Tom Heinsohn is already in the Hall of Fame. That is, as a member of the Class of 1986 in tribute to 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, eight championships and six All-Star appearances in nine seasons as a Celtic, along with three starring years at Holy Cross.
The 2013 bid, now at the second and final stage of voting, is for his coaching career, which changes the dynamic of the debate.
Simply: Should Heinsohn join John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens, originally elected as players and later as coaches, as the only individual double inductees?
The 24 anonymous voters – former players, executives and college athletic-department administrators, media members, other “contributors to the game” – are charged with deciding based only on the category in question, not other work by the candidate. In Heinsohn’s case, his coaching credentials should be the singular issue, not whether he deserves to be in the elite sub-section with Wooden and Wilkens.
Whether the secret 24 stick to the singular issue, though, will never be known in a process that always includes the weighing of intangibles. Maybe the idea of putting Heinsohn in that rarefied air becomes an additional hurdle to clear. Maybe not. Maybe continuing to have a presence around the league, as a Celtics color analyst, does the trick. Maybe not.
Maybe he will be in trouble if his coaching record is judged on that alone.
Heinsohn was on the Boston sideline from 1969-70 until being fired 34 games into 1977-78. He won championships in 1974 and ‘76 and was voted Coach of the Year in 1973. The lifetime mark of 427-263 (.619) includes five Atlantic Division titles.
Having two titles and one Coach of the Year will obviously be mentioned prominently as votes are cast in advance of the April 8 announcement of the inductees. But, of the 16 former NBA coaches in Springfield, Mass., only Johnny Kundla of the Minneapolis Lakers (423-302) totaled fewer wins, and he won four championships and also coached the University of Minnesota for nine seasons. Tex Winter went 51-78 with the Rockets, but was enshrined in 2011 based on his work in college and as an NBA assistant.
How Heinsohn reached the finalist stage while Rudy Tomjanovich failed to make it out of the first round of voting will also remain a mystery. Heinsohn was 427-263 with two titles, “Rudy T” was 527-416 (.559) with two crowns in Houston (plus a gold medal in the Olympics and a bronze in the world championships), and yet only one of them advanced. Dick Motta (935-1,017, one title, one Coach of the Year), Bill Fitch (944-1,106, one title, two Coach of the Years) and Del Harris (556-457, one Coach of the Year) also failed to receive enough support in the initial balloting.
If Heinsohn gets in, the Tomjanovich candidacy for future years becomes much, much stronger.
HOUSTON — As far as seismic shifts in the landscape go, there was no tremor, no low rumble of an earthquake’s warning and it never hit with the fiery blast of a volcanic eruption.
When the Rockets went 49 days — seven full weeks — without a single loss in 2008, it grew quietly for the longest time like an oak tree’s roots growing up through the cracks in a sidewalk until one day it was busting apart the concrete.
The 22-game win streak, second-longest in NBA history, is the outlier in the record book, the one that nobody, even themselves, saw coming, and many, even in hindsight, can still not comprehend.
Before the defending champion Heat, led by the three-headed juggernaut of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, joined the club, only three teams in history had won 20 in a row. The 1971-72 Lakers with their record of 33 consecutive wins and a star-studded roster of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich went on to win the NBA title. The 1970-71 Bucks, led by Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, ran off 20 straight on their way to win it all.
In fact, of the top eight win streaks ever in the NBA before the Heat, five of those teams won championships. Only the Rockets did not get out of the first round of the playoffs.
“Our names will be mentioned with Hall of Fame people,” said point guard Rafer Alston. “We have something to tell our kids.”
Shane Battier, now with Miami, has called the Rockets’ streak “organic,” part of a process that evolved over time.
It wasn’t often flashy or pretty, but it was effective, like seeing a boa constrictor slowly squeeze the life out of its prey.
The Rockets were led by Tracy McGrady’s bundle of offensive skills, but they survived the loss of Yao Ming and they won and won with a growing confidence and surging defense. During the 22-game streak, they held 19 of their opponents under 100 points and 13 under 90. They won 14 games by double figures, an average margin of 12.36, and had only three games decided by fewer than six points. They won 15 games at home and seven on the road.
