NBA Hot Topics: All-Star Reserves, Nash is Out of the All-Star Game, Riley is Back and Agent Zero's Hibachi is Ice Cold in PortlandWhile I spent the weekend watching LeBron battle Wade and Kobe a lot of things happened around the NBA (and no, I'm not talking about off court items like ESPN helping someone promote a book that was published by, surprise surprise, ESPN). Here are some quick takes on four subjects:
1) Commissioner David Stern selected Carmelo Anthony and Josh Howard as All-Star reserves to take the place of the injured Yao Ming and Carlos Boozer. West Coach Mike D'Antoni will decide which one of the eight reserve players will replace Yao in the starting lineup. He could go small by shifting Tim Duncan to center and picking a guard or he could elevate his own player, Amare Stoudemire, and keep everyone at their usual positions. At this rate, if a few more players get injured, everyone who was "snubbed" will end up being an All-Star after all. League scoring leader Anthony and all-around threat Howard are certainly worthy participants in the All-Star Game.
2) Speaking of injuries, the Commissioner will be choosing at least one more reserve player because it has been announced that two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash will be unable to participate in the All-Star Game because of the right shoulder injury that has sidelined him recently. He will also withdraw from the Skills Challenge. Ray Allen would be a worthy replacement for Nash; he is having a career year for a poor Seattle team. Zach Randolph is putting up a quiet 24 and 10 in Portland--it is quiet because their games are not on national TV. Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams are each having good seasons for a solid Utah team that lost its only All-Star representative when Boozer got hurt. Elton Brand is having a good season but he and the Clippers got off to such a slow start that he probably will not be picked. My hunch is that Stern will select Deron Williams, replacing a point guard with a point guard and giving Utah an All-Star Game participant.
3) He's baaaaack! Who would have thought that Pat Riley would return to the Miami Heat bench after Shaq got healthy and had some time to work his way back into shape? Seriously, who could have imagined this--other than anyone who as been following the NBA for any time at all. The Associated Press and several other media outlets are reporting that Riley will resume his coaching duties in the first game after the All-Star break. The Heat went 13-17 before his sabbatical and have gone 12-9 since then under Ron Rothstein as Shaq and other players returned to action. I mentioned previously my skepticism of the cliche about the "team that nobody wants to face" but if Riley returns and Wade and Shaq are healthy in May you can rest assured that no one in the East will be looking forward to playing against Miami, regardless of the playoff seeding.
4) Agent Zero's mission in Portland failed miserably on Sunday. Gilbert Arenas pledged to drop 50 points on the Trail Blazers because Portland Coach Nate McMillan was on the Team USA staff that cut Arenas this past summer. Arenas has been blogging about this game, talking about this game and building it up for months. He said that the networks should change the schedule and televise the game. Considering what happened, I think that would have been a great idea, because it would have helped people who only look at his scoring average and three point shooting percentage to understand why he is a solid All-Star, not an MVP candidate. He shot 3-15 from the field, including 0-8 from three point range, and fell a mere 41 points shy of his goal, finishing with nine points, two assists and five turnovers. His turnovers + missed three pointers to assists ratio was 6.5/1. Washington, a first place team in a weak Eastern Conference, lost 94-73 to a bottom feeding team from a strong Western Conference. Yes, it was just one game, but it was a game that Arenas literally circled on the calendar. He is not the kind of player who can just decide to go out and get 40, like MJ used to do or like Kobe Bryant can do for stretches of several games. Arenas is a good player who has worked hard to maximize his talents and should be applauded for that but he is no Kobe, LeBron or Wade. Check out what Arenas' own coach, Eddie Jordan, said about Agent Zero after the Portland disaster: "First of all, we didn't have the leadership out there that we needed with Antawn out. And no one else has stepped up into a leadership role." The "no one else" line is of course a direct shot at the misfiring Arenas. The Washington Post's Mike Wise wrote an interesting article detailing how Washington's season seems to be on the verge of unraveling. Jordan and Arenas are openly feuding because the coach thinks--correctly--that the Wizards must become better defensively, while Arenas believes that the Wizards should stick with the same style of play that led to a first round exit from the playoffs last year.
posted by David Friedman @ 11:27 PM