When you vote for West All-Star guards, who you going to snub?

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When you sit down to fill out your All-Star ballot this year (or you may not sit down, you can do it from your phone while standing) who are you going to select as the starting guards in the West?

Are you going to take Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, like last year? Smart money is they win the fan vote again. (We will see how Kobe plays post Achilles surgery, but if you think fans are not voting him in I question your logic — you also probably think Ben Affleck was a great choice as the new Batman).

But now you’ve left the coaches (who fill out the roster) with an impossible job.

Who get the three spots as backups? Last year the coaches selected Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and it’s hard to argue against any of those guys.

But then you are going to snub a number of deserving guys —the West is loaded with quality guards, some of whom will not make the cut and will have a legitimate complaint (something Jeff Caplan was talking about at NBA.com).

At the top of the list is Stephen Curry, who didn’t earn a trip to Houston for the ASG last year and after that “snub” (again, who are you leaving off?) he picked up his game and averaged 26 points a game (up from 21 before the ASG), 7.4 assists a game and shot 46 percent from three. Then he led the Warriors into the second round of the playoffs. He will make the cut this season.

Other guards in the West deserving consideration:

• Jrue Holiday was an All-Star last season for the Sixers and he’s now in the West for a Pelicans team that could surprise people.

• Ricky Rubio also is a fan favorite, plays with a flair and will lead another team that will surprise some fans if they can stay healthy (Minnesota is a playoff team out West if healthy).

• Damian Lillard will warrant votes. The Rookie of the Year averaged 19 points a game and should take a step forward (plus he won’t have to carry as much of he offensive load with Mo Williams and some added doeth all over the Trail Blazers roster.

• Ty Lawson is one of the fastest and better point guards in the league, averaging 16.7 points and 6.9 assists a game last season.

• Mike Conley has become a solid point guard, one of the better defensive points but a guy who still scored 14.6 points and averaged 6.1 assists a game, orchestrating a Memphis a Grizzlies attack that went all the way to the conference finals.

• Then there is the list of good guards not likely to even sniff making the team: Monta Ellis, Eric Bledsoe, Steve Nash and Klay Thompson. (I’m counting Andre Iguodala as a forward with Golden State.)

Some of those guys are going to have a monster first half of the season and put their names in contention. Then, when they don’t make the cut they will have a legitimate complaint. But there are just not enough spots for all the deserving guys.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.