It came down to Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol.
Gregg Popovich went with his guy, not the hometown guy. He went with the guy who has started the last 11 All-Star Games, not the guy playing better this season.
Tim Duncan will start at center for the West in the All-Star Game Sunday, replacing the injured Yao Ming, who was voted in by fans as the starter. Mostly fans in China, but that’s who they voted for. We’re not going down that road again. West coach Popovich got to choose the replacement, he went with Duncan.
Let us all briefly bask in the irony of the moment — for years Duncan and the Spurs have insisted that he be listed on the All-Star ballot as a forward, but when asked to pick a replacement center Popovich went to Duncan.
Wait, still basking.
Okay, moving on.
Duncan’s minutes, shot attempts, points per game and just about every other measure is down a little this season as the Spurs have switched the focus of the offense more to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. But that just means Duncan has gone from insanely good to just dang good. Duncan is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, is shooting 48 percent and has a PER of 21.6.
Thing is, Gasol has been better this season. 18.1 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting, 10 rebounds a game, a PER of 23.7. Traditional stats, advanced stats, however you wish to break it down Gasol has had the better season. Right now he is the better player.
Then again, maybe Popovich watched the film of Gasol’s play against Cleveland, where he was already practicing All-Star Game level defense.
Most likely, Popovich just went with his guy.
Rasheed Wallace isn’t the only NBA player doing the #SoGoneChallenge.
Dwyane Wade is also rapping to the music of 2003 Monica song “So Gone”:
Wade also invites LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul to take the challenge. Will any accept?
Why is new Wizards coach Scott Brooks going so far out of his way to praise Washington’s backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal?
Maybe because the guards need positive reinforcement about their ability to excel together.
Wall, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball,” Wall said in a sitdown interview with CSN’s Chris Miller that airs tonight, Wizards Central: Offseason Grind, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Beal, via Michael:
“It’s tough because we’re both alphas. It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves, who will bet on themselves against anybody else, who want to be that guy. We both can be that guy,” Beal said.
“Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other. I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in without John. John wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in without me, without the rest of the team. It goes hand-in-hand so it’s kind of a pride thing. We got to (hash) out our pride, fiigure out what our goals are individually, help each other achieve those goals, figure out what our team goal is, where do we see ourselves five years from now, 10 years from now and go from there.”
Wall and Beal have spent four seasons together. Wall is locked up for three more and Beal five more.
This isn’t a fleeting problem.
In theory, Wall and Beal should play off each other well. Wall is more of a slasher and passer. Beal excels as an outside shooter.
But complementary skills matter only so much if there’s a personality difference.
Michael credited Alan Anderson and Garrett Temple with soothing tension, but both those veterans have left Washington. It’s time for Wall and Beal to handle this better on their own – or, without the right support around them, interpersonal issues could sink the Wizards.
The Jazz expedited their rise this offseason by trading their first-round pick for George Hill, using cap space to acquire Boris Diaw in another deal and signing Joe Johnson.
But Utah still has room for youth.
The Jazz signed two of their three 2016 second-round picks – No. 52 pick Joel Bolomboy and No. 55 pick Marcus Paige.
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed 2016 second-round pick forward/center Joel Bolomboy (Ball-um-boy).
He will wear jersey #22 for the Jazz.
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed 2016 second-round pick guard Marcus Paige.
He will wear jersey #16 for the Jazz.
Bolomboy is an energetic and athletic rebounder, and that should translate to the NBA. Will the rest of his game round into form? If not, will rebounding and hustle be enough to carve out a role? The power forward from Weber State was worth betting on late in the second round. He might not get much playing time behind Derrick Favors, Diaw and Trey Lyles, but it’s probably worth keeping Bolomboy on an NBA contract and monitoring his development.
Paige is in a similar situation, though point guard is even more crowded with George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto. After four years at North Carolina, how much untapped potential remains?
The Jazz have 14 players – one shy of the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries plus Jeff Withey and Chris Johnson. So, barring something unforeseen, there isn’t room for both Bolomboy and Paige (let alone unsigned No. 60 pick Tyrone Wallace) to stick. Utah could waive either rookie and assign his D-League rights to its affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars. But that player would become an NBA free agent.
That’s why I’m a little surprised the Jazz signed both. Perhaps, Paige forced their hand by accepting the required tender (a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain a player’s draft rights).
Essentially, this sets up a training-camp competition between Bolomboy, Paige, Withey and Johnson with one NBA salary on the line. My money is on Bolomboy.
The 2016 Olympics served a therapeutic purpose for Kevin Durant, who won gold with Team USA after facing immense backlash for leaving the Thunder for the Warriors.
What about 2020? What will motivate him to represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Games?
Maybe Carmelo Anthony‘s American Olympic scoring record. Durant is just 25 points behind the Knicks star.
Durant, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:
“I can’t say right now,” Durant told The Vertical. “I’ll be 31, going on 32 …”
Overhearing the conversation, Anthony jumped in and shouted, “He’ll be playing in 2020 and 2024! I’m right. I’m right.”
Durant laughed and shook his head as Anthony darted ahead as the most decorated American Olympic basketball player. For now. “I want to pass him, for sure. Just because it’s ‘Melo, I would love to pass him. But I don’t know if I’ll play or not,” Durant told The Vertical. “Who knows? We’ll see. You never know what’s going to happen in four years. I’m just going to enjoy this one right now.”
Durant has already won gold medals (in 2008 and 2012). Potentially, he’ll rack up heavy mileage with multiple deep playoff runs with Golden State in the coming years. And as he said, he’ll be nearly 32 in four years.
That’s the type of record that usually leads a player to skip the Olympics.
But Durant would still be young enough that it’s plausible, and his game should age well enough that he’ll remain one of the top American players. Breaking Melo’s record could entice him, too.