The Rockets even won the last 10 without their All-Star center Yao, whose season was ended by a stress fracture in his left foot on Feb. 26.
“Every time a team gets a chance to come close, the streak comes up,” said forward Luis Scola, now with the Suns. “It was a great stretch. It was a good team. If we lose any of those games it wouldn’t change that fact. But maybe that team wouldn’t be as remembered.
“You know we were playing well. It was a fun team to play with. The momentum that we had going. We were playing very well. We were beating teams just because we were good…That month and a half was great. I remember it was a lot of fun.”
The Rockets were 15-17 on Jan. 2 and 24-20 when they beat Golden State 111-107 on a night when Yao was dominant with 39 points and 19 rebounds. They were fighting for their playoffs lives, sitting precariously as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Two nights later, they went on the road to win at Indiana 106-103 and ran off seven straight wins where they never gave up 90 points.
“What we’re developing is a great team like the Pistons,” said McGrady. “A great defensive team going out there and playing together and not relying on one or two people to score the rock.”
No. 8 was their narrowest escape, needing Steve Novak to come off the bench to hit a 3-pointer — his only field goal of the game — with two seconds left to rescue an 89-87 win over the Kings.
The streak continued through trades. On the afternoon of No. 10, they sent Bonzi Wells to New Orleans and Kirk Snyder to Minnesota, yet didn’t miss a beat in thumping Miami. They attracted real notice around the league when they whipped the No. 1-seeded Hornets in New Orleans.
When the Rockets took the floor on Feb. 26, the word was out that Yao was lost for the season and the fears inside Toyota Center were palpable. But with 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo blocking shots, waving his finger and filling the middle, the streak rolled on.
“You could probably check this, but I’m thinking all the way to the 17th or 18th game of the winning streak we still were in the eighth spot or the ninth spot or something like that,” Scola said. “It was a really tough year for the West. The playoffs were in jeopardy.” (more…)
HANG TIME, Texas — The clock ticks down, the trade deadline draws near and all 30 NBA general managers are burning up their phones with possibilities realistic and absurd.
Some need to make deals to solidify playoff teams, others simply can’t bear the thought of sitting still. As Thursday gets closer, here are seven GMs with big decisions to make:
Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks
Is it finally time to give up on the hope that Josh Smith can be more than a numbers-gatherer in Atlanta? Ferry, the first-year Hawks’ GM, wasted no time in moving out Joe Johnson’s big contract. Part of the decision was that J-Smoove would blossom without Iso-Joe taking up a big part of the offense. Instead he’s averaging 1.4 fewer points and one rebound less than a year ago, his efficiency rating is down from 21.14 to 19.90 and he’s shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line. The sense is that it’s “just time.” Still, that doesn’t mean Ferry has to move him. He’s positioned the Hawks so that they could afford to keep Smith and still sign a pricey free agent next summer. But that won’t stop the likes of the Bucks, Suns, Celtics, Wizards and Sixers from making a run. The Rockets have long had eyes for Smith, but might be more inclined to wait to make their moves in free agency.
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
Despite their 8-1 record since Rajon Rondo’s season ended due to torn knee ligaments, it’s too hard to see the Celtics making a serious and deep playoff run on the aging legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The obvious move would be with the 36-year-old Garnett and making that long-rumored deal to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe). The challenge is getting K.G. to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Can Ainge appeal to Garnett’s own best interest to get another ring or his loyalty to the Celtics organization to help them start over? Even if Rondo’s knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought and he’s able to get back on the floor for the start of training camp, the rebuilding in Boston has to start sometime. It might as well be now.
