Who got snubbed? Some All-Star roster changes

33 Comments

The All-Star rosters are out. The NBA coaches — who select the All-Star reserves — went with the old guard, the tried and true, and the guys whose names we know. Whether or not their play merited it this year.

They ignored younger players who deserved it this year.

There should be changes.

Here are the biggest snubs and how we’d get them on the roster:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

IN: Rajon Rondo (Boston): The question was health — if he was healthy he was going to be in, and he’s back leading the Celtics after missing eight games. He’s been the Celtics one-man fast break and is giving them 13.6 points (at 50 percent shooting) and 9.8 assists per game. He defends, he organizes. He’s one of the best point guards in the game.

OUT: Luol Deng (Chicago): He’s a glue guy who has had a good season — and I get wanting to reward the East leading Bulls. I do. But Andre Iguodala is a better version of Deng and he is already on the roster, you don’t need another one. This is a case of rewarding the team and not the player.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

IN: Kyle Lowry (Houston): Maybe it is the record, McHale. He had a shooting slump, but this guy has been an elite point guard this season and the reason the Rockets are the four seed in the West as you read this. He’s giving Houston 14.8 points, 7.9 assists and even 5.8 rebounds per game, plus being a consummate floor general.

OUT: Tony Parker (San Antonio): Parker is having a good season — whoever you leave out of the Lowry/Parker/Steve Nash triangle could make a case they belong. You can make a case for Brandon Jennings while we are at it. Nash is putting up great numbers but he can only lift that roster so far, is that on him or the team? Parker carries a heavy burden this season in San Antonio but he has some veterans stepping up like Tim Duncan to help him, Lowry is doing it with less.

IN: Paul Millsap (Utah): We can make a case for Rudy Gay here too (with Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster we could use some slashing forwards) but Millsap just deserves this more. Millsap is averaging 16.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, shooting 52 percent. He is the best player on a surprising Jazz side.

OUT: Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas): He even said he didn’t want to be there. Look at it this way — Millsap has a PER of 24.2, Nowitzki 19.2. Dirk is averaging one more point per game but is shooting worse (47.9 percent) and provides fewer rebounds. It’s not that Nowitzki is having a bad season, but selecting him is more about what he has done in the last than what he has done this year.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

Leave a comment

Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
7 Comments

The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

1 Comment

Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

Getty Images
5 Comments

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.