The All-Star Debate

Host Harden Leads All-Star Reserves


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While James Harden of the hometown Rockets will be in the lineup to serve as unofficial host for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, evidently the voters — fans and coaches — haven’t received the memo that the NBA is making a big splash in Brooklyn this season.

allstar-13-200Harden, who was traded from Oklahoma City four days before the season opener and made a splash by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games, will make his All-Star debut in his brand new home town.

Yet despite their being the hottest team in the league with nine wins in the last 10 games and currently holding down the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Nets were shut out when the reserves were announced for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Thursday night.

A poll of the league’s head coaches added seven players to each team.

Chris Bosh joined teammates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade on the East team, making the defending NBA champion Heat the only team with three players that will take part in the 62nd All-Star Game, which will be played at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 (TNT, 8:30 p.m. ET).

In the Western Conference, the Spurs’ old reliable twosome of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were voted in for their 14th and fifth times, respectively, while the vote split up potential duos from other teams.

Eastern Conference

east-reserves


Chris Bosh, Heat — If they were the Three Tenors, LeBron James would be Pavarotti, Dwyane Wade would be Domingo and Chris Bosh will always be “that other guy.” Numbers aren’t flashy, but he sacrifices his game to make it all work. | Highlights

Tyson Chandler, Knicks — He averages a double-double of 12.1 points-10.9 rebounds, leads the league in shooting (.674) and defends the rim as if he were a hungry fat man protecting the last cheeseburger on the planet. Justice is done. | Highlights

Luol Deng, Bulls – Coaches love the lunch pail players, the guys who show up for work every night. He leads the NBA in minutes, is his team’s top scorer and top defender in a season when the Bulls are surviving without Derrick Rose. | Highlights

Paul George, Pacers — He’s not just keeping the seat warm for Danny Granger, but playing like the Pacers’ MVP. With six double-doubles in the last two-plus weeks, he closed fast and has led Indiana’s surge after a slow start. | Highlights

Jrue Holiday, Sixers – In a season when Philly fans search for rare and exotic sightings of Bigfoot and Andrew Bynum, the dynamic guard is the reason to go to the games. He’s the only player in league averaging 19 points and nine assists. | Highlights

Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — Look past the Cavs’ 11-32 record at these more pleasant numbers: 20.7 points, 5.7 assists, 39.9 3FG%, 20.7 PER. And the kid is only 20. Are the coaches already buttering him up for free agency? | Highlights

Joakim Noah, Bulls — The numbers say it all — 12.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.3 steals per game. The hyperactive one is having the finest season of his career and symbolizes coach Tom Thibodeau’s driven attitude. | Highlights

The lowdown: The pair of Bulls on the frontline probably squeezed Nets center Brook Lopez out of a spot. Deron Williams would have been everyone’s preseason pick, but struggling with his shot didn’t help. Maybe coaches also didn’t like his griping that led to his coach, Avery Johnson, getting fired. You could have made a case for Boston’s leading scorer Paul Pierce, but with Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo already voted in by the fans, it’s unlikely the coaches wanted to reward the 8th-seeded Celtics with a third man. Do you really see a group of coaches warming up to J.R. SmithBrandon Jennings of the Bucks and Greg Monroe of the Pistons are just too far under the radar.

Western Conference

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LaMarcus Aldridge
, Trail Blazers — The plan was to build Blazers into a playoff team next summer. But on a roster with less depth than a wading pool, L.A. scores (20.6), rebounds (8.6) and keeps them as a surprise club in the mix this season. | Highlights

Tim Duncan, Spurs — Oh, so you foolishly left him out of the All-Star Game for the first time last season? Well, the 36-year-old geezer responds by turning back the clock and turning up the heat to keep the Spurs as a real threat in the West. | Highlights

James Harden, Rockets – A bit ironic that The Beard’s first All-Star honor comes just when he’s shot 28-97 (.289) in his last five games. But he’s shown he can carry the mantle of the top dog and will represent the home team in Houston. | Highlights

