A quick scan of the top trending items in the NBA this week:
All-Star Game snubs?
There is little clamoring about All-Star Game selection snubs when the most worthy candidate could not have participated anyway.
Injured Clippers point guard Chris Paul was worthy of the honor, even if it meant one of Golden State’s four honorees would have had to wait to be an injury replacement. The Western Conference coaches seemed content in All-Star reserve voting to keep teams other than the Warriors to one representative.
When it came to the Clippers, that was center DeAndre Jordan. For Utah, it was Gordon Hayward. Those two choices kept out the most worthy healthy candidate, Utah center Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s shot-blocking leader (2.5 per game) who has anchored an elite Jazz defense while improving his offense.
Portland’s Damian Lillard is the only top-10 NBA scorer not in the All-Star Game but a guard-loaded West and the Trail Blazers’ disappointing play left him off. Memphis’ Mike Conley Jr. also is buried in the West’s guard stack and missed 12 games.
The only Eastern Conference case could be made for Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who would have been an All-Star starter by fan vote, but player and media votes were factored in this season. Embiid has been productive despite a playing time restriction, averaging about 20 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes per game, but he also missed 18 of Philadelphia’s first 49 games.
It is not just Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook piling up triple-doubles at a breathtaking pace. There have been 59 triple-doubles in the NBA as it headed into the weekend. That would be the most for any entire season since 1990 and is on a pace to break the NBA record of 78, set in 1998-99 when Magic Johnson posted a league-high 19.
With 24 triple-doubles, Westbrook is on a pace to challenge the individual record of 41, set by Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. Oklahoma City is 18-6 when Westbrook has a triple-double while Houston is 12-2 when James Harden does it.
King James vs. Sir Charles
Amid the Super Bowl walk-up, a LeBron James-Charles Barkley squabble kept the NBA at the water cooler.
It started with James questioning the Cavaliers’ roster depth. In his TNT studio analyst chair, Barkley called James’ comments “inappropriate, whiny” and questioned, “Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete?”
James fired back Tuesday to ESPN.com, saying, “Screw Charles Barkley. He’s a hater,” before adding, “I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.”
Barkley perhaps ended it Thursday on TNT, reiterating that James is the best player “by far” and adding, “I didn’t get mad. I went and played golf.”
Anthony has never indicated wanting to uproot from New York but could waive his no-trade clause to join a contender. Rumors of him being shopped to Cleveland for Kevin Love are most rampant (or just will not go away) but the Cavaliers would be giving up the player who is younger (by four years) and playing better (the coaches made Love, not Anthony, an All-Star) while breaking up a championship core. And a Love reunion with Knicks associate head coach Kurt Rambis? Yikes.
When Golden State lost to Cleveland on Christmas, two-time defending MVP Stephen Curry made two of seven three-point attempts for a rare drop below 40% on his season three-point accuracy.
Curry entered Saturday at a 45.3% clip on three-pointers over his 17 games since that loss. The Warriors have won 15 of those games by an average of 15.8 points with Curry’s all-around comfort with new teammates, assertion as a point guard and efficiency turning up.