenix Suns.
Doncin on All-Star snub: “I wanted to go and I was very disappointed when they told me I wasn’t. What matters is the people who voted for me. I was impressed and that’s what matters most to me. Maybe next year I’ll be there.”
Vincent Goodwill: Lakers forward LeBron James said he and Giannis made their All Star selections this morning. Wouldn't reveal who he picked so 7 pm on TNT is when we'll all find out
The 30-year-old swingman really expected 26-year-old Gobert to land an All-Star spot and explained why he believes the Utah Jazz player had such an emotional response to his snub. “He’s in the Western Conference” he initially noted. “I was at the grocery store with my wife and my kid. I was in a hurry to watch my guy live. I was sure he would be in. I turned the TV on and couldn’t believe he wasn’t. I was pissed. I wanted it so bad for him” he added. “He deserved it. He wanted to be in, not only for himself. It would be huge for Europeans. When you’re an All-Star, it’s not only for you, but also for your country. That’s why I think he was so emotional. He had so much support from back home. Maybe he felt like he let us down” Batum said.
Michael Scotto: Caris LeVert on D'Angelo Russell becoming an All-Star: "It's a huge accomplishment for him, for the team, for the city. He's put in a lot of hard work. I can't imagine being traded as young as he was. That's just a testament to how tough he is mentally and physically." pic.twitter.com/2zKoTmntxv
Barry Jackson: Pacers coach Nate McMillan makes point to commend Adam Silver for naming Wade to All Star game.
Chris Dempsey: #Nuggets POBO, Tim Connelly, on his team's All-Star representation: "So excited for Nikola, but he shouldn't be our only player in Charlotte. Jamal's personal & team success made him worthy. And the impact Monte and Torrey have made merited a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge."
When the notion of the NBA inviting him to become a member of this year’s All-Star team first surfaced, Dirk Nowitzki’s first response was to have second thoughts. “At first I was a little skeptical, of course,” the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar forward said on Saturday morning. “Everybody knows that I’m not a big middle of attention guy – center of attention. But we talked about it and everybody thought it was a great idea.”
The NBA already has announced that he’ll be an honorary coach for the World Team when they play the US Team in the Rising Stars game on Feb. 15. “It’s going to be fun, Friday the coaching, Saturday competing in the 3-point contest, and then Sunday playing a bit,” Nowitzki said. “I’ll hopefully make it fun and enjoy the weekend.”
"It was a dope gesture," Wade said of Silver making the exception for himself and Nowitzki. "I told him and I said, at this point I appreciated my fans for voting for me, but I didn't want to be put in a position where he'd take a roster spot of someone who'd get their first opportunity to go the All-Star Game, or second or third. I've had 12 chances at it."
“Let’s just try to get it right,” Lindsey said. “Were not saying any of the seven players that were selected are not deserving. I just think that our guy was more deserving than any of the seven. You can go down the line and make an argument. We’ll stand our ground and stand on the facts and hopefully over time contribute to making the process cleaner.”
Eric Walden: Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, on Rudy Gobert: "I know Rudy does a lot. third-ranked defense, 15 and 13, leading shot-blocker, leading rim-protector. Those guys don’t get rewarded. … I value that side of the basketball. … It’s a snub, in my opinion, that Rudy doesn’t make it."
Jody Genessy: Intersecting. GM Dennis Lindsey said the Utah Jazz are proposing a new system to select All-Star reserves. They want a committee, not head coaches, to pick them.
Brian Lewis: Kenny Atkinson got to give D'Angelo Russell the news on making his 1st #NBA All-Star game: “Fantastic. Fantastic for D’Angelo first of all, fantastic for the #Nets organization. It’s a great honor. Never take that away from him, being an All-Star. That’s really, really special."
Brian Lewis: D’Angelo Russell on finding out he’d made his 1st #NBAAllStar game: “(Kenny Atkinson) was the first one to break it to me. I was in awe on the plane. I'm a crier, honestly. I was holding my tears in." #nets @D'Angelo Russell
Devin Booker: Shoulda been first time around... but congrats to my brother @D'Angelo Russell... People can’t change what ur destined for!!! ⭐️
Set to suit up in Charlotte during NBA All-Star 2019, Khris Middleton will make history and become the first NBA G League alum to do so in the annual midseason contest. Averaging 17.4 points on a 44/38/84 shooting clip, Middleton’s offensive firepower has helped the Bucks hold steady as the top dog in the Eastern Conference. As he began laying down the building blocks that eventually helped him earn such an honor, Middleton appeared in three contests for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants back in 2012-13, averaging 11 points and 7.7 boards.