Billy King, Brooklyn Nets
If King could know for sure that Deron Williams will shake off the injuries and inefficiency and return to the All-Star form he showed in Utah, then he’d be more inclined to sit back and put his feet up. Or maybe not in the realm of Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire owner is willing to shell out big bucks, but also expects immediate results and does not handle mediocrity well. See Avery Johnson, who was fired with a 14-14 record, a Coach of the Month title pinned to his resume. The Nets will likely try to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz and could be in the running for the popular Josh Smith. Last year’s All-Rookie team member MarShon Brooks is on the block. Would Charlotte’s offer of Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries be enough? The Nets have been so inconsistent that with the possibility of a first-round bounce due to a bad matchup looming, you have to believe King won’t sit still.
Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks
“The Bank of Cuban is open.” That was team owner Mark Cuban’s declaration last month, but what must be determined is in which direction the Mavericks are headed right now. They enter the post-All-Star stretch six games under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. If the Mavs decide they’re better off reloading with a fully-recovered Dirk Nowitzki next season, they certainly have a good trade chip in Vince Carter, who’d be a wonderful addition to any playoff contender. He could also bring in future assets for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
You put him in this slot just because Morey lives with an itchy trigger finger and might be inclined to make a deal just because he can. But with the James Harden steal under his belt and the free agency hits on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets will probably strike only if it’s a chance at a home run. With the youngest team in the league, a position in the West playoff race and a payroll that could make them big, big players in free agency, next summer is probably when they’ll make their move. But Houston is now big-game hunting for talent to play with Harden. If a chance to scoop up a true All-Star comes their way, Morey won’t hesitate.
Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers
It’s almost obligatory to put the Lakers on any potential trade deadline list, despite Kupchak saying publicly that he’s not at all interested in dealing Dwight Howard or breaking up his All-Star group of underachievers at this point. He can’t trade Pau Gasol as long as the possibility exists that Howard walks as a free agent next summer — which it does. Besides, the Lakers problems are not about needing more players but getting the ones they have to play every night with passion.
Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap? With the contracts of both of the frontcourt veterans expiring, it was assumed since Day One of this season that the rookie GM Lindsey would have to deal one of them by the deadline, if for no other reason than to make room and more playing time for Derrick Favors. It would seem to make sense, but only if the Jazz can get a bonafide star in return. That’s what the 30-24 team lacks right now. But there is no reason to make a deal just to make a deal. The future is based on a young core of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Millsap is the more likely one to go, but maybe only for another expiring contract in return. Salt Lake City is not a desired location for free agents. But as the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are felt and big names teams try to avoid the increasingly punishing luxury tax, players will want to simply get paid. Don’t expect a panic move here.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who brought 10 NBA championships to Los Angeles and “Showtime” to the basketball world, died Monday at the age of 80.
Buss died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his assistant Bob Steiner. He had reportedly been hospitalized with cancer, but the immediate cause of death was unknown.
There have been few sports executives in history to make the kind of impact as Buss, putting together lineups that included superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and took the Lakers to the top of the basketball world.
Prior to Buss taking over the Lakers in 1979, the Boston Celtics were the NBA’s reigning royalty with 13 championships and six times defeating L.A. in The Finals. But under this ownership, the Lakers ushered in the ‘Showtime’ era behind Johnson, Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar to win titles in 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, ’88. With O’Neal and Bryant (both as a pair and with Bryant as the headliner later on), L.A. took home titles in 2000, ’01, ’02, ’09 and 10.
In the process, Buss made the Lakers into the most exciting act and hottest name in sports by attracting A-list Hollywood celebrities to their home games at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. and the downtown L.A. Staples Center. It was the presence of Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson sitting courtside and interacting with players and coaches as the Lakers’ highest-profile fan that led to the star-filled scene on Sunday at the Toyota Center in Houston where the 62nd NBA All-Star Game was a virtual Who’s Who of big names from the movie, music and sports industries.
Condolences to the Buss family. Dr Buss was not only the greatest sports owner, but a true friend & just a really cool guy. Loved him dearly— James Worthy (@James_Worthy42) February 18, 2013
RIP Jerry Buss. Your encouragement and support along with your stories of staying true to yourself had an enormous impact on me.— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) February 18, 2013
Born Gerald Hatten Buss on Jan. 27, 1933 in Salt Lake City and raised in Wyoming, he worked himself up as a child of Depression Era breadlines to become a multi-millionaire. He would complete one of the biggest transactions in sports history when he purchased the Lakers, L.A. Kings hockey team, the Forum and a large chunk of California real estate from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 for $67.5 million. The Lakers franchise has an estimated worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, second only to the New York Knicks in the NBA.
