These should be your All-Star Game reserves

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The fans have spoken — the 10 NBA All-Star Game starters have been chosen. And as we said before, good on ya. The fans did well this time around.

The way this works is the fans pick the five starters, then the coaches (or more likely an assistant coach, or the video guy, or the team PR guy) pick the next seven. Then David Stern gets one last pick, because he is David Stern.

We’re not sure who the coaches will pick, but here’s who they should pick. Or at least who would be on our ballot if we were a coach (or an assistant coach, or the video guy, or the team PR guy).

Eastern Conference:

Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks, center): Dude is blowing up this season and nobody noticed. He’s still scoring (16.3 per game) but doing it with the best shooting percentage of his career (57 percent). His rebounding is still strong, but his assist percentage is way up while his turnovers are way down. Horford is another guy who exemplifies why the ballot needs to be changed.

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat, forward): Averaging 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds, and if you don’t think he’s key for Miami you haven’t watched the last couple games with him out.

Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics, forward): The anchor of the best team in the East so far. He is moving like the old KG this season, and that should scare teams come the playoffs.

Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics, forward): Scoring 19 points a game to lead the Celtics and shooting a better-than-Ray Allen 51.4 percent. This isn’t really even a question, unless you are Josh Smith’s mom.

Ray Allen (Boston Celtics, guard): Bill Walton was doing the Boston broadcast of last night’s game and said this of Allen’s jumper: “Flawless … like Yosemite Falls coming right through the rim.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics, guard): I can’t wait to see him throw an ally-oop to LeBron in transition. Maybe the best passing point guard in the game, and he’s improved his game enough to be here easily.

And yes, four Celtics get in.

Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls, forward): He’s only played 27 games since returning from a hand injury, and he’s missed games since… and he’s still the best player in the East for the final spot. You can make a case for Joe Johnson or Josh Smith out of Atlanta, there’s a buzz for Raymond Felton. I would not be livid with any of those. But for the guy who has been the best when he played, it’s Boozer for me.

As tough as that last pick was, it’s nothing like choosing the reserves for the…

Western Conference:

Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, forward): He probably should have been chosen over Carmelo Anthony by the fans, but Gasol should get to start anyway when Gregg Popovich names him to step in for Yao Ming. Gasol still the most fundamentally sound big in the game.

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks, forward): This is another gimmee — until his injury he was in the running for league MVP. Plus, we need someone in this game to shoot a lot of contested long two pointers… wait, forgot we already had ‘Melo.

Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, forward): The best rebounder in the game. Nifty footwork that gets him good looks. The game should be about rewarding excellence and Love has been that this season, even if it took Kurt Rambis a while to realize it.

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers, forward): Tough call with LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom and David West all being very deserving. At the end of the day the All-Star game is an exhibition, and while I might pick West first for a playoff game I’ll take Griffin first in this setting.

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs, guard): The best player and leading scorer on the best team in the league. Another must from the coaches.

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, guard): If the Thunder are a better team this season, Westbrook is the reason why. He has taken a leap forward.

Deron Williams (Utah Jazz, guard): He is the Utah Jazz, and the Jazz are pretty good (well, except for the past couple weeks, but we’ll overlook that for these purposes). Debate if he is the best or third best PG in the game, but he is certainly an All-Star.

Yao Ming’s replacement (David Stern will fill this roster spot): Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, center, er, forward): Yes he’s older, the scoring and offense now flow through Ginobili and Parker. Yes, Tyson Chandler is a legitimate consideration here. Duncan still anchors the defense, rebounds and gets key buckets for the league’s best team. He has earned the spot.

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward says he’s open to returning this season

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BOSTON (AP) — Celtics guard Gordon Hayward says he is open to playing this season, but says it will depend on how fast he is able to heal and show progress as he works his way back from a broken left ankle.

Hayward was at TD Garden on Friday for Boston’s matchup with the Utah Jazz, the team he left this past summer in free agency after seven seasons to sign a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics. He was injured in Boston’s season opener at Cleveland.

Wednesday marked a milestone in Hayward’s recovery process, when he was able to shed the walking boot he’s been using since his surgery in October. He will continue to wear a protective brace during the rehab process.

He said he doesn’t know how long he will have to wear the brace. But he said he is now allowed to do some shooting and begin working more on mobility.

 

Russell Westbrook triple-double keys OKC in 3OT thriller vs 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and Oklahoma City and the Philadelphia 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.

Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for NBA game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.

Embiid scored 34 points in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.

Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.

Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.

Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George‘s 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.

Round 2 was just as fun.

Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT.

Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when Steve Adams fouled out of the game.

But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there’s no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.

The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers’ related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.

“I’m not a fan,” coach Brett Brown said. “I like living behind closed doors.”

But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.

Embiid’s health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.

 

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.