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.
James Harden spearheaded the Rockets’ recruitment of Chris Paul, but the MVP runner-up didn’t work alone.
Paul’s former New Orleans teammates Trevor Ariza and Bobby Brown added appeal.
So, unsurprisingly, with Paul in a contract year, Houston is re-signing Brown. The Rockets are also re-signing Troy Williams.
Alykhan Bijani of ESPN Houston:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Brown is an undersized gunner who’s not nearly efficient enough to compensate for his defensive deficiencies, and he turns 33 before the season. But if he helps convince Paul to re-sign, it would be well worth keeping Brown on the roster all year.
The 22-year-old Williams, who went undrafted last year, is the far more intriguing player. A 6-foot-7 forward, he has the athleticism to stick in the NBA. His 3-point shot needs major development – though not quite as much if he becomes more adept at being a small-ball four, an easier task in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.
The Celtics lost their third-string point guard (Demetrius Jackson) and plenty of big men (Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Jordan Mickey) in their quest for Gordon Hayward.
That paid off in a big way, but it’s time for Boston to restock its depth.
Enter Shane Larkin and, as previously expected, Guerschon Yabusele and Daniel Theis.
Jay King of MassLive:
The Boston Celtics have agreed to sign Shane Larkin for point guard depth, league sources confirmed to MassLive.com.
The one-year contract, which pulled Larkin away from bigger money in Europe, will be fully guaranteed for the coming season, a source indicated.
Despite adding another guaranteed contract in Larkin, the Celtics still plan to sign 2016 draft pick Guerschon Yabusele
Theis signed a two-year deal with the first-year salary fully guaranteed, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Yabusele will be on a rookie-scale contract for a No. 16 pick.
They, with Larkin, give Boston 16 players on standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit. All those deals apparently include guaranteed 2016-17 salaries, but the Celtics can always eat (or trade) a contract. It costs only money. This just increases the likelihood Boston fields the best possible roster after the preseason.
Larkin showed promise early in his career, opted out of a $1.5 million Nets contract then fell out of the NBA. He adds another viable point guard behind Isaiah Thomas, joining Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Smart and Rozier can spend time off the ball, but the 5-foot-11 Larkin probably can’t. Fortunately for Larkin’s chances of making the regular-season roster, the Celtics likely need Smart and Rozier to spend time at shooting guard after trading Avery Bradley.
The Cavaliers are reportedly in serious discussion to sign Derrick Rose.
They still have about $2.5 million of the taxpayer mid-level exception left, but don’t expect Rose to get it.
Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Cavs are believed to be offering Rose a minimum contract
A minimum salary for Rose is $2,116,955. More importantly for the Cavs, they’d have to pay him – and be taxed at – just $1,471,382. (The NBA covers the difference on one-year minimum deals for veterans.) Regardless of whether they sign Rose, they still have to fill out their roster with at least minimum players.
If they pay him more than the minimum, they’d be on the hook for his full salary and be taxed on it.
So, Rose could push for a little more. But Cleveland has much more incentive to set a hard line.
LeBron James is reportedly frustrated with the Cavaliers’ offseason.
Can they soothe him with former MVP Derrick Rose?
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Rose is still a big name, but his play has SIGNIFICANTLY regressed. He could add scoring punch to reserve units, but his only plus skill – driving to finish for himself – doesn’t complement LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Rose is a poor spot-up shooter and defender, so his usefulness would be limited to minutes when LeBron or Irving – or maybe both – sit.
The Cavs rushed to lock up Jose Calderon on the first day of free agency. Rose is better, and if the Cavs want to spend a minimum contract – or even the remainder of the taxpayer mid-level exception – to upgrade, more power to them. But following Calderon with Rose suggests there isn’t much a plan here.
That’s not shocking for a team without a general manager.