Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) All-Star reserves selected, and there are some serious snubs (particularly in the West). As sports fans, we like to talk about who got screwed/left out more than who actually deserved something. We argue about who is 69th in the NCAA Tournament and should have gotten in, because that is more fun than saying “well, they had that mid-season slump, lost to good teams, and weren’t getting out of the first day anyway” even if that’s the reality.
This year’s NBA All-Star selections played right into that. There was no way to make the All-Star selections and not snub people — particularly in the loaded Western Conference. Last summer the NBA’s talent pool got in a covered wagon and headed West young man, to the point that even with injuries opening up spots (Kawhi Leonard) some guys were going to get left out.
NBA coaches picked the reserves, and those were announced Tuesday. Here are your 2018 NBA All-Star teams:
Starters: Stephen Curry (captain), James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins.
Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns
Starters: LeBron James (captain), Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid.
Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Kevin Love
Remember that this year the captains — LeBron and Curry — will select the teams in a playground-style draft (first from the pool of other starters, then the reserves). They can choose whoever they want regardless of conference — if LeBron wants to fuel rumors he’s headed to Houston he can choose James Harden first. This draft would be an awesome idea — if it were televised. But to spare feelings, it will not be (the NHL did it with the players standing right there, and somehow they survived). The NBA blew that one.
Who got snubbed? The Clippers’ Lou Williams has had a career-best season and carried that team to the edge of the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.
Paul George deserved a spot. Russell Westbrook made his case.
Andre Drummond was the odd-man out in the frontcourt rotations in the East (the coaches went with four guards in the reserves).
A couple of those guys will get in when players who make the team bow out due to injuries in the next couple of weeks (the game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles). It happens every year (the injuries are usually minor, but for veterans who have been there before a few times they are happy to stay home with their families and recuperate). But that’s not fun to talk about either, so who else do you think got snubbed?
2) Before he went off on All-Star selections, Russell Westbrook went off on Nets and hit game winner. Want a good test for which fans are not really paying attention to the NBA this season? It’s the ones that say, “The Nets suck, why couldn’t we blow them out?” The Nets are not deep with talent, but they are scrappy, play smart and hard, and do not go quietly into that good night. They give everyone trouble.
That’s what happened with the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday. The Nets battled, and it took a Russell Westbrook game winner to save OKC’s bacon.
Even then, the embodiment of the Nets Spencer Dinwiddie — a point guard who battled his way into the league, got his chance, and is not letting go — almost won it for the Nets.
Brooklyn has a lot of tough losses this season, which in itself is a moral victory. And they’ve racked up enough wins to piss off Cavaliers fans. Brooklyn — with injuries to D’Angelo Russell for most of the season and Jeremy Lin for all of it — have gotten as much out of their talent as could be hoped for this season.
3) LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to get to 30,000 points. Could he catch Kareem? Early in the Cavaliers ugly loss to the Spurs Tuesday — a game that had a stark difference in execution levels, speaking to all things wrong in Cleveland — LeBron James became only the eighth player in NBA history to pass the 30,000 point mark. It’s another milestone in an all-time great career (and he got a nice ovation from the hoops-smart San Antonio crowd).
Some are now asking, can he catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time points lead? If he wants to, yes. The question is how much does he want to. LeBron ended Tuesday night with 30,021 regular season points, which is still 8,366 behind Kareem. The last two seasons in Cleveland, LeBron has averaged just more than 1,900 points a season. If he can stay healthy and roughly keep up that scoring pace — he just turned 33 — it will take about four more seasons after this one to get near Kareem.
LeBron could get there, but the reality is he’ll have to play five more NBA seasons at an All-Star level racking up a lot of points (and again, staying healthy). He could do that, I have no doubt. Whether he will want to, or whether he will step away from the game before then, is the question. He has the drive to get there, but he’s also someone who will want to step away with his game near his peak, not fade into his later years and see himself as a role player. There’s a lot of factors at play, including his family and if he is contending for more rings (what really matters to him), but if he wants the record, he could get it.