HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Finally, we get a chance to right a few wrongs and clean up some messes from the recent past.
The Western Conference starters have a decidedly Los Angeles flavor, with four of the five (Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Andrew Bynum) coming from Lakers and Clippers. But we’ve spread the love a little more here with the reserves. And the reward for playing All-Star basketball on a winning team is recognized properly here today:
*** The All-Star reserves will officially be announced Thursday night on TNT ***
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers — 23.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists
This is a major make-up call from last season. That Aldridge has operated in MVP territory for the Trail Blazers this season makes it much easier to make this call. Without Brandon Roy around he’s assumed more than just the role of on-court anchor, he’s now become the face of the franchise as well. And he wears those tags well.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves — 25.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Love is one of two exceptions to our long-standing HT rule that All-Star reserve bids go to players on winning teams unless someone is having a truly remarkable season. Love is putting up MVP-caliber numbers for a team that is slowly but surely clawing its way up the totem pole in the conference.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies — 14.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.2 blocks
We knew there would be a Gasol on this team, it just wasn’t clear which Gasol it would be until a few weeks ago. While Pau is playing well, Marc is operating at another level without Zach Randolph around to share the load. Career numbers always help. But watch the Grizzlies for five minutes and Gasol’s impact on both ends of the floor is obvious.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 21.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals
Folks can argue all they want about whether or not Westbrook is a “true” point guard or a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard. We know what he is, an absolute machine, and an All-Star with a chance of holding on to his spot on the team for the next decade or so. Even his critics can’t deny him that.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs — 18.1 points, 7.7 assists, 2.9 rebounds
While there are other worthy candidates (Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry, Steve Nash, Monta Ellis, etc.), Parker deserves credit for being Spurs’ best and most consistent star this season. Without a healthy Manu Ginobili (broken hand) to lean on and with a diminished Tim Duncan doing his best to help out, Parker has been the difference maker.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz — 16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Millsap has gone about his work the same as he always does, without nary a mention and very little fanfare. Hopefully that all ends this week. The coaches voting on the reserves know exactly what he brings for the Jazz and should make sure to think of him when filling out their ballots. There is a place on an All-Star team for guys that do things the old-fashioned way.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets — 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists
A more appropriate gesture for the Nuggets would require us to list four players from their ensemble cast and give each one of them equal time during the All-Star Game. But the rules are the rules, and Gallo is the leader of the pack on one of the top two teams in the Western Conference. He belongs on this team.