LeBron, Curry, Kobe voted All-Star Game starters — but Kobe doesn’t want to play

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You voted for them, so here they are — your 2014 NBA All-Star Game starters:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Backcourt: Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (Miami Heat), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Backcourt: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

When the votes were last released Love was more than 26,000 votes behind ofDwight Howard and 18,000 back of Griffin, but somehow Howard just dropped off the map.

To that, I say well done fans — it’s not that Howard has been bad, but Love has been better. Love deserved this starting nod. More than that, the removal of Howard could free up a frontcourt reserve spot (voted on by the coaches and announced next week) for DeMarcus Cousins and/or Anthony Davis (as well as LaMarcus Aldridge), both of whom have been more deserving based on their play the first half of the season. Although most likely the coaches will pick Howard.

Kobe’s play the first half of the season didn’t earn him a spot —  he’s been in six games between his Achilles and knee injuries — and while the fans voted him in reaction was he didn’t want to go.

Kobe had asked fans to vote for younger players such as Damian Lillard. Curry, with  1,047,281 votes, got more than Kobe (988,884).

If Kobe is healthy enough to play for the Lakers prior to the All-Star Game he would have to get a special waiver from the NBA to skip the All-Star game, and that’s not likely. Not impossible, but this is a showcase event for the league and they want to give the fans what they want. And they want Kobe. That said, if he is out it could free up a spot for someone such as Goran Dragic or Mike Conley, who have played very well the first half of the season and deserve recognition  (Damian Lillard is a lock to be chosen by the coaches as a reserve, along with Chris Paul).

Fan votes determine the All-Star Game starters LeBron was the top vote getter with 1,416,419 votes, followed closely by Durant with 1,396,294 votes.

We got four first time starters this year.  Curry went from the guy snubbed last year to a starter, getting more votes than Chris Paul and vault into a starter’s spot. Love’s late charge makes him a first time starter. Out east, Paul George and Kyrie Irving will get the start.

Errors? There were a couple in my book. We discussed Kobe, he would not have had my vote. I would argue you could start John Wall over Irving, or LaMarcus Aldridge over Griffin, but at least all the guys who got the fan votes are playing well there. 

Now the voting switches to the coaches (or, more accurately, whomever the coaches delegate the task to) to pick the reserves. Those will be announced.

The All-Star Game is Sunday Feb. 16 in New Orleans — be ready for lots of Pierre the Pelican in your grill. The Friday before is the Rising Stars challenge, then on Saturday comes the Dunk Contest, Skills Contest and the rest of that fun.

Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan: NBA protocols ‘so frustrating and overwhelming’

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan
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The NBA produced a 113-page manual on health and safety protocols for the league’s resumption at Disney World. The multi-bullet-pointed section on ping pong includes:

No Doubles

Until directed otherwise by the NBA, players should play singles only so that they can maintain six feet of distance from each other.

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“The ping pong thing is ridiculous. To be honest,” San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said on Thursday. “Guys can’t do this, but we can do this and battle over each other. That part just don’t make no sense to me. I got through 10 lines of the handbook and just put it down because it became so frustrating and overwhelming at times because you just never thought you’d be in a situation of something like this. So it’s hard to process at times.”

DeRozan’s exasperation is completely understandable. The manual is long and full of scientific jargon in addition to rules that seem trivial.

But the NBA’s plan is logical.

Both basketball games and doubles ping pong are generally unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic. The big difference: NBA basketball games produce a lot of money. So, the league and players are willing to risk playing them.

The goal is to isolate players from the outside world and test them frequently, minimizing the chances of them playing basketball with coronavirus. There’s a risk someone gets infected anyway, so limiting opportunities for someone to spread coronavirus – like doubles ping pong or, more importantly, getting close to someone outside the bubble – are being minimized.

Is that enjoyable for players? Heck no. That’s why Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has doubts about players maintaining a strict bubble.

But hopefully, players abide by the rules designed keep them safe… and highly paid. Whether or not they read all 113 pages, participating players are signing up for this.

Second bubble for other eight NBA teams? Not so fast

Warriors star Stephen Curry
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The eight teams teams that didn’t qualify for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World – Knicks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Hornets, Timberwolves and Warriors – are reportedly considering a second bubble in Chicago.

Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports:

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

A safe operation, like the one at Disney World, comes with two major drawbacks:

1. It’s expensive. Accommodations, frequent coronavirus testing, transporting equipment to the site – it adds up.

2. It’s burdensome for participants. They’ll be separated from family and friends in order to limit coronavirus exposure points.

But the campus in Disney World is happening for one reason: Money. Finishing the season will generate a lot of money for the NBA, especially national-TV money for the playoffs.

Will a second bubble produce enough money to justify its existence? I doubt it. These eight teams are done with meaningful games. Maybe it’s worth fulfilling local TV contracts, but that’s a narrow needle to thread. The product would be lousy.