The day-to-day operation of the team had recently been taken over by Buss’s children, Jim (basketball operations) and Jeanie (business operations).
Buss was a graduate of the University of Southern California, earning a doctorate in physical chemistry.
Even in a city such as Los Angeles, where the Hollywood stars shine, Buss — for more than three decades — had the show that most often sparkled. The NBA and the sports world are dimmer with his passing.
“He’s meant everything to me in my career in terms of taking a risk on a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school and then believing in me my entire career,” Bryant said at an All-Star weekend news conference in Houston. “And then for the game itself, the brand of basketball that he implemented in Showtime carried the league.”
HANG TIME, Texas — The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and that means general managers are spending endless days on the phone and many veterans are spending sleepless nights on edge.
On one hand, athletes get to plead the case that they’re the only professional group in today’s modern age that can be swapped like heads of lettuce at a farmer’s market, having their homes and their lives relocated on short notice.
On the other, the rest of the world outside those well-paid lives usually get only a handshake and a pink slip when they’re no longer wanted or needed.
So here is 14-year-veteran Shawn Marion telling Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas that he won’t necessarily show up in a new city and play if the sinking Mavericks trade him.
“If I’m going to get traded, they’re going to tell me what’s going on and where I’m going,” the 14-year veteran said. “Because if I’m going to a (expletive) situation, I’m not going. It’s just that simple.
“At this time, I’m too old to be trying to go through and be a, you know what I’m saying, not have a chance to do anything. I’m at a point where I want to be playing for something right now.”
Certainly it is easy to understand the emotional and professional viewpoint of Marion. It was just 20 months ago that The Matrix was playing in The Finals and playing a key role on a team that would win a championship. He figures he’s paid his dues over the years, jumping from Phoenix to Miami to Toronto to find a place in Dallas where he has been comfortable and appreciated.
And all that just goes out the window because Dirk Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season following knee surgery, the Mavericks plummeted in the standings and now team owner Mark Cuban must start looking toward the future?
Perhaps somebody could cue up the Lion King music for Marion, because this is just the circle of life. For all that he has done in Dallas over the past 3 1/2 years, the Mavs are probably hopelessly out of the race for even the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and must begin to look ahead.
Of course, things would have been radically different if Cuban would have been able to reel in star free-agent point guard Deron Williams or made a deal for center Dwight Howard.
But that is the past and it’s time for Cuban, team president Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle to build for the future. Can they somehow convince Chris Paul, the free agent next summer, to leave all that he’s built with the Clippers? Can they talk Howard into leaving money on the table with the Lakers to start fresh in Dallas?
They Mavs at least have to try and that means making tough choices, namely moving veterans such as Marion or Vince Carter in hope of getting draft picks, young prospects or just to clear out salary space. Marion will be owed $9.3 million next season, Carter nearly $3.2 million. Those elder statesmen are the most logical — and valuable — trade chips for a team that has to get much better real soon so they don’t squander what’s left of Nowitzki’s career.
Marion is hardly alone on the hot seat. Atlanta is evidently willing to talk to anyone about veteran Josh Smith. Despite all the claims to the contrary from Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchak, Pau Gasol listened to the talk all season until getting sidelined by his foot injury.
By the way, from a historical perspective, players refusing to report to an undesirable location is hardly a modern phenomenon. As far back as 1950, Bob Cousy was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, but would not sign and was later picked up by the Celtics. Six NBA titles later, that worked out well for Cousy.
Marion, of course, can only hope that Dallas would send him to a place where he can compete for another championship come June. But if not, the Mavs owe less to him than they do to themselves and their fans.
