The three biggest All-Star snubs in each conference

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Now that the All-Star teams have been unveiled, it’s time for everybody’s favorite exercise: identifying which players got snubbed. The good news for these players is that at least one of them will be late adds. Kobe Bryant was voted in as a starter, and he’s out for the season with a torn rotator cuff, so that creates one spot in the Western Conference. Dwyane Wade is out indefinitely in the East, and he was named a reserve on Thursday, so that opens the door for another replacement. There is potential for other replacements to come up, if the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, or Carmelo Anthony decide to sit with their current injuries.

In the meantime, here are three players in each conference that deserved to make it.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers): Lillard is the most surprising name to be left off. The Blazers have the third-best record in the Western Conference, and he’s rightly developed a rep as a cold-blooded clutch shooter. The problem is, there are way too many good point guards in the Western Conference. Should Chris Paul get left off? What about Russell Westbrook? The West has about 20 guys who are worthy of the 12 available spots.

DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings): If LaMarcus Aldridge hadn’t put off his thumb surgery, Cousins would have been a lock. The biggest knocks against him are that he plays on a losing team (which isn’t exactly his fault, considering the Kings fallen off a cliff since the firing of head coach Mike Malone) and the 10 games he missed with a viral infection in November and December. But Kevin Durant has missed more games than he’s played, and he made the team. From a basketball standpoint, it’s hard to argue with Boogie’s credentials. He’s been among the best bigs in the entire league, putting up career numbers (23.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 blocks) and creating a matchup nightmare for every team he faces.

Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies): Conley should have made the team last year, and he’s having an equally great season this year. He’s just unfortunate enough to play the most loaded position in the loaded Western Conference. Lillard is already probably in line to be named a replacement ahead of him, and which of the guards that made it should be left off? It’s unfair that Conley got passed over again, but someone has to.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks): No team has sent four players to the All-Star game since the 2011 Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. But it’s hard to argue Korver doesn’t deserve a nod along with his teammates. He’s having a historic shooting season — his True Shooting percentage is 74.1 percent, almost four points higher than the single greatest TS% in history, Tyson Chandler’s 70.8 percent mark in 2011-12. And where Chandler and the other leaders in the category were big men who scored mostly around the basket, Korver is taking 5.8 three-pointers per game and shooting 53.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s the most dangerous shooter in the world and he should be in the All-Star game.

Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks): Not talked about much as one of the elite point guards in the league, Knight has quietly been the rock of a Bucks team performing well above expectations. He’s tied his career high averaging 17.9 points per game, become a reliable three-point shooter (40.8 percent from deep) and keeping Milwaukee in the playoff hunt despite the loss of Jabari Parker for the season. He’s going to get paid this summer.

Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic): There’s no chance Vucci Mane makes it, since the Magic aren’t a playoff team. But he’s putting up monster numbers, averaging 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. He’s made leaps as an offensive player and become an all-around threat in the post. The four-year, $54 million extension he signed in October is already looking like a steal.

Report: 76ers didn’t offer Jimmy Butler five-year max contract once free agency opened

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The 76ers offered Jimmy Butler a five-year max contract, according to Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports. However, Adrian Wojnarowski reported Philadelphia wasn’t offering Butler a five- or even four-year max deal.

What explains the discrepancy?

Maybe timing.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

But on June 30, there was no five-year maximum offer for Butler, multiple sources say.

That doesn’t explicitly say the 76ers offered Butler a five-year max earlier, but it intentionally leaves the possibility wide open. After all, when Philadelphia traded for Butler in the final year of his contract, everyone knew he expected a max contract. He said so himself. After early tension, the 76ers still expressed desire to re-sign Butler. As free agency neared, they kept sending those signals.

What changed?

Maybe Philadelphia had second thoughts about paying Butler so much. There are reasonable concerns. But it’d be odd if the 76ers went so far down the road toward re-signing Butler only to reverse course at the last moment because of internal evaluations. That assessment could have been made earlier.

Al Horford unexpectedly became available, and Philadelphia used Butler’s vacated cap space to sign him. With Butler and the capped-out Heat wanting him in Miami, the 76ers also leveraged another good playerJosh Richardson – in a sign-and-trade. Perhaps, once realizing it was an option, Philadelphia just preferred Horford and Richardson to Butler (and retaining J.J. Redick‘s Bird Rights). That’d be simple enough.

Whatever happened, I bet it’s the crux of the secret story Butler recently alluded to.

Nets to wear ‘Bed-Stuy’ jerseys (video)

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Nets forward Kevin Durant said, “The cool thing now is not the Knicks.”

Brooklyn is cool.

So, the Nets are getting more overt about connecting to the image of their borough. After wearing Notorious B.I.G.-inspired uniforms with Coogi-sweater-style trim, Brooklyn is slapping “Bed-Stuy” – the neighborhood brought to mass popularity by Biggie, Jay-Z and others – onto its jerseys.
Nets:

I can’t decide whether these jerseys are actually cool or trying too hard to be cool.

Also, the Nets apparently aren’t daunted by a Coogi lawsuit.

First non-white player in modern professional basketball, Wat Misaka dies at 95

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the first non-white player to play in the league that was the predecessor to the NBA, has died. He was 95.

Misaka played three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season in the Basketball Association of America. He was the league’s first player of of Japanese descent.

A 2008 documentary called “Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story” told the story of what Misaka went through as a trailblazing athlete.

Misaka attended a 2013 Utah Jazz game to watch Jeremy Lin play.

The University of Utah athletic department said in a news release Thursday that Misaka died Wednesday in Salt Lake City. He grew up in Ogden, Utah.

Mikasa was the point guard on the Utah team that won the NCAA Tournament in 1944 and the NIT in 1947.

Reggie Miller reports Zion Williamson to return in mid-December

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If you missed this because Reggie Miller’s color commentary makes you reach for the mute button, nobody would blame you. It’s something we all feel the need to do.

However, doing it Thursday night during the Pelicans’ win over the Suns would have caused you to miss Miller doing some actual reporting on the return of Zion Williamson, saying sources tell him the rookie is on track to return in “mid-December.”

If your first reaction is “I trust Reggie Miller’s reporting as much as the Weekly World News” you would generally be correct.

But in this case we may want to listen. First, Miller does talk to GMs, coaches, and front office types. Second, what he says fits the already established timeline for Williamson’s return from knee surgery, which was “around or before Christmas.” This is not breaking news so much as a confirmation of what we already know.

Williamson certainly makes the Pelicans more dynamic, more athletic, plus much more entertaining and watchable. The sooner we get him back on the court, the better for all of us.