These should be your All-Star Game reserves

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The fans have spoken — the 10 NBA All-Star Game starters have been chosen. And as we said before, good on ya. The fans did well this time around.

The way this works is the fans pick the five starters, then the coaches (or more likely an assistant coach, or the video guy, or the team PR guy) pick the next seven. Then David Stern gets one last pick, because he is David Stern.

We’re not sure who the coaches will pick, but here’s who they should pick. Or at least who would be on our ballot if we were a coach (or an assistant coach, or the video guy, or the team PR guy).

Eastern Conference:

Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks, center): Dude is blowing up this season and nobody noticed. He’s still scoring (16.3 per game) but doing it with the best shooting percentage of his career (57 percent). His rebounding is still strong, but his assist percentage is way up while his turnovers are way down. Horford is another guy who exemplifies why the ballot needs to be changed.

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat, forward): Averaging 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds, and if you don’t think he’s key for Miami you haven’t watched the last couple games with him out.

Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics, forward): The anchor of the best team in the East so far. He is moving like the old KG this season, and that should scare teams come the playoffs.

Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics, forward): Scoring 19 points a game to lead the Celtics and shooting a better-than-Ray Allen 51.4 percent. This isn’t really even a question, unless you are Josh Smith’s mom.

Ray Allen (Boston Celtics, guard): Bill Walton was doing the Boston broadcast of last night’s game and said this of Allen’s jumper: “Flawless … like Yosemite Falls coming right through the rim.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics, guard): I can’t wait to see him throw an ally-oop to LeBron in transition. Maybe the best passing point guard in the game, and he’s improved his game enough to be here easily.

And yes, four Celtics get in.

Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls, forward): He’s only played 27 games since returning from a hand injury, and he’s missed games since… and he’s still the best player in the East for the final spot. You can make a case for Joe Johnson or Josh Smith out of Atlanta, there’s a buzz for Raymond Felton. I would not be livid with any of those. But for the guy who has been the best when he played, it’s Boozer for me.

As tough as that last pick was, it’s nothing like choosing the reserves for the…

Western Conference:

Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, forward): He probably should have been chosen over Carmelo Anthony by the fans, but Gasol should get to start anyway when Gregg Popovich names him to step in for Yao Ming. Gasol still the most fundamentally sound big in the game.

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks, forward): This is another gimmee — until his injury he was in the running for league MVP. Plus, we need someone in this game to shoot a lot of contested long two pointers… wait, forgot we already had ‘Melo.

Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, forward): The best rebounder in the game. Nifty footwork that gets him good looks. The game should be about rewarding excellence and Love has been that this season, even if it took Kurt Rambis a while to realize it.

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers, forward): Tough call with LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom and David West all being very deserving. At the end of the day the All-Star game is an exhibition, and while I might pick West first for a playoff game I’ll take Griffin first in this setting.

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs, guard): The best player and leading scorer on the best team in the league. Another must from the coaches.

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, guard): If the Thunder are a better team this season, Westbrook is the reason why. He has taken a leap forward.

Deron Williams (Utah Jazz, guard): He is the Utah Jazz, and the Jazz are pretty good (well, except for the past couple weeks, but we’ll overlook that for these purposes). Debate if he is the best or third best PG in the game, but he is certainly an All-Star.

Yao Ming’s replacement (David Stern will fill this roster spot): Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, center, er, forward): Yes he’s older, the scoring and offense now flow through Ginobili and Parker. Yes, Tyson Chandler is a legitimate consideration here. Duncan still anchors the defense, rebounds and gets key buckets for the league’s best team. He has earned the spot.

Nets hire Hawks’ Peterson as assistant general manager

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired Jeff Peterson as their assistant general manager.

Peterson replaces Trajan Langdon, who was hired as the New Orleans Pelicans’ GM.

Peterson spent seven seasons in the front office of the Atlanta Hawks, the last three as assistant general manager. He worked there with Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant to coach Mike Budenholzer.

