Three Things to Know: All-Star snubs are mostly first replacements this season

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons
Nic Antaya/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) These All-Star snubs are mostly first replacements this season

In a season knocked sideways with COVID absences and injuries, why would we expect the All-Star Game to be any different? There will be plenty of injury replacements — we know of two for sure already.

Thursday was time for the All-Star Game reserves to be announced. The fans voted and picked the starters, NBA coaches get the tougher job of naming the reserves — which always leads to some deserving players getting snubbed. Here is the list of All-Star reserves from each conference:

Chris Paul
Luka Doncic
Devin Booker
Donovan Mitchell
Rudy Gobert
Karl-Anthony Towns
Draymond Green

Jimmy Butler
Darius Garland
James Harden
Zach LaVine
Khris Middleton
Jayson Tatum
Fred VanVleet

First, congrats to Garland and VanVleet, who earned their first All-Star appearances.

There are snubs, but this season a number of those snubs (at least two, and that number will grow) will be in Cleveland anyway. Commissioner Adam Silver picks the replacements — and he traditionally names the player with the most fan votes not chosen as a reserve.

The biggest snubs? I’d start with Jarrett Allen of the Cavaliers — but he very likely will be playing in the game anyway because the Nets’ Kevin Durant (All-Star starter and team captain) already said he is out due to the sprained knee that has sidelined him (and sent the Nets to six straight losses). Allen has the most fan votes of any East frontcourt player not selected by the coaches.

Next on my snub list are Jrue Holiday of the Bucks and LaMelo Ball of the Hornets. Holiday could be watching the game with his family from the warmth and comfort of his home unless one of the East guards has an unfortunate injury in the next couple of weeks. Ball is in the Rising Stars game so he will be in Cleveland anyway, which means he could get the call up if there is an injury.

Out West, the biggest snubs are Dejounte Murray of the Spurs and Anthony Davis of the Lakers (who has played at an All-Star level and still disappointed Lakers fans, an impressive double). Davis could well be in Cleveland anyway, as Green has said his back/calf issue will keep him out of the game (he said on TNT he’s feeling no pain and doing much better, the Warriors are just taking it slow). Davis got the most votes of any West frontcourt player not in the game (well, technically, Paul George did, but he’s injured as well).

What would be interesting is if a second West frontcourt player bows out (LeBron James is due back to the Lakers soon, but he might be a player to watch). If Silver follows the fan voting, the next player in line would be Carmelo Anthony, but he is far less deserving of a spot than Deandre Ayton of the Suns or Brandon Ingram of the Pelicans. Where would Silver go with that call?

Other legit snubs: Miles Bridges of the Hornets, Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Pascal Siakam of the Raptors, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Thunder and Desmond Bane of the Grizzlies.

2) Shorthanded Lakers fall to more shorthanded Clippers, which says plenty

The Lakers were without LeBron James, and we know what that does to this team. Still, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook were there and combined for more than 72 minutes and 47 points.

The Clippers remain without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, yet Tyronn Lue’s team scraps, fights, and finds ways to win games. They have an identity. They are gritty.

Those gritty Clippers beat the Lakers because, in the final seconds, Reggie Jackson skipped past Russell Westbrook, spun around Austin Reaves, and hit the game-winning layup (the Clippers had Serge Ibaka and Marcus Morris on the court, which pulled Davis away from the basket leaving no real rim protection). Davis got his chance at revenge, but his game-winner rimmed out.

The Clippers’ front office built a balanced, deep roster to go around their stars, and even with their big names out, this team is 27-27 and looks like a play-in team.

Deep is not the word anyone would use for the Lakers — their depth is scattered across teams in Chicago and Washington — and they sit 25-28 despite all the star power. That’s not about coaching (although Lue, the guy that turned down the Lakers’ lowball offer a few years back, is doing a fantastic job); it’s about roster building.

3) Trae Young drops 43 on Suns to end their 11-game win streak

The Suns second-longest winning streak this season — which is insane when you think about it — came to an end at the hands of one Trae Young, who continues his ascent up the NBA’s list of stars. He dropped 43 on them.

The Hawks are hot of late, having won 8-of-9. While they dug themselves too big a hole to get out of the play-in games in the deep East (they would have to make up four games and leapfrog four teams, which is highly unlikely), they are the perfect example of the squad that the teams atop the East don’t want to see in the first round.

Highlight of the night: Anthony Edwards makes media wait while he orders McDonald’s

At age 20, Anthony Edwards is still in the “I can eat whatever I want and it doesn’t impact my body/play” phase of life.

Following Minnesota’s 128-117 win over Detroit on Thursday, Edwards walked into the media interview room but then made everyone wait while he placed an order at McDonald’s on the app so he could pick it up after he left the arena.

For the record, Edwards said he’s a McChicken man.

I love Edwards. He’s authentic. I’m not sure the Timberwolves’ nutritionist feels the same way.

Last night’s scores:

Minnesota 128, Detroit 117
Miami 112, San Antonio 95
Atlanta 124, Phoenix 115
Toronto 127, Chicago 120
Golden State 126, Sacramento 114
LA Clippers 111, LA Lakers 110

Watch Victor Wembanyama highlights from French league playoffs


Give Victor Wembanyama and his handlers credit — they have got him out there playing. The management teams for a lot of future No. 1 picks would have their guy in bubble wrap by now, not doing anything but solo workouts in a gym, not wanting to risk any injury or risking his draft status.

Wembanyama — the 7’4″ prodigy on both ends of the floor — is on the court in the semi-finals of the French LNB league (the highest level of play in France). His team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, is one win away from the LNB Finals. While they lost on Friday to Lyon-Villeurbanne (the best-of-five series is now 2-1 Boulogne-Levallois), Wembanyama put up some highlights worth watching.

