Dan Feldman

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks reacts to his shot in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on January 27, 2017 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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Report: Adam Silver followed coaches’ All-Star vote to pick Carmelo Anthony

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Bradley Beal, bypassed for Carmelo Anthony as Kevin Love‘s All-Star injury replacement said, “The process of it does not make sense.”

But maybe there was a logical process.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver picks All-Star injury replacements. And what are his criteria? Or perhaps more accurately, what’s his criterion?

Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

Silver has said he deferred to the coaches’ vote for past All-Star injury replacements.

The big question: Would Silver have chosen Beal or anyone else if that player, not Anthony, were next-highest in coaches’ voting?

Anthony has major name recognition and plays in the NBA’s biggest market. I’m sure the league’s business partners aren’t upset about his inclusion.

Maybe Silver would’ve followed the coaches no matter what, but we can never know. That’s a drawback to the closed-door system. The league could always codify using the coaches’ vote into a formal rule, and that would end most suspicions (though not all, because the coaches’ vote is not revealed beyond the actual selections). But that would remove control from Silver.

I think Beal’s concerns are off-base. But I definitely don’t know that.

Kevin Durant says widely mocked 2010 super-team tweet misunderstood

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors shoots over LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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In July 2010, Kevin Durant broke the news of his five-year contract extension with the Thunder via tweet. Six years later, he conducted a high-profile free agency in the Hamptons and bolted for the Warriors.

That change in approach is perfectly reasonable, but another tweet in July 2010 had many Durant critics crying hypocrisy when Durant joined Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson with Golden State, which had just eliminated Oklahoma City in the playoffs:

How could Durant criticize LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for teaming up with the Heat and then join the Warriors?

Durant on The Bill Simmons Podcast:

Let me clear this up, because a lot of people who talk to me about, I took a shot at him on Twitter.

If you go back and look at when I posted that, I posted that later in the month. You want to know why?

Because I seen — it was a fake article at that, so now, I was like, damn, I feel like an idiot. Penny Hardaway came out and said, “I would love to play for the Heat. I think I could help them win the championship.” And I’m like, “Come on, Penny. You’ve been out of the game. I played against you my rookie year. It’s like three years later, man. You’ve been out of the game for a while, man. What are you doing?” But it was a fake article. So I tweeted that.

And now everybody’s like, “Well, you was criticizing LeBron.” I signed an extension and right after LeBron decided to go to Miami, and I had a press conference, and a lot of people asked me about that, and I said, “Cool, for them. We play them three times, I can’t wait to play them. It’s going to be cool.”

But I didn’t criticize him. I was criticizing Penny Hardaway and this fake article I read.

So, a lot of people took that and ran with it.

This mostly checks out.

Hardaway stated and restated a desire to join the Heat before ending his comeback attempt a couple days later. He hadn’t played in the NBA in three years, at all productively in eight years or well in 10 years. But he actually said these things about joining Miami. It wasn’t fake news.

And Durant’s tweet came in the midst of Hardaway explaining his hope to return. It would have been strange for Durant to slam LeBron in a tweet nine days after The Decision.

Durant’s recollection of his comments about the top 2010 free agents were mostly accurate. Via a 2010 article in The Oklahoman:

“As a fan of the game, I’m excited for guys like LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Getting new contracts and getting to pick a team is a blessing so you can’t blame them for what they did.”

However, that was before The Decision. Only Wade and Bosh had picked the Heat at that point. Durant was praising the players for navigating free agency.

Overall, far too many facts match up with Durant’s account to believe he’s fibbing to cover up a LeBron diss.

 

 

Is NBA All-Star voting plagued by voter fraud? (Probably not, but bots are trying)

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 12: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with head coach Gregg Popovich at AT&T Center on March 12, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard was credited with 1,058,399 fan votes in All-Star voting. That, along with strong showing in the coach and media votes, has the Spurs forward starting Sunday’s game.

But did all those votes really come from human beings?

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

Graphika sifted through more than 5 million tweets on behalf of ESPN and found all sorts of interesting things about NBA All-Star voting, including 10 hyperactive bot accounts voting for Leonard about 1,000 times per day, a figure that Kelly called “outrageously high.”