After a decade of excellence that included annual trips to the playoffs, culminating with the 2011 championship, it is time to move on in Dallas.
A very bad week for the Celtics got worse Friday with news that power forward Jared Sullinger will miss the rest of the season with a back injury, ending his rookie campaign after 45 games and the very encouraging showing of 5.9 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes.
That development would be enough of a gut punch five days after Boston learned it would have to finish 2012-13 without All-Star Rajon Rondo because of a torn ligament in his right knee. But losing Sullinger comes with the added implication of the worst fears over his health coming true, creating the big-picture concern that Celtics are only beginning to deal with his back problems.
When the pre-existing condition was red-flagged by teams prior to the draft, the former Ohio State star dropped all the way from being projected for the top 10 early in 2011-12, and possibly the top five, to No. 21 on June 28, 2012. It wasn’t the health scare alone – Sullinger was backsliding for basketball reasons before the injury became known – but it was an obvious concern around the league.
News that he underwent lumbar disc surgery will unfortunately not be a big surprise around front offices. In an interview with Boston radio station WEEI, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed Sullinger’s current problem is related to the one detected before the draft, saying: “Well, yeah. I think that when he was drafted with the medical reports that we had on his back, I think it would be crazy to think that there would not be some days missed… (head trainer) Eddie Lacerte and (team doctor) Dr. (Brian) McKeon and (strength and conditioning coach) Bryan Doo, they spend a lot of time with Jared each day, stretching and formulating plans to strengthen his core and to strengthen the muscles around his back, because he does have management issues back there. And so I think that this is not a surprise. I guess I would say I’m a little surprised that it’s taken this long. He’s been with us since July 1 and he’s been pain-free and hasn’t missed a day of practice until the game (Wednesday) night when it was just sort of a freak thing. He got a rebound and his back spasmed up.”
That was on Thursday, when the Celtics were dismissing the problem as minor. A day later, they were having to contemplate losing one of the keys to the Rondo-less season and dealing with another major setback while trying to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff pack with a three-game lead over the 76ers for the eighth and final spot heading into Friday’s games. With what free time they had left, the front office, coaching staff, entire roster and hot-dog vendors likely fanned out to determine who suddenly got a Celtics voodoo doll and a large box of pins.
The team called the surgery “successful” and said Sullinger “is expected to be ready” for training camp. Rondo is on a similar schedule in the return from his knee injury.
“There’s no grudges between myself and KG,” Anthony said. “He fell, and I helped him up.”
No one knew exactly what to expect, but an outbreak of politeness and a tepid home crowd were not on the menu. Other than a few benign shoves between Garnett and Tyson Chandler in the midst of the fourth quarter and a handful of rogue heckles referencing Garnett’s supposed infamous insult, there was nothing extraordinary.
“I was expecting it to be a hostile environment,” Anthony said. “It was kind of quiet.”
Said Amar’e Stoudemire: “I was thinking the crowd was going to be a little more rude.”
This could be either the city of Boston rejecting hundreds of years of reputation or — and this is much more likely — a fan base and a Celtics team that had bigger worries than meting out retribution for a guy who stood half-menacingly in a loading dock surrounded by a dozen security guards as Anthony did back on Jan. 7.
In other words, rather than the anticipated clamor of a Melo-K.G. Showdown II, was this the sighing sound of the Celtics running into reality while the Knicks gallop onto bigger things?
At this point, these are two teams circling in different orbits. Boston lost its fifth straight game, is under .500 and walking with one foot in the gutter of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A lot of us have been looking at that storied name across the front of those green-and-white jerseys, read the famous and accomplished names across the back and been trying to convince ourselves that it was only a matter of time before Boston shifted into gear.
But maybe this is as good as it gets for the Celtics. While Rajon Rondo put up a triple-double and Paul Pierce played showed some of the old fire, the reason that the Garden was so quiet — dare we say it, so meek? — was perhaps the fans understand that there is no torch to be passed. It has already been extinguished.
On the other hand, after four losses in six games, the Knicks could be out of their funk and back in the business of resuming their chase of Miami for the role of top dog in the East (while holding off the charging Nets).
