Even a loss in this year’s playoffs won’t deter a player who’s fueled by those who don’t believe in him. He’s still sore about not making the All-Star team this year, something Jensen says they talk about. “I wish you’d made it, but I’m glad you didn’t,” the coach told Gobert after the All-Star snub, knowing the frustration would make him a better player. Jensen mentored Gobert through his first few seasons, tapping into his natural physical gifts to mold him into an elite NBA defender who is slowly learning how to play on the other end of the court.
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Did you gain any motivation from your NBA All-Star snub? Damian Lillard: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t gain any motivation from it. It was one of those situations where last season it didn’t happen and I knew I should’ve made it. Last year, I was averaging like 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds and we were at maybe the seventh spot [in the West] at the [All-Star] break and I didn’t get in. I smacked my lips at it and thought, That’s crazy. But after it went through and I didn’t make it, that made it a lot easier this year.
He also swatted away any notion of feeling snubbed in recent seasons as quickly as he does with one of his blocks. “That’s a way harsh word,” Jordan said. “I could’ve made it a couple of times. But everything happens for a reason. The timing was right this year. I’m just excited to be here. I didn’t really come out and play hard to make the All-Star team. I’m lucky and blessed to be a part of this.”
Turning into an All-Star was not a goal until he played in the Risings Stars Challenge in 2012. “I realized if I put in the work I could do it,” Hayward said. “I made it a goal then and have worked toward it ever since.” Last summer, he declined an opportunity to play for the U.S. at the Rio Olympics to concentrate on the 2016-17 season. “He told me, ‘I want to be an All-Star,’ ” his father said.
Tom Orsborn: With #Spurs owning NBA’s second-best record, Leonard said Aldridge “should have definitely had an opportunity to be here.” But Leonard was quick to point out #Spurs have “something bigger than this right here that we are trying to accomplish.” #Spurs
A day after the NBA selected New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony as an injury replacement for the upcoming All-Star Game, several people have questioned the decision — including the player who was arguably the biggest snub, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. “I’ll never say a player doesn’t deserve to be on the all-star team. For one, Carmelo is a great player. Hell, he’s been one of the best offensive threats in the league for years now, and I’m taking absolutely nothing away from him. But the process of it does not make sense. If they reward winning, then I don’t understand how the decision was made,” Beal said Thursday morning. “It was kind of weird to me.”
Brian Mahoney: Re: Beal comments. Adam Silver went with coaches’ votes when making injury pick. Carmelo, still very respected by opponents, was next up.
Markeef Morris: @NBA POLITICS as USUAL… #FreebabyRay
Jeff Zillgitt: Adam Silver selected Anthony as Love’s All-Star replacement because Anthony had next most votes from coaches. Silver’s done that previously.
“I’ll never say a player doesn’t deserve to be on the all-star team. For one, Carmelo is a great player. Hell, he’s been one of the best offensive threats in the league for years now and I’m taking absolutely nothing away from him. But the process of it does not make sense. If they reward winning, then I don’t understand how the decision was made,” Beal said on Thursday morning. “It was kind of weird to me.”
When it was announced that Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love would miss the All-Star Game because of an injury, Beal and others were considered for the open spot. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, stayed in contact with the league office and pushed for Beal. Even more so, Beal’s play as well as the 33-21 Wizards’ rise in the East standings seemed to make him a front runner to fill the position. However, late Wednesday night NBA Commissioner Adam Silver picked Anthony, replacing a front-court player with another forward.
“I don’t get it,” said Bartelstein, who represents numerous NBA players, including Beal. “The reality of it is, if the coaches took a vote today for the guy who should be in the All-Star Game, there’s no doubt in my mind it’ll be Brad. I just think it’s wrong. I certainly talked to the league office. We make a strong statement all the time of how winning is rewarded and I don’t understand. There’s no team winning at a higher level than the Wizards are right now. So Brad’s in the center of all that. Nobody can question he’s playing not just at an all-star level, but at an elite all-star level.”
