Don’t we all just love it when David Stern and the league office get to put their fingerprints all over the All-Star Game?
But with Rajon Rondo now out with a torn ACL in his right knee, it falls to Stern to make changes to the East roster for the Feb. 17 game in Houston.
Fans voted Rondo in as a starter and that spot on the floor for the opening tip is going to go to one of the reserves already chosen for the East. If you want to stick with a point guard, Jrue Holiday or Kyrie Irving should get the spot.
I’d go with Irving — he is the more talented, more dynamic player (and this is an exhibition, after all). While Irving missed a large portion of he first half of the season he has played in only five fewer games than Holiday. Irving scores a little more and is more entertaining, and at the end of the day the All-Star game is about entertainment.
While Stern should slide a guard into the starting spot for Rondo, he is under no obligation to put a guard on the East All-Star roster to fill the empty slot. If he wans another point guard Brandon Jennings is out there and deserving, he has played well for the Bucks.
If Stern wants to keep another Celtic on the roster, Paul Pierce was maybe the most glaring snub in the East — 18.7 points a game, highest on the Boston team.
Or he could go with another big man — Brook Lopez. Just my gut feel, this is the direction Stern goes, because he thinks marketing first and Lopez represents a new market in Brooklyn. Plus Lopez has earned it — 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, and he is the catalyst for the Nets. When he plays, they are a dangerous team, their losing streak not so coincidentally came with him injured for much of it (but Avery Johnson got to pay the price).
But no matter what, David Stern gets to make choices about who plays in the All-Star Game. Isn’t that swell?
This week is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “you can’t go home again” week of the schedule. On Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony will return to New York where Knicks fans should welcome him with cheers and open arms — he meant a lot to that franchise in recent years — but may very well not.
First up, however, Paul George returns to Indiana in a Thunder uniform Wednesday night.
There’s little doubt how he will be greeted by Indiana fans, who felt betrayed by a man they stuck by through recovery from a severe injury. George knows what is coming,
Here are the key lines from PG13:
“Boos. I honestly wouldn’t think it would be any other way. The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans. That’s what I’m looking forward to. For whatever reason, I’ll be booed, but I’m gonna embrace that. I’m gonna thrive on that.”
For whatever reason? You asked to be traded and fans take that personally. There is no loyalty in sports — I have no problem with players asking out because teams show no hesitancy in dumping players they no longer have a use for (and fans are almost always good with that) — but he had to know how this would be taken in Indiana.
What George might want to worry about is stopping the red-hot Victor Oladipo (he averaged 35.7 points per game last week), because he and the Pacers are playing better than the Thunder right now.
The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.
Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.
He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.
Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.
However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.
That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?
The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.
Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.
Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.
Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.
Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.
He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.
But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.
Except we now know he apparently likes karate.
Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.
If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.
Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.
Michael C. Wright of ESPN: