Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets

We know the starters, so who should be the All-Star reserves?

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Your job is done fans. You picked the NBA All-Star Game starters. Well done.

Now the job of picking the reserves falls to the NBA’s coaches. Well, really whoever the coaches delegate the job to — an assistant coach, the video coordinator, the equipment manager, someone working the beer concession line — but the coach signs the ballot.

The point of having the coaches vote for the All-Star Game reserves is simple — the fans do things like vote for Kobe Bryant to start (even if he doesn’t want to) instead of more deserving guys like Chris Paul and Damian Lillard. The coaches are there to clean up that mess, they are supposed to have a better handle on who is playing well right now and deserves the All-Star honor. (Their choices will be announced next week, and we can vent then about who got snubbed.)

I’m no coach, but that’s not stopping me — here is who would I choose as reserves (following the format the coaches will, with two backup guards, three reserve frontcourt players, and two wildcards:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

G: John Wall (Washington Wizards)
G: Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers)
FC: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
FC: Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers)
FC: Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)
WC: Arron Afflalo (Orlando Magic)
WC: Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

Comments: Wall has had a strong season for a Wizards team that may be the third best team in the East (depends on the week). For Stephenson, it’s not just that his game has improved, I’m picking him over a deserving but just short Kyle Lowry of the Raptors because Stephenson is a key playmaker on the best team in the NBA in the first half of the season. In the East, a heavy dose of Miami and Indiana just shows you’re putting the best players on the team. Andre Drummond is one of the rising stars of the game and I don’t want to punish him because just because Piston guards don’t bother to get him touches often enough. He’s a beast and I want to see the game’s young stars on this big stage. Afflalo has had a career best season taking on a big burden in Orlando, he deserves the nod.

The guys I snub are Lowry, DeMar DeRozan (sorry Toronto, a team that also may be the third best team in the East) and Joe Johnson of Brooklyn.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

G: Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
G: James Harden (Houston Rockets)
FC: LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trial Blazers)
FC: Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
FC: Dirk Nowtizki (Dallas Mavericks)
WC: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
WC: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

Comments: I love that the fans put Kevin Love in as a starter over Howard (a surprise change in the voting in the last couple weeks, Love made up 26,000 votes), and with that I was tempted to leave Howard off completely in favor of DeMarcus Cousins. But I just couldn’t do it. Howard has played well this season and while I wish he’d demand fewer post plays — he breaks up the flow of the Rockets’ offense at times to get them — and embrace the pick-and-roll, he’s been good at both ends and is key to that team’s success this season. To me Davis and Cousins are a virtual toss up, so I gave it to the guy with the game in the city where he plays.

I am assuming Chris Paul is healthy enough to play — he says he wants to be — but if not Tony Parker gets that slot.

Snubs from the West in my picks are Cousins (and it pains me), Goran Dragic, plus Parker and Tim Duncan of the Spurs. Mike Conley of the Grizzlies is close but just misses the cut also. This would be tougher yet if Russell Westbrook were healthy.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.