1. The Things We Say: We’re not too interested about what’s going on this All-Star Weekend. We don’t loath the show but frankly it’s just not that much of a priority for us. That being said, the NBA All-Star weekend is probably the most interesting of such events (for whatever that’s worth). Rather than get too much into the All-Star show, I thought we’d reflect on a few of the interesting happens of the past week, some of which can be filtered through some quotes that I found interesting:
Sloan on Webber: The Kings took the opportunity to retire Chris Webber’s number this week. Webber is probably the best player in franchise history since Oscar Robertson and was a key to making the Kings relevant after years of futility (though the Kings have come full circle lately). Webber was an excellent player, and probably ended up being underrated despite the ballyhoo that attached to him out of college. We’ll probably come with a full Webber FAQ at some point. The thing that really caught my eye about the proceedings were the opinions of Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose team was playing the Kings that night. According to Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune, Sloan apparently still holds bad feelings about Webber knocking down John Stockton in the 1999 playoffs: “John would probably tell you he didn’t think he could get up. He got up and showed the toughness he had. Don’t question John Stockton’s toughness compared to Webber’s. If you’re going to hit somebody, you go get the biggest guy out there and level him. Don’t go after the smallest guy and knock him down. That doesn’t show any toughness.”
Of course, Stockton ended up hitting the biggest shots of the series in the deciding game anyway. But any complaints about Webber by Sloan can only strike us as…um…ironic. Indeed, Sloan’s own big man, Karl Malone nailed quite a few smaller players, most notably his elbow to Isiah Thomas’ forehead in 1992 that required 40 stitches to close. At the time Malone was criticized pretty harshly. According to Sports Illustrated, Chuck Person said that “Malone is not a man.” In that same article a Western Conference coach anonymously described Malone thusly: “When things are going well for him, he laughs at all the bumping and shoving. But when things aren’t going well and the game is physical, it gets to him. That’s when he gets the technicals and gets out of his game. And, frankly, I’ve never seen him pick on anybody his own size.”
So, Webber may have very well picked on Stockton but Sloan’s complaints have a bit of temerity to them.
2. LeBron on Mo: Another controversy this week was whether it was fair that a great Cavs team had only one All-Star representative (LeBron James). Some observers felt that good teams “earn” extra picks. LeBron did the logical thing and supported his teammate: “It will bother me if we don’t get another guy if you look at our team’s success and what we’ve been able to do….Mo’s put up the numbers and we’ve put up the wins. I don’t see any point guard in the East that’s playing better right now between him and Jameer Nelson.” This is, of course, nonsense. The Cavs are probably not a playoff team without LeBron so it is hard to assign credit to other players merely because they play with him. Maurice Williams (the popular pick as the second All-Star Cav) is a fringe candidate and not nearly as good a player as Vince Carter, who Williams ultimately was picked over for the injury slot. This is not some terrible tragedy that Williams made the team but he wasn’t technically the best choice.
Some other examples of secondary players on good teams making the All-Star team in recent years:
-The Pistons had four All-Stars in 2005-06 (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace) but none of them were really a stretch.
-Rashard Lewis was the second Sonic for the 2004-05 team that was a surprise division winner. He had a good year but was probably not the best candidate for the job.
-The Celtics nabbed Antoine Walker as a second All-Star in both 2001-02 and 2002-03, despite only decent stats. The team wasn’t great but was better than expected and Walker got some credit for this fact.
-The 1999-00 Pacers were the best team in the conference and that helped get Dale Davis get an All-Star bid, though he was not quite All-Star material.
-Dan Majerle, who was solid player, probably earned is All-Star picks in 1992-93 and 1994-95 partly from the reflected light of playing on a fun contender (he was really good in 1991-92, his first time at the All-Star game).
-The most memorable extra picks came in 1993-94 when Charles Oakley and John Starks made the game for the Knicks and B.J. Armstrong from the Bulls because their teams were playing well and the league didn’t want to reward the younger players who were considered prima donnas (i.e. Derrick Coleman). Starks was having a very good year but B.J. really had no business in the game.