Boston Celtics v Detroit Pistons, Game 6

Fans send Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett to bench in latest All-Star balloting

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Apparently Boston sports fans have been so focused on what Tom Brady is going to do to the Jets secondary they forgot to vote for the NBA All-Star Game starters.

How else do you explain the latest release of NBA All-Star voting which drops two Celtics from the starting lineup? Chicago’s Derrick Rose has leapfrogged Rajon Rondo for the second starting guard spot in the East. At the same time, the Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire has passed the injured Kevin Garnett for the second starting forward spot.

The leads are not large — Rose is just 54,264 votes ahead of Rondo, while Stoudemire leads Garnett by a healthier 93,847 (that may be hard to make up). If the voting doesn’t change, the Celtics would have no starters in the All-Star Game. Which seems wrong.

The rest of the positions remain the same from the last round of released votes. In the East, Miami’s Dwyane Wade would start with Rose at guard; LeBron James would start at forward with Stoudemire, and Orlando center Dwight Howard remains the highest vote getter in the East overall and would start as well.

For the West, Kobe Bryant is still the guy who has gotten more votes than anyone in either conference (1,757,216) and would start with Chris Paul in the backcourt. The West forwards remain Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

If Anthony and his 945,720 votes were traded to the New Jersey Nets or New York Knicks (or any team in the East) before the game his votes would travel with him. And that vote total would have him fourth among Eastern forwards, still well behind James, Stoudemire and Garnet. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol is third in the Western Conference forward balloting and likely would move up to start.

The other question is center for the West — word that Yao Ming is out for the season has apparently not reached China, where voters keep punching his ticket to Los Angeles for the game. He is hundreds of thousands of votes ahead of second place Andrew Bynum of the Lakers.

When (not if, when) Yao is selected, the Western Conference coach (come on down, Gregg Popovich) gets to select who will start at center. He could choose Bynum, or he could slide a forward playing a lot of center for his team — Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan — over to the slot to alleviate the log jam at Western Conference forward. Popovich is not bound by the ballot fans have when he makes his choices.

Voting is still open and will remain open for 10 more days. The fan voting selects the five All-Star game starters. The coaches then select the seven reserve players. NBA Commissioner David Stern then adds a 13th player to the roster.

NBA All-Star Weekend will take place Feb. 18-20 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop from All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
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Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.