Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics, Game 6

Four Celtics but no Love among All-Star Game reserves

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David Stern has some work to do out West.

The coaches’ selections for the seven All-Star Game reserves for each conference came out and the East went pretty much to form. Now David Stern gets to add one player to that list and he has some pretty clear choices.

The Western Conference? That’s hard. You can make a good case for all seven guys the coaches went with — even rookie Blake Griffin — but you can also make a great case for seven more. Stern gets to choose two out West, his regular pick plus someone to replace the injured Yao Ming. But the call is still brutal.

Here are the reserves and who got left out for the Feb. 20 game:

Western Conference reserves:

Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, forward): Fans should have voted him in as a starter over Carmelo Anthony. But since the game is in L.A., smart money says coach Gregg Popovich makes him the starting center in the West.

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks, forward): No-brainer pick. Averaging 23.2 points per game to lead a good Dallas squad — dude’s a 7-footer shooting 41 percent from three. One of the best scorers in the game.

Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, forward): Is this a lifetime achievement award? Maybe he is scoring less, but the man is the anchor on defense, grabs the rebounds and gets key buckets for the league’s best team. He’s Tim Duncan! You can’t keep him out of the All-Star Game. He could start at center, too.

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers, forward): Averaging 23 points 12.7 rebounds a game as a rookie, he is more than just dunk highlights. He has maybe the quickest spin move from the post in the game. Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he voted for him because he’s the best athlete in the NBA right now. Plus, it’s a show. You want him there in Los Angeles.

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs, guard): The best player and leading scorer on the best team in the league. Had to be on the team.

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, guard): When Kevin Durant was off at the start of the season, Westbrook took on more and has all season. Averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 assists per game. He deserves this.

Deron Williams (Utah Jazz, guard): Debate amongst yourselves whether he is the best or second-best or third-best point guard in the game, but he is certainly an All-Star. Must be on the squad.

Guys who got screwed over/Guys Stern to choose from in the West:

• Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves forward) is a double-double machine and the best rebounder in the game. How do you leave off a guy with his numbers?
• LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers forward) has stepped up for a banged-up team, has been good all season and had a huge game Wednesday night to make his case.
• Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies forward) can get overlooked, but he’s averaging 20 points and 13.2 rebounds a game.
• Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers forward) is having a career year.
• Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns guard), while the team around him has crumbled, Nash continues to play fantastic ball and remains one of the best point guards in the game.
• Monta Ellis (Golden State guard) is one of the best pure scorers in the game, averaging 25.2 points per contest.
• Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs guard) has taken on more responsibility in the offense for the best team in the league.

Eastern Conference reserves:

Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks, center): He’s averaging 16 points a game and is shooting 57 percent, plus he’s dishing out assists at a career best rate. He’s getting better every season and is clearly the second best center in the East easy. This is his second All-Star game.

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat, forward): Averaging 18.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and is more important to the Heat’s success than people realize. Well, until he got injured. (Actually, that may have proved his importance even more.)

Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics, forward): This is 14 All-Star games in a row, and as soul of the best team in the East he had to be there.

Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics, forward): Scoring 19 points a game to lead the Celtics. He’s still one of the game’s elite forwards.

Ray Allen (Boston Celtics, guard): Prettiest jump shot in the game and this will be All-Star Game No. 10.

Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics, guard): He’s the reason all those other Celtics look good, averaging 12.5 assists per game to lead the league.

Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks, forward): We tend to look past the Hawks, thinking we know what they are. But what they are is good (31-18). Johnson is averaging 20-5-5 to lead them.

Who got screwed in the East:

• Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls forward) missed the start of the season because of a hand injury, but he has been scoring as expected and playing the best defense of his career in Chicago.
• Raymond Felton (New York Knicks guard) may get people in the Big Apple saying he deserves it — and he has been good, just not better than any of the people above him.
• Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks forward), sorry, but I think you only get one Hawk in, and if you wanted to swap him in I wouldn’t complain. But frankly Johnson is the better player.

Steve Kerr will not “just stick to sports,” embraces new era of player political/social activism

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NEW ORLEANS — “Just stick to sports.”

Anytime an athlete speaks out on social issues, or wades into the political arena, Twitter swells with that comment — from people who disagree with the statement. In the wake of a polarizing election and controversial moves from President Donald Trump — such as his executive order on an immigration seven majority Muslim countries — there has been criticism of his moves from Commissioner Adam Silver, coaches such as Gregg Popovich, as well as players.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been at the front of that criticism, and he is not going to “just stick to sports.”

“If you stick to that mantra, then everybody should stick to what they’re doing, right? That means nobody’s allowed to have a political opinion,” Kerr said during All-Star weekend, where he was repeatedly asked about political and social issues. “It just so happens we get these microphones stuck in our face and we have a bigger platform. But it’s free speech and, if you look at the history of the world, the biggest problems come when people don’t speak.”

The “just stick to sports” crowd almost always opposes what the players said, but root their comments in the idea sports should be an escape from the political realm or other worldly challenges. Even though at it’s best sports has never been that — not with Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali or Olympic protests.