David Lee, Warriors — Statistically, a no-brainer as the top PF in the West — 19.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists. His biggest challenge was probably splitting votes with teammate Stephen Curry on a Warriors team that has truly surprised. | Highlights

Tony Parker, Spurs – Coach Gregg Popovich keeps ratcheting up the pressure on him every season by raising the bar of great expectation and Parker goes right on clearing it. Seems the coaches understand just how hard that is to do. | Highlights

Zach Randolph, Grizzlies – You could make an argument for teammate Marc Gasol anchoring the defense. But flip the light switch every night and there’s Z-Bo with 16.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, which add up to a league-leading 27 double-doubles. | Highlights

Russell Westbrook, Thunder – The most polarizing player in the NBA has struggled all season with his shot, but ranks in the top five in steals and the top six in assists while churning away with fellow All-Star Kevin Durant to build OKC’s league-best record. | Highlights

The lowdown: As difficult as it was to pare down the list, imagine how much harder things might have been if Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Kevin Love were healthy/up to par. In many cases in the West, it became an intramural competition with Lee beating out Curry, Randolph elbowing Marc Gasol aside and Aldridge getting the nod over rookie Damian Lillard. The surging Nuggets were overlooked, maybe because they’re too well-balanced. The Clippers’ turbo-charger off the bench, Jamal Crawford, was also snubbed. But if anybody’s got a reason to complain here, it’s Curry.
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All-Star Linsanity Swallows Harden

HANG TIME, Texas — In his first season as a starter and in the role of lead horse pulling the wagon, James Harden could expect to be chasing the marquee names of Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul for a starting berth on the Western Conference team in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.

But who thinks the league’s fourth-leading scorer should be trailing his Houston teammate Jeremy Lin by more than 200,000 votes?

Those casting ballots, of course.

To some it is the very essence of everything that is wrong with throwing the All-Star voting open to everyone with a computer, smart phone, Facebook or Twitter account. Linsanity, if you will.

Yet it is also testament to the constantly growing fan base of the NBA all around the world. It is the continuation of the Yao Ming Effect that took hold in the last decade when the 7-foot-6 Rockets center rode the national pride of China to a string of seven consecutive All-Star starting nods, in the early years beating out Shaquille O’Neal in his prime.

Now, though the U.S. born Lin is as American as apple pie, his families ties to Taipei and China, are causing a similar stuffing of the ballot box.

The latest round of balloting shows Bryant (977,444) taking a slim lead over LeBron James (970,314) in a race of superstars for the overall crown that will likely go down to the wire.

However, depending on how many votes are still to coming from overseas, it is not out of the question that Lin (496,133) could catch the Clippers’ Paul (542,564), while continuing to leave his teammate Harden (283,691) in the dust.

To compare:

Harden is averaging 25.8 points per game. He has scored more than 25 points 15 times in 28 games and 30 or more on nine occasions.

Lin is averaging 11.9 points per game, connecting on just 28.6 percent of his 3-point attempts and has made half his shots in a game just nine times all season.

Call it the Annual All-Star Debate. Call it Linsanity.

Or just relax and figure the coaches will call Harden’s name and make it all right.

All-Star Debate: Gallinari Vs Gay





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As NBA veterans like Monta Ellis, Josh Smith and LaMarcus Aldridge can attest, big numbers during a stellar individual season guarantee nothing when All-Star reserve bids are announced.

All three of those players have been left at the All-Star altar in recent seasons, missing out on trips to All-Star Weekend while players with similar “numbers” enjoy the spoils of the designation of being the best of the NBA’s very best.

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari and Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay are going to get educations in that process in the next week. Both players are having standout seasons, but the numbers are tight for reserves in both the Eastern and Western conferences. A solid case for inclusion doesn’t always result in your name being called.