The San Antonio Spurs will select Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (June 22). San Antonio — and possibly Wembanyama — will make their Summer League debut at the California Classic Summer League in Sacramento in early July, before heading on to Las Vegas for the larger, official Summer League. While Wembanyama is playing for his French team in the playoffs, how much the Spurs will play him in the summer leagues — if at all — remains to be seen (top players have been on the court less and less at Summer League in recent years).

Spoestra’s biggest Heat adjustment for Game 2? Play with more ‘toughness and resolve’


DENVER — The days between NBA Finals are filled with talk of adjustments. After an ugly Game 1, much of that falls on the Heat — what can Erik Spoelstra draw up to get Jimmy Butler better lanes to attack? How must the Heat adjust their defense on Nikola Jokick?

Spoelstra sees it a little differently.

“Scheme is not going to save us,” he said.

His point is straightforward, the team’s best adjustment is simply to play better. More effort, more resolve. The trio of Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson must do better than 2-of-23 from 3. The Heat can’t settle for jumpers like they did in Game 1, they have to attack the rim and draw some fouls, getting to the line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1). Their halfcourt defensive decisions have to be sharper. Those are not scheme-related things.

The Heat saw some of that in the second half, but Spoelstra made it clear the better last 24 minutes (particularly the last 12) was more about effort than the adjustments they made (such as playing more Haywood Highsmith and putting him on Jokić for a while).

“I never point to the scheme. Scheme is not going to save us,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to be the toughness and resolve, collective resolve. That’s us at our finest, when we rally around each other and commit to doing incredibly tough things. That’s what our group loves to do more than anything, to compete, to get out there and do things that people think can’t be done.

“The efforts made that work in the second half, but we’re proving that we can do that with our man defense, too.”

Among the things many people don’t think can be done is the Heat coming back in this series. But Spoelstra is right, proving people wrong is what the Heat have done all playoffs.


Phoenix Suns reportedly to hire Frank Vogel as new head coach


Frank Vogel won a title coaching two stars — LeBron James and Anthony Davis — in Los Angeles.

Now he will get the chance to coach two more stars with title aspirations, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in Phoenix. The Suns are finalizing a deal to make Vogel their new head coach, according to multiple reports. This is reportedly a five-year, $31 million deal.

New Suns owner Mat Ishbia — who took over in early February and immediately pushed for the Durant trade — reportedly has been the man at the helm of basketball operations since his arrival, making this primarily his choice. Doc Rivers and Suns assistant Kevin Young also were in the mix for the job.

Vogel may not be the sexiest hire on the board — and it’s fair to ask how much of an upgrade he is over Monty Williams — but it is a solid one. The Suns can win with.

Vogel is a defense-first coach who has had success in both Indiana — where he led the Paul George Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice — as well as with LeBron’s Lakers (Vogel struggled in Orlando, but that was more about the roster than coaching).

Vogel is a good coach for superstars because he is relatively egoless, low-key, and a strong communicator — this is not a big personality with a hard-line attitude. Instead, he works to get buy-in from his guys and gives his stars plenty of freedom on the offensive end. Durant and Booker will have their say in what the offense looks like, but Vogel will demand defensive accountability.

There is a “good chance” Kevin Young — the top assistant under Monty Williams who had the endorsement of Devin Booker for the head coaching job — will stay on as Vogel’s lead assistant, reports John Gambadoro, the well-connected host on 98.7 FM radio in Phoenix. If true, that be a coup for the Suns, who would keep a player favorite coach to be more of an offensive coordinator. It is also possible that Young and other assistant coaches (such as Jarrett Jack) will follow Williams to Detroit, where he was just hired (on a massive deal).

Nick Nurse doesn’t ‘vibrate on the frequency of the past,’ talks winning with 76ers, Harden


In his first day on the job, Nick Nurse didn’t shy away from the hard topics and high expectations — he embraced them.

Nurse is the new 76ers head coach — and Doc Rivers is out — because the team was bounced in the second round. Again. Nurse said at his introductory press conference that he doesn’t see the way past this is to ignore the problem (from NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“We’re going to hit that head-on,” he said… “We know we’re judged on how we play in the playoffs. It was the same in Toronto. We hadn’t played that well (in the playoffs) and certain players hadn’t played that well, and all those kinds of things. So the reality is that’s the truth. I would imagine that from Day 1, we’re going to talk about that and we’re going to try to attack that. We’re going to have to face it and we’re going to have to rise to it.”

Nurse stuck with that theme through multiple questions about the past and what he will do differently. Nurse talked about the players being open-minded to trying new things, some of which may not work, but the goal is to get a lot of different things on the table.

He also talked about this 76ers team being championship-level and not getting hung up on that past.

“My first thought on that is this team could be playing tonight (in the Finals), along with some others in the Eastern Conference that wish they were getting ready to throw the ball up tonight… And as far as the rest of it, I look at it this way: I don’t really vibrate on the frequency of the past. To me, when we get a chance to start and dig into this thing a little bit, it’s going to be only focused on what we’re trying to do going forward. … Whatever’s happened for the last however many years doesn’t matter to me.”

The other big question in the room is the future of potential free agent James Harden.

Harden has a $35.6 million player option for next season he is widely expected to opt out of, making him a free agent. While rumors of a Harden reunion in Houston run rampant across the league, the 76ers want to bring him back and Nurse said his sales pitch is winning.

“Listen, I think that winning is always the sell,” he said. “Can we be good enough to win it all? That’s got to be a goal of his. And if it is, then he should stay here and play for us, because I think there’s a possibility of that.”

Whatever the roster looks like around MVP Joel Embiid, the 76ers should be title contenders. Nurse has to start laying the groundwork this summer, but his ultimate tests will come next May, not before.