Stephen Curry

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.

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.

Pelicans shut down Tyreke Evans until after All-Star break

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on November 6, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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the Pelicans have dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries so far this season to nearly every key payer on their roster. Tyreke Evans has missed the last five games with a lingering knee issue, and the team says he’s going to sit out their final four games before the All-Star break, as a precaution to make sure he’s healthy for the second half of the season.

From the Pelicans’ official site:

“We’re probably going to hold him out until after the All-Star break,” Alvin Gentry said during pregame at Quicken Loans Arena. “That gives him a situation where he has almost two weeks where he can rehab it and hopefully get it back. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break and we’ll be able to play him for the rest of the stretch (of the schedule).”

Evans initially missed the Jan. 2 game at Dallas due to the injury, then was sidelined again Jan. 18 at Memphis. Against Houston, he only played 16 minutes before being taken out of the game, suffering from the same issue.

“I think it’s just rest,” Gentry said of what it may take for Evans to get past the injury. “It’s one of those situations with tendinitis, where you rest and it feels better. That’s better than having him play two games, then sit out one (and have his status in flux). This may help him be able to play the last part of the season, without sitting out.”

Despite being 18-31, the Pelicans are just six games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Their resting of Evans could be read two ways—it could be gearing up to make a push for the playoffs, as much of a long shot as that may be; or it could be the first in a series of instances of shutting down or resting key players to try to position themselves for a lottery pick, effectively hitting the reset button after a season as ravaged by injuries as the one they’ve had.