Kerr noted that in our modern world with so many outlets for getting your information, fans can choose to avoid political discussions in sports if they wish — just don’t click the link.

“I think you can follow sports however you want as a fan. If you want to watch the games to get away from everyday life, you can do that,” Kerr said. “You can turn on the games and watch the Warriors play or watch the Spurs play or whoever, and it’s just going to be about basketball. If you don’t want to read about political issues, you don’t have to read it. It’s the same in any field, whether it’s basketball, or entertainment, even politics themselves, you have to choose what you want to read about and follow. 

“We are in a society where a lot of us have microphones in our face every day, and a lot of us feel strongly about our need to speak out on injustice. I think it’s important. But it’s up to the individual fan to take that in or not. They can pick and choose.”

For a long time, there has been less social activism among athletes — not just in the NBA, but across sports. That is changing again, and Kerr said it’s a reaction to the times in which we live.

“I think maybe over the last 20 or 30 years there hasn’t been that same sense of urgency because we’ve generally lived in a pretty peaceful era, but it feels like it’s changing and so the whole country is changing in terms of its activism and social awareness,” Kerr said…

“For a long time, a lot of athletes stayed out of the political forum, out of fear of losing customers, and I think it’s refreshing that we have athletes who are putting their social beliefs ahead of any marking issues. I think that’s powerful.”

Kerr spoke out some on a long weekend where he had a microphone in his face a lot,  opposing President Trump policies such as building a border wall with Mexico for example. However, mostly he praised both the increased social activism of players and the stance of the league to stand up for inclusion — including moving the All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.”

“Free speech is one of the principles our country was founded on, I think there’s some responsibility that goes with that if you see injustice,” Kerr said. “That’s why I think the league has been great in terms of understanding that responsibility and taking action, such as moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans….

“I think what the NBA tries to preach is equality, and inclusion — we don’t just talk about it, we live it. We have this beautiful game where we have people from every race and religion and background, and we like that in our fans, too.”

While the league has turned its words into actions such as moving the All-Star Game — and warning Texas if they pass a similar bill Houston is likely out of the running for the 2020 edition of the game — the question is what the next step will be for the players. Commenting on social injustice is one thing, but how do they turn that into actions?

“That’s not my department,” Kerr said with a shrug. “I have spoken out on issues and will continue to do so, and I think the league has done a really good job of walking the walk. Moving the All-Star Game from Charlotte to here I think was an important statement for the league — we are about inclusion and equality for everybody, regardless of gender, race, religion, background, anything.”

Coaches such as Kerr, as well as NBA players, have a bigger megaphone to get out their views because they are interviewed by the media almost daily. Kerr said that he feels players have a responsibility to step up and be heard on issues, not just “stick to sports.”

“I think if you’re in a certain position, and you feel strongly about something, then I think it’s important and you should (speak out),” Kerr said. “But we all live different lives in different places, we’re from different backgrounds with different journeys, and what’s important to me might not be important to somebody else, and visa vera.

“But we’re all in a position where we can make a difference, and I think players understand that.”

Isaiah Thomas (correctly) says that trade wouldn’t be allowed in a video game

Sacramento Kings Media Day
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Kings trade of DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi for a first-round pick, a second-round pick, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway left many of us shellshocked by Sacramento’s meager return.

Apparently including Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas:

I recently participated in the Dunc’d On Basketball Podcast mock trade deadline, in which Nate Duncan, Danny Leroux, Kevin Pelton and I each took teams and negotiated trades. After the actual Cousins deal, I asked Pelton what he would’ve done if he had the Kings in our podcast and got that offer.

He just burst into laughter.

Thomas might likewise find the trade laughable, but that’s not everything at play with his tweet. The Kings once scorned him, and he hasn’t forgotten.

Emotional DeMarcus Cousins near tears saying goodbye to Sacramento after trade

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Kings’ general manager Vlade Divac took a parting shot at DeMarcus Cousins‘ character when he spoke to the media about the deal.

Cousins could be challenging in the locker room, but he was committed to Sacramento in ways most teams wish their star would be. He was active in the community, did charity work, and was not one of the players that alerted the media and dragged along a video crew when he did. Cousins loves Sacramento.

You can see it as he tears up when saying goodbye to those close to him in this video.

On the court, the trade to New Orleans and the chance to play next to Anthony Davis could be a huge boost for Cousins’ career. We’ll never know what could have been if the Kings knew how to draft or stuck with a system/coach.

But off the court, Sacramento will miss him. And he will miss them.

All-Star game television ratings are best since 2013

Western Conference forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (23 ) slam dunks during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA All-Star game drew an average audience of 7.8 million viewers, making it the most-viewed All-Star broadcast since 2013.

Turner Sports announced the numbers on Monday. The number of viewers peaked at 8.5 million and the total audience was up 3 percent from last year’s game.

The hype surrounding the game centered on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing on the Western Conference team together. Durant left Oklahoma City last summer to join Golden State, leaving his longtime teammate Westbrook behind with the Thunder. Westbrook did not hide his dissatisfaction with Durant, which ratcheted up the intrigue heading into the game on Sunday.

The two shared the court for just 81 seconds and Oklahoma City posted the highest local market rating with a 10.9.