Stephen Curry heads list of NBA All-Star Game snubs

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Stephen Curry, sorry. It sucks.

Every year there are a couple of guys right on the bubble, guys you can argue should have made the NBA All-Star Game as reserves voted in by the coaches, but didn’t make the cut. (If you have a problem with the starters, blame yourself — the fans vote those in.)

It’s tough on the coaches, they have seven spots to fill and probably 10 guys that are deserving. Tom Thibodeau complained about it Wednesday night (and he is one of the coaches you know actually fills out his own ballot, doesn’t hand it off to an assistant).

But still, people get screwed. Who got it this year? How about three from each conference:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. He is the initiator, the guy driving the Golden State offense, he’s scoring 20.9 points a game, dishing out 6.6 assists per game and is shooting 45.1 percent from three while taking nearly seven shots from there a game (he is the best pure shooter in the league). He’s grown his game as defenses have adjusted to him, he can put the rock on the floor and create space. What’s more, he’s made himself a good pick-and-roll defender. He’s led his team to a surprisingly good record and they are a playoff lock. I don’t think you can ask more of a guy.

Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers. This is one a lot of fans wanted — the All-Star Game is an exhibition and J-Crossover is flashy and fun to watch. He’s also scoring 16.6 points a game, second best on one of the top teams in the NBA, and he’s the leader of the best bench group in the Association. It would be tough to take him over James Harden, Tony Parker or even Curry but he is playing the best ball of his career and winning and that should be rewarded.

Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder. Ibaka made my list of guys I would have voted on the reserve team. He has developed a dangerous midrange game and is giving the Thunder 14 points a game on 56 percent shooting plus pulling down 8.3 points a game. And that’s not mentioning he’s really best on the defensive end of the floor where he is one of the game’s best help defenders. Ibaka has become a big part of what the Thunder do and some recognition would have been nice, I had him in just ahead of Zach Randolph, but the coaches saw it differently.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics. The fans voted in Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo as starters but the Celtics leading scorer at 18.9 points per game didn’t make it even as a reserve. More than just the leading scorer, he has kept the Celtics offense going this season and they would be lost without him. Or more lost. Granted, at 35 he’s not quite as spry as he once was but the guy create his own shot in the half court, he’s shooting 36.4 percent from three, he can get to the line, he’s efficient and he’s got a PER of 19. He’s still got it and in my book and he is still an All-Star.

Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets. He has been the best offensive center in the East all season and a catalyst for the Nets transformation this season — when he plays they are a dangerous team. He’s averaging 18.6 points per game shooting 52.1 percent. And he’s grabbing 7.4 rebounds a game, although we can all admit that is not his forte. His defense has improved. He’s got a ridiculous PER of 25.4 — the kind of number that usually means lock All-Star.

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks. Jennings himself knew he likely wasn’t going to make the cut and it’s because it’s a numbers game — Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade were voted in by the fans as starters and it’s hard argue against the amazingly talented Kyrie Irving or Jrue Holiday, who has carried the Sixers in the absence of Andrew Bynum. But if you want to make the case that a guy leading his team to wins should get preference then Jennings deserves a spot as the Bucks are 22-18 and he is averaging 18.7 points and 5.8 assists per game, with a PER of 17.5.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?