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.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.