Three Things to Know: Who should be All-Star Game starters?

Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Who should be All-Star Game starters?

The brilliant Tom Ziller (why have you not subscribed to his Good Morning Basketball substack yet?) yesterday touched on a topic I had spent too much of last weekend thinking about:

Who is going to make the All-Star rosters this year?

It’s an odd year with some aging stars not playing up to their expected levels and a growing group of rising stars knocking down the door to take their place, all mixed with COVID forcing players to miss time. That combination makes this the most challenging year in memory to pick who should be on the court in Cleveland come Feb. 20 (that’s where the game is this year, if you didn’t know).

All-Star voting is open now for the starters in each conference (two backcourt players, three frontcourt players). Fan votes — through, the NBA app, and Twitter — account for 50% of the ballots, another 25% is from the votes of the players themselves, and another 25% to select media (I am fortunate to be one of those media members, which is what started me thinking about it). Those 10 starters are thrown into a pool and chosen into teams by the two captains (the highest vote-getters from fans). The coaches pick the seven reserves from each conference (those reserves also go into a pool to be selected playground-style by the captains).

Here’s where I stand on starters as of today, but my mind could change over the coming weeks before a ballot is cast. I should add, my philosophy is I want to see the best players in this exhibition game and I weigh that, how this season started, and what happened in last year’s playoffs into the mix. I think the idea of picking the All-Stars based solely on less than three months of the most meaningless part of the regular season would be idiotic.

Trae Young
DeMar DeRozan
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Kevin Durant
Joel Embiid

That starting frontcourt three is a lock (with all due respect to Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, and whoever else you want to consider). Young is also a lock at guard, but I could go with DeRozan or James Harden in the other backcourt spot. That is still up in the air for me, both of those players are red hot right now (except for Harden on Monday). Zach LaVine should be a lock to make the team and deserves starter consideration. The coaches have the hard cuts, because after those four guards you can only take one or two more backcourt players from Jrue Holiday, Darius Garland, and LaMelo Ball (and Ziller makes a good point that Fred VanVleet deserves to be in consideration as well, and maybe Cole Anthony).

Stephen Curry
Donovan Mitchell
Draymond Green
LeBron James
Nikola Jokic

Three of these players are locks (and would be on my five-man MVP ballot today): Curry, Jokic and LeBron. After that, it gets much more challenging. For the open frontcourt spot, Rudy Gobert has a legit case to start, while Paul George would have been hard to keep off before his injury. But for my money, Green has been the best of the lot and deserves the spot, his play on both ends being critical to the best team in the NBA right now. Luka Doncic — who absolutely should make the team — can be listed as a frontcourt player on the reserves next to Gobert and maybe Karl-Anthony Towns (he’s on the bubble, as is Brandon Ingram), freeing up a spot on the crowded backcourt.

Between his play this season and the step forward he has taken — not to mention last season’s playoffs — I lean toward Mitchell starting. For now. Chris Paul and Devin Booker are both close behind, I could change my mind, and the Suns’ starting backcourt should/will make the team. That would leave just two guard spots and the coaches will have to choose them from among Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard, Dejounte Murray and CJ McCollum. (I think Morant should be a lock for the reserves, but will the coaches see it that way?)

With a few weeks to go, all this is subject to change. But that’s where I am leaning.

2) Trae Young drops a season-high 56 (and it’s still not enough to win)

Most games, the big headline would be the Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons putting up a career-high 43 points, leading the Portland Trail Blazers to a win to snap a four-game losing streak, and then getting understandably emotional after the game.

But even in a loss, Trae Young’s 56 points overshadowed it. That’s the most any NBA player has scored in a game this season.

Young shot 17-of-26 overall and 7-of-12 from 3-point range (plus he got to the line 15 times and didn’t miss). Young added 14 assists. According to the Hawks, Young had the first 50+ point, 14+ assist game since James Harden on the Rockets back on Dec. 31, 2016.

The previous season-high had been Kevin Durant’s 51-point game at Detroit last month.

3) Jimmy Butler had to be helped off court, did not return against Warriors

Hopefully this is nothing serious.

Jimmy Butler went down with what the Heat called a right ankle injury, and he had to be helped off the court against the Warriors Tuesday night. He did not return.

Butler was trying to drive around Juan Toscano-Anderson, his left foot slipped, and as he fell there was an awkward plant of his right foot. Butler, of course, thought it was nothing later but the Heat are going to wait and do something crazy like wait for their medical staff to make the call.

Miami has survived a rash of injuries this season — Bam Adebayo is still out with a thumb injury — and players being sidelined by COVID. Butler missed 15 games this season. That the Heat have kept winning and are fourth in the East is a credit to their culture. Butler is the Heat’s leading scorer at 23.2 points per game,

Golden State came away with the 115-108 victory in this game. And they may get Klay Thompson back on Saturday.

Highlight of the night: Ja Morant coast-to-coast for the slam

Ja Morant is the most entertaining player in the league for my money, and he continues to live up to that reputation. He did it with a coast-to-coast slam against the Nets Monday.

Morant finished with 36, Desmond Bane had 29, and the Grizzlies won their fifth in a row with an upset of the Nets, 118-104.

If you thought Kevin Durant was frustrated after the last Nets loss, how is he now? But the Nets’ stars were not good enough Monday. Durant and Harden combined for 45 points, but on 13-of-38 shooting.

Last night’s scores:

Philadelphia 133, Houston 113
Washington 124, Charlotte 121
Memphis 118, Brooklyn 104
Chicago 102, Orlando 98
Detroit 115, Milwaukee 106
Utah 115, New Orleans 104
Dallas 103, Denver 89
Golden State 115, Miami 108
Portland 136, Atlanta 131
Minnesota 122, LA Clippers 104

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.