That said, it’s hard to ignore what they have done.

Gallinari is the leading scorer for a surprising Nuggets team that has maintained its position among the best teams in the Western Conference all season. Career numbers across the board — 17.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and .446 percent shooting — for a 14-7 team that is third in the conference standings this morning speaks volumes about what Gallinari is doing.

He’s had signature moments as well, Knicks will have a hard time erasing the memory of his career-high 37 points scored against his former team, from their memory banks. He’ll have the chance to make more, starting tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

After flashing All-Star potential in both New York and Denver, might this be the time for the 6-foot-10 Gallinari to cash?

“I think you could see Gallo playing in an All-Star Game someday,” Nuggets coach George Karl told the Denver Post recently.




Gay has had to shoulder a completely different load for the Grizzlies this season with Zach Randolph going down with a torn ligament in his knee and missing the last month of action.

Sure, Marc Gasol is still there and putting All-Star numbers of his own. But Gay has had to assume an increased role on both ends of the floor for (guarding Blake Griffin the other night against the Clippers was a stretch) a Grizzlies team that has endured its share of ups and down over the course of the season. Still, Gay has been stellar, averaging 17.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals and shooting .449 from the floor for a 11-10 Grizzlies team.

If head-to-head matchups count for anything, Gay did outplay Gallinari Tuesday night in the Grizzlies’ 100-97 win over the Nuggets, a much-needed win that snapped a four-game losing streak. Gay finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals while Gallinari struggled, shooting just 1-for-10 from the floor and finishing with eight points and seven rebounds.

Weighing the numbers on both sides would make this a tough choice for anyone …

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All-Star Debate: Parker vs. Lowry





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With just a week to go before the starters for the 2012 All-Star Game are announced, it’s time to turn our attention to the rest of the team.

There are seven other spots on each team that have to be filled. And that’s where we begin with the first Hang Time All-Star Debate of this season.

With Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul all but locks for the starting nods in the Western Conference and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook an absolute lock for one of the coach’s picks, we’ve got an old school vs. new school dilemma for the other reserve spot.

Tony Parker of the Spurs or Kyle Lowry of the Rockets?

Parker has assumed even more responsibility than usual for the Spurs while Manu Ginobili remains sidelined with a broken hand. But it’s nothing new for the still, cat-quick Parker, who has cranked it up recently, averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds in the last five games for a crew that is almost invincible (10-1) on its home floor but a shell of itself away from the AT&T Center (2-6).

Serving as the Spurs’ catalyst without Ginobili in the lineup and Tim Duncan operating at a diminished capacity, Parker has been forced into a more prominent role in the past few seasons. The Spurs remain a factor in the Western Conference race this season behind the work of Parker (and the usual deep crop of worker bees that always populate the roster).

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All-Star Debate: Aldridge v. West

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – All this chatter about Blake Griffin and Kevin Love deserving spots on the Western Conference All-Star team has overshadowed two other power forwards playing All-Star caliber basketball on teams with winning records.

Trail Blazers’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge and Hornets’ ace David West have both waged All-Star campaigns without the aid of outsiders, opting for the on-the-court grind that isn’t always appreciated the way it should be. Neither Aldridge nor West is piling up the flashy metrics that Griffin and Love are this season. But shouldn’t there be some weight given for being a major factor on a playoff team?

A fifth-year pro, Aldridge has been forced to carry the Blazers with All-Star guard Brandon Roy sidelined after surgery on both knees. He’s averaging career highs in points (21.1) and rebounds (8.8) while keeping the Blazers afloat (25-21 and 8th in the Western Conference standings) during yet another tumultuous, injury-plagued season. Even Aldridge is playing with a bruised hip. And as more than a few Portland fans have mentioned, Aldridge has more than held his own against both Griffin and Love in head-to-head matchups this season. In fact, he’s been dominant at times against both.

