Brandon Jennings doesn’t like his All-Star chances

11 Comments

PHOENIX — Brandon Jennings, and to a lesser extent, Monta Ellis, are on the bubble in terms of potential players who could be named to the All-Star team as a reserve.

We discussed this on the podcast this week — once you get past Kyrie Irving, there really aren’t any locks to make the team based on performance this season. Multiple players have had above average seasons, but no one has been undeniable to the point where their exclusion from the midseason exhibition would be some kind of national outrage.

The two guards leading the way for the Bucks have every right to be included in the conversation, and not surprisingly, Milwaukee’s head coach Jim Boylan made the case for his guys before they faced the Suns on Thursday.

“There are a lot of good guards in the East, and sometimes that hurts people because you just run into a lot of numbers,” he said. “I think both guys are more than deserving of getting in, but it’s not for me to say because the other coaches have to do the voting.

“Hopefully, they see what those two guys have been able to do for us and how they’ve carried a major part of the load for us this year, on a team that’s in the playoffs right now,” Boylan said. “That should bear a lot of weight, as opposed to some of the teams that maybe aren’t in the same situation as we are.”

The playoff argument is a valid one, and might be a factor especially where Jrue Holiday is concerned.

Holiday has had a buzz surrounding him over the past couple of weeks, but he hasn’t been on the superstar level of Irving at any point, and with the Sixers struggling right now it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him overlooked by the coaches in the voting process.

That may open the door for one of the Bucks’ leading scorers to get in, but Jennings said he doesn’t think it’s going to happen for him this year.

“To be honest, probably not,” he said, when I asked him if he thought he had a shot at making the All-Star team. “For me personally, just the fact that [there are so many] point guards — you’ve got Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams — so a lot of it will be politics more than anything.

“But for Monta, yeah. For sure. He’s scoring a lot, and plus, we’re winning. We’re two games over .500, so if we just keep winning we’ll be fine.”

When told that perhaps the fact that his team being in the playoff picture might help his or Ellis’ chances, Jennings was a little bit skeptical.

“Well, that’s what they say,” Jennings cautioned. “That’s what they’ve always been saying. Even last year with my situation not being able to make it, we weren’t in the playoff race so that’s why I didn’t make it. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just happy that we’re winning and we’re still in the playoff race.”

Despite his personal opinion, Jennings does indeed have a shot. It’ll depend on whether or not the coaches vote in three guards to reserve spots as they’ve done in seasons past, or if instead they use the new frontcourt designation to add more players at the forward and center positions.

But given the talent in the East, and depending on how those roster spots are allocated, it’s at least possible that Jennings could make an appearance in Houston on February 17.

Rumor: Suns, Magic have inquired about Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Where do the Knicks stand on Frank Ntilikina, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft (taken ahead of Dennis Smith Jr. Zach Collins, and Donovan Mitchell)?

This should tell you all you need to know: The Denver Nuggets decided to cast Emmanuel Mudiay aside and the Knicks traded for him and instantly Mudiay jumped Ntilikina on the depth chart.

Ntilikina has played good defense but unimpressive offense for the Knicks this season and there is a thought from other teams around the league they may try to trade the young European.

A few teams are interested, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, but — shocker! — there may be a split in the front office about what to do between president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry.

Despite the Knicks’ clear lack of confidence in Ntilikina, teams have inquired about the 20-year-old, with the Magic and Suns expressing interest, according to a source. And this is where it gets interesting. There seems to be a debate within the Knicks on whether to deal Ntilikina. He was drafted by Mills and has supporters in the front office. But, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Perry, who took the job after Ntilikina was drafted, recently approached the Atlanta Hawks to gauge whether the team was interested in dealing for the guard (Hawks have Trae Young and weren’t interested).

The Suns and Magic both desperately need point guards. However, neither are offering much in trades knowing that come free agency next July there will be better, more established targets — D'Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier, among others.

Ntilikina is a good perimeter defender whose skills could be developed in the right situation into a rotation point guard. Probably. But because the offers will be lowball, the Knicks would essentially just be dumping the No. 8 pick of a season ago, a guy who is only 20 years old. That would be a mistake — if the Knicks can’t get decent value back, keep Ntilikina and try to develop him themselves. Point guards take longer to come around in the NBA, maybe Ntilikina will develop into a player the Knicks want to keep.

But the rumors are out there and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Markelle Fultz returns to Philadelphia to do shoulder rehab with team

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Markelle Fultz is back with the 76ers.

Not in uniform for games, but he is back from Los Angeles and in Philadelphia working out with the team to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story, then Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirmed it.

Fultz was in the arena for the Sixers game Saturday against the Thunder on national television (though not suited up to play).

There is no timetable for Fultz’s return, although his agent has said he expects Fultz to be back on the court this season. Whether that would be with the Sixers is another question, teams have called about the availability of the No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, but the offers have been so lowball that none of them have been seriously considered by Philadelphia.

After consulting with a number of specialists just a few weeks into the season (and just after the Jimmy Butler trade), the 20-year-old Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a pinching of the nerve through the collarbone area. Since December he has been in Los Angeles is doing physical therapy to relieve the issue.

Fultz has returned to Philadelphia and is continuing that therapy.

 

Report: Rockets trying to trade Carmelo Anthony, likely to waive Nunnally to create roster spot

Getty Images
Leave a comment

To bring in some front line depth in the form of Kenneth Faried Monday, the Houston Rockets first have to clear a roster spot.

That led to a lot of speculation it could be Carmelo Anthony who is let go, he remains on the roster but not with the team, in a kind of limbo while the Rockets and ‘Melo’s agent look for a landing spot. (He reportedly has several options and will choose one before the trade deadline, but if he really liked any of those options he would have already taken them rather than waiting for a better offer.)

The Rockets are “aggressively” trying to trade Anthony and find him a new home before Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported. However, James Nunnally is the most likely guy out, he was just signed to a 10-day contract.

If the Rockets haven’t waived ‘Melo yet, they’re not going to do it now.

Houston GM Daryl Morey is also working the phone lines to find wing depth to add to the Rockets’ roster. While James Harden‘s historic streak has carried the Rockets back into the playoff picture in the West, this is not the same Houston team that was a threat to the Warriors a season ago. Morey’s off-season gambles — including Anthony — have not panned out, and he is now trying to correct them.

Pelicans’ Anthony Davis out 1-2 weeks with sprained finger

Getty Images
1 Comment

This is bad.

The New Orleans Pelicans are 21-25 and four games back of the eight seed in the West having lost 3-of-4 on the current road trip. When Anthony Davis is not on the court, the Pelicans get outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions.

Davis is not going to be on the court for a week or two due to a sprained finger, the team announced Saturday morning.

Looking ahead at the schedule, Davis is likely to miss between three and seven games.

Davis has played at an MVP level this season, averaging 29.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting, plus grabs 13.3 rebounds and dishes out 4.4 assists a night. And that’s just on offense, defensively he is one of the best rim protecting bigs in the league, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Davis leads the NBA in win shares (8.3) and PER at 30.9. He has been an absolute beast all season long.

Yet he hasn’t been able to lead the Pelicans to a winning record because of the roster around him (and injuries that have sapped what little depth New Orleans had to begin with).

Because of that, the intensely competitive Davis — who has talked about legacy mattering more to him than money — is expected to turn down a $239 million contract extension from the Pelicans next summer. At that point New Orleans will have to consider trading him and 29 teams will be lined up to talk deal (the Celtics and Lakers are expected to be at the front of that line).