Brian Lewis: D'Angelo Russell is the first #Nets All-Star since Joe Johnson in 2013-14. At just 22 years old, he's the second-youngest player in team history to earn an All-Star selection behind Buck Williams (who was younger in 1982 and 1983). #NBA
Shams Charania: Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell has been selected as Victor Oladipo's replacement as an East reserve in the NBA All-Star game, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium.
Harrison Wind: Nikola Jokic on how his teammates reacted to his All-Star selection: “They were proud of me...But this is not just (about) my success. If it’s not (for) them, I’m not going to be here. Not just them. Coaches, trainers. It’s not just me of course. I need to thank them too.”
Harrison Wind: Nikola Jokic doesn’t care which team he’s chosen for (Team LeBron or Team Giannis). “I’m just glad I’m there,” he said. On the All-Stars he grew up watching, Jokic rattled off Bird, Jordan, Magic, Kobe and Shaq, T-Mac, Vince Carter, “A lot of guys from YouTube.” pic.twitter.com/nyd07kQIAw
"Rudy Gobert should absolutely be an All-Star," Snyder told ESPN. "He's one of the most impactful players in the league. This is clear, not subjective, and shows the the process of selecting All-Stars is flawed. We talk about defense being valued, but when we have an opportunity to reward it, we reward scoring again and again. Rudy is the best defensive player in the league and an offensive force when you consider his screening, his finishing and the spacing he creates with his presence."
After six-plus years of nearly constant losing, the Magic finally celebrated something big. Vucevic became their first All-Star since 2012, and they also beat the Indiana Pacers 107-100 at Amway Center. “It’s a great night,” Vucevic said later, water dripping from his hair. “It’s obviously one of the best nights that I have ever had in my professional career.”
“(It was) special night for us as a team, not only Vooch but us as a team,” Augustin said. “It’s well-deserved. Vooch has been playing great this season. He’s been carrying us this season. I’ve been playing with Vooch for three years now, and he feels like a brother to me. So to see him get such a great award and accomplishment, it means a lot to me personally.”
Matt Velasquez: With all my copy filed for the night, here's a quote from Giannis Antetokounmpo looking back at where things started with him and Khris Middleton back in 2013 in light of Middleton being named an all-star today:
Brian Lewis: D’Angelo Russell on possibly making the #NBA All-Star game: “That’s not up to me, honestly. Like I said, to be in this position where my play individually is getting that type of exposure, that’s something you definitely want to put on your shoulders. But it is what it is.” #Nets
David Cobb: Mike Conley planned for an uneventful Thursday night as All-Star reserves were announced. “I probably won’t pay too much attention to it honestly," he told me. Who can blame him? commercialappeal.com/story/sports/2…
RJ Marquez: Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge on being named an #NBAAllStar for 7th time, says he’s honored and “thankful for these guys, that’s why I’m going.” LA also set record straight on ASG team selections saying he doesn’t care and won’t let that turn into a negative. #KSATsports #NBA pic.twitter.com/nzNFUtLZUS
Nikola Jokic: Nikola Jokic upon finding out that he was an All-Star: "My girlfriend started to cry, my brothers started yelling and screaming at me, I was like, 'Guys, come on.'"
"I just want to thank the players, coaches, fans and media for voting for me, it's most appreciated," said Victor Oladipo. "I am honestly speechless just knowing I have the support of my peers, people I look up to and admire, as well as the fans. All I can say is thank you and I am working on coming back stronger not just physically, but mentally as well.”
Tom Osborn: Asked about being left off the All-Star team, DeMar immediately turned the conversation in LA's direction: "Congratulations to LA. One guy makes it from a team, we all make it. You can't make it without your teammates." #Spurs
Will Barton: Congratulations to my lil bro Jokic aka “Big Honey” on his first & much deserved all star selection. Proud of you big fella! Happy to watch you grow from ya rookie season to the best center in the league! Keep going kid you have no ceilings!
Marc Stein: When it comes to injury replacements, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver typically chooses the player next in line in the coach voting. If he sticks with that formula, Victor Oladipo's replacement will be the player who finished eighth in balloting among East coaches
Joining Westbrook as reserves in the Western Conference player pool are San Antonio Spurs forward-center LaMarcus Aldridge, New Orleans Pelicans forward-center Anthony Davis, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Jokić has been named an NBA All-Star for the first time.
The Eastern Conference reserve pool includes three first-time NBA All-Star selections: Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, Philadelphia 76ers guard-forward Ben Simmons and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vučević. They are joined by Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.
Bobby Marks: Rudy Gobert will miss out on a $1M bonus for not being selected to the All-Star game. He will not receive the bonus if selected as a replacement player.
