Mike Conley: “It would suck” not to make the All-Star team

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Mike Conley should have been an All-Star last season. The problem is, there are just so many good point guards in the Western Conference that it’s hard for one of the lower-profile guys to set himself apart next to bigger stars like Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook.

Conley has fought against the “underrated” tag his entire career, turning into one of the league’s steadiest guards, a great clutch shooter, solid defender and good passer. And now, as the NBA gets ready to announce this year’s All-Star teams, he wants his due. In a brand-new profile by Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams (which, as with everything Abrams writes, is an absolute must-read), Conley talks about what being named an All-Star would mean to him.

Conley, of course, knows how deep the Western Conference is with talent, and he understands that even if he plays at an All-Star level, getting selected for the All-Star Game remains a long shot. Bigger stars with flashier names are likely to receive All-Star recognition before him. “My ultimate goal isn’t making the All-Star team,” Conley said. “It’s bigger than that. It’s championships. But when it comes to just All-Stars, that is one of my goals. I told myself last year, ‘I didn’t do enough. We didn’t win. We weren’t a good team early.’ [This season], I feel like I’ve gotten much better and our team is where we want to be. We are one of the better teams in the league. We’ve put ourselves in a position where everybody can get noticed individually. This would be a good time [to be named an All-Star]. If it doesn’t happen, it would suck.”

Around the league, Conley has steadily been getting more and more respect, and with Memphis having one of the best records in the cutthroat Western Conference, the case to finally give Conley an All-Star nod is as strong as ever. He won’t get voted in as a starter (those are announced tonight), but the reserves (which will be revealed on January 28) are picked by the coaches, and anyone who’s coached against Conley knows how good he is. Hopefully, this is the year.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.