Even with a loss on Monday night, the Knicks still split the season series with Brooklyn and got their best game to date from Stoudemire. They could get Raymond Felton (broken finger) back in the lineup as soon as Saturday at Philly.
Felton’s return will result in the Knicks having all their guards healthy for the first time all season.
Shumpert is expected to remain in the starting lineup, and Woodson hinted that he may play Shumpert at small forward and start Felton and Kidd in the backcourt.
“I don’t know,” Woodson said. “I’ll have options when Raymond comes back. And I’m not saying that Kidd’s possibly going to go to the bench.”
The original plan was to use Kidd as the first guard off the bench while limiting his minutes. In all likelihood that’s what Woodson will do, because a starting lineup with Anthony, Shumpert, Kidd and Felton makes the rebounding-challenged Knicks small.
“I’m killing Kidd in terms of not having Raymond in a uniform, playing him a lot of minutes,” Woodson said. “We need Kidd for the long haul.
“If it means starting him or coming off the bench, Kidd’s going to play.
“I don’t care if he starts or if he comes off. I don’t think it really matters to him either. He’s going to play because he’s a big piece to what we do.”
Of course, those are the good kinds of problems to have in New York. Plus, it’s far different from what’s going on in Boston, where the sounds of silence speak volumes.
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.
Harden, 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, 8:30p.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.
– 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. Smith? Brandon Jennings of the Bucks and Greg Monroe of the Pistons are just too far under the radar.
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. a
Despite the fact that the two winningest franchises in the history of the league are currently struggling in the standings, the stars of the Lakers and Celtics are still must-see attractions for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. The Celtics are currently No. 7 in the East and the Lakers No. 11 and out of the playoffs in the West.
Yet the results of fan voting will have classic rivals Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics squaring off in the starting lineups at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 on TNT.
Bryant (1,591,437) edged out Miami’s LeBron James (1,583,646) to become the leading vote-getter for the third time. It will be his 15th consecutive All-Star Game appearance, breaking a tie with Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. While you can argue that the whole NBA is Bryant’s oyster, the All-Star Game has become a personal kingdom that practically fits into the palm of his hand. He’s the all-time leading scorer (271) and tied with Bob Pettit for most MVPs (four).
Heat teammates James and Dwyane Wade and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony will join Garnett and Rondo as starters for the Eastern Conference.
In addition to Bryant and Howard, the Western Conference starters will be Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin along with Kevin Durant of the Thunder.
The reserves, seven for each team, will be selected by a vote of the league’s coaches and announced Jan. 24 on TNT.
LeBron James, Heat – The no-brainiest of no-brainers. The youngest player ever to score 20,000 career points. He’ll play his ninth All-Star Game in the arena where he outdueled Tracy McGrady to be named the MVP in 2006. Highlights.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks – Perhaps the most talented and effective scorer in the game, he’s putting the ball in the hoop at the highest rate (29.3 ppg) of his career. This is his sixth All-Star team and second in the Eastern Conference. Highlights.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics — It’s a lifetime achievement honor for Old Man River at a time when he’s playing fewer minutes than he’s ever played. It’s his 15th All-Star Game and the big question is whether he’ll trash-talk teammate Melo. Highlights.
Dwyane Wade, Heat — The MVP before the biggest crowd (108,713) in All-Star history at Cowboys Stadium in 2010, he’ll be playing for the ninth time for the East. May have ceded the lead dog role on Heat to LeBron, but still a fan favorite. Highlights.
Rajon Rondo, Celtics – The league leader in assists and the sparkplug that turns over the engine of the Boston offense. You can talk all you want about Boston’s Big Three, but these days he’s the big one who can lift them up. Highlights.
The lowdown: There’s no question that Tyson Chandler was the first victim of the new voting system that chooses frontcourt and backcourt players and does not break out centers separately. That’s a shame, because the Knicks’ big man is statistically having the best season of his career and anchoring the middle of the New York defense. But he loses out in the popular vote to Garnett, because fans want to see the stars, especially when one of the all-time greats nears the end of his career. Despite being the league’s top assist man and having moved into the upper echelon, the four-time All-Star Rondo would probably be on the East bench if Chicago’s injured Derrick Rose wasn’t on the shelf.
