“We’re winning and everyone is playing well,” he told ESPN. “Why not?”
What could hold the Warriors back from the record is not their play — they have the best record in the NBA — but rather that the Western Conference is STACKED.
“Just because probably so many guys came over to the West in the offseason,” Green answered. “With Jimmy [Butler] coming over, with Carmelo Anthony coming over, KAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] obviously an up-and-comer. That’s probably why it’s more of a debate now, but I don’t see why it should change. Our record is pretty good.”
There are usually seven frontcourt spots per conference for an All-Star team. Let’s just say Durant and Anthony Davis are locks (they’re the top two fan vote-getters and the media/players will have them high as well). That leaves five spots for Green, DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and guys who likely don’t make it but will get consideration such as Kawhi Leonard (just missed too many games) and Carmelo Anthony (not quite good enough anymore).
Antetokounmpo could still overtake LeBron, and Kyrie Irving is also in striking distance of the East captaincy. Curry and Durant are running neck-and-neck in the West.
The rest of the fan voting doesn’t mean much anymore. It’ll serve as just 50% of the formula for selecting All-Star starters, the player (25%) and media (25%) vote also factoring. Each conference’s top two guards and top three frontcourt players in fan voting are likely All-Stars regardless, favored to be picked by reserve-selecting coaches if all else fails. With captains picking teams, I’m not even sure players designated “starters” will actually start. I don’t think people generally care whether someone starts or comes off the bench in the exhibition game, anyway.
Chris Paul runs up score with late layup, Damian Lillard confronts him and swipes at ball (video)
Lillard on confronting CP3 at end of game after Paul scored with 12.8 seconds left: "First of all, we lost the game fair and square. It wasn’t a play that impacted us winning or losing, so I wasn’t salty about that." (1/2)
Lillard on CP3 (continued): "They won the game, they did more things than we did … but as far as sportsmanship goes, and you know, respect … if the roles were reversed, I don’t think they would like it." (2/2)
This is just Paul padding his stats. There was no grander strategic consideration. Houston had wrapped up the win. The shot clock was off. It appeared everyone else on the court was content to let time run out.
I’m generally in the “don’t like it, stop it” camp. But Paul wasn’t still competing to match the trailing team’s effort. He wasn’t reacting on instinct in the flow of the game. He wasn’t trying to dazzle fans.
I understand why Lillard appear bothered – mostly because the Trail Blazers just lost, but also because Paul showed them up. If they really didn’t want Paul to score there, they could have defended. But with that opportunity passed, getting Paul’s face doesn’t seem like a terrible fallback.
Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard tweaks shoulder, Spurs fall to Blazers
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Kawhi Leonard injured again. Apparently not seriously, but still. C.J. McCollum beats Spurs without him. Much like Odysseus just trying to get home, the basketball gods apparently are not done messing with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season due to a quad injury, but the last few games he was starting to round back into “top 5 NBA player” form.
Last Friday in Phoenix Leonard tweaked his shoulder again. He was out Sunday in Portland, but after the game coach Gregg Popovich played down the severity of this injury. Let’s hope so. Leonard’s status against the Lakers for Thursday is up in the air. Still, the team is 23-10 without Leonard this season (remember he missed games for rest after his return), they will be just fine.
No Leonard. No Damian Lillard when the Spurs and Trail Blazers met in Portland Sunday, so how about a C.J. McCollum game winner:
LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 14 rebounds on the night, but he missed the game winner and the Portland fans loved that.
2) Josh Richardson completes a late comeback against Jazz with a game-winning layup for Heat. Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is making a serious Rookie of the Year case of late. The young Jazz guard dropped 27 on the Heat Sunday, including a driving layup that had the Jazz up three with :47 seconds left.
He’s also a rookie, and that means sometimes he makes defensive mistakes. He fouled Kelly Olynyk in the act of shooting late, making it a one-point game. Then on the deciding play veteran Josh Richardson shook him with a change of direction in the paint, then Mitchell got hung-up on an Olynyk screen, allowing Richardson to get the ball and essentially go one-on-one with Derrick Favors. Richardson uses a nice little change-of-pace move to create space and gets the shot.
Miami has won four in a row now, all by single digits.
3) Do I have to? Ugh. Okay. Let’s talk Luke Walton and Lonzo Ball. I mostly try to avoid writing about anything LaVar Ball, because I have little use for the Kardashians of the NBA. However, sometimes what he says — no matter how outlandish — becomes something that needs to be addressed because it becomes a thing. His recent criticism of Luke Walton falls into that category — he tapped into a vein of some Lakers fans, ones not used to the ups and downs of rebuilding, watching young teams lose and lose their way a little, who think Walton needs to be more demonstrative and old-school. I’ll give you my thoughts on all this — and what I know from sources and reports — in bullet points.
• Luke Walton’s job is safe.
• I mean completely safe. As in he is not going anywhere, not now and not this summer. Honestly, plenty of people around the league see his uptempo offense, saw this team defend earlier in the season, and think he’s doing a good job.
• LaVar Ball is only as big a distraction as the players in the locker room let him be. Being around the team some this season, my impression is people outside the locker room care far more about what Lavar thinks than people inside the locker room.
• So you’re saying players on a bad team that had lost nine straight (before Sunday) may be frustrated with the coach? Shocking.
• I can guarantee the coach is frustrated with the players’ too.
• Walton should be frustrated with his players. The idea that on an NBA team it’s the coaches job to be some sort of rah-rah motivator is wrong — the players are pros, they are getting massive paychecks, they have to motivate themselves nightly. That is part of their job. The players have to bring it nightly, be professionals, and put in the effort before and during games. The Lakers started to come apart when the trade rumors around the squad flared up — welcome to the NBA life. That can’t get in your head (or KCP’s legal issues for that matter). If the players don’t put in the effort it’s on them far more than the coach. It speaks to a lack of leadership among the players in the locker room who are not holding each other accountable. The coach can vent a little, management should take some blame, but at the end of the day this is mostly on the players.
• Also, well played by Walton to joke he sat Lonzo Ball earlier than usual in the first and third quarters Sunday because his dad “talked s—-.”
• If you are LeBron James, Paul George, or any other big Laker free agent target over the next two years, and you’re looking at LaVar Ball and the impact his noise creates, do you want to still want to sign on?
Gregg Popovich says Kawhi Leonard has partial tear in left shoulder
Even though Kawhi Leonard has a partial terse in his shoulder, the team at this point doesn't think it's serious. Team will continue to monitor it over these next few days. He has not yet been ruled out for Thursday in LA against the Lakers.
This is just another setback for the Spurs, who have been surprisingly resilient in absence of both Leonard and Tony Parker early in the year. Before Leonard came back on Dec. 12, San Antonio was 19-8. The team currently sits third in the West.
It is good news that the Spurs don’t think it’s serious, but there’s no doubt fans would rather see their star fully healthy going into the playoffs. Any hindrance can be the difference in the postseason, as we’ve seen with players like Stephen Curry before.
Meanwhile, it seems that the Blazers will be missing a player of their own. The team announced that Damian Lillard will not play against the Spurs due to a calf strain.
Lillard says it is the right calf that is keeping him out. Says health & performance staff feels it is “smarter” to take it easy. Says he feels same as before Friday game vs. Atlanta, when he said he felt he made impact.