Winderman: Will coaches pick four Celtics for Eastern All-Star reserves?

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Thursday night merely is the show.

No actual work is involved, as the results of fan balloting for All-Star starters are revealed.

Then conference coaches take over from there, having to fill out ballot for the seven reserves in each conference (Commissioner David Stern selects replacements for any injured players).

This year, it will be a particularly challenging task for those in the East.

And an intriguing one.

Given seven slots to select reserves, could Eastern Conference coaches actually use four of them to select Boston Celtics (Doc Rivers is spared such a conundrum, because coaches cannot select players from their own teams on their ballots)?

The fans could have made it easier if Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce were voted in as starters. Then the majority of coaches’ selections would not have to be from the same team.

But in a conference so bereft of All-Star talent, how can East coaches not do just that?

Getting beyond Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, you try finding four other Eastern Conference players more deserving to spend Feb. 20 at Staples Center than one of Rondo, Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen, especially considering how the Celtics have dominated the conference to this stage, falling behind the Heat for a total of only two days since the start of the season.

Seriously, go ahead.

Al Horford? Fine. Chris Bosh? Certainly. Joe Johnson? More on reputation than anything else at this point, but reasonable.

But then what (one coach wondered Thursday whether Joakim Noah had played enough to be considered)?

Four Celtics and three Heat out of 12 spots? It’s not a conference, it’s a tag team.

The problem is among the other teams in the East with winning records (and there aren’t many of them), it is difficult to find another suitable name from the Bulls (Carlos Boozer?), Knicks (Raymond Felton?), Magic (Jameer Nelson?) or Hawks (and that’s likely conceding two choices to Atlanta).

And from the bottom feeders, would anyone truly feel comfortable making a case for Danny Granger or Andre Iguodala or Brook Lopez?

Perhaps in a year the NHL is moving to a fantasy draft of All-Stars, the NBA should take heed. Because the leftovers in the West likely will trump one or more at the end of the East bench.

As it is, the reserve ballots distributed to coaches over the next week might as well be colored green.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.

Joel Embiid on 76ers-Celtics: ‘This is not a rivalry … They always kick our ass’

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The 76ers-Celtics rivalry is being renewed.

But it’s not there yet, according to Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

The 76ers are 3-19 against Boston since drafting Embiid, and though that includes multiple tanking years, Philadelphia hasn’t fared much better since getting good. The 76ers went 2-7 against the Celtics last season, including 1-4 in their second-round playoff series. Philadephia followed that with a season-opening loss to the Celtics last night.

Embiid, via Matt Haughton of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

I appreciate Embiid’s directness. We can all see the problem. There’s no point denying it.

The subtext is Embiid’s motivation to change this status quo, and a lot of it does fall in Embiid. Al Horford has given him fits. Even Aron Baynes worked him at times last night. Embiid is talented and far younger than those two. He’ll eventually get there.

In the meantime, he’s not mincing words.