Six Pack of Observations: 2009 All-Star Game

The American League was once again victorious over the National League in the Midsummer Classic, as the AL topped the NL 4-3 to run its unbeaten streak in the All-Star Game to 13. Below are six quick-hit observations from the game.

1. Carl Crawford is a bad man.
How many times when you were growing up did you go in the backyard by yourself, stand up against a fence and practice robbing home runs? Crawford’s highway robbery of Brad Hawpe in the seventh to preserve the 3-3 tie was the play of the game. The way he sprinted to the wall and timed his jump to make the catch was flat out sweet.

2. The National League will never win another All-Star Game…again.
Or so it seems. It’s not like the NL is getting blown out, but 13 straight years without a win? How does that happen? It’s not like the NL was devoid of talent with names like Pujols, Fielder and Lincecum gracing its roster. But the league can just never get over the hump and the AL’s dominance over the past 13 years has been impressive.

3. Tim Lincecum was incredibly nervous.
Or too hyped up, either way, you didn’t see the best he had to offer tonight. You could tell the excitement of the game got to him, because most of his pitchers were missing high and he had no command of his changeup, which is usually un-hittable. I don’t blame the young man (pitching in his first ASG) for being a little wound up, but I was excited for Lincecum to show the nation what kind of talent he has and it just wasn’t in the cards.

4. Great piece of hitting by Fielder, Mauer and Jones.
You know what the difference is between All-Stars and your run-of-the-mill major leaguers? They can go opp-o. Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer and Adam Jones all displayed great opposite field hitting tonight and that’s a skill often overlooked in the baseball world these days.

5. Mariano Rivera has still got it.
Watching this guy pitch over the past decade has been an absolute treat. It’s amazing – even after all of these years, when he comes into a game you know it’s essentially over. Although I will say this, I would have loved to have seen Ryan Franklin get an opportunity to save the game in the 9th with the NL leading because he has been flat out un-hittable this season. If you blinked at all in the third inning, you probably missed Franklin’s ASG outing, because that’s how quick he ran through the AL hitting.

6. Nice AB, Jayson Werth.
After Werth struck out to end the seventh inning, somewhere Matt Kemp and Pablo Sandoval said to themselves, “Hell, I could have done that.” It’s incredibly unfair to hammer Werth for striking out against Jonathan Papelbon because after all, many have struck out against the Boston closer. But Werth didn’t make his manager Charlie Manuel look too good with that AB, seeing as how the Philadelphia skipper chose his own guy over the equally deserving Kemp and Sandoval.

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No Love?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge have been announced and there are a few surprises.

The rookie roster consists of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Rudy Fernandez, Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, Greg Oden and Marc Gasol.

The sophomore roster includes Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Thaddeus Young.

Kevin Love isn’t on the nine-man roster for the Rookie Challenge, and it’s a big, glaring snub. ESPN’s John Hollinger agrees.

For starters, the decision to select Eric Gordon ahead of Kevin Love for the rookies was completely inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong; Gordon is going to have a fine career, it seems, and in almost any other year he’d be a shoo-in for the team. But he made this squad mainly because the forlorn Clippers have no choice but to play him extensive minutes.

As good as he’s looked, Gordon is the only rookie team member with a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average, while Love has a better PER than every player on the rookie team except Greg Oden. Love leads the league in offensive rebound rate, as I mentioned the other day, but his prodigious work on the boards has gone largely unnoticed because he plays only 23.2 minutes a game, far less than Gordon’s 32.2.

Love’s absence is especially surprising considering how the rookie roster is loaded with four guards (Rose, Westbrook, Mayo, Gordon), one G/F (Fernandez) and only one true forward (Beasley). You’d think that if it were a tossup between Gordon and Love (which it isn’t) that they’d at least want to get another true forward on the roster to balance things out.

Hollinger goes on to rail against the sophomore roster snubs, which included Wilson Chandler over Jamario Moon, Al Thornton over Carl Landry and the worst of all (he says) — Aaron Brooks over Ramon Sessions.

Interestingly, seven of the top 11 picks of the 2007 draft — Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes and Acie Law — did NOT make the sophomore roster. (I counted Greg Oden amongst the four since he made the rookie roster.) Conversely, six of the top 11 picks in the 2008 draft did make the rookie team.

Danny Granger’s effective throwback game

Former NBA player Eddie Johnson wrote a nice piece for HoopsHype about how Danny Granger uses “Old Man Moves” to score easily and efficiently.

Granger is a very good athlete, but someone has gotten in his ear and convinced Granger that playing below the rim will give him a tremendous advantage and save wear and tear on his body while still putting up huge numbers. I watched him a few weeks ago against the Suns and marveled at how he easily scored using a method we called back in the day Old Man Moves.