Kevin Durant, Thunder — The three-time defending scoring champ is chasing Kobe and Carmelo in this year’s race, but has his eye on a bigger prize next June. He’s scoring less and playing better. Last year’s MVP in Orlando. Highlights.
Dwight Howard, Lakers – It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride in his first season with the Lakers, but it says something about his talent that even in a down year, following back surgery, he’s the best center in the West. Highlights.
Blake Griffin, Clippers – His scoring, rebounding and shooting are all down from a year ago. But when you can jump over a car to dunk and show up with CP3 on the highlight reels every night, people tend to notice and vote for you. Highlights.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers – While his team may be down, it’s not because Kobe isn’t trying. He leads the league in scoring, is shooting at a career-best clip, rebounding, passing, doing it all. It’s his best season in years. Highlights.
Chris Paul, Clippers — Nobody in the league has a better handle. No point guard can run an offense, set up teammates and scorer better. Add in that he’s the heart at the center of the Clipper miracle and it’s a cinch . Highlights.
The lowdown: The flip-side of the coin that claimed Chandler happened here where the new voting system — unofficially known as the “Tim Duncan Rule” — did not help the veteran Spurs big man reclaim what used to be a regular spot in the West starting lineup. Neither did a personal campaign by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who talked up Duncan’s amazing stats and his significant contributions in leading this team to one of the top three records in the league. The low-profile Spurs will have to count on the coaches to do the right thing by Duncan and teammate Tony Parker. The other hard-to-digest numbers in the West had the Rockets’ inconsistent point guard Jeremy Lin almost doubling up the votes of teammate James Harden, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring and has established himself as a big time scorer and first rate closer. Somebody also has to explain how the No. 4 team in the West, the Grizzlies, did not get a starter within shouting distance in the voting.
RENO, Nev. — There are Swiss watches that aren’t as reliable as Luke Harangody. No need to wind him up. He rebounds, he hustles, he gets to the foul line.
Harangody played back to back games at the NBA D-League Showcase, averaging 22.5 points and 14 rebounds. Tick, tick, tick.
All the things that made him a former Big East Player of the Year are still there every time he steps onto the court. So, too, are the questions. At 6-foot-7, he can tear up the D-League. But can he take the step back up to a permanent place in the NBA?
A second-round pick in the 2010 draft by the Celtics, Harangody was traded to the Cavaliers where he appeared in 42 games over two seasons. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15 minutes a game. But he was cut in November, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and recently was traded from the Canton Charge to Ft. Wayne.
“It wasn’t really a negative considering what’s happening in Cleveland and with the organization,” Harangody said. “It’s good to be in Ft. Wayne with a good group of guys. I’ve only been with them about a week, and I’m still learning about how other guys play and they’re still learning about me. It’s been an easy transition for me.”
He plays the game in the manner that made him familiar and successful at Notre Dame, with a nose for the ball, ability to clean the glass and a willingness to mix it up on the inside. It was that style that enabled Harangody to average 19 points and 12 rebounds in 19 D-League games last season, almost getting Canton to the finals.
But it would seem in order to find a place in the NBA, Harangody is going to have to develop a more consistent mid-range game or 3-point shot and that’s still not there. He’s 5-for-15 from behind the arc in his first five games with the Mad Ants. And with his lack of size, he has trouble making defensive stops in the lane.
“I’m working on my outside shot, but that’s really no different than the work I do on the rest of my game,” Harangody said. “I think coaches always know what they’re gonna get from my game. I have to be more consistent at times. What I do out there is what they see — hustle, energy, getting on the glass. Just getting there and mixing it up for the team, doing the dirty work.”
It’s consistent. It’s tough. It can be devastatingly effective in the D-League. But will it be enough to ever carve out a place in the NBA?