Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

Hawks’ Antic out of All-Star Weekend Rising Stars Challenge, Suns’ Plumlee in


Pero Antic was a guy not a lot of NBA fans have seen much of, the Hawks reserve big man who is really a stretch 4/5 (57 percent of his shots have been threes), but he’s a guy with real potential in the league.

He’s also a guy with a stress fracture in his right ankle, which is going to keep him out of the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night of All Star Weekend in New Orleans.

Phoenix big man Miles Plumlee has been selected to replace Antic in the Friday night showcase of the league’s best, the league announced Friday.

It’s a good selection — no disrespect to Antic intended, but Plumlee should have been in the pool of players to start with. Plumlee is averaging 9.3 points a game on 51 percent shooting, plus pulling down 8.6 rebounds a game. He has been a solid big man in the middle, something to balance out the great play Phoenix has gotten from Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (when he’s healthy).

Plumlee will play for Team Hill, selected by Grant Hill of TNT and coached by Nate McMillan of the Indiana Pacers.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
1 Comment

James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.