Players on these eight teams will reportedly receive the same share of salaries as players going to Disney World. If that becomes no longer guaranteed unless reporting to a second bubble, perhaps players would be compelled to go. But it’s hard to see much enthusiasm – especially among impending free agents, who should protect their health. Any notable players with injury concerns, like Golden State star Stephen Curry, would also likely be held out.

Many people within these eight teams want to keep playing. There’s concern about a long layoff and a natural desire to do something to improve. But the continuing 22 teams will have historically short layoffs. Extra rest might be an advantage. It’s a completely unprecedented situation. Nobody knows which group – the 22 teams or the eight teams – will be better-prepared for next season.

Amid that the uncertainty of the benefits – and the very clear and high costs – there’s plenty of reason to doubt a second bubble gets off the ground.

But the plan’s supporters have at least enough momentum to make it a discussion.

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant says he added 12 pounds of muscle, will ‘prove people wrong’ at restart

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Ja Morant has taken advantage of the NBA’s hiatus, adding 12 pounds of muscle to help absorb contact when the NBA’s likely rookie of the year fearlessly attacks the basketball.

And the Memphis Grizzlies point guard knows exactly what he wants when he leads his team to Orlando.

“Going out there to win, prove people wrong,” Morant said Thursday in a Zoom video call with reporters.

Morant, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2019 draft, already has taken advantage of Zion Williamson missing much of the season to make his case as the league’s top rookie. Morant is the Grizzlies’ leading scorer averaging 17.6 points in 59 games played compared to just 19 for Williamson with the Pelicans.

With Morant leading the way, the Grizzlies won four of their final six before the NBA stopped play March 12. Memphis goes into Orlando’s seeding games sitting in the eighth spot in the Western Conference with a 3 1/2-game lead trying to clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2017.

Morant, who turns 21 on Aug. 10, didn’t just spend his downtime during the coronavirus shutdown spending time with his family and baby daughter waiting to hear when the NBA would resume play.

Nope, Morant said he worked in the weight room and gym adding the 12 pounds of muscle since a loss to Orlando on March 10. That helped fend off worries that the season – and all the work he had put in – was over.

“I just took it as an opportunity to get even better, even though I didn’t know how it would play out,” Morant said.

The extra pounds not only make Morant stronger, but the guard listed at 6-foot-3 and 174 pounds when play stopped expects he will be able to absorb contact better.

“Able to use my body more, get through different screens,” Morant said. “That’s why I’m just looking to do, go to Orlando to be able to do the things I’ve been doing before but better.”

The added muscle is noticeable, at least to his teammates. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said a couple Grizzlies were talking about Morant being bigger Wednesday.

“Gaining strength has been a priority of his and continues to maintain his supreme athleticism,” Jenkins said.

Morant went into his rookie season recovering from arthroscopic surgery to clean up his right knee before the 2019 draft. The time off means he has no pain in his knee, which is easy to see when he’s on the floor.

“Feel like I’m actually leaving the floor easier and jumping higher,” Morant said. “I’ve just been taking this time to just focus on my body, make sure everything’s good so when it’s time to go out and play, I’ll be fine.”

Draymond Green thinks James Wiseman would fit well in Golden State

Wiseman Golden State
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In the most recent NBC Sports NBA mock draft, the Golden State Warriors selected James Wiseman out of Memphis with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Draymond Green likes that fit.

Green was recently on ESPN’s “Jalen and Jacoby” and said he thought Wiseman could thrive in Golden State’s system, but then owned up to the fact he has hasn’t seen Wiseman play a lot (nobody has, he only played three games at Memphis). Hat tip NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I’ve seen some clips of his workouts and highlights, and he looks to be pretty mobile, a pretty athletic guy,” Green said Tuesday. “So with our speed and pace, the way we play, I think he would definitely be a great add if that’s case, but I don’t really know what pick we’re going to get or what pick he’s going to go. I’m a living testament to that. You never know how the draft is going to go and how the cards may fall.”

Wiseman could be a good fit in a few years in Golden State, but the Warriors don’t have that kind of time to wait. Wiseman is not ready to help a team with title aspirations right now or even help a top-four team in the West, which a healthy Warriors team likely would be. He has potential as a pick-setting rim runner, but he is raw and it will take time to get there. The Warriors are a win-now team with their core players — including Green — on the wrong side of 30. They don’t have years to wait.

If the Warriors land the top pick (they have a 14% chance), expect them to try and trade out of it. Warriors owner Joe Lacob said as much.  When asked during the NBC mock draft what he would do with the No. 1 pick if he were the Warriors GM, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster said trade down to picks four through six, and likely land a player such as Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, or Deni Avdija — players who should not go No. 1 but are better poised to help immediately.

Wiseman, however, could end up being the guy in Golden State.