Bobby Marks: Kyle Lowry will have to appear in 65 games in order to earn a $200K bonus for being named to the All-Star game. The bonus does not impact his cap hit based on the incentive being deemed likely from the prior season.
"I don't really set goals like that," Siakam told ESPN. "For me, I don't put a cap on what I can accomplish, right? I just work and continue to do whatever I can do to get to the highest level I can get. "If that's an All-Star? Sure, I'll take it. But I don't have my mind set on that."
The Orlando Magic have endured six full seasons without placing anyone in the NBA All-Star Game. That wait may finally be over. Nikola Vucevic, the center who replaced Dwight Howard, will learn Thursday if he will be the Magic’s first All-Star since Howard made the Eastern Conference team in 2012.
“It would mean everything, man,” Vucevic said. “I try not to think about it, but it’s pretty hard. Obviously, everybody mentions it to me. Everybody keeps asking, ‘Are you going to make it?’ (They’re asking me) like I know it, but I don’t know. I’m waiting just like everybody else is waiting. But it would mean everything to me. Obviously, I’ve been through a lot here, and our team has been through a lot. I know I’ve been respected around this league, and I know people respect my game and know what I’m capable of. But I think getting selected as an All-Star would really take me to the next step. So hopefully the coaches recognize that. It’d mean a lot to me. We’ll see. It’s right there. I’m hoping for the best. I really do think I deserve it because of my play all year long and what I mean to this team.”
Eric Walden: Kyle Korver recalls making the 2015 All-Star Game: "That had never even been on my radar. I don’t really consider myself that level of player. … It was an unbelievable experience for me — another thing in my career that I never could have imagined." pic.twitter.com/SwjAszRoy0
Sirius XM NBA: 🔊 @Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer shares why he thinks Khris Middleton should be a @NBAAllStar reserve. For a chance to win a trip to All-Star Weekend, go to siriusxm.com/nbaallstar for official rules & to enter by Feb 1st. Click here to listen to NBA Radio-bit.ly/SXMNBAASG pic.twitter.com/55G2JqKDV2
Tom Orsborn: Aldridge on if he's sweating making his seventh All-Star team: "If I'm in, I'm in. If I'm not, I'm not. I am too far into my career to be worried about those types of things. I'm worried about winning and trying to take this team far."
I’m told it is reasonable to conclude that not earning a starting spot in the West was among the frustration factors that helped convince Davis now is the time to push for his New Orleans exit.
Ben Golliver: Doc Rivers on All-Star draft & Lou Williams 2018 snub: “Last year they were cowards & this year they’re doing it live so we know who gets picked. Next step is coaches reveal their vote. I have too many coaches saying they voted for my guy; if that was true then he’d be on team.”
Rod Boone: After shootaround preparing for #Bucks tonight, James Borrego spoke about @Kemba Walker being named an All-Star starter for next month's game in Charlotte, what is was like to deliver the news to Kemba, and the impressive season the #Hornets star guard is putting together: pic.twitter.com/k4NJu9Ys9h
Rod Boone: On a conference call, Kemba said the love from his peers in player voting for the All-Star Game is what he really appreciates most. "It means a lot to me. The guys I go up against each and every night, to have their respect I think that's huge. That's what I care most about."
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is doubtful his team will get four players voted into next month's All-Star Game in Charlotte. "I doubt it," Kerr said prior to Thursday's game against the Washington Wizards. "I don't think so, to be honest with you. I don't think it's been that kind of a season. It's been rocky, at least until the last few weeks. I think the way Draymond [Green] has played over the last three weeks, for sure, he's been playing at an All-Star level. And he would be the first to tell you he was not playing at an All-Star level for the first couple months. So my guess is he won't make.”
Kerr said that while the process is always difficult once voters get to the end of the roster, identifying the top-of-the-line All-Stars is pretty easy. "I think it's fairly obvious," Kerr said. "When you see an All-Star, you kind of know it. You know James Harden's an All-Star, you know he's going to start. You know Steph Curry should start. What gets difficult is when you're picking the last couple guys. To me there's usually maybe eight, nine guys who are sort of automatic. And then three or four guys who come from a pool of 10 or 15, and that's really difficult. I like to reward winning.”
Thompson, who is averaging 26.8 points a game in January and has helped fuel the Warriors' eight-game winning streak, is confident he will join Curry and Durant in Charlotte. "I want to be there," Thompson said after Wednesday's practice. "If we keep winning, we're in first place, I feel like we probably deserve to be there because of our performance the last five years at the top of the standings. It's not easy; I don't know how many times it's ever been done so -- if I don't make it, it's not the end of the world. I'll go to the beach and enjoy myself."
