Author: Rob Mahoney

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6

Carmelo trade could give the West another All-Star spot


Carmelo Anthony trade rumors may have temporarily ceded their control of basketball fans the world over, but the possibility of an Anthony trade still looms. It’s not imminent. The relative seriousness of trade talks isn’t worthy of an hourly update. But the foundation of what would cause Anthony to be moved in the first place is still there, and it’s possible — if not probable — that Melo finds a new home before the trade deadline.

If such a trade happens sooner rather than later, it could have a pretty strange effect on the All-Star festivities. Anthony was voted as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, but most of the teams linked to him (the Knicks, Nets, etc.) in trade scenarios are Eastern Conference teams. If one of the rumored deals happens to go down prior to All-Star Weekend, then there’s a slight situation which would need to be resolved. Here’s Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse with the details:

If the forward were to be traded before the Feb. 20 All-Star Game in Los Angeles from the Denver Nuggets of the Western Conference to a team in the Eastern Conference, he instead would be placed on the East roster for the game. If all five East starters are healthy and ready to go, it would mean Anthony coming off the bench.

It also could mean the East having 13 players on its roster if Anthony were to be traded to the East after the reserves are announced next Thursday and all players are healthy and ready to play. The West roster could be down to 11 players but could be restored to 12 with a replacement named for Anthony.

Not too big of a deal, but a Melo trade would conveniently open up another All-Star spot in the West, where there are oodles of qualified candidates. Between the usual suspects, new candidates like Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, and unexpected additions like LaMarcus Aldridge, NBA coaches will have their hands full in deciding the players most deserving of an All-Star berth. Trading Anthony doesn’t relieve any of the pressure on those coaches in marking their ballots for the reserves, but it would help David Stern (who selects All-Star replacements) send one more productive player to Los Angeles.

Yao Ming again voted an All-Star starter, cue outrage

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

In Yao Ming’s election as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, there’s no heart-warming consolation to be had; Yao Ming’s season is gone, and his inclusion in this event — which will give him the eighth All-Star berth of his career — is really just a reminder of why using a popular vote as the sole mechanism to decide the All-Star starters is just a bit wonky.

I’ll save the cries of injustice for another writer, though. Regardless of the problems with the All-Star system as a whole, this is what N.B.A. fans are stuck with at present. Yao will add another minor accolade to his N.B.A. résumé, and we can all give him a golf clap when his name is announced at the big game.

It’s time to star talking replacements though, and luckily, Tom Ziller has the league protocol for the replacement for an All-Star starter outlined for a post on SB Nation:

NBA head coaches (or their designated PR flacks) will now vote on seven reserve spots in each conference. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players, and must include at least one center, two forwards and two guards on their ballots. Once the reserves are named, [David] Stern will announce a replacement for Yao and any other players who pull out of the game. Gregg Popovich, who will coach the West All-Stars, will select one of his reserves to take Yao’s starting spot. Gasol, who played center during Andrew Bynum’s injury, would be a likely choice, as would Pop’s own big man Tim Duncan.

So replacing Yao is actually a bit of a tag-team; David Stern tabs the player who will take Yao’s place on the playoff roster, while Gregg Popovich hand-picks the player from the full roster who will step into the starting lineup. As Ziller mentioned, Gasol and Duncan are the obvious candidates, and it seems unlikely that Pop would step out of the box here. He may not have much respect for the event at large, but choosing an unlikely candidate to replace Yao only leads to more bothersome interviews and questions, while going with the expected will get him through the weekend with minimal conversation on the topic. When Gasol or Duncan are picked as anticipated, that will be that. Just conjecturing here, but I’d think Pop would find some solace in that, especially in an event that will otherwise shower him with required media events around the clock.

Kendrick Perkins speeds up his timetable, will return tonight

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With Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal both sidelined during last Saturday’s game against the Wizards, the Celtics were forced to rely on Semih Erden and Glen Davis as the entirety of their center rotation. When healthy, Boston is the deepest team in the NBA, and yet for his particular game their frontline had dwindled down to a pair of last resorts.

Both O’Neals are set to miss tonight’s game as well, but the Celtics have an unexpected addition to their center core: Kendrick Perkins, who has missed the entire season to date with a right knee injury, will make his return to the lineup, according to the Celtics’ Twitter feed. Perkins claimed to be about two weeks away from game action as of this past Sunday, yet Doc Rivers is prepared to bring Perk off the bench to play 12-16 minutes in the middle. Whatever magical meal Perkins had for lunch on Monday, I’ll have two of ’em.

Honestly, Perkins should need no introduction. His interior defense has been a huge asset to the Celtics, and his return represents something fairly frightening: a Celtics team even more fearsome and more complete than the one we’ve seen all year. Boston has had their ups and downs, but injuries aside they’re as good — or better — than any team in the league. Add Perkins to that already potent lineup and allow both O’Neals to come off the bench in the process (or start Shaq and brink Perkins off the bench, whatever Rivers fancies) and the Celtics look pretty damn solid inside. The rotations are there, the defensive pressure is there, and now, for the first time all season, the center position is starting to come together as intended. The next step is getting Perkins back into NBA shape and reintegrating both O’Neals, but this is a big day for Boston.

