NBA All-Star starters announced

Here are the starters for the NBA All-Star Game:

EAST: Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Shaquille O’Neal

WEST: Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Yao Ming

After comparing these lineups to my picks a few days ago, I have a few questions:

Why is Shaquille O’Neal even on the team, much less a starter?

As voting closed, O’Neal had appeared in four games and averaged 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting 45% from the field. Meanwhile, a guy by the name of Dwight Howard played in 41 games, and averaged 17.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting 56.5% from the field. Is Howard really a center? That’s debatable, but he was listed at center on the ballot and should be starting for the East. O’Neal shouldn’t even be on the 12-man roster.

Why can’t the back-to-back MVP get some love?

Steve Nash is on pace to set career highs in points, assists, FG% and 3PT%. Plus, he is the leader of the Suns, the team with the second-best record in the league. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Tracy McGrady, who has managed to keep the Rockets afloat without Yao Ming. One could argue that McGrady deserves a spot on the team, but with his 42.7 FG%, he’s not a starter. Not when you have Nash sitting there.

Are Americans stlll upset about WWII?

Apparently. That’s the only credible reason for leaving Dirk Nowitzki out of the starting lineup. The Mavs have the best record in the league and Dirk’s numbers are better than both Duncan and Garnett. Sure, both those guys play better defense, but the Mavs’ success hinges on Nowitzki’s play, and he deserves to start.

Other thoughts: I don’t have a problem with Chris Bosh being selected over Jermaine O’Neal. The two were statistically similar and the Raptors and Pacers are pretty close in the Eastern standings…Carlos Boozer deserves to start, but it’s not surprising that Duncan and Garnett were selected before him. The way balloting is currently set up, it’s a popularity contest and Boozer hasn’t been popular since he left the Cavs in a lurch a few years ago…I have to hand it to the fans, they got Gilbert Arenas right. For a while there, it was looking like Vince Carter was going to start, but Arenas made a push and finished 3,010 votes ahead of Carter, the fourth-closest margin in history.

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Sean Payton has only himself to blame

Heading into Sunday’s conference championship games, I was rooting for a Saints/Colts Super Bowl. With that matchup, there would so many great storylines…the city of New Orleans bouncing back after Katrina…Peyton Manning going to his first Super Bowl after so many near misses…Archie Manning’s connection with both franchises. Also, the two teams are much better on offense than on defense, so that Super Bowl matchup would promise to be entertaining, at least for the first half. But the Saints won’t be going to Miami this year and head coach Sean Payton has only himself to blame.

Why didn’t the Saints run the ball? Not counting Drew Brees’ eight-yard scamper, they finished with 11 carries for 48 yards, a 4.4 average. Payton was intent on throwing on just about every down and his quarterback finished with 49 pass attempts. Sure, a lot of those came in the fourth quarter when the Saints were down big, but the playcalling wasn’t balanced in the first half when the game was still close. Not counting the Saints’ final drive in the first half when they were in hurry-up mode, Payton called 18 passes and only six rushes. On those six rushes, the team gained 17 yards. That’s certainly not a great average, but it’s not like the Bears completely shut the running game down.

On the season, the Saints were in the middle of the pack in rushing yards, but Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush had just racked up 195 yards in the Divisional round against the Eagles and 236 yards in their last meaningful regular season game against the Giants, so the team had to be feeling good about their rushing attack.

And what about that vaunted Bears defense? Over their last five meaningful games (Vikings, Rams, Bucs, Lions, Seahawks), the Bears gave up a total of 550 yards on 117 carries to running backs (a 4.7 yard per carry average), and that included two teams (Bucs & Lions) that finished near the bottom in total rushing offense this season. They proved throughout the second half of the season that they were vulnerable to the run, as Ronnie Brown gained 157 yards in Week 9 and Tiki Barber rushed for 141 in Week 10. The yards were there; the Saints just didn’t go after them. Hopefully, Payton learns from this and doesn’t repeat this mistake in the future…but really, how many chances do you get to go to the Super Bowl?

At least the Colts came back to win. I don’t think I could have handled a Bears/Pats matchup.