Markieff Morris: @NBA POLITICS as USUAL… #FreebabyRay
The NBA says it uses internal screening and third-party vendors to screen out fraudulent votes. The league added a tweak this year that sources say was born of Pachulia’s suspiciously high finish a year ago: Fans hold only 50 percent of the vote to determine All-Star starters. The vote of current players counts for 25 percent, and a media panel has the final 25 percent of the say. Those mediating factors knocked Pachulia out of the All-Star Game. But they didn’t answer the most basic question: Is the NBA All-Star fan vote a sham?
TO THE CASUAL observer, the Pachulia vote was the most alarming. But to John Kelly, the startling outlier was the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. Kelly is the CEO and founder of the New York-based social media intelligence firm Graphika, which monitors, categorizes and maps social media traffic for public and private clients. Graphika sifted through more than 5 million tweets on behalf of ESPN and found all sorts of interesting things about NBA All-Star voting, including 10 hyperactive bot accounts voting for Leonard about 1,000 times per day, a figure that Kelly called “outrageously high.”
And of all the ways you could vote, Twitter, in particular, seemed to be hot for Leonard. For players such as Pachulia, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, a typical account that voted for them on Twitter did so about three times. For Leonard, the number was, per Graphika, 6.46, the highest in the league. More starkly, about 39 percent of the tweets attempting to cast for Leonard came from accounts created since Dec 1, 2016. And those votes were coming from new accounts with names like @kawhibot.
The announcement that the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony would replace the injured Kevin Love on the Eastern Conference All-Star team came during the Heat’s 117-109 victory over the Rockets Wednesday and following the game Whiteside took the news in stride. “Congratulations to Melo,” he said. Whiteside, who led the Heat with 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, then lamented the fact that not one center is on the East team. “I would have loved for a center to represent the East but that’s not the way the fans want to see it,” said the 7-footer. “I have really no control over that, I’m trying to make the playoffs.”
Marc Stein: The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony will replace injured Kevin Love as an Eastern Conference All-Star, according to league sources
Scott Souza: #Celtics coach Brad Stevens: We certainly hope Al Horford gets that call as East #NBAAllStar replacement.
Scott Souza: #Celtics Al Horford said would be honor to be picked as #NBAAllStar replacement, but focused on team success. Really in good rhythm now.
Carmelo Anthony would prefer to rest up over the All-Star break but would consider going as a sub for Kevin Love, who will miss six weeks with knee surgery. Anthony, however, said he would be thrilled if teammate Kristaps Porzingis were chosen. Porzingis finished sixth in the East frontcourt voting and the five ahead of him either are going or are injured. Commissioner Adam Silver decides. “I would love for him to get it,” Anthony said. “If he has an opportunity to get it and they call for him, I would love for him to take that spot and kind of represent New York down there in New Orleans.”
And as one of four players who have made an All-NBA team in each of the past three seasons – along with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul – Aldridge would’ve liked for his reputation as a five-time All-Star, along with the Spurs’ stellar record, to have led to him joining Leonard in New Orleans for the All-Star Game. “I’m older, so I’m not going to come home and be mad or anything,” Aldridge, 31, told The Vertical. “But I do think that it was wrong for Golden State to have four [All-Stars] and we’re a few games behind and only have one. It is what it is. I’m in this position and I’m going to enjoy my break and just come back fresh.”
“I’m older, so I’m not going to come home and be mad or anything,” Aldridge, 31, told The Vertical. “But I do think that it was wrong for Golden State to have four [All-Stars] and we’re a few games behind and only have one. It is what it is. I’m in this position and I’m going to enjoy my break and just come back fresh.”
Historically an enthusiast of the All-Star festivities, Anthony said he’d prefer to utilize the week off rather than take the injury reserve spot that may have opened up because of a knee injury to Kevin Love. Anthony had lobbied hard for a spot this season, and two years ago even delayed knee surgery so he could play in the game.
