Nicolas Batum says he should be an All-Star

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The starters for the All-Star game will be revealed Jan. 23 live on TNT, but the reserves are voted on by the coaches in each conference and we’ll have to wait at least another week to see how the complete rosters shake out.

Since the fans vote in the starters, most of those positions have been solidified. The reserves are a little but more subjective, but there are a few players who simply can’t be ignored and are locks to make the squad. The rest of the spots, especially in the deeper Western Conference, are going to be more difficult to fill.

If coaches are interested in hearing the case for any particular player, they can look no further than Nicolas Batum, who believes his numbers, along with Portland’s stellar start to the season should be enough to earn him All-Star status.

From Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are virtual locks to be in New Orleans playing on that Sunday. So when asked Saturday night if he feels like he deserves to be an All-Star, the small forward didn’t hesitate to give you his thoughts.

“Yes, of course,” Batum said to CSNNW.com. “If they have to pick one small forward behind K.D. (Kevin Durant), I think it should be me.”

Why?

“Because of the numbers that I have and the way I play with this team,” he responded. “I got two triple-doubles and I should have about five or six. And we’re 31-9, maybe the best team in the West so far. I think it’ll be tough to get three All-Stars because Damian and L.A. are going to be in it. And our coach, too. But I deserve consideration.”

The problem for Batum may be that there doesn’t have to be another small forward added to the roster. Partly due to the lack of great centers in the league these days, the NBA went away from positional distinction in the fan voting process, now designating players as either playing frontcourt or backcourt positions.

Batum went on to say that the Blazers should get three players in if they’re at the top of the standings, and while that’s certainly not unprecedented, it’s going to be extremely difficult to justify. Batum is playing well, no question. But unless injuries open up some spots, he’s probably not making the All-Star team this year.

Interviewer: LeBron James wasn’t dissing Kyrie Irving

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LeBron James on Isaiah Thomas, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

“It’s been a while since I’ve had that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time,” James told B/R Mag.

That looked like a shot at Kyrie Irving. But with more context, it clearly wasn’t.

Beck:

It seems LeBron was saying it’s been a while that he’s had “that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time.” If he was slighting Kyrie Irving, LeBron was also slighting Dwyane Wade – and I doubt LeBron would do that.

LeBron and Kyrie probably aren’t above taking subtle shots at each other. But this seems like a case of Beck, after hearing LeBron’s words aloud and in context, not realizing how a trimmed version would read as text. It’s unfortunate that people initially got the wrong impression, but good on Beck for clearing it up.

Missouri: Potential No. 1 pick Michael Porter Jr. likely out for rest of season

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Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. – maybe the top contender to supplant European guard Luka Doncic as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft – had his campaign undercut after it barely began.

Missouri Basketball:

Michael Porter, Jr. will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Dallas, Texas. The procedure, a microdiscectomy of the L3 and L4 spinal discs, has a projected recovery time of three-four months and will likely cause him to miss the remainder of the season. Michael is expected to make a complete recovery

With that timeline, it’s possible Porter returns late in Missouri’s NBA season. But as an elite draft prospect stuck in a cartel system that caps his compensation well below market value, he should probably be cautious.

Porter will likely still go high in the draft – if his medicals check out. This is is a serious injury, and teams will be wary off long-term effects.

But he’s a top talent, and the forward shouldn’t slip far. In fact, in a strange way, this injury could even help him. There were questions about Porter’s ability to handle physicality and tight spaces when the game slows down, challenges he would have met frequently in college basketball. Now, scouts can’t pick apart those aspects of his game. Logically or not, NBA teams tend to favor the unknown in the draft, and Porter is on his way to being one of the biggest mysteries near the top of the 2018 draft.

Kevin Durant reverses course: Playing Thunder ‘just a regular game for me now’

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Kevin Durant said last season playing the Thunder is “never going to be a regular game for me.”

Now, the Warriors star, who’s questionable for tomorrow’s game in Oklahoma City, is singing a different tune.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Durant:

Just a regular game for me now. I learned how to tune out the crowd. I learned how to tune out the bulls— and just play. Just keep at basketball, and I’ll be alright.

Durant is entitled to change his mind, and maybe that’s all that happened.

But this strikes me as yet another chasm between how Durant actually feels and how he wishes he felt – all while facing immense public scrutiny.

Durant spent eight years in Oklahoma City. Many of his former teammates, including Russell Westbrook, are still there. Durant might want to move on, but how could there not be a different feeling when playing the Thunder, especially in Oklahoma City?

Tony Allen: Russell Westbrook flopped to draw DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins got ejected from the Pelicans’ win over the Thunder last night for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head.

Afterward, Tony Allen came to his New Orleans teammate’s defense.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Did Cousins elbow Westbrook in the head? Yes. Did Westbrook create and/or embellish the contact? I don’t know.

Westbrook stuck his head in close, and he might have been baiting Cousins into a foul. But that doesn’t give Cousins carte blanche to commit a foul.

And even if Westbrook were baiting Cousins, the elbow still might have hurt. Westbrook’s reaction could have been genuine.

Did Cousins’ reputation as a flagrant fouler influence Westbrook’s strategy and how officials perceived the play? It’s much easier to convince me of that.