The Blazers are 6-0 against the Clippers and Timberwolves this season and Aldridge has record double doubles in all but two of those games. He had 28 points and eight rebounds to Griffin’s 20 and 18 in a 108-93 defeat of the Clippers last Saturday and fouled out with just four points and five rebounds in a 100-91 win over the Clippers on Dec. 5.

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All-Star Debate: Allen v. Felton

You’re down to one guard to pick for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and the choices are Ray Allen and Raymond Felton. Which Ray do you go?

Coming into the season, it’s a no-brainer. Allen, on the basis of a distinguished career, makes the East team hands down. He’s second all-time in 3-pointers made and the leader among active players. Nine All-Star Games on are the résumé. He’s a career 20-point scorer with more than 21,000 career points.

Not only can Allen shoot, he can shoot in the clutch with games on the line. He’s a great teammate and, perhaps most importantly, Allen has won. Two of the last three years, his Celtics have played in the NBA Finals, winning it all in 2008.

While there’s obviously a career achievement element to All-Star elections that can’t be ignored, whether through voting by fans or coaches, let’s stop and consider the half-season Felton has put together. In his first year with the resurrected New York Knicks, Felton is out-playing Allen in most meaningful stats.

New York’s playmaker is outscoring the Celtic sharpshooter (17.6 – 17.5) going into today, has an understandable huge assist edge (8.8 – 3.1), is outrebounding (3.9 – 3.7) and is doubling up on steals (1.8 – 0.9). Allen does has sizable leads in shooting percentages from the floor on all shots (51.3 to 42.8) and 3-pointers (46.8 – 34.4).

One can argue that Allen would put up even better numbers if he didn’t share the load with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Maybe, but it could also be presumed that playing with those guys makes it easier for Jesus Shuttlesworth to get his.

Felton is a vital second banana to Amar’e Stoudemire on Broadway. He’s not only the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, but Felton is sixth in the league in assists. The North Carolina product had always put up solid numbers, with his best season being three years ago — 14.4 points and 7.4 assists. Are his numbers now skewed by Mike D’Antoni‘s system?

Hmmm.

On the basis of stats, I’d give Felton the slight leg up. But what about intangibles? Ah, here it gets tricky. Allen is part of the defending conference champs and Boston currently leads the East. Winning has to count for something. The Knicks are mired in a bit of a slump, but they are in the playoff picture, checking in at sixth and have made pro basketball at Madison Square Garden relevant again. That can’t be discounted in the world’s largest media market.

Remember neither of these guys is going to start. In the latest voting returns, Allen checked in a distant fourth and Felton eighth. All-Star voting concludes Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. ET. Fans can still cast their votes on NBA.com and by mobile phones. Paper balloting in arenas has ended.

Their All-Star worthiness is going to be left up to the coaches. They may pick one, both or neither. Better the coaches than me.

The All-Star Debate: Love v. Griffin

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Blake Griffin will be in Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend, of this we can all be sure.

The Clippers’ power forward is the headliner in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the odds-on favorite to take home that crown. But his weekend should be busy with more than just the dunks and the Rookie Challenge.

But there’s a bigger question lingering as we get closer to February: Should Griffin be playing Sunday in the All-Star Game?

He’s already among the most feared players in the game and he has the numbers — 21.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 23 straight double doubles –to back up any All-Star campaign.

We asked a veteran league observer this morning if Griffin deserves to be an All-Star this season and before we could get the words out, he cut us off.

“Yes, yes he should be an All-Star,” he said. “Blake Griffin has come in as rookie and become the most exciting player in the league, playing for the Clippers, which is pretty hard to do. Other players look for Clippers games. That’s how nice he is. They’re like, ‘let me watch the Clippers tonight and see what this beast is going to do.’ Who wouldn’t want to see that man in the All-Star Game?”

The knock most traditionalists will bring up is the Clippers’ ugly 13-24 record. It’s the same argument some people will make to squash the All-Star candidacy of Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love.

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