Four Celtics but no Love among All-Star Game reserves

6 Comments

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.

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
0 Comments

The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
0 Comments

If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
Morgan Engel/Getty Images
0 Comments

Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.