Four Celtics but no Love among All-Star Game reserves

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David Stern has some work to do out West.

The coaches’ selections for the seven All-Star Game reserves for each conference came out and the East went pretty much to form. Now David Stern gets to add one player to that list and he has some pretty clear choices.

The Western Conference? That’s hard. You can make a good case for all seven guys the coaches went with — even rookie Blake Griffin — but you can also make a great case for seven more. Stern gets to choose two out West, his regular pick plus someone to replace the injured Yao Ming. But the call is still brutal.

Here are the reserves and who got left out for the Feb. 20 game:

Western Conference reserves:

Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, forward): Fans should have voted him in as a starter over Carmelo Anthony. But since the game is in L.A., smart money says coach Gregg Popovich makes him the starting center in the West.

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks, forward): No-brainer pick. Averaging 23.2 points per game to lead a good Dallas squad — dude’s a 7-footer shooting 41 percent from three. One of the best scorers in the game.

Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs, forward): Is this a lifetime achievement award? Maybe he is scoring less, but the man is the anchor on defense, grabs the rebounds and gets key buckets for the league’s best team. He’s Tim Duncan! You can’t keep him out of the All-Star Game. He could start at center, too.

Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers, forward): Averaging 23 points 12.7 rebounds a game as a rookie, he is more than just dunk highlights. He has maybe the quickest spin move from the post in the game. Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he voted for him because he’s the best athlete in the NBA right now. Plus, it’s a show. You want him there in Los Angeles.

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs, guard): The best player and leading scorer on the best team in the league. Had to be on the team.

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, guard): When Kevin Durant was off at the start of the season, Westbrook took on more and has all season. Averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 assists per game. He deserves this.

Deron Williams (Utah Jazz, guard): Debate amongst yourselves whether he is the best or second-best or third-best point guard in the game, but he is certainly an All-Star. Must be on the squad.

Guys who got screwed over/Guys Stern to choose from in the West:

• Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves forward) is a double-double machine and the best rebounder in the game. How do you leave off a guy with his numbers?
• LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers forward) has stepped up for a banged-up team, has been good all season and had a huge game Wednesday night to make his case.
• Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies forward) can get overlooked, but he’s averaging 20 points and 13.2 rebounds a game.
• Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers forward) is having a career year.
• Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns guard), while the team around him has crumbled, Nash continues to play fantastic ball and remains one of the best point guards in the game.
• Monta Ellis (Golden State guard) is one of the best pure scorers in the game, averaging 25.2 points per contest.
• Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs guard) has taken on more responsibility in the offense for the best team in the league.

Eastern Conference reserves:

Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks, center): He’s averaging 16 points a game and is shooting 57 percent, plus he’s dishing out assists at a career best rate. He’s getting better every season and is clearly the second best center in the East easy. This is his second All-Star game.

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat, forward): Averaging 18.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and is more important to the Heat’s success than people realize. Well, until he got injured. (Actually, that may have proved his importance even more.)

Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics, forward): This is 14 All-Star games in a row, and as soul of the best team in the East he had to be there.

Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics, forward): Scoring 19 points a game to lead the Celtics. He’s still one of the game’s elite forwards.

Ray Allen (Boston Celtics, guard): Prettiest jump shot in the game and this will be All-Star Game No. 10.

Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics, guard): He’s the reason all those other Celtics look good, averaging 12.5 assists per game to lead the league.

Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks, forward): We tend to look past the Hawks, thinking we know what they are. But what they are is good (31-18). Johnson is averaging 20-5-5 to lead them.

Who got screwed in the East:

• Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls forward) missed the start of the season because of a hand injury, but he has been scoring as expected and playing the best defense of his career in Chicago.
• Raymond Felton (New York Knicks guard) may get people in the Big Apple saying he deserves it — and he has been good, just not better than any of the people above him.
• Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks forward), sorry, but I think you only get one Hawk in, and if you wanted to swap him in I wouldn’t complain. But frankly Johnson is the better player.

Wembanyama scores 37 Scoot Henderson 28, both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?

Collin Sexton expects to start for Jazz once he gets back to full speed

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After the blockbuster trade that was centered around Donovan Mitchell sent Collin Sexton to Utah, the immediate expectation was that he would start for the Jazz and have the ultimate green light.

However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.

It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.

Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.

The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.

Ben Simmons looks fine in return, is ‘grateful just to be able to step on that floor’

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Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.

It’s preseason, sure, but the Nets rolled out their likely starting five — Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton — and had Simmons initiating a lot of the offense early.

The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.

The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.

Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”

Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.

The 76ers sat Joel Embiid and James Harden for the night, but Tyrese Maxey was the best player on the floor with 20 points in 14 minutes and showing a confident 3-point stroke.

Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.

Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.