We know the starters, so who should be the All-Star reserves?

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Your job is done fans. You picked the NBA All-Star Game starters. Well done.

Now the job of picking the reserves falls to the NBA’s coaches. Well, really whoever the coaches delegate the job to — an assistant coach, the video coordinator, the equipment manager, someone working the beer concession line — but the coach signs the ballot.

The point of having the coaches vote for the All-Star Game reserves is simple — the fans do things like vote for Kobe Bryant to start (even if he doesn’t want to) instead of more deserving guys like Chris Paul and Damian Lillard. The coaches are there to clean up that mess, they are supposed to have a better handle on who is playing well right now and deserves the All-Star honor. (Their choices will be announced next week, and we can vent then about who got snubbed.)

I’m no coach, but that’s not stopping me — here is who would I choose as reserves (following the format the coaches will, with two backup guards, three reserve frontcourt players, and two wildcards:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

G: John Wall (Washington Wizards)
G: Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers)
FC: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
FC: Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers)
FC: Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)
WC: Arron Afflalo (Orlando Magic)
WC: Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

Comments: Wall has had a strong season for a Wizards team that may be the third best team in the East (depends on the week). For Stephenson, it’s not just that his game has improved, I’m picking him over a deserving but just short Kyle Lowry of the Raptors because Stephenson is a key playmaker on the best team in the NBA in the first half of the season. In the East, a heavy dose of Miami and Indiana just shows you’re putting the best players on the team. Andre Drummond is one of the rising stars of the game and I don’t want to punish him because just because Piston guards don’t bother to get him touches often enough. He’s a beast and I want to see the game’s young stars on this big stage. Afflalo has had a career best season taking on a big burden in Orlando, he deserves the nod.

The guys I snub are Lowry, DeMar DeRozan (sorry Toronto, a team that also may be the third best team in the East) and Joe Johnson of Brooklyn.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

G: Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
G: James Harden (Houston Rockets)
FC: LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trial Blazers)
FC: Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
FC: Dirk Nowtizki (Dallas Mavericks)
WC: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
WC: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

Comments: I love that the fans put Kevin Love in as a starter over Howard (a surprise change in the voting in the last couple weeks, Love made up 26,000 votes), and with that I was tempted to leave Howard off completely in favor of DeMarcus Cousins. But I just couldn’t do it. Howard has played well this season and while I wish he’d demand fewer post plays — he breaks up the flow of the Rockets’ offense at times to get them — and embrace the pick-and-roll, he’s been good at both ends and is key to that team’s success this season. To me Davis and Cousins are a virtual toss up, so I gave it to the guy with the game in the city where he plays.

I am assuming Chris Paul is healthy enough to play — he says he wants to be — but if not Tony Parker gets that slot.

Snubs from the West in my picks are Cousins (and it pains me), Goran Dragic, plus Parker and Tim Duncan of the Spurs. Mike Conley of the Grizzlies is close but just misses the cut also. This would be tougher yet if Russell Westbrook were healthy.

Paul George hits game winner, lifts Thunder past 76ers 117-115

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to a wild 117-115 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

George’s clutch shot capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange with Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds remaining after he got Embiid while shooting a 3-pointer.

Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler‘s driving layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George drained a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.

Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.

George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.

The Thunder had dropped five of six, including a 138-128 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick scored 22 points for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, but Philadelphia rallied in the second and trailed 59-56 at the break.

 

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

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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

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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

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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.