Will Joel Embiid make the All-Star Game? Sorry Philly fans, but…


Joel Embiid in the All-Star Game would be exactly what this mid-season exhibition should be — entertaining. Fun. There would be dunks, blocks, mugging for the camera, joking around with teammates, and besides nobody plays more than 28 minutes anyway. If this is an exhibition game for the entertainment of the fans, then who embodies that more right now than Embiid?

And he’s probably not going to make the cut.

Sorry, Philly fans.

Those fans — and all the ones that voted worldwide, even Team Zaza from Georgia — voted to make Embiid a starter for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game. However, once the media and player votes were factored in he fell to fourth behind Jimmy Butler (LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were in easily as the other frontcourt players).

If Embiid is to be a rookie All-Star now it falls to the coaches to pick him, they select the reserves (to be announced Thursday). The coaches do vote for three more frontcourt players, plus they have two wild cards spots to hand out. That’s probably not going to be enough. It’s difficult to see Embiid getting the coaches’ votes ahead of guys such as Paul George, Kevin Love, and Paul Millsap (three frontcourt players). There are two wild card spots, but there are so many good guards in the East that group likely soaks up both slots there. That leaves Embiid out in the cold.

It’s difficult to see Embiid getting the coaches’ votes ahead of guys such as Paul George, Kevin Love, and Paul Millsap (three frontcourt players). Is Embiid more fun than those guys? More impactful when on the court? Yes, and arguably yes. But coaches are old-school guys who like reliability, men who pay their dues and earn their spots, and they like subtlety in players’ games. You know, guys like Millsap. There are two wild card spots, but there are so many good guards in the East that group likely soaks up both slots there. That leaves Embiid out in the cold. Zach Lowe of ESPN spoke with executives about Embiid as All-Star and summed it up perfectly.

I’ve been polling team executives on Embiid’s candidacy for the last week, and the response of one Embiid supporter stood out. He lobbied for Embiid over Millsap largely because Embiid would be more fun. Millsap’s game is all subtle positioning, canny passing, and laborious drives to the rim. There is no room for subtlety in the All-Star Game, this person reasoned.

And then he concluded: “I realize that’s not really fair to Paul Millsap.”

The real problem isn’t Embiid’s play, it’s how often he is playing. He’s missed 13 games this season due to rest and injury, and thanks to his minute’s restriction has played just 758 minutes all season. “Not fun” Millsap is at 1,427 minutes in 42 games. Other guys who can make a case for an All-Star slot are Kristaps Porzingis (1,312 minutes in 39 games) and Hassan Whiteside (1,379 minutes in 41 games). Coaches are going to take that into account when voting, this is how they think. Do you really think NBA coach = fun? Maybe Steve Kerr does but after that?

One thing that could happen: The coaches don’t vote Embiid in, but one of the front court players ahead of him suffers a minor injury and decides to sit out the game (this usually happens to a couple players who make the team each season). Adam Silver would name the replacement, and he likely will lean heavily on the fan vote to guide him, which would get Embiid a spot. Just something to watch.

Joel Embiid is going to make a lot of All-Star Games down the line. Hopefully with Ben Simmons, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. What Embiid has shown this season makes him more than the Rookie of the Year, it makes him an obvious franchise cornerstone (if he can stay healthy).

It just doesn’t make him an All-Star. Yet.


League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

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Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.