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

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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.

 

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelican Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.

What happened to Willy Hernangomez’s minutes with Knicks?

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When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.

He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.

What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.

“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”

“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.

Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.

Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.