Jay Triano will not abide trivialities

Jay Triano
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Every professional sports league carries with it an abundance of irrelevant records and streaks. The combinations of milestones available can create a new record on a whim (The first to 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 3,000 steals, 2,500 free throw attempts, 3,000 turnovers, and 50 technical fouls!), and most “active streaks” stand as equally arbitrary.

A perfect example: last night ended the Toronto Raptors’ streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer at 986. That’s a lot of games, and a long time to be tabulating an irrelevant stat. What, exactly, is that record supposed to indicate? That the Raps were a good three-point shooting team during the duration of those 986 games? True in some cases, less so in others; predictably, Toronto’s effectiveness from beyond the arc waxed and waned throughout that stretch. Really, it’s a freak occurrence furthered strictly by the desire to keep an irrelevant streak alive. The streak’s inexplicable prevalence has made it a bit of trivia, and some players and coaches throughout the Raps’ recent history have undoubtedly made an effort to keep it alive.

Well, Jay Triano is having none of it. Here was the Raptors head coach’s response when asked about the ending of the streak at today’s practice, via Holly MacKenzie of The Basketball Jones:

“Yeah, you know what? With about a minute to go in a close game I thought, ‘You know what, we should probably figure out how to hit a three rather than try to win this game.’”

[And how did he find out that the streak was over?]

“I found out after we were walking off the floor. Somebody yelled at me that I should be fired because we didn’t make a three. Somebody yelled at me, that’s when I went, ‘Did we not make a three? OK, well,’ I mean, honestly, you know what, I think the organization should be very proud of the streak that it had, but for us to go into a game thinking that we should try to make a three and for us to have a depleted lineup with guys like [Leandro] Barbosa and [Linas] Kleiza and [Jose] Calderon not in uniform, I mean those are guys that are going to sometimes step up and make them for us. You know what, it’s a record and that record did not help us climb one spot in our race to try to get better as a team. It’s one less thing we can put in our media notes. Alright? So that’s about the extent of that streak being broken.”


Curiously, Jeff Teague remains glued to the bench

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Jeff Teague is no star. He’s a second-year guard who isn’t great at initiating the offense, and isn’t much of a perimeter shooter. He isn’t the type of talent who demands playing time, but merely suggests it politely with each correctly executed possession. He makes mistakes, doesn’t often induce awe, and clearly has a lot to learn.

He also deserves more minutes, at the expense of Mike Bibby and any other player that Hawks coach Larry Drew deems a point guard. But Teague doesn’t get them; he’s averaged just 11.8 minutes per game this season, and as noted by Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been particularly underused of late:

Guard Jeff Teague has stayed on the bench for seven of the Hawks’ 45 games. Three of them have been in the past four games, including Saturday night’s. In each, he was the only Hawks player coach Larry Drew kept on the bench…After Saturday night’s game, Teague said he and Drew hadn’t talked “in awhile” and wasn’t sure what was limiting his minutes.

“If you get in there, you’d better do what you can do,” Teague said. “If he doesn’t put me in, I’ll cheer for my teammates and hopefully they’ll do well.”

Bibby is on his way down and out, making Teague the team’s one legitimate long-term option at the point. Isn’t that reason alone to at least give him the occasional burn? Can Drew not find a handful of minutes to throw Teague’s way as an investment in the young guard’s future?

If the Hawks had a legitimately productive starting PG, then Teague’s marginalization would at least be understandable. Yet Bibby is completely useless as a defender, and not terribly effective offensively, either. His adjusted plus/minus puts him at -2.38 for the season, and Bibby’s 12.3 PER is a career low. That PER mark — in addition to Bibby’s higher turnover rate, disappointing points per minute average, etc. — is particularly troubling. PER best measures a player’s offensive contributions and efficiency, and thus should tilt in Bibby’s favor. After all, he’s an offensive player who isn’t forced to do a lot with the ball, and shoots more than half of his attempts from behind the three-point line, an inherently efficient zone. Yet according to his PER, Bibby is inefficient and below average on the end of the court that’s supposed to be his strength. If he’s obviously subpar on offense, what does that make Bibby on defense?

And, the icing on the cake: Teague, despite often running with reserves, has posted a 12.9 PER this season, already a few ticks better than Bibby. Unlike most young players, Teague’s definite strengths lie on offense; he’s much more equipped to defend opposing point guards than he is to run plays, and more capable of defending a quick perimeter opponent than pull up for a jumper. Teague is an obviously incomplete offensive player, and yet by one metric, he’s still superior to the defense-first Bibby.

It’s great that Drew can go to Jamal Crawford as a back-up point guard, but Crawford can surely find his minutes elsewhere. The Hawks have plenty of wings that can slide over to cover several positions, and thus finding time for Teague wouldn’t preclude Crawford from getting his appropriate burn. The central obstacle between Teague and freedom is Bibby, and yet Drew is obviously reluctant to lean on the more capable overall player due to a futile cling to veteran savvy or somesuch.