Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com 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) Picking the 2022 All-Star Game reserves (and snubs)
It is one of the great annual fights around the NBA. The league keeps the All-Star Game rosters intentionally small — 12 players, down from the 15 that can dress for a regular NBA game — which means when the coaches select the All-Star Game reserves deserving players get snubbed.
We LOVE to argue about snubs.
The five All-Star game starters from each conference are selected by a vote of the fans — with an assist from the players and media — and we know who those are (in a week they will be drafted into Team LeBron and Team Durant… even if neither of those guys likely are playing in the actual game due to injuries).
Here are my picks from the reserves, which by league rules must be three frontcourt players, two guards, and two wildcards (I made these picks first on a PBT Podcast a couple of weeks ago, but this is adapted for the fans voting in Andrew Wiggins as a starter):
G: Chris Paul
G: Donovan Mitchell
FC: Rudy Gobert
FC: Karl-Anthony Towns
FC: Draymond Green
WC: Luka Doncic
WC: Devin Booker
Green deserves to make the team — as a media member I voted him a starter — but it will be a surprise if he plays due to his ongoing back/calf issues. I would replace him with Anthony Davis, who has put up All-Star numbers despite missing a lot of time and still disappointing Lakers fans.
SNUBS: Anthony Davis, Dejounte Murray, Brandon Ingram, Deandre Ayton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Desmond Bane, Paul Geoge (PG13 was a lock for this team before his elbow injury, and that is the only thing keeping him off, he carried the Clippers for stretches this season).
G: James Harden
G: Zach LaVine
FC: Jayson Tatum
FC: Jimmy Butler
FC: Jarrett Allen
WC: Jrue Holiday
WC: Fred VanVleet
SNUBS: LaMelo Ball, Jaylen Brown, Darius Garland, Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam, Domantas Sabonis, Bradley Beal.
Tell me where I’m wrong — but if you’re putting LaMelo or Garland on the All-Star team, who are you taking off? Let the arguing begin.
2) The Nets are not good without Durant, fall to Kings for sixth straight loss
It’s time to have a serious talk about just how good — or not very good — the Brooklyn Nets are.
There are legitimate questions: What is this team’s identity? Will we ever see them whole (which would include Kyrie Irving playing home games)? If they get healthy, will the Nets play enough games together to form good habits and an identity? Can they win a title with this isolation-heavy style?
Brooklyn has lost six straight and is 2-7 since Kevin Durant went down with a sprained knee, the latest loss a 112-101 to the Kings in Sacramento.
James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 18 points on 7-of-26 shooting — Nic Claxton was the Nets’ best player with 23 and 11. If this were a one-off loss on the road for a team Steve Nash called tired, you could shrug it off. But It is not. Harden is not blowing by guys and being unguardable the same way we remember. Irving is still finding a rhythm. Patty Mills is playing well but his role changes (starter or sixth man) depending on where the game is played.
Kevin Durant’s best MVP argument would be what happened to this team when he went down. (No, he’s not winning the award, he’ll miss too many games to likely even make the top five, but the point of his value still stands.)
Milwaukee should be seen as the favorite in the East, the defending champs have had their issues as well but you see stretches of what they can be (especially if they get Brook Lopez back). Miami has to be in the mix, they are a legit threat to come out of the East. Philadelphia could be if Joel Embiid gets enough help. Chicago still has to prove it can keep doing this come the playoffs, will their defense hold up? Still, the Bulls are an outstanding team. Cleveland keeps on winning.
How many of those teams can the Nets beat in a seven-game series? (I don’t know if they can bet the Bucks or Heat.) Will the Nets even be whole for the playoffs? What is this team’s identity?
There are far more questions than answers in Brooklyn.
3) WNBA gets a major investment — a step in the right direction
WNBA free agency is going on and this kind of sums up the finances of the league:
Courtney Vandersloot, who was critical to the Chicago Sky winning the title last season, got an offer she considered “disrespectful” from the team and is negotiating with a Russian team that will pay her enough to sit out the WNBA season to be rested for its campaign for a Euroleague crown (Holly Rowe of ESPN broke that story). If you don’t think it can happen, Diana Taurasi did exactly that before.
The WNBA needs to grow revenue to get player salaries up to where players don’t have to have two jobs — most WNBA players head to Europe to play for another team after the WNBA season ends, because the pay is better over there. We see a few big names like Candace Parker doing NBA commentary (she is one of the two best studio analysts TNT/Turner has right now) to get that second check, but everyone has two jobs. You can imagine what that year-round play does in terms of wear on a body? Players break down.
Which is why it’s good news the WNBA announced a major investment from a number of people and companies — Nike, Micky and Nick Arison (Heat owners), Joe and Clara Tsai (Nets/Liberty owners), Condoleezza Rice, Baron Davis, Pau Gasol, Swin Cash, Linda Henry (Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC), and many others — in which those people get a piece of the league.
The money will go to marketing, building a digital infrastructure, “growth of consumer touchpoints,” and basically growing the brand. The WNBA’s popularity is growing, but the league needed this kind of investment to take advantage of that — and ultimately grow the revenue needed to raise player salaries. This is basic “you have to spend money to make money” economics, something the NBA does for itself without thinking but has always held back with the WNBA. It’s always been about not losing too much money, and that has strangled the growth of the league (something the NBA did to itself in its early days, but that’s not a lesson that stuck).
“Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “Having just completed our historic 25th season, with this access to additional capital, we are setting the WNBA up for a successful future and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”
Let’s hope it is that signal. It is undoubtedly a good step forward.
Highlight of the night: Josh Giddey‘s insane pass sends game to OT
Count me among the skeptics won over. I was not sold when the Thunder drafted Josh Giddey, but the rookie has won me over — check out this pass for a layup that forced overtime (and watch Luka Doncic fall asleep on defense).
Well, that was quick. pic.twitter.com/Ofvc9055Iz
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) February 3, 2022
I'm sure this was an option for the play but I don't get how Luka wasn't in between the man and the ball in this situation. pic.twitter.com/amL6JyS4g9
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) February 3, 2022
Luguentz Dort took over scoring 14 in overtime and the Thunder knocked off the Mavericks 120-114.
Last night’s scores:
Orlando 119, Indiana 118
Washington 106, Philadelphia 103
Memphis 120, New York 108
Houston 115, Cleveland 104
Oklahoma City 120, Dallas 114 (OT)
Utah 108, Denver 104
Sacramento 112, Brooklyn 101
LA Lakers 99, Portland 94