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: Mikhail Prokhorov ‘warmed’ to selling controlling stake of Nets

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Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets in 2010. A couple years ago, he tried to sell his stake, but decided to keep it. Then, he bought 100% of the franchise and its arena. After last season, he said he was selling 49% of the team.

Now?

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, while focused on selling a minority stake in the franchise, has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice of the team, sources close to the situation said.

The change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak — and with interest in the Houston Rockets sale heating up, one source said.

The Rockets’ sale could shake out potential Nets buyers, and Prokhorov selling a controlling stake could also help. It’d cost more money than the 49% he’s offering now, but people with the money to buy an NBA team tend to value control.

This might be a good time to sell for Prokhorov, who lost a ton of money as the team paid major luxury tax for an all-in championship pursuit that flopped spectacularly. The NBA’s popularity is rising, and the league is reaping huge revenue from its national-TV contracts.

However, he shouldn’t assume the Rockets’ sale price will predict the Nets’. Buyers might prefer a good team with James Harden and Chris Paul to a bad one short on young talent after years of mismanagement. At least Brooklyn’s payroll is now tolerably low.

The big loser here: Leslie Alexander, who’s trying to sell the Rockets. The supply of NBA teams now available might have just doubled, and unless there’s no overlap in demand for those franchises, that can only drive down Alexander’s eventual sale price.

Report: Clippers paid $3.2 million – second-most ever – for draft pick (Jawun Evans)

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The Warriors set a record by paying $3.5 million for a draft pick, buying the Bulls’ No. 38 pick and using it on Jordan Bell this year.

That eclipsed the $3 million spent by each the Thunder in 2010 (to the Hawks for the No. 31 pick, Tibor Pleiss) and Nets in 2016 (to move up 13 spots for Isaiah Whitehead).

So did the Clippers’ purchase of the No. 39 pick (Jawun Evans) from the 76ers this year.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Clippers also paid the Bucks $2 million for the No. 48 pick (Sindarius Thornwell).

I rated Evans a low first-rounder due to his speed and drive-and-kick game, so getting him in the second round is good value. I’m not as keen on Thornwell, who’s already 22 and built so much of his success at South Carolina on being more physical than younger opponents.

But the more swings the Clippers take on young players, the more likely they are to find long-term contributors. More power to owner Steve Ballmer for greenlighting this expenditure.

Importantly, as players acquired through the draft, Evans and Thornwell will count for the luxury tax at their actual salaries. Players signed otherwise, even if their actual salaries are lower, count at at least the two-years-experience minimum.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can spend $5.1 million in cash this season. That amount will increase (or decrease) in proportion with the salary cap in coming years. So, expect the previous record for draft-pick purchase price – $3 million – to fall again and again.

There’s just more leeway now for the NBA’s haves to separate themselves from the have-nots.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

Reports: Heat pessimistic about/uninterested in trading for Kyrie Irving

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly listed the Heat among his preferred destinations. Though Irving – without a no-trade clause and locked up for two more years – holds only minimal sway, teams would logically offer more for him if they believe he’d re-sign.

Will Miami trade for Irving?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

And while the possibility certainly cannot be ruled out, the Heat does not have considerable optimism about being able to strike a deal, multiple league sources said.

One Eastern Conference official who spoke to the Heat said Miami considers itself something of a long shot.

Tim Reynolds, the reputable Associated Press Heat and NBA writer, said on Steve Shapiro’s Sports Xtra on WSVN-7 that he does not believe Miami is interested in acquiring Irving.

Like the Kings, though to a far lesser extent, the Heat might not be interested because they know they stand no little of landing Irving.

Goran Dragic would almost certainly have to go to Cleveland in a deal, supplanted by Irving in Miami. Dragic would upgrade the Cavs at point guard over Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, but at 31, Dragic would also significantly shorten Cleveland’s window.

The Heat would have to send much more. It’s just not clear what.

The Cavaliers, with Tristan Thompson, might not have much interest in centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. Justise Winslow‘s weak 3-point shooting makes him a tough fit with LeBron James, and Winslow’s shoulder injury last season damages his stock anywhere. Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson are helpful contributors, but Johnson’s salary skyrockets north of $19 million each of the following two seasons, and Richardson will hit free agency (and get a raise) after this season. James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk – who all signed this summer – can’t be traded until Dec. 15. (I’m not sure which prospect is funnier, Waiters returning to Cleveland or playing with Irving in Miami.) The Heat also owe the Suns two future first-round picks – one top-seven protected in 2018 and unprotected in 2019, the other unprotected in 2021.

It’s difficult, maybe impossible, for Miami to assemble a suitable trade package given those constraints.

At least the Heat would keep open the possibility of LeBron returning if they don’t trade for Irving.