Kurt Helin

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Zaza Pachulia second in West frontcourt All-Stars? Still wonder why NBA tweaked system?

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Last year, Zaza Pachulia came within just more than 14,000 votes of being an All-Star Game starter.

That was the good ol’ days, when fans got 100 percent of the say on the starters, and Pachulia’s stock was boosted by a late push with heavy voting online from his native Georgia, Wyclef Jean posting videos pushing Zaza, and since the NBA Twitterverse loves a good joke/likes to disrupt the system, everybody was in on the gag. It almost worked — he came in fourth in a race where the top three got starting spots. Zaza still beat out Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, and on and on.

Through the first few weeks of voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, here is where things stand for the Western Conference frontcourt:

Western Conference
Frontcourt
1 Kevin Durant (GS) 987,479
2 Zaza Pachulia (GS) 823,376
3 Kawhi Leonard (SA) 630,766
4 Anthony Davis (NO) 567,201
5 Draymond Green (GS) 464,319
6 DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225
7 Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979
8 LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 192,784
9 Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393
10 Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146

Once again, Georgia is having a say. Insert your own jokes about Russian bloc country hacking an American vote here — Twitter sure did.

Sorry to disappoint the fine people in the Republic of Georgia, but this is not going stand.

In fact, this is exactly why the NBA changed the voting procedure this year. Now the fan vote counts for 50 percent, with select media members getting 25 percent, and the players getting the final 25 percent. From the NBA press release:

After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes. Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes.

I don’t want to speak for the media, but safe to say Zaza isn’t going to rack up a lot of votes there. From the players? Anyone who shares his agent maybe, or somebody going Tony Allen on their ballot, but that’s about it.

Zaza is not going to be an All-Star. Sorry. But even though he’s not playing in New Orleans, he should still come. Great food, great parties. They don’t make great gumbo in Georgia.

Three things we learned on Wednesday: Knicks, Sixers seem headed in opposite directions

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Here’s what you missed around the NBA while trying to put out the fire your pet tortoise caused

1) The Sixers have won 3-of-4 and look confident; The Knicks on the other hand… 
It’s amazing how one shot, one comeback can change perceptions, alter the feelings around an entire franchise. Or in this case, two franchises.

The shot was Philadelphia’s T.J. McConnell’s game winner Wednesday night to beat the Knicks. Of course, it was preceded by the Knicks blowing a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Joel Embiid banking in a three-pointer, then Kristaps Porzingis — New York’s best player — air balling a wide-open corner three to give the Sixers a chance. Credit due to Sixers coach Brett Brown here — most coaches would have called a timeout on this final play and tried to assert some control by setting up a play, but a defense scrambling in chaos is the best time to score and Brown kept his hands in his pockets and trusted his team. It worked.

The Knicks are a mess. Derrick Rose was back from going AWOL and had an efficient 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting — he was still -21 for the game (that stat can be misleading, but here it speaks to problems on the defensive end). The Knicks have lost 9-of-10, have fallen out of the playoffs, and are five games below .500 with their next five games being against teams in the playoff chase — the Bulls, Raptors, Hawks, Celtics, and Wizards. New York needs wins in there or it’s going to get ugly. And when it gets ugly James Dolan tends to step in. There’s some old-school Chicken Little “the sky is falling” going on amongst Knicks fans right now, and it’s hard to blame them. What exactly is the reason for hope right now?

The Sixers, on the other hand, have won 3-of-4 and there is a growing confidence about them. Having Joel Embiid does that. If a franchise is going to tank like nobody has ever tanked before through the process and struggle for a few years, it needs to come out on the other end with a franchise cornerstone player or two. Embiid, after a long wait, seems to be that guy. Ben Simmons may be as well. Hopefully, we get to find out this season and see them together. There are a lot of questions about how all the pieces fit together in Philly, there are other draft picks and prospects yet to arrive, but this feels like a team that has turned the corner and is heading in the right direction. There is a reason for hope.

2) Russell Westbrook racks up 18th triple-double of season, Thunder win again. I’ve run out of ways to praise Russell Westbrook. Remember how last season we said it was crazy how many triple-doubles he was racking up? After Wednesday, he now has 18 this season — the same number he had all of last season. The Thunder have 42 games left. Westbrook had 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists on Wednesday, and more importantly the Thunder won again, this time against a Memphis team that has been playing well of late and brings with it one of the best defenses in the NBA. There just is no defense for Westbrook.

3) We’ve got upsets: Timberwolves end Rockets win streak at 9; Trail Blazers comfortably beat Cavaliers. There were a couple other games of note, from the “good teams can’t win every game” category. For one, Minnesota was playing good enough defense, getting 28 from Andrew Wiggins, 23 from Karl-Anthony Towns, and 20 off the bench from Shabazz Muhammad. Oh, and the Timberwolves were racking up highlights.

Portland looked like a playoff team — something that hasn’t happened consistently of late — playing its best game of the season and thrashing Cleveland 102-86. The Blazers dominated this game from the start and got 27 points and another strong game from C.J. McCollum, and when the Cavaliers worked to take the ball out of his hands, Allen Crabbe stepped up with some quality playmaking. Considering the travel problems both teams had just getting to snowy Portland for this game, the Cavs can write this one off and not think about it. The Blazers (who had a harder time getting back home for this game, they landed in Seattle and took a bus) get a quality win out of it.

PBT Podcast: Who should start in All-Star Game?

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There is big news from around the league to discuss: Derrick Rose‘s future with the Knicks for one. Also, Kyle Korver is now sinking threes for the Cavaliers.

Dane Carbaugh and myself discuss those situations, but we spend most of our time on the All-Star ballot and who should be voted as starters. If Kyrie Irving is one starter in the East backcourt, who should be at the other spot? DeMar DeRozan? Isaiah Thomas? And the frontcourts of both conferences are deep — quality players are going to be snubbed even after the coaches round out the rosters.

(Note, this was recorded on Wednesday afternoon with the intention of being up earlier, but technical difficulties got in the way. Things like Rose playing against the Sixers are referenced as having yet to happen, however the information and discussion topics would be the same now or then.)

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

PBT Extra: If Derrick Rose wants to get paid next summer, it’s on him to step up now

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Derrick Rose wants a max contract next summer.

I want to spend a party-filled week in Ibiza with Margot Robbie.

These things have about the same chance of happening.

But Rose can help his case by both playing within himself and being a model citizen the rest of this season, as noted in this PBT Extra. After his AWOL experience with the Knicks, he has to prove his value. He’s not getting the max, and if a team guarantees him beyond two seasons they are fools, but what he does the rest of this season will determine a lot.

Mavericks’ Justin Anderson fined $25,000 for blow to Kris Dunn’s head (VIDEO)

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Dallas’ Justin Anderson was going or the dramatic chase-down block. Instead, he got a $25,000 fine and a flagrant 2 foul.

The play happened early in the second quarter of the Timberwolves’ win Monday night over the Mavericks. Kris Dunn had poked the ball away on a steal, got the long lead pass and was going in for the breakaway layup when Anderson tried to track him down. Anderson went up for the block but instead hit Dunn across the head, knocking him to the ground.

Dunn got up and continued to play, and at the time Anderson was given a Flagrant 1 by the officials. The league office reviewed it and made it a flagrant 2, and handed down the steep fine. The league does not mess around with blows to the head.