Storyline: All-Star Selections

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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra responded swiftly to swingman Jimmy Butler not being selected as a starter for next month’s NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, calling his omission “a joke” and adding that he’s hopeful it will help change the voting process. “I just think it’s ridiculous that we’re still in these antiquated positions,” Spoelstra said before Friday night’s 122-117 loss to the LA Clippers. “So who’s to say what position Jimmy is? Does it matter? I put him No. 2 on my [lineup] card. So I go Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, I go Bam [Adebayo] and then Meyers [Leonard]. But you could flip any one of those guys around. And in many ways he’s our point guard. So should he be in the All-Star Game as a point guard? I don’t know.

No surprise, Beal was not named one of the two starting Eastern Conference guards when the NBA announced the duo Thursday for its upcoming All-Star Game. The league had spent the previous few weeks releasing progressive fan voting. Beal was consistently ninth on the list. But player and media votes were due Jan. 20, and little did the world know there was a little jolt once the final results glided onto the internet: He finished second in the player vote. “That’s cool. It’s definitely respect, for sure,” Beal said Thursday after scoring 36 points during a 124-112 win in Cleveland. “And that’s why I always feel like the players and coaches should have a higher, more stronger percentage of the votes than the fans. But to each his own.”

For his part, Towns said he’s not thinking about the All-Star game too much, even after he was emotional last season after being selected. “It would be an honor. But, for me, I’m not even worried about that to tell you honestly,” Towns said. “I just worry about winning. That’s the only thing. I don’t wake and say, ‘I need to get these amount of points and these rebounds and these statistics for an All-Star bid.’ The last thing I’m thinking about is the All-Star bid. I’m trying to figure out ways to get wins for my team, my organization, and to find better ways to lead.”

Playing in the Rising Stars Challenge certainly isn’t a make-or-break deal or even an accurate reflection of a player’s rookie year. But it is an opportunity for Culver to be around the best players in the league that should only help his confidence. “I think that he’s very deserving of that,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Tuesday. “You look around the league and Jarrett, the way he’s come on and the way he’s progressed, his improvement and development is a great story over this last month here. . . Being around other players like that, being around other All-Stars . . . that will really help Jarrett.”

The most likely candidate to continue the Spurs’ streak is DeMar DeRozan, who has scored 21 or more points in the last 12 games in a row and 30 or better in three of the last four outings. During that 12-game span, the four-time All-Star is averaging 27.3 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 65.1 percent from the field. “The fan vote is kind of a popularity contest, but obviously DeMar should be in it with what he’s been doing, especially this last month or so,” Spurs guard Derrick White said after shootaround in preparation for Friday’s game with Atlanta.

Q: All-Star weekend is coming to Chicago. What would mean for you to be in the real game? Derrick Rose: It would be cool. But right now, we’re losing. That’s the only thing that’s been on my mind right now, trying to fix things here with the team. There has been a lot of long nights just trying to think and trying to put together a plan. I can only do so much. Just trying to control what I can control and be a leader for this team. Whatever this team needs, just try to be there. Being back in Chicago, I know people in Chicago are going to love it. It’s something we’ve been missing for a long time. The excitement, the buzz around it has been great. When is the last time they had it, with Mike [Jordan]?

Brad Stevens reacts to the amount of votes for Tacko Fall for All-Star Game: “Obviously he’s played like 10 minutes here, so he shouldn’t be sixth in All-Star voting, but I get it.”

“He’s playing like a dominant force,” Mitchell said. “When he’s decisive and just goes out there and tries to punish people on both ends of the floor, he turns into the All-Star that he is. Nights like this, and nights like Detroit, he did the same thing. He’s playing at a really high level right now.” But will Gobert be an All-Star? That’s the pressing question. He’s averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds per game. His game isn’t flashy. He’s not going to dribble between his legs or throw down highlight dunks. His game, for how impactful it is, is still quiet to the casual fan. It’s the reason why he hasn’t made a dent in the fan vote. It’s the reason why Boston Celtics rookie Tacko Fall has more votes than he does.

“I think for him, he’s been here longer than me, he’s been underrated for his whole career,” Mitchell said. “I think he probably saw what happened, probably saw the [All-Star] voting and was like, ‘All right, cool,’ and went out there and dominated the game like he was supposed to. He’s gonna keep doing it and it’s not gonna be based off of whether he’s in the All-Star voting with the fans or not, he deserves it and I think he’ll get it.”

