Philadelphia, PA – The 10 starters for the All-Star game were announced on Thursday and there were zero surprises.
The East will feature LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.
(Awkward between Carmelo and KG?)
The West has Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
(Not really awkward at all.)
The reserves will be announced on Jan. 24. Let's examine the choices. Remember, the conference coaches vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two players at any position. The coaches can't vote for their own guys.
Here's who I would round out the teams with, but no one is calling asking. As a note, I put a premium on winning teams, but if you're an All-Star, you're an All-Star.
EASTERN CONFERENCE GUARDS - JRUE HOLIDAY, Philadelphia 76ers; KYRIE IRVING, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Right out of the gate, and I contradict myself about winners. The Sixers and Cavaliers are both several games under .500, but there are a few factors in play here.
First, the Eastern Conference guard pool is thin. With Derrick Rose out with the Chicago Bulls and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson mostly struggling with the Brooklyn Nets, Holiday and Irving are the only logical choices.
Irving is sixth in the NBA in scoring at 23.3 points per game and 26th in assists at 5.6 per game. That's a terrible assist number for a point guard, but Cleveland needs him to score more than facilitating to a bunch of fellas who can't score a lick.
Holiday is 14th in scoring at 19.0 ppg and fourth in assists at 8.8 per game. His defense hasn't been as strong as years past, but those two numbers are too strong to neglect because he plays for a terrible team.
And, again, the Eastern guards are not strong.
LEFT OUT: BRANDON JENNINGS, Milwaukee Bucks; DERON WILLIAMS, JOE JOHNSON.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FRONTCOURT - JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls; CHRIS BOSH, Miami Heat; PAUL PIERCE, Boston Celtics.
Noah is eighth in minutes played, 10th in rebounding, eighth in blocks and is averaging a career-high 12.4 ppg. The Bulls have far exceeded expectation and Noah's toughness is a huge part of why.
Bosh averages 17.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg. It's easy to pooh-pooh the notion of Bosh being an All-Star because most people despise the Heat, but his production is there.
It's almost laughable to have three Celtics on the All-Star team. They are two games over .500 and that came thanks to a recent surge. But Pierce is still the heart and soul of the Celtics as Rondo has missed games due basically to stupidity. Pierce is at 19.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 3.8 apg. Those are great numbers for a small forward and the reality is that it wouldn't be fair to punish Pierce, who belongs in the game, just because Garnett, who doesn't, got voted.
EASTERN CONFERENCE WILD-CARDS - PAUL GEORGE, Indiana Pacers; TYSON CHANDLER, New York Knicks.
George is the best player on the Pacers. David West may be the leader and Danny Granger might return to being the best player when he comes back from injury, but George is the best right now. He scores 16.9 ppg, grabs 7.8 rpg and dishes out 3.7 apg. Plus, George is probably in the top three in wing defenders in the NBA. The Pacers are third in the East and need someone on the team. George is that guy.
Chandler shoots 67 percent from the floor. Say it out loud, 67 percent. That is almost eight points better than second place. He's a double-double every night and Chandler anchors what is still a respectable defense. The Knicks deserve two All-Stars, so Chandler should go to Houston.
LEFT OUT: BROOK LOPEZ, New Jersey Nets; AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks; CARLOS BOOZER, Chicago Bulls (yes, really Carlos Boozer).
WESTERN CONFERENCE GUARDS: JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets; RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Oklahoma City Thunder.
These former backcourt mates in Oklahoma City are pretty obvious calls. There are other deserving guards in the West, but Harden and Westbrook are above reproach.
Harden came to the Rockets just before the season started and has been a revelation. He is fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.3 ppg, has been a great facilitator at the shooting guard and has changed the culture in Houston. The Rockets are a playoff contender and Harden leading the way in an up-tempo style is the reason why.
Westbrook is seventh in the NBA in scoring, fourth in assists and fourth in steals. Can you rank any better for a point guard who happens to guide the best team in the league?
WESTERN CONFERENCE FRONTCOURT - TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs; ZACH RANDOLPH, Memphis Grizzlies; DAVID LEE, Golden State Warriors.
Duncan is going to the All-Star Game no matter what. His name alone sends him to Houston, but 17.1 ppg and 9.6 rpg also make the case. It doesn't hurt that the Spurs are one of the best teams in the league.
Randolph is an easy choice for me as well. His 11.6 rpg is third in the NBA behind two injured players (Anderson Varejao and Kevin Love). Throw that in with his 16.4 ppg average, his 25 double-doubles leading the league, the Grizzlies are a top-tier team and you have an easy All-Star.
Lee was the last guy to make this team.
(Spoiler Alert - I have two guards in the wild-card spot).
(Double Spoiler Alert - I have Lee's teammate as one of them.)
With that said, you have to be hesitant putting two Warriors on the team, don't you? They are the fifth seed in the West at the moment, but have been the most surprising strong team this season. Lee is 11th in the league in scoring and ninth in rebounding. That's too impressive to pass up.
LEFT OUT - LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Portland Trail Blazers (really hard to ignore); SERGE IBAKA, Oklahoma City Thunder; MARC GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies.
WESTERN CONFERENCE WILD-CARDS - STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors; TONY PARKER, San Antonio Spurs.
Curry is fourth in 3-point shooting among players with at least 30 attempts. He is ninth in scoring, 15th in assists (which is average at best) and 18th in steals. Curry and Lee have led a Renaissance in Golden State. He's done enough to be an All-Star.
Is anyone in the NBA as great, but not treated as an elite star, more than Parker? He averages 19.4 ppg (12th in the NBA), 7.2 apg (10th in the NBA) and the leader every night for the league's best franchise. Parker should be an All-Star every season without question. He belongs once again.
- The most-outside-the-box selection for the All-Star game who wandered in my head was Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. The leading bench player for the best bench unit on maybe the best team in the league deserves consideration.
- This is word-for-word what I wrote just minutes before news broke of Alvin Gentry's firing as head coach of the Phoenix Suns: "My record on coaching dismissals this season has been pretty solid. (Saw Johnson and Skiles gone, still think Mike Brown getting canned was a disgrace). Therefore, the next hot seat in the league carries the tush of Phoenix Suns leader Alvin Gentry. The Suns are not equipped to compete, so that consideration should be factored in, but this group is not responding to Gentry."
- This is the week when I officially change my MVP vote from Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James.
- NBA basketball in London is a good thing. Having the Detroit Pistons, whose best player is Greg Monroe, go as a part of it, was not. There needs to be two high-profile teams in these games for it to work properly.
- Movie moment - "The Last Stand" hits theaters shortly. It stars former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don't know the man, but I doubt my state's governor, Tom Corbett, would star in a film where he's a small-town sheriff fighting a corrupt businessman. I don't know, I'm assuming that's plot of "The Last Stand."
- TV moment - I think one of the saddest slow deaths in recent TV history has been "The Office." Hindsight shows that everyone involved should've packed it up after Steve Carell left, but didn't we all know that on some level? Here's the bigger question: why am I still watching? I haven't laughed in weeks, but there I am. There's still talent at Dundler Mifflin, but comedies should make you laugh and I get more chuckles watching my dog run down the steps.