The NBA’s All-Star starters have been announced and I, for the most part, have to agree with the selections made by the general public (which might actually constitute a first for me).
This year, the rules for selecting the game’s starters were strangely altered, with fans being made to choose between a “backcourt” and “frontcourt” designation instead of the traditional “guard, forward, center” positions that we’ve all grown accustomed to. The center position was scrapped in a decision that I can only imagine was made by David Stern and Adam Silver while lying on the floor of NBA headquarters after hours one night while staring up at the ceiling through a cloud of smoke after consuming an inordinate amount of weed.
Adam: “What if…what if there weren’t any centers, Dave? What if…what if there were only big men and little men?”
David: “Adam…do you have any idea what you just did? You just blew…my…MIND. Boom!! Let’s DO it!!”
In any case, I must say that I am not a fan of this current configuration. In my humble but loud-mouthed opinion, each position deserves to be properly honored with a starting position on the team, and since there are only two center spots up for grabs, you really don’t run the risk of having a couple of duds taking the floor. According to voting results, the two starters would have been Dwight Howard for the West and Roy Hibbert for the East — both quality selections and neither a slouch with respect to the rest of the All-Stars.
Instead, what we have are a bunch of smaller, but (I’ll admit) mostly deserving luminaries tipping the ball on All-Star Sunday. As everyone now knows, the starters for All-Star 2014 are, for the Eastern Conference: the Miami Heat’s LeBron James; Indiana Pacers’ Paul George; the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony; the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving; and the Heat’s Dwyane Wade. For the West we have: the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant; Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin; Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love; the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry; and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who happens to be the only selection that I can’t stomach on this team.
As anyone who has read my past posts may have already surmised, I’m no fan of Kobe “the man.” I do, however, greatly respect Kobe “the player,” and even he himself has admitted that he doesn’t belong as a starter this year after having played an underwhelming six games to most others’ forty-one. He just hasn’t played enough to earn that spot. This is exactly the kind of popularity-vs-performance nonsense that makes me want to agree with the people lobbying to eliminate the fan vote once and for all in favor of letting the coaches select the entire team instead of just the reserves as they’ve done to this point.
Speaking of the reserves, there are a slew of people who I anticipate will fill out the team who could just as easily have been chosen as starters, though none more deserving than the Portland Trailblazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge.
For the record, Aldridge has never averaged less than 17.8 points-per-game, save for his first year in the League when he was a non-starter. He’s averaged 21 points or more the last four years and this year he’s averaging 24. He’s got an 8.1 career mark for rebounds, but this year, he’s averaging an impressive 12 boards-per-game and about 3 assists (as a power forward, mind you), and he carries at least one block into every contest.
Fittingly, after the All-Star announcements were made, Aldridge went out to show fans the grave error of their ways by blowing up for 44 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and two blocks against the Nuggets (now THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you flip ‘em the bird!). And, this year, you can’t run with the lame lament about players on losing teams being un-selectable – the Blazers have been the hottest team in the League for much of the year.
Speaking of the “good player on a middling team” argument, Kevin Love was having none of that. He is a legitimate superstar and his numbers this year are among the best of the bunch, which is why the fans rightly made him a starter. The hard part in all of this, or should I say the “Harden” part (sorry), is looking at all the deserving folks who didn’t make the cut. But, as I said, the suspicion is that the coaches are going to make sure that they’re at least All-Stars. Who do I believe should wind up filling-out the team? Here are my selections:
Western Conference: LaMarcus Aldridge, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Dwight Howard, Portland’s Damian Lillard, the Sacremento Kings’ DeMarcus, Cousins, New Orleans Pelican Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul.
Tough Cuts are: the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, and San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Eastern Conference: Toronto Raptor DeMar Derozan, Washington Wizard John Wall, the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Afflalo, Charlotte Bobcats Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, Atlanta Hawk Paul Millsap, and Minnesota Timberwolf Nikola Pekovic.
Tough cuts are: Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner, Timberwolf Kevin Martin, and Cleveland Cavalier Luol Deng.
ALL-STAR’S NEW JERSEYS: 1, NEW JERSEY NETS: 0
I know it’s confusing, but bear with me for a moment.
In an earlier post, I roundly criticized – as did many others – the sleeved jerseys that the NBA’s money-hogs marketing team rolled out for the Christmas Day games. But, these new sleeved All-Star shirts? Bravo, I say. Similar though they are with respect to the short-sleeves and the – ahem – slim fit, they are not only more stylish (see: “they don’t look like children’s pajama tops”), they embody the spirit of New Orleans with the Fleur-de-lis front and center while trading on the experimentally-tinged “glorified pickup game” atmosphere that All-Star Weekend has become.
As for the Brooklyn Nets, though they’re playing decidedly better basketball than they were just a few weeks back, it would surprise no one if the only representatives the team sends to the All-Star Game are wearing street clothes and sitting in the stands. Sure, a player or two might make it into one of the events on All-Star Saturday, but the only player even remotely worthy of making the big game on Sunday is Joe Johnson, and he’s the longest of longshots based on the competition in front of him. They will, however, be adding a new alternate jersey based on their past blue-hued history in New Jersey (See? Patience, my precious…patience), and that of the old Brooklyn Dodger teams, so at least there’s that.
(Photo credits to New York Post, wallwidehd.com, rapgenius.com)