Shams Charania: 2019 East All-Star starters: Boston’s Kyrie Irving Charlotte’s Kemba Walker Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (captain) Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid
Anthony Chiang: Dwyane Wade received the second-most fan votes among guards. He did not finish in the top five in either the media or player vote. In the end, Wade finished tied for third among East guards with Ben Simmons.
Shams Charania: 2019 West All-Star starters: Golden State’s Stephen Curry Houston’s James Harden Lakers’ LeBron James (captain) Golden State’s Kevin Durant Oklahoma City’s Paul George
Jonathan Feigen: Fans had Derrick Rose ahead of Harden. The media had Harden first among guards. The players had him second behind Curry.
Matt Velazquez: Asked about potential picks if he’s an all-star captain, Giannis said he already knows who he’s going to pick. Since he’s “a lover, not a fighter” he wants to make sure Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook are both on his team.
Jared Dudley: Man we just keep getting better! Learning how to win in the crunch time is the hardest thing to do for a young team in the NBA! Never been on a team thats learned more quickly on the fly then this group here in Brooklyn! Oh btw my boy @D'Angelo Russell is an ALL STAR!!!!!!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Anthony Slater: Klay Thompson on his All-Star candidacy: “We’re in first place. I think I deserve to be there...If I don’t make it, not the end of the world. Go to a beach, enjoy myself.” pic.twitter.com/DPY2czsv6j
The 2019 NBA All-Star starters are set to be announced on Thursday and Wizards guard Bradley Beal is not optimistic he will be chosen. That is despite a growing number of supporters in the media, but Beal understands their votes only count for 25 percent of the equation. Fan voting makes up 50 percent and NBA players the remaining 25 percent. With Beal in a distant 10th among Eastern Conference guards in the fan voting rounds that have been made public, he has set his expectations accordingly.
"I'm not going to be a starter so it doesn't matter," he quipped after Wizards practice on Wednesday. "I'm positive. Let's just be honest. Right? We all can be honest, right?" ... Basically, Beal has a lot of competition. He gets it and insists he isn't losing sleep over the pending announcement. "Even then I don't let it consume me. It's not like a goal of mine like 'oh, I've gotta be an All-Star.' If I am, it's great. It's even more motivation to continue to get better. Even if I'm not an All-Star, I'm not going to be mad or upset," he said.
Why stop at one? Kenyon Martin thinks the Denver Nuggets are deserving of three representatives at the NBA All-Star Game next month in Charlotte. “I don’t know how many All-Stars they would get, but (among) guys that deserve it, they probably could have three,” Martin, the Nuggets’ star power forward and enforcer from 2004-11, said at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night before his old club hooked up with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “But who knows? But (are they) deserving of that? Yeah … they’re playing well, can only get better. If they keep it together and guys continue to get better and grow. You’ve got guys that haven’t played yet: Isaiah (Thomas) and Michael Porter. So just imagine. Then you add some of that caliber of talent to the mix, it can only get better. Guys buy into just winning not ego, (it) could be great.”
Thaddeus Young finds the question of Oladipo being an All-Star or not easy to answer. "All day. Every day. We all know he’s an All-Star," Young said. "He’s more than deserving. He’s put us on his back time after time. I don’t think there’s any shooting guard in the East who is more deserving than him."
In the most recent returns, Oladipo was fifth in the fan vote among Eastern Conference backcourt players, trailing Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Kemba Walker and Ben Simmons. “It would be a hell of an accomplishment,” Oladipo, who has the Pacers as the No. 3 team in the conference at 29-15, told IndyStar. “It would be a great for me and my career. Do I think I deserve it? For sure.”
With five days remaining in the fan vote for the All-Star Game, back-to-back NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and reigning NBA MVP James Harden remain outside of the Western Conference starting five. Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George remains ahead of Durant in the West's starting five in the most recent fan voting results, the league announced Thursday. George joins Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic in the conference's frontcourt.
Harden remains behind Minnesota Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry in the voting for the conference's backcourt.
With the Clippers jostling for playoff position in the Western Conference standings on a nightly basis, Harris and Gallinari each made their case to be All-Stars when speaking to The Athletic earlier this month. “Honestly, I think if you look at our team and how well we’ve been playing, when you look at my game over the years of development and where I’m at now, I believe so,” Harris, who leads the Clippers in points (20.8), rebounds (8.0) and minutes (34.2) per game, said. “In the Western Conference, I think if you go down the list, God willing, I should be one of the guys.”