“I got plans,” Anthony said of taking the spot from Love, who is experiencing knee soreness and will sit Tuesday’s game for the Cavs. “I would love to take this break and just utilize this break and my body and my mind and just get away from everything. I could utilize this break. If they call me I’d consider it. But I would love to utilize this break.”
Thomas joked that he should get a starting nod now that his coaches are in control. That is not allowed, of course, but perhaps he will have some influence regarding playing time. Shrewsberry said that Thomas’s value to the Celtics might actually have the reverse effect in New Orleans. “Brad will probably put him in a bubble,” he said, smiling. “We play Toronto right after the All-Star Game, so we’ll probably play [Kyle] Lowry and [DeMar] DeRozan all 48 minutes.”
When asked about the results of the MRI, a team source told ESPN, “we’re not discussing that yet.” Love’s status for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers and the All-Star game — his first invitation to the annual February festivities since joining the Cavs — is to be determined.
Peter Edmiston: Mike Conley, on whether he’s been especially motivated by missing the All-Star Game: “Of course, man, it’s always gonna drive me.”
“I’m happy for John,” Beal continued. “This is his fourth in a row and he continues to support the city as he can and continues to show love. His efforts and his point-guard skills have gotten better ever since I’ve been playing with him. It’s definitely been a joy and a pleasure. As far as me, it’s a yes-and-no answer — I am a little upset (about not being named an All-Star) but it’s not the end of the world. I continue to move on.”
So you didn’t think you would be selected as an All-Star? DeAndre Jordan: After practice on Thursday, I had my trip to Hawaii ready to go. I was superexcited about it. I was waiting for this one last little thing [All-Star announcement]. I was leaving at 6 in the morning [of Feb. 16] and was ready to rock. Someone texted me and said, ‘Hey, you got to cancel that trip to Hawaii.’ I was like, ‘No, this is done. This is set. What’s up?’ I was thinking that they would have known at practice if I made it or not. They didn’t say nothing at practice, so I was like, ‘Cool, I didn’t make it. I’m about to set my trip up.’
Who was the first person you contacted? DeAndre Jordan: I called my mom and said, ‘I’m not going to Hawaii.’ And she was like, ‘Why not? What’s going on?’ So I said, ‘I made the All-Star team.’ She said, ‘Oh, my God. For real? Don’t play with me, boy.’ I said, ‘For real.’ She said, ‘DeAndre, stop playing.’ I said, ‘This is what I was told,’ She said, ‘What they say? They better not be bulls—ing, you.’ I said, ‘Mom, I’m telling you what they told me.’ So she was superexcited. I called my brothers and told them. They were superexcited. I told my son and he is only 13 months old. And he looked at me like, ‘All right. Whatever. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum can’t go on vacation, so he found a back-up plan: participating in the 3-point shootout at All-Star Weekend. “I wanted to go on vacation,” McCollum said Saturday. “If I’m not going to play in the game, I would rather be on vacation. But I can’t be on vacation since my girl’s got a test. So I figured I could go for 48 hours and get out there and still get some rest and relaxation.”
Choosing to turn a negative into a positive, Lillard is electing to fuel his play with an inner fire created by being snubbed again, and – like he did during a postgame interview following Friday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies – he’s not afraid to admit that. “Not subconsciously, consciously,” Lillard said when asked whether the snub is subconsciously motivating him. “Anytime something like that happens, you gotta find the right place to put it. You can’t make yourself get too much into it, and take yourself out of what the team is doing. You’ve gotta try throw yourself into the team and be better. That’s what I gotta do. I gotta be better, and that’s the bottom line.”
The playoffs are the overall goal for Lillard and the Blazers, not individual All-Star appearances. “This year I’ve been more consumed with our team.” Lillard said. “We haven’t had a great season and we are trying to turn that around. I’m more concerned with that, anyway. “You always want to be part of things like [the All-Star game]. Obviously you feel some kind of way about it because you feel deprived of something that you worked hard for and that you earned, that you produced for. But like I said, we got our own problems to worry about and that’s what we need to be focused on.”