Scores Report NBA All-Star Team

The All-Star balloting has come to a close and TNT will announce the starters for each conference before their doubleheader on Thursday. There has been a bit of movement in the last three weeks (since I released my initial choices), so it’s a good time to release an update. Since the ballot is broken up into sections for guards, forwards and centers, I will use that methodology when discussing the starters, so it won’t matter if I have two shooting guards or two power forwards starting for a particular team.

Here’s a look at my current list of the top 12 players from each conference based on their statistical performance through January 21st. Special consideration is given to those players from winning teams.

EPG = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field Goals Att. – Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. – Free Throws Made) + Turnovers)) / (Games Played)



Gilbert Arenas, G, Washington Wizards (24-16)
25.1 epg, 29.7 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 spg
Arenas is a bonafide star and the Wizards are tied for first in the East. He’s definitely a scoring point guard, but his 6.3 assists are nothing to sneeze at. Moreover, he’s a former second-round pick, which makes his ascension all the more impressive.

Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat (18-22)
27.8 epg, 28.2 ppg, 7.9 apg, 4.8 rpg, 48.1 FG%
Even though Miami has struggled without Shaq, Wade has the league’s second-highest efficiency rating and has his team just a half game out of the playoffs.

LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (24-16)
25.5 epg, 27.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.1 apg
King James has the Cavs tied for first in the East, and barring injury or change of locale, he’ll have this starting spot wrapped up for the next several years.

Jermaine O’Neal, F, Indiana Pacers (20-20)
23.5 epg, 19.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.1 bpg
This is a tossup between O’Neal and Bosh, but O’Neal gets the nod because the Pacers have one extra win and O’Neal has appeared in a higher percentage of his team’s games.

Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic (22-19)
22.9 epg, 17.0 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 56.5 FG%
As of January 11th, Shaquille O’Neal had garnered more votes than Howard, which goes to show just how flawed the All-Star system is. Howard will surely make the team, but he deserves to start.


Chris Bosh, F, Toronto Raptors (19-22)
23.8 epg, 21.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Bosh is the main reason that the Raptors are even in the hunt for the Atlantic title. If he can stay healthy, Toronto might just catch the aging Nets.

Caron Butler, F, Washington Wizards (24-16)
23.5 epg, 21.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 spg, 48.3 FG%
Those are All-Star caliber numbers. If Butler doesn’t make the team, it will probably be the most egregious snub of the year. (Anyone think the Lakers are regretting that Butler for Kwame Brown swap?)

Jason Kidd, G, New Jersey Nets (20-20)
23.9 epg, 14.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 9.1 apg, 1.9 spg
Kidd’s rebound numbers are amazing for a guard. The Nets have had a tough start, but Kidd’s play has them atop the Atlantic.

Chauncey Billups, G, Detroit Pistons (23-16)
21.2 epg, 18.1 ppg, 8.0 apg, 3.4 rpg

Billups has been steady this season and has the Pistons just a half game out of first place in the East.

Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee Bucks (17-23)
21.1 epg, 27.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg. 46.2 FG%
As of the last returns, Stephon Marbury had more votes than Redd, which is a travesty. His knee injury has hurt his resume, but he deserves a spot on the team.

Vince Carter, G, New Jersey Nets (20-20)
21.9 epg, 25.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.2 apg
Carter and Kidd give the Nets one of the best backcourts in the league. That’s good, because with Richard Jefferson out, they don’t have much else.

Luol Deng, F, Chicago Bulls (23-15)
19.1 epg, 17.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 52.9 FG%
Ben Gordon has been coming on of late, but Deng has been steady all season and the Bulls should be represented.


Emeka Okafor, F, Charlotte Bobcats (14-25)
21.8 epg, 14.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.9 bpg
This team is sorely lacking in size and has a dinged up player (Redd). Okafor is the next logical candidate at either forward or center.

Close, but no cigar: Paul Pierce, Richard Hamilton, Joe Johnson, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Antawn Jamison



Steve Nash, G, Phoenix Suns (32-8)
24.7 epg, 19.3 ppg, 11.5 apg, 3.2 rpg, 53.1 FG%
Nash just keeps on truckin’ and is the cog that makes the Suns go. As far as point guards go, he’s the class of the West.

Kobe Bryant, G, Los Angeles Lakers (26-15)
25.3 epg, 27.9 ppg, 5.6 apg, 5.3 rpg, 47.0 FG%
Bryant has done a terrific job of setting his teammates up while taking over when necessary. That formula has the Lakers in the fifth spot in the West despite the loss of Lamar Odom.

Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks (34-8)
27.4 epg, 24.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 50.0 FG%
Along with the Suns, the Mavs are the class of the West and Nowitzki is having another season that has him in the running for league MVP.

Carlos Boozer, F, Utah Jazz (27-14)
27.0 epg, 22.2 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 56.1 FG%
Boozer is probably the biggest surprise starter this year. His play has helped the Jazz ascend to first place in the Northwest, and he’s one of only four players averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds this season.

Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets (25-16)
26.5 epg, 25.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 52.2 FG%
Prior to his injury, Yao was dominating the competition and is the best true center in the league.


Kevin Garnett, F, Minnesota Timberwolves (20-19)
29.5 epg, 22.2 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 4.3 apg
KG keeps the Wolves afloat, which means he probably won’t be traded anytime soon. It would be scary to see what he could do with another star on his team.

Carmelo Anthony, F, Denver Nuggets (20-17)
25.8 epg, 31.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 50.3 FG%
Prior to the “bitch slap,” ‘Melo was on pace for a starting spot, but Boozer gets the nod for controlling his temper, unlike Anthony.

Shawn Marion, F, Phoenix Suns (32-8)
24.9 epg, 18.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.1 spg, 51.5 FG%
The Matrix fills up the stat sheet and deserves another All-Star bid. He’s got an ugly shot, but he’s a very efficient scorer.

Tim Duncan, F, San Antonio Spurs (29-13)
24.4 epg, 19.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 54.1 FG%
The Big Fundamental just keeps on chugging. He’s injury-free this year and is showing that he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Allen Iverson, G, Denver Nuggets (20-17)
22.8 epg, 29.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 2.1 spg
The Nuggets made a great move trading for AI, who has helped them stay afloat during ‘Melo’s suspension. It will be interesting to see how the two will co-exist.

Elton Brand, F, Los Angeles Clippers (19-21)
24.5 epg, 20.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 55.4 FG%
After a slow start, Brand has come on of late and continues to be a bright spot on a shaky Clippers team.

Josh Howard, F, Dallas Mavericks (34-8)
20.4 epg, 19.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Howard continues to improve and is proving to be a wonderful sidekick to Nowitzki.

Close, but no cigar: Tracy McGrady, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudemire, Baron Davis, Chris Paul, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Pau Gasol, Kevin Martin

Parity in the NFC

Here’s an interesting stat…the four NFC playoff games have been decided by a total of ten points, including one overtime game.

Even though most pundits don’t think the NFC representative in the Super Bowl will have much of a chance, the parity in the conference has made for some very exciting playoff games.

Webber waived by Sixers, has five teams in mind

The Sixers bought out Chris Webber’s salary and waived the forward, which makes free to sign with any other team as soon as next week. Like many fallen stars, he wants to play for a contender and has identified five teams – Pistons, Heat, Spurs, Mavs and the Lakers – that he’d like to play for.

As of Friday, Detroit is the frontrunner due to their immediate interest, their needs in the frontcourt and Webber’s ties to the area. He is just one year removed from a 20/10 season, but has struggled mightily this season. I don’t think he’d be a very good fit with the Mavs, a team built around speed and agility. They wouldn’t be able to offer much playing time, either. The Spurs don’t appear to be interested, as they’ve made it clear they want young, athletic players at the forward positions.

The Heat and Lakers are two teams that could use Webber’s services, assuming his knees are holding up. The Heat’s depth is always a problem and Webber’s jumper would keep defenses from double-teaming Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. Likewise, his scoring and passing would probably be a good fit in the Lakers’ triangle offense.

This is an interesting move by the Sixers. With the buyout, they will pay Webber for the remainder of this season ($20 M) and next season ($22 M), but the total amount paid will be reduced by $5 M, which will bring Sixers under the luxury tax threshold. The other option was to keep Webber for the remainder of the season and try to get something via trade next summer/season from a team looking to dump salary. The problem with that plan is that the Sixers would have to take on comparable salary and it is unlikely that any team would be willing to give up a combination of good, young prospects and draft picks for a $22 M 34 year-old with creaky knees.

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