Nets general manager Sean Marks says Saturday that Peterson is an “innovative basketball executive” whose “extensive scouting and front office experience” will be assets to a Nets team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Warriors open as big betting favorites to win NBA title over Raptors

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Kevin Durant is going to be out to start the series, with no exact timetable on his return.

The Toronto Raptors were very impressive — with Kawhi Leonard leading the way and a fantastic halfcourt defense — in eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

None of that changes the overall picture — the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals.

The Warriors are -320 to win the NBA title, the Raptors +260 at the Ceasars Palace sportsbook. What that means for non-gamblers is you have to bet $320 to win $100 on the Warriors, while a $100 bet on the Raptors wins $260.

The Warriors are also 1.5 point favorites to win Game 1 on the road without Durant and coming off a nine-day layoff where rust is to be expected.

Toronto won both regular season meetings between these teams, but both games also were before Christmas.

These lines are the respect the Warriors have earned with two straight titles, three in four years, and a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are a dynasty led by Stephen Curry, the Raptors in their first finals, these betting lines were to be expected, and they will follow general public sentiment.

Charles Barkley, on the other hand, picks the Raptors in an upset. Do with that information what you will.

Giannis Antetokounmpo walks out of postgame press conference

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Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to win, wants to make the NBA Finals. Badly. As in he could walk if the Bucks don’t do that in the next couple of years.

Antetokounmpo already showed he was willing to walk — he did so right out of his postgame press conference Saturday night after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Raptors.

Khris Middleton‘s “you just leaving me here” face is the best part of this video.

Chalk that up to frustration, on a couple of levels. The question is legitimate — how much this experience helps the Bucks grow and fuels their offseason will say a lot about where they are as a team in a year — but it’s also understandable that in the moment the Greek Freak doesn’t want to talk about it. Or, really, in that spot have the perspective to do the question justice. Middleton went on to say, “hopefully, we learn from this.”

The other part of this is that the reporter, Malika Andrews, wrote a story at ESPN about how Antetokounmpo making the Finals would play a big role in if he stays or not in Milwaukee past this contract. That is not the narrative Antetokounmpo wants out there about him, and sometimes this is how players deal with reporters who write things they don’t like.

Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s good guys, don’t expect this to become a trend.

Report: Making 2020 NBA Finals could swing whether Giannis Antetokounmpo signs super-max extension with Bucks

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The honeymoon between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks is over.

Milwaukee’s superb season ended tonight with a Game 6 loss to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Already, attention is turning to the 2020 offseason, when Antetokounmpo can sign a five-year super-max extension that projects to be worth $250 million. If he doesn’t, the pressure will turn way up as he approaches unrestricted free agency in 2021.

Antetokounmpo is already applying some.

Malika Andrews of ESPN:

a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.

And if they can reach the NBA Finals next season, the Bucks can improve their chances of signing Antetokounmpo to the supermax in the summer of 2020.

Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon will be free agents this summer. It’s unclear how much luxury tax Milwaukee is willing to pay.

This leak could be Antetokounmpo trying to convince the Bucks to pay to keep this team intact.

Would he actually leave Milwaukee? At every turn, he has praised the city and organization. But the Bucks have also been on an upward trajectory for years. As they get closer to the top, it becomes more difficult to maintain that positive momentum. They’re now entering a crucial season with the clear goal of a conference title. That doesn’t leave much room for error.

The Lakers are rumored to be plotting to get Antetokounmpo. If there are signs he’ll actually become available, many other teams will line up just for a chance to sign him. Antetokounmpo is a special player, a superstar at age 24.

He also needed this loss. Having never advanced past the first round before this year, he didn’t fully grasp the high level of play and intensity this deep into playoffs. He hadn’t felt the heartache of coming so close and falling short, a highly effective motivator. Raptors like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol had already faced these tests, and that had a lot to do with Toronto winning.

I have no doubt this experience will make Antetokounmpo even better.

Antetokounmpo wants to ensure the Bucks match his desire to win. If they do, he and Milwaukee will remain committed to each other. The honeymoon isn’t the end.

But this is when it gets real.