Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul headline All-Star Game reserves

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You picked the NBA All-Star Game starters. (Well, you fans along with the players and some media members, just as a check to make sure Alex Caruso and Tacko Fall didn’t get in the starting five.)

The coaches picked the reserves, and they went with a mix of old and deserving first-time All-Stars. The coaches had to vote on seven All-Star reserves from each conference, and here is who they picked (in alphabetical order):

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)

There are six first-time All-Stars in that group: Gobert, Ingram, Mitchell, Adebayo, Sabonis, and Tatum. There also were three first-time All-Stars among the starters: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Pascal Siakam.

In case you forgot, here are the starters.

WEST
Guard: Luka Doncic (Dallas)
Guard: James Harden (Houston)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (L.A. Lakers)
Frontcourt: Anthony Davis (L.A. Lakers)
Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers)

EAST
Guard: Trae Young (Atlanta)
Guard: Kemba Walker (Boston)
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
Frontcourt: Pascal Siakam (Toronto)
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

At the top of the list of players who have the right to feel snubbed are Paul George (L.A. Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Bradley Beal (Washington), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), and Jaylen Brown (Boston). However, to say one of those guys belongs in means removing one of the players selected from the same conference, (which makes it tougher.)

Injuries to players slated to play — Doncic sprained his ankle in practice today and will have an MRI tomorrow — will open up a handful of roster spots, like always, and some of these “snubs” will get in.

Fan votes made LeBron and Antetokounmpo the team captains for the second consecutive year. Next week (shown on TNT), those two will select their teams in a playground-style draft. First, they will choose from the pool of starters, then from the pool of 14 reserves.

Those teams will play an All-Star Game in a new format (which includes a Kobe Bryant tribute). Each of the first three quarters will start with a 0-0 score, and the team winning that quarter gets more money for select charities. Then after three quarters, the teams’ scores will be added up, and whichever has the higher total, then 24 points will be added to that as a target score and the first team to that number wins. (The 24 was chosen to honor Kobe, as he wore that number.) Confusing? Sure. Here’s an example: If after three quarters Team LeBron leads 150-149, then the “target score” becomes 174 and the first team to that number wins the All-Star Game.

(It’s an attempt by the league to make a flagging actual All-Star Game more interesting. Will it work? Who knows, but it can’t be much more boring than the last few games.)

 

Report: NBA group stage could include 24 teams

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine
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The initial report on the NBA resuming with a group stage presented a 20-team scenario. There’d be four groups with five teams each – one from each tier of the current standings:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

Teams would play each other team in its group, and the top two finishers in each group would advance to an eight-team tournament (effectively the second round of the playoffs, though without conference splits).

But that format could apparently include four more teams.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In brief, per several sources who have seen the league’s proposal: The NBA could take 20 (or 24) teams and divide them into groups

The simplest way to expand to 24 teams would be adding a sixth tier then forming four groups of six. That’d mean adding:

  • Tier 6: Suns, Wizards, Hornets, Bulls

Bleh.

The more games the NBA holds, the more money the league will make. But the more people involved, the more risk of someone contracting and spreading coronavirus. It’s a fine line, and the league has sought a middle ground.

Phoenix, Washington, Charlotte and Chicago strike me as too lousy to include. Those teams are well outside the normal playoff race, and there’s no good reason to believe they would’ve made a late push.

In this environment, they might have shot, though. Coronavirus increases variability. Players have had differing access to resources and differing motivation to train during the hiatus. Once play resumes, positive tests could be scattered randomly. Would anyone view the Suns, Wizards, Hornets or Bulls as deserving of a berth in the eight-team tournament? If one of those four teams qualified, that’d probably just show the setup was flawed.

The fairest way to set the playoffs is with 20 teams, depending on structure. Resuming with just 16 teams wouldn’t be that far behind. The highest financial upside comes with all 30 teams, but that seems infeasible.

Setting the line at 24 teams seems like the worst of most worlds – including four bad teams that wouldn’t generate much interest but would threaten to disrupt everything else.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.