Brandon Jennings, Ben Uzoh

Brandon Jennings doesn’t like his All-Star chances

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PHOENIX — Brandon Jennings, and to a lesser extent, Monta Ellis, are on the bubble in terms of potential players who could be named to the All-Star team as a reserve.

We discussed this on the podcast this week — once you get past Kyrie Irving, there really aren’t any locks to make the team based on performance this season. Multiple players have had above average seasons, but no one has been undeniable to the point where their exclusion from the midseason exhibition would be some kind of national outrage.

The two guards leading the way for the Bucks have every right to be included in the conversation, and not surprisingly, Milwaukee’s head coach Jim Boylan made the case for his guys before they faced the Suns on Thursday.

“There are a lot of good guards in the East, and sometimes that hurts people because you just run into a lot of numbers,” he said. “I think both guys are more than deserving of getting in, but it’s not for me to say because the other coaches have to do the voting.

“Hopefully, they see what those two guys have been able to do for us and how they’ve carried a major part of the load for us this year, on a team that’s in the playoffs right now,” Boylan said. “That should bear a lot of weight, as opposed to some of the teams that maybe aren’t in the same situation as we are.”

The playoff argument is a valid one, and might be a factor especially where Jrue Holiday is concerned.

Holiday has had a buzz surrounding him over the past couple of weeks, but he hasn’t been on the superstar level of Irving at any point, and with the Sixers struggling right now it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him overlooked by the coaches in the voting process.

That may open the door for one of the Bucks’ leading scorers to get in, but Jennings said he doesn’t think it’s going to happen for him this year.

“To be honest, probably not,” he said, when I asked him if he thought he had a shot at making the All-Star team. “For me personally, just the fact that [there are so many] point guards — you’ve got Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams — so a lot of it will be politics more than anything.

“But for Monta, yeah. For sure. He’s scoring a lot, and plus, we’re winning. We’re two games over .500, so if we just keep winning we’ll be fine.”

When told that perhaps the fact that his team being in the playoff picture might help his or Ellis’ chances, Jennings was a little bit skeptical.

“Well, that’s what they say,” Jennings cautioned. “That’s what they’ve always been saying. Even last year with my situation not being able to make it, we weren’t in the playoff race so that’s why I didn’t make it. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just happy that we’re winning and we’re still in the playoff race.”

Despite his personal opinion, Jennings does indeed have a shot. It’ll depend on whether or not the coaches vote in three guards to reserve spots as they’ve done in seasons past, or if instead they use the new frontcourt designation to add more players at the forward and center positions.

But given the talent in the East, and depending on how those roster spots are allocated, it’s at least possible that Jennings could make an appearance in Houston on February 17.

Cavaliers have offered Anderson Varejao a championship ring. Does he take it?

Golden State Warriors' Anderson Varejao (18) poses with a cutout with his likeness during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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In the middle of last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers let go of long-time Cav and fan favorite Anderson Varejao to make room for Channing Frye, a stretch four they thought would be more valuable in the playoffs. In hindsight it seems the right move.

After a cap clearing move in Portland, Varejao ended up on the bench of the Golden State Warriors. We all know the story from there, including Varejao getting some meaningful minutes after Andrew Bogut went down, but it wasn’t enough for Golden State.

Which brings us to the awkward championship ring conversation. Usually, an iconic team player like Varejao would get one from the Cavaliers, but will Varejao want this one? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Good on the Cavaliers for offering.

Is there a correct answer for Varejao? A wrong answer? I can’t blame him either way.

He is on the Warriors roster again this season, and he once again could get meaningful minutes (now behind Zaza Pachulia). Does he decide that one with this team is what he wants (and will bet is going to happen)? Nobody can answer all these questions for him.

Nuggets retiring Dikembe Mutombo’s number at first home game

Center Dikembe Mutombo of the Denver Nuggets goes up for two over center David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs during the Nuggets game versus the Spurs at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.
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If the Hawks can retire Dikembe Mutombo’s number after four and a half seasons in Atlanta, the Nuggets can retire it after five in Denver.

Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post:

Mutombo will join the list of people who’ve had a number retired by multiple teams:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers, Bucks)
  • Charles Barkley (76ers, Suns)
  • Wilt Chamberlain (Warriors, Lakers, 76ers)
  • Clyde Drexler (Trail Blazers, Rockets)
  • Julius Erving (Nets, 76ers)
  • Michael Jordan (Bulls, Heat)
  • Bob Lanier (Pistons, Bucks)
  • Moses Malone (Rockets, 76ers)
  • Pete Maravich (Jazz, Pelicans)
  • Earl Monroe (Knicks, Wizards)
  • Oscar Robertson (Bucks, Kings)
  • Jerry Sloan (Bulls, Jazz)
  • Nate Thurmond (Cavaliers, Warriors)

Shaquille O’Neal, who had his number retired by the Lakers, will also make the list this season, when the Heat will put his number in the rafters.

Mutombo spent his best years with the Hawks, but he was pretty darn good with the Nuggets, who drafted him No. 4 overall in 1991. He won a Defensive Player of the Year award and went to three All-Star games with Denver. Playing for the Nuggets, he also produced the most iconic image of his career: lying on the floor and clutching the ball in jubilation after Denver became the first No. 8 seed to upset the No. 1 seed (Seattle SuperSonics in 1994):

Draymond Green says he doesn’t want to chase 74 wins: “It’s brutal.”

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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If the Warriors have been consistent about one thing in the run-up to the coming season it is this: They are not going for a record number of wins again.

From the GM on down they have worked to tamp down expectations about their regular season, saying there is no goal of chasing their 73-win total of last season. This is how Draymond Green put it on media day, via Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Last season Steve Kerr and some of the staff were hesitant to chase the Jordan-era Bulls 72-win record, but it was a push from the players — Draymond Green being at the front of that parade — who wanted it. They pushed, and Kerr let them. They got 73. Was that lack of rest down the stretch the reason they were down 3-1 to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, then blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against Cleveland? Certainly not, there were plenty of other bigger factors (hello LeBron James), but it may have played some role. Clearly, the team thinks it did, based on their words and actions.

However, the Warriors still want the No. 1 seed in the West and will make that a goal. The question is, with an excellent regular season team in San Antonio — one that had a better point differential than the Warriors last season, then they added Pau Gasol — how many wins will it take to get the top seed in the West? 65? More? How hard will the Warriors and Spurs push to get home court throughout?

The Warriors aren’t going for the record, but the top of the West is still going to be an interesting place.

Mike D’Antoni declares James Harden the Rockets’ point guard (‘points guard’)

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James Harden is no longer the NBA’s best shooting guard.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden – who averaged 29.0 points and 7.5 assists per game last season – is now Houston’s point guard, though D’Antoni added it wouldn’t be a big adjustment.

D’Antoni, via ClutchFans:

With James, we’ll make a cheap joke. He’ll be a points guard.

We just renamed it. You guys got something to write about.

Harden already controlled the ball a ton, taking primary playmaking and distributing responsibilities last season. This just gets the ball into his hands quicker and should allow the Rockets to play faster, a key component of D’Antoni’s offense.

Of course, D’Antoni’s offense functioned best when Steve Nash – more of a pure passer – ran it with the Suns. Harden won’t duplicate that. His passing ability is more predicated on taking advantage of his scoring threat. But Harden – who, like Nash, is an excellent ball-handler – could make the offense hum in his own way.

Even though D’Antoni is trying to downplay the position switch, it’s a notable shift. Harden fully commanding the offense is a grand experiment with major upside (and potential for a rocky downside).

This will also allow Houston to use Patrick Beverley (historically a point guard) or Eric Gordon (historically a shooting guard) in the backcourt with Harden, allowing a more flexible rotation.