Goran Dragic has been Miami’s best player this year, leading the team with 19.6 points per game and 6.5 assists. But Dragic, like Whiteside, did not do enough for the coaches to vote him onto the East squad. “Didn’t even look,” Dragic told me Friday when I asked if he was watching Thursday’s announcement. “I’m not about that. It would be nice to be there but it’s not my priority. I just want to do my job, play the games that count. This is a great opportunity to have some days off to recover my body.”
James was asked during a media session Friday about the All-Star Game rosters, which included some surprising choices that were voted into the game by NBA players. “There’s always goofy votes,” James said. “I mean, Donald Trump is our president,” he added, cracking a smile.
Chris Haynes: I did it for American people. I asked Kerr if Russell Westbrook will play with his 4 in All-Star Game. He stared at me, smiled, walked away.
Chris Haynes: Steve Kerr was surprised Chris Paul wasn’t voted in an All-Star reserve. He felt he should have, thus opening up a injury replacement spot.
Love will be making his fourth appearance in the annual showcase of the league’s best players. It will be his first since coming to Cleveland. And this time he was voted in by Eastern Conference coaches who have recognized the statistical leap he’s made in his third year with the Cavaliers. “I think I was really able to play my game this year and Ty (Lue) has done a great job of putting us in the right spaces to be effective,” Love said. “I think there’s something to be said for starting and the fan vote and the player vote and media as well. But coaches also goes a long way.”
“I thought I deserved it,” said Embiid, who has missed the last two games with a left knee contusion and is listed as questionable for tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets at the Wells Fargo Center. “Not that I care about my stats, but that was one of the points that could have been proven.” He is averaging 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots while appearing in 30 of the Sixers’ 44 games.
Brian Seltzer: T.J. McConnell on Joel Embiid not being selected to All-Star Game: “I think it’s a travesty, to be honest.”
Jason Lloyd: LeBron, when told some of the players turned in goofy All-Star ballots: “There’s always goofy votes. Donald Trump is our president.”
With a smile, Lillard nodded to acknowledge McCollum, then after answering a question about the team’s ball movement, he turned his attention to McCollum. “You have a question?’’ Lillard asked. “Yes, Dame,’’ McCollum said. “I do, actually: “Looking around the NBA, there are a lot of good players who haven’t made All-Star games yet. Do you think it’s fair for coaches to vote in guys who put up pedestrian-like numbers and get into the All-Star game? Or do you think all stars should be players who change teams, drastically?’’
Lillard paused for a half beat. “Um, I think it should be guys who change teams drastically,’’ Lillard said. “But there are certain things that go into this, now. And those certain things are out of our control, so … you just have to roll with the punches.’’
McCollum nodded. “I understand. There’s a lot of politics involved in this game,’’ McCollum said. The two laughed, pleased with how their passive-aggressive stance on the All-Star Game was executed, complete with their own giggles and accompanying chuckles from some reporters.
Chauncey Billups: @Dame_Lillard Game recognize game Brodie. They still sleeping on you. That Chip u rockin wit just keep gettin bigger!! #staygreat Damian Lillard: No doubt
what do u think about mccollum and lillard not in all star? Evan Turner: It’s crazy man, I can’t believe it. Haven’t seen two guards better
Jazz coach Quin Snyder is “thrilled” for Gordon Hayward to make first All-Star appearance but “disappointed” Rudy Gobert didn’t get the nod. “He’s an All-Star to us,” Snyder said, acknowledging that the West reserves were all worthy selections.
Chris Haynes: Now that it’s official, for the first time in LeBron James’ career he’ll be the oldest player on either All-Star roster at 32.
Rick Bonnell: Kemba Walker told friends, family and his agent not to call or text if they heard in advance about All-Star. He wanted to learn via TNT.