The Celtics were scheduled for an afternoon flight to Toronto and, it being Christmas Eve, players and coaches had plenty of loose ends to tie up before the holiday. Brown, even as his play this season has spawned some All-Star buzz, was in no rush to leave the practice facility. “I’m not really paying attention to [the All-Star buzz],” Brown said in an empty gym after his post-practice workout was finally complete. “It would be a blessing. It would be extremely dope to even be mentioned in the conversation. To be honest, I still think I can be a lot better. I think the best is yet to come for me this season.
4 months ago via ESPN

Which is why even after a career-best 2018-19 campaign with the Chicago Bulls, he knows what needs to be done in order to achieve his goal of becoming an NBA All-Star. “Everything comes with winning. I feel like if we win and we’re in the right positions, the sky is the limit for me,” LaVine told ESPN following Thursday’s practice. “I had an All-Star-caliber year last year, but we had 22 wins so it got a little bit swept under the rug. But that’s how it’s supposed to be when you have 20 wins. But if I continue to play the way I’m supposed to, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be an All-Star or All-NBA type guy.”

“Am I an All-Star? No. Doesn’t mean I can’t be in the future. You never know. There’s been guys like Kyle Lowry, guys who been in the league for six or seven years and they go somewhere and it clicks. No one thought D’Angelo Russell was going to be who he was this year, and then he goes to Brooklyn and turns into an All-Star. “I’ll never count myself out, but in terms of accepting who you are, I’m fine with that. I love where I’m at. I was 19 years old. I thought I knew everything and things don’t work, which is the first time in my life it didn’t work. Even at Duke it was easy for me, I was better than everybody. I come here, and I didn’t play well.

As public address announcer Paul Porter introduced that night’s “hometown hero,” a longtime Daytona Beach Fire Department employee, Vucevic kept peeking toward the row behind the scorer’s table. There, Magic chief communications officer Joel Glass and director of communications George Galante watched the announcement of the 2018-19 Eastern Conference All-Star reserves on a TV monitor. Careful not to disrespect the hometown hero, Vucevic kept averting his eyes from Glass and Galante. Then, all of a sudden, he heard Glass shout an emphatic “Yes!” Vucevic looked over again and saw Glass and Galante smiling. Galante held his fist held high in the air. Vucevic had to be sure. “Yes?” he mouthed. “You’re in!” Galante yelled.

In that overwhelming moment, on the verge of tears of joy, Vucevic had to share his happiness with two of the most important people in his life. He turned left, glanced into Section 113 across from the Magic bench, and signaled to his mom and dad, Ljiljana and Borislav Vucevic. They beamed. Now, two weeks later, with the 2019 NBA All-Star Game set for Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., Nikola still delights in his good fortune — that he earned an All-Star nod, that his parents experienced his selection with him, that the Magic are in a playoff chase and, most important of all, that he and his wife, Nikoleta, have a 2-month-old son.

It’s not fair to say Gobert, the star center for the Utah Jazz, is unbothered by this. He’s a man who thrives off of respect. He cares what others think because he works so diligently at his craft. At the same time, he’s been able to shake off the brunt of the initial blowback from his news conference. If you asked Gobert about it, he’d shrug his shoulders. And then he would smile. And then, he’d tell you it’s all good. “It happens,” Gobert told The Athletic in an interview. “It’s not the first time I cried. And it won’t be the last time.”

Gobert thought that TNT broadcast announcing the All-Star reserves would be the culmination of his hard work, everything that he’s put into the game to get to this point. His family was watching back in France. The Jazz organization was ready to celebrate his accomplishment. Then, it didn’t happen. The phone rang. Gobert answered to his mother crying. And a night that was supposed to euphoric turned into one of the toughest of Gobert’s career. “It was a mix of everything,” he said. “It was something I wanted. I feel like I play to win. I never really get the respect that I deserve, and that’s why it’s frustrating. I get it from my teammates, my family and the organization. They all know. But the rest of the world, they don’t respect me for what I bring to the game. This was the time that I thought I was finally going to get the respect. And not having it, that was frustrating.”

LeBron James understands how much fans love talking about players changing teams, but said Saturday morning that his All-Star team selections had no ulterior motive. “That’s a great conversation,” James said. “Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk. Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don’t know, player options. That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport. It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

The 30-year-old swingman really expected 26-year-old Gobert to land an All-Star spot and explained why he believes the Utah Jazz player had such an emotional response to his snub. “He’s in the Western Conference” he initially noted. “I was at the grocery store with my wife and my kid. I was in a hurry to watch my guy live. I was sure he would be in. I turned the TV on and couldn’t believe he wasn’t. I was pissed. I wanted it so bad for him” he added. “He deserved it. He wanted to be in, not only for himself. It would be huge for Europeans. When you’re an All-Star, it’s not only for you, but also for your country. That’s why I think he was so emotional. He had so much support from back home. Maybe he felt like he let us down” Batum said.

Set to suit up in Charlotte during NBA All-Star 2019, Khris Middleton will make history and become the first NBA G League alum to do so in the annual midseason contest. Averaging 17.4 points on a 44/38/84 shooting clip, Middleton’s offensive firepower has helped the Bucks hold steady as the top dog in the Eastern Conference. As he began laying down the building blocks that eventually helped him earn such an honor, Middleton appeared in three contests for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants back in 2012-13, averaging 11 points and 7.7 boards.
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