“I think so, especially considering the record the team has,” Gallinari, who leads the Clippers in 3-point percentage (.453), said. “Definitely. Usually, the team has to do well in order to be considered in the All-Star picks. We’re doing well, and we’ve got to keep doing well. I’ve always thought that the winning has to be rewarded and the best teams have to be rewarded with that.”
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Wade, a 12-time All-Star, said of the possibility of playing in the Feb. 17 game in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’ve been around great players for a while in my career. One last hurrah is not going to make or break what I feel about my career. “I’ll be down there anyway, will be around some of the guys anyway, so it’s really not a big deal for me. It’s cool from a fan perspective that they have some of their favorite players, that no matter what they will always see them on that stage. But you want the guys that deserve to be in the All-Star Game, who had the best first half of the season, to be able to go live out a dream. I had that opportunity multiple times, so you want those guys to be able to do it.”
Anthony Puccio: Asked if he’s an All-Star this year, D’Angelo Russell, without hesitation, said “For sure.” Russell led Brooklyn to a 109-102 victory over the Boston Celtics, finishing with 34 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists.
If Doncic makes the cut, he will become just the 46th rookie to appear on an All-Star roster. The last first-year player to do so was Clippers forward Blake Griffin in 2011. "I think just the confidence," Kerr said when asked what he likes about Doncic, who entered Sunday evening’s game against Golden State averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 assists and 6.7 rebounds. "The skill-set combined with the confidence level coming at 19 years old. Barely 40 games under his belt, and he looks like he’s been out here for 20 years."
Steven Adams has acknowledged how much it would mean to his enormous base of fans back in his native New Zealand if he were to take the court in Charlotte next month. "I do like my All Star break," Adams told ESPN. "It's a tough season. But I think a lot of people would like to see me there, and I think it'd be really big for the country in New Zealand. If I'm being selfish mate, I'd probably like a wee break."
Mark Berman: Clint Capela (@Clint Capela) 4th in field goal %, 5th in rebounds, tied for 7th in blocks. Was asked what it'd mean if he's ever named an All-Star: "It would be tough to even put words on that..Every player has his own story. It's really been hard..Maybe (I'd have) a couple tears"
September 28, 2022 | 7:21 pm EDT Update
Crowder and the Suns have “mutually agreed” the veteran forward won’t attend training camp, but Williams is hopeful they can put a conclusion to this before the Oct. 19 season opener against Dallas at Footprint Center. “We’ve done a decent job of acclimating guys into the program and that’s a credit to the coaches, but also the players that help guys along once we get new people in here,” Williams continued. “I’m not so much worried about the timeline. Ideally, you’d like to get someone in here before opening night, but I like the group we have.”
“We tried to develop plans for Jake [LaRavia], David [Roddy], Kennedy [Chandler], Junior [Kenneth Lofton], some of our other younger players. I see Ziaire [Williams] taking a jump in year two, Santi [Aldama] taking a jump in year two. We want these guys to attack this season with a mentality that they’re going to be in the rotation.”
“MarJon [Beauchamp] is already leaning on him. I hope Jordan [Nwora] is. There’s nothing like players that have experienced that, really understanding a role and thriving in that role. And that’s when you’re young, you just want to get on the court. You just want to find a way to get your minutes, find a role, and find a way that you can help the team win. And really, that’s what DeMarre did. So for me, it was exciting to think about adding DeMarre because when he spoke to the players, particularly to Jordan, particularly to MarJon, he speaks with a lot of conviction and a lot of belief in what we’re doing. I already see it. I hope it just continues and grows.”
Katy Winge: Ish Smith on Nikola Jokić: “the perception is that he’s a two-time MVP and he’s a bad boy and so I’m glad I’m on his side.” “How he sees the game as a big guy is pretty special.” pic.twitter.com/sElwdvPrjY
Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé addressed general manager Monte McNair’s contract status for the first time Wednesday, telling The Sacramento Bee he is happy with McNair’s work but all parties have been too focused on the upcoming season to discuss an extension.
Ask Ayo Dosunmu where he specifically wants to most improve over his impressive rookie season and you won’t hear a statistic or even a specific basketball skill.A “Stamina,” the Chicago Bulls guard said following Tuesday’s training camp practice at the Advocate Center.
“He’s going to have to absorb more. And he absorbed a lot last year,” Donovan said. “I tried to help from the bench as much as I could in terms of play calling and getting us into certain situations. I think as a point guard, he has to balance the floor and get guys into right spots. That will be another step for him, another iteration as a player at the point guard spot. “There was a lot on his plate last year and he did an incredible job. You look at his career at Illinois and he played a lot off the ball. I don’t really worry about Ayo in terms of challenges being presented to him. He always seems to rise to those challenges and get better.”