And of all the ways you could vote, Twitter, in particular, seemed to be hot for Leonard. For players such as Pachulia, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, a typical account that voted for them on Twitter did so about three times. For Leonard, the number was, per Graphika, 6.46, the highest in the league. More starkly, about 39 percent of the tweets attempting to cast for Leonard came from accounts created since Dec 1, 2016.

And those votes were coming from new accounts with names like @kawhibot.

“If your central question is, ‘Do these accounts look fishy?’ — the answer is unequivocally yes,” said Ron J. Williams, founder and managing partner of proofLabs, a Brooklyn-based strategy and product development studio. “It may be some combination of bots and human-controlled accounts, but it certainly looks like a coordinated effort to game Twitter’s trending algorithm.”

There is no sure way to know whether those efforts were successful in registering actual votes. The NBA screens out suspicious-looking votes, but won’t say exactly how.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass would say only: “We examine for voting irregularities on a consistent basis and monitor for bots and other manipulations. We have measures to detect improper voting, and any votes that do not comply with our rules are voided.”

What’s certain is that someone was trying to get Leonard in the game. When we began to ask experts whom it might be, many suggested asking [Brad] Parscale. A former Spurs season-ticket holder, Parscale directed Trump’s digital efforts during the presidential campaign from a low-slung building along the 410 freeway in northern San Antonio. A Bloomberg report detailed his mastery of the emerging art of exercising digital influence. The technique focused on using more than 100 people to solidify the positions of likely Trump supporters — and sow doubt wherever influential groups of Clinton supporters gathered online.

When asked in January if he was behind the bots voting for Leonard, Parscale wrote in an email, “No, I didn’t even know Kawhi was up for the award. I have been very busy with getting Trump elected.”

Leonard became an All-Star starter by a 691,200-fan-vote margin. It seems practically impossible these bots got him in.

However, maybe the system is vulnerable in ways that could be exploited in future seasons?

I highly recommend reading Holmes’ full article for a sensationally deep dive into the issue.

 

Report: Scan shows Ben Simmons’ foot not fully healed

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The will he/won’t he of Ben Simmons playing this season has taken its wildest turn yet.

The 76ers’ No. 1 pick broke his foot in September and was expected to miss three months. He participated in on-court drills in January, and a follow-up scan later that month came up clean.

But maybe he came back too soon.

 

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The first overall pick in last summer’s draft is scheduled to visit the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York as early as Monday to determine if his right foot is fully healed, according to multiple sources.

Sources said that a foot scan on Jan. 23 showed that his foot was not fully healed.

A source reiterated that Simmons’ foot not being fully healed isn’t a result of the on-court drills in which he participates.

 

How does that even happen?

Bradley Beal on Carmelo Anthony making All-Star game: ‘The process of it does not make sense’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks guards Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards in the first half of their game at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2014 in New York City.  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 Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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Anecdotally, the most popular choice to replace an injured Kevin Love in the All-Star game: Bradley Beal.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s actual choice: Carmelo Anthony.

Beal, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“I’ll never say a player doesn’t deserve to be on the all-star team. For one, Carmelo is a great player. Hell, he’s been one of the best offensive threats in the league for years now, and I’m taking absolutely nothing away from him. But the process of it does not make sense. If they reward winning, then I don’t understand how the decision was made,” Beal said Thursday morning. “It was kind of weird to me.”

For previous injury replacements, Silver has said he deferred to next player in the coaches’ reserve voting — though I wonder whether Silver has sometimes just used that point to justify a selection he made for other reasons. Anthony is the biggest name available, which will raise questions, fair or not.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if Anthony was eighth in the coaches’ vote, one spot behind initial reserve selection. He’s an established veteran, and coaches tend to reward those.

Still, Beal is playing better than Anthony, especially lately. Since All-Star reserves were announced, Beal has averaged 24 points per game, shooting 55% from the field and 45% on 3-pointers, and the Wizards have gone 8-1.

Silver should have considered that, even though coaches didn’t have the opportunity.

Then again, maybe he did and still picked Anthony. Maybe Silver just followed the coaches. Maybe he judged based on name recognition. The commissioner can pick All-Star injury replacements however he pleases.

In the absence of a transparent process, whether there’s a private process or not, we’ll get confusion like Beal’s.