Storyline: All-Star Selections

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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.

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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.
3 weeks ago via ESPN

“Rudy Gobert should absolutely be an All-Star,” Snyder told ESPN. “He’s one of the most impactful players in the league. This is clear, not subjective, and shows the the process of selecting All-Stars is flawed. We talk about defense being valued, but when we have an opportunity to reward it, we reward scoring again and again. Rudy is the best defensive player in the league and an offensive force when you consider his screening, his finishing and the spacing he creates with his presence.”

Joining Westbrook as reserves in the Western Conference player pool are San Antonio Spurs forward-center LaMarcus Aldridge, New Orleans Pelicans forward-center Anthony Davis, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Jokić has been named an NBA All-Star for the first time.

“It would mean everything, man,” Vucevic said. “I try not to think about it, but it’s pretty hard. Obviously, everybody mentions it to me. Everybody keeps asking, ‘Are you going to make it?’ (They’re asking me) like I know it, but I don’t know. I’m waiting just like everybody else is waiting. But it would mean everything to me. Obviously, I’ve been through a lot here, and our team has been through a lot. I know I’ve been respected around this league, and I know people respect my game and know what I’m capable of. But I think getting selected as an All-Star would really take me to the next step. So hopefully the coaches recognize that. It’d mean a lot to me. We’ll see. It’s right there. I’m hoping for the best. I really do think I deserve it because of my play all year long and what I mean to this team.”


1 month ago via ESPN

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is doubtful his team will get four players voted into next month’s All-Star Game in Charlotte. “I doubt it,” Kerr said prior to Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards. “I don’t think so, to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s been that kind of a season. It’s been rocky, at least until the last few weeks. I think the way Draymond [Green] has played over the last three weeks, for sure, he’s been playing at an All-Star level. And he would be the first to tell you he was not playing at an All-Star level for the first couple months. So my guess is he won’t make.”
1 month ago via ESPN

Kerr said that while the process is always difficult once voters get to the end of the roster, identifying the top-of-the-line All-Stars is pretty easy. “I think it’s fairly obvious,” Kerr said. “When you see an All-Star, you kind of know it. You know James Harden’s an All-Star, you know he’s going to start. You know Steph Curry should start. What gets difficult is when you’re picking the last couple guys. To me there’s usually maybe eight, nine guys who are sort of automatic. And then three or four guys who come from a pool of 10 or 15, and that’s really difficult. I like to reward winning.”
1 month ago via ESPN

Thompson, who is averaging 26.8 points a game in January and has helped fuel the Warriors’ eight-game winning streak, is confident he will join Curry and Durant in Charlotte. “I want to be there,” Thompson said after Wednesday’s practice. “If we keep winning, we’re in first place, I feel like we probably deserve to be there because of our performance the last five years at the top of the standings. It’s not easy; I don’t know how many times it’s ever been done so — if I don’t make it, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll go to the beach and enjoy myself.”

The 2019 NBA All-Star starters are set to be announced on Thursday and Wizards guard Bradley Beal is not optimistic he will be chosen. That is despite a growing number of supporters in the media, but Beal understands their votes only count for 25 percent of the equation. Fan voting makes up 50 percent and NBA players the remaining 25 percent. With Beal in a distant 10th among Eastern Conference guards in the fan voting rounds that have been made public, he has set his expectations accordingly.

“I’m not going to be a starter so it doesn’t matter,” he quipped after Wizards practice on Wednesday. “I’m positive. Let’s just be honest. Right? We all can be honest, right?” … Basically, Beal has a lot of competition. He gets it and insists he isn’t losing sleep over the pending announcement. “Even then I don’t let it consume me. It’s not like a goal of mine like ‘oh, I’ve gotta be an All-Star.’ If I am, it’s great. It’s even more motivation to continue to get better. Even if I’m not an All-Star, I’m not going to be mad or upset,” he said.

Why stop at one? Kenyon Martin thinks the Denver Nuggets are deserving of three representatives at the NBA All-Star Game next month in Charlotte. “I don’t know how many All-Stars they would get, but (among) guys that deserve it, they probably could have three,” Martin, the Nuggets’ star power forward and enforcer from 2004-11, said at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night before his old club hooked up with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “But who knows? But (are they) deserving of that? Yeah … they’re playing well, can only get better. If they keep it together and guys continue to get better and grow. You’ve got guys that haven’t played yet: Isaiah (Thomas) and Michael Porter. So just imagine. Then you add some of that caliber of talent to the mix, it can only get better. Guys buy into just winning not ego, (it) could be great.”

With five days remaining in the fan vote for the All-Star Game, back-to-back NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and reigning NBA MVP James Harden remain outside of the Western Conference starting five. Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George remains ahead of Durant in the West’s starting five in the most recent fan voting results, the league announced Thursday. George joins Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic in the conference’s frontcourt.

With the Clippers jostling for playoff position in the Western Conference standings on a nightly basis, Harris and Gallinari each made their case to be All-Stars when speaking to The Athletic earlier this month. “Honestly, I think if you look at our team and how well we’ve been playing, when you look at my game over the years of development and where I’m at now, I believe so,” Harris, who leads the Clippers in points (20.8), rebounds (8.0) and minutes (34.2) per game, said. “In the Western Conference, I think if you go down the list, God willing, I should be one of the guys.”
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Karl-Anthony Towns remains in concussion protocol and will not play for Minnesota against Milwaukee, a night after missing a game for the first time in his career. The All-Star forward was in a car accident Thursday and didn’t play Friday in New York, ending his streak of 303 consecutive games started. He traveled with the Timberwolves for the game in Milwaukee on Saturday, rather than return to Minnesota, but hadn’t been cleared to play again.
4 hours ago via ESPN
Storyline: Karl-Anthony Towns Injury
Being unable to play has troubled Towns, coach Ryan Saunders said. “People asked me if he cared about his [consecutive games] streak,” Saunders said. “He hasn’t and didn’t mention one thing along those lines. It was all about being there for his teammates and contributing. He even had somebody run out and make sure he could get a sport coat so he was dressed properly on the bench so he could be there with his teammates. That says a lot about Karl.”
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