Barbara Barker: Can this be? First time since 1987-88 that both Knicks and Nets shut out of All-Star game. #Knicks #Nets
“Nobody has told me,” said Wall, who hasn’t been told officially by the league that he has made it. “We started off pretty bad. Wasn’t in position to be a playoff team. There a lot of great guards that have been playing well in the East this year. With us having a great December, winning a lot of games, starting off January very well and being in the playoff race that would solidify it.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks. “He’s been an All-Star for the last three years. He’s having another great year. I haven’t officially heard but it’s probably safe to say that’s definitely is going to happen. He’s done a great job of leading us and putting us in position to win. His shooting has imrpoved, his playmaking, his defense. I think everything is better across the board is much better.”
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall has been voted by the coaches to be an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve, league sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Jared Dudley: Congrats @John Wall well deserved!!
Chris Haynes: Washington Wizards guard John Wall has been voted by coaches to be an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve, league sources tell ESPN.
Coaches, players, fans and media are on the other side of the door, deciding his fate. The Milwaukee Bucks forward probably won’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team this season. But if he continues to play the way he’s playing and continues to improve, an All-Star bid is in his near future. “He’s on the cusp of being a star and one of the best. He’s going through the process. He has to earn his stripes. He doesn’t want it to be handed to him,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “One of the small steps is winning. When you sprinkle in the ingredients of winning and being consistent and doing what he’s doing on a nightly basis takes you to becoming that star. He’s on the verge of that.”
I’ve been polling team executives on Embiid’s candidacy for the last week, and the response of one Embiid supporter stood out. He lobbied for Embiid over Millsap largely because Embiid would be more fun. Millsap’s game is all subtle positioning, canny passing, and laborious drives to the rim. There is no room for subtlety in the All-Star Game, this person reasoned. And then he concluded: “I realize that’s not really fair to Paul Millsap.”
Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t see any way Jokic will be named a reserve to All-Star Game, scheduled Feb. 19 in New Orleans. Why? In any democracy, there’s no accounting for the stupidity of the folks casting ballots. “Nikola Jokic will not only be an all-star, he’ll be an all-NBA player one day. I believe that in my heart,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Tuesday.
“I think Steve (Kerr) makes a fair point,” Malone said. “If the NBA and the players’ association want to have a voice, and they asked to have a voice and a vote — which is fair because it’s a players’ league — then take it seriously and make sure you’re voting for guys who are worthy of being an all-star. When you have guys who haven’t played very many minutes at all getting all-star votes, that is not a real vote.”
Sirius XM NBA: #Clippers Guard Jamal Crawford says that “he’d buy his own plane ticket” to play in the All Star Game — bit.ly/2jNwdKh
Erik Spoelstra isn’t sure how the new voting format that determines All-Star starters works. And he isn’t sure how Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was left out of the Western Conference’s starting lineup. “How is Russell Westbrook not in the starting lineup?” Spoelstra asked Monday morning.
“I know how important it is to players and especially to guys that are giving their heart and souls into the game and should be rewarded for it,” Spoelstra said. “So I do have to admit in some years past, I would just given it to my assistants. Not anymore. We actually have a staff meeting about it so we’re responsible. I think that’s the ultimate respect for players.”
“I am very disappointed in the players,” Kerr said. “They asked for the vote and a lot of them just made a mockery of it…I saw the list. I saw all the guys who got votes. Were you allowed to vote for yourself? I don’t know. Were guys voting for themselves? There were 50 guys on there that had no business getting votes. But a lot of guys wrote in their buddies for the presidential campaign. So maybe that was their own way of making a statement. But I think if you give the players a vote, they should take it serious.”
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April 28, 2017 | 1:24 pm EDT Update
For now, Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin remains the top candidate in the Magic’s search, but Orlando hasn’t yet asked for permission to speak with Griffin, largely because of the Cavaliers’ playoff status, sources said.
Bird leaves the franchise at a crucial crossroads, with possible free agency looming for franchise star Paul George in the summer of 2018. The Pacers will have to decide on whether to continue to work on selling George on a future with the franchise, or consider the possibility of trading him to extract maximum value before George can leave in free agency.