Brandon Jennings, Ben Uzoh

Brandon Jennings doesn’t like his All-Star chances


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.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)

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Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.