One time when Doc Rivers was filling out his coach’s ballot for the NBA All-Star game’s reserves he asked his players for input on who they felt was deserving.
The strategy, while well-intentioned, failed spectacularly in producing agreement.
“They were just haters,” he said. “Like, ‘No, he shouldn’t be on!’”
His lesson learned, he now solicits the opinions of his assistants who have collectively watched hundreds of games across the NBA.
“I take it seriously,” Rivers said of his voting process.
With less than a week remaining before the reserves for this season’s All-Star game in Charlotte, N.C., are revealed Thursday, Rivers hopes his peers across the league are taking the candidacy of Clippers forward Tobias Harris as seriously as he is.
Harris, the Clippers’ leading scorer, rebounded from a one-of-nine shooting performance Tuesday in Dallas to score 31 and 29 points during victories over Miami and Chicago, respectively in the final two games of the team’s four-game road trip.
“He should be on the All-Star team,” Rivers said following Friday’s 106-101 victory in Chicago. “Look at our record and what we’ve done. Unfortunately for him, he’s quiet, he doesn’t self-promote. I’m praying that the coaches see it, and I think they will.”
Count Bulls coach Jim Boylen as one who does. He said Harris was “playing at an All-Star level” before Friday’s tipoff, then watched the 6-foot-8 forward make three consecutive three-pointers in the first quarter.
“He’s made himself into a big-time player, so I have a lot of respect for him,” Boylen said. “When you can bounce it and you can shoot it at the four position, you’re tough to guard.”
Harris was selected the Western Conference player of the month for October/November and his 43.9% three-point shooting ranks eighth in the NBA. He is averaging a career-high in points (22.0) and has matched his career-best averages in rebounds (8.3) and assists (2.6).
The Clippers have not produced an All-Star since DeAndre Jordan in 2017. Guard Lou Williams, who narrowly missed out on being chosen as a reserve last season, says Harris deserves to make the cut for what would be the Long Island native’s first All-Star selection.
“We’ve been in the mix all the way, been consistent, he’s been our leading scorer this entire time,” Williams said. “We’re a top-eight seed and he deserves to go, and not only that, we deserve to have someone represent us. I think it should be him.”
Houston’s James Harden, the Lakers’ LeBron James, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, and Oklahoma City’s Paul George are the West’s starters. The two, 12-man teams will ultimately be chosen, playground-style, by the team captains, James and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee, in a televised draft. The game will be played Feb. 17.
Harris has previously acknowledged a roster spot would be “special.”
“This has been a good year for our team that a lot of people counted out in the beginning, and I focus a lot on just us as a group and winning, playing good basketball,” Harris said. “God willing [an All-Star selection] happens and good things come from it, but I feel like every day, just to play with this group and be out here and continue to grow as a player is big for me. We’ll see what happens.”
Center Montrezl Harrell started his first two games of the season to begin the team’s recent four-game road trip before ending it in his typical role as one of the first players off the bench, but Rivers said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Harrell starting again.
The Clippers feel Harrell’s energy is a boost, no matter what unit he plays on. But if there is a reluctance to start him, it stems from concerns that at 6-8, Harrell is liable to get into foul trouble against bigger centers. Also, a starting role would mean largely breaking up his potent pick-and-roll combination with Williams. The Clippers are outscoring opponents by three points in the 20 minutes a game Harrell and Williams play together, the highest plus-minus of any two-player Clipper combination that has appeared in at least 20 games.
Forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who last played Oct. 23 and has been sidelined for 45 games because of left knee soreness, tweeted “I’ll be back soon!!!” Thursday. A team spokesman said there is still no timetable for his return, however.
Mbah a Moute signed a one-year contract worth $4.3 million in July.
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Update: The Kings (25-24) are tied for ninth in the Western Conference standings, two games behind the Clippers, who’ve beaten Sacramento in both previous matchups this season. Playing at the league’s second-fastest pace has produced the second-most field-goal attempts and fifth-most assists, but opponents get plenty of chances for shots, too: The Kings rank 28th in defensive rebounding rate. They’re also in the bottom third in defensive rating, though they’ve improved recently, owning the league’s seventh-best defensive rating in January.