(Definition: Old Man Moves means a player who is mentally tough and has a smorgasbord of shots that keeps the defense wondering and off balance. He plays below the rim. He takes what the defense gives him. He plays with a level head. He does not waste energy with his dribble. He uses his teammates to get open. He uses a variety of shots to score. He takes big shots and makes them in the fourth quarter. He gets to the free throw line to maintain consistent confidence and he comes to score every night and is relentless).

Granger would drive to the basket and when Shaq and Amare Stoudemire went high in the air to challenge him, he in turn went economical and went low for easy non-spectacular shots. Most players in today’s NBA think poster or mano-a-mano, which is fine if you are LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Amare or Vince Carter. These players can elevate higher than everyone, but Granger somehow realizes his percentage of winning that battle is not in his favor. So he pulls up for the basic 12-foot shot or he shoots a running hook or maybe he uses his off hand. And I have also seen him execute the up and under – very much Old Man Moves.

I am intimately familiar with Old Man Moves, but not by choice. I had decent leaping ability in high school and could dunk with (relative) ease, but after a couple of knee scopes in college and playing on maybe the most unforgiving court in the country at UW-Platteville, I was definitely a below-the-rim kind of a player. (I swear they just laid the wood right on top of concrete. The floor had absolutely no give at all, which made it difficult to elevate.)

But back to Granger, who has increased his scoring by an average of 6.1 points per game in each of his four seasons in the NBA. He was amongst my original picks for the All-Star Game, and I think he’s an easy choice. The Pacers may be 18-28, but their points scored/points allowed differential is only -2.4, so they have been competitive. Granger is 4th in the league in scoring (25.8) and he is 9th in the league in three-point percentage (39.9%) amongst players that take more than five treys per game.

The bottom line is that the Pacers don’t have a lot of firepower, so opponents know that Granger is their main threat. And they still can’t stop him.

Let’s hope the coaches recognize this and put this guy on the All-Star team.

Picking the 2009 All-Star reserves

I made my picks more than two weeks ago. Then the All-Star starters (as voted in by the fans) were announced.

Now that we know who the starters will be, I’m wondering if there’s any reason to change any of my other picks. Let’s take a look…


Starters: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard

My original picks: Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Devin Harris, Danny Granger, Tayshaun Prince, Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter

I didn’t have Iverson on the team, much less starting, so one of my other eight picks has to go. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be Prince because the Pistons aren’t good enough to warrant two All-Star nods. The same could be said about the Nets, but Vince Carter’s stats are pretty big. I think I’ll go with this group, though there are a number of players that could take Carter’s spot. If any of these other guys — Johnson, Pierce, Bosh, Harris, Granger and Nelson — don’t make it, it’s going to be a pretty big snub.


Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming

My original picks: Dirk Nowitzki, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Chauncey Billups and Shaquille O’Neal

I had Nowitzki starting over Stoudemire, but no worries there. Would I swap out any of the players? Well, ‘Melo is still sidelined and the Nuggets don’t seem to be hurting too much without him. That weakens Anthony’s position and strengthens Billups’ argument. I could see David West, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson or Deron Williams replacing Anthony, but I doubt it will happen. I think the other picks are safe, though Williams could replace Parker or Billups, though I don’t think either guy deserves to miss the All-Star Game.

The reserves will be announced this Thursday on TNT.

Why Allen Iverson shouldn’t be starting in the All-Star Game

The starters for the NBA All-Star Game have been announced, and Allen Iverson is amongst the starters in the East. In my picks, I didn’t even have him on the roster, much less in the starting lineup. The Pistons are a mediocre team and AI is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Maybe that’s not his fault, but it doesn’t mean that he should get a golden ticket into the All-Star Game every season. More importantly, there are at least five guards — Joe Johnson, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Ray Allen and Vince Carter — that are more deserving. With AI’s inclusion, there won’t be room for at least two of them in Phoenix.

Here’s a look at their stats…

AI: 16.15 PER, 17.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 spg, 42% FG, 28% 3PT
JJ: 18.85 PER, 22.0 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 spg, 43% FG, 35% 3PT
DH: 23.16 PER, 21.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 45% FG, 32% 3PT
JN: 20.87 PER, 17.1 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.2 spg, 51% FG, 44% 3PT
RA: 17.96 PER, 18.0 ppg, 2.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 50% FG, 41% 3PT
VC: 20.6 PER, 21.5 ppg, 4.7 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 spg, 44% FG, 40% 3PT

And here’s an argument for each guy…

Joe Johnson: The Hawks are a game ahead of the Pistons and JJ’s stats are better in every category except for steals. I think Johnson deserves to start.

Devin Harris: The Nets are only 5 1/2 games behind the Pistons — let’s face it, both teams are mediocre — and Harris’ numbers are vastly better than Iverson’s.

Jameer Nelson: He’s having the second-best season of anyone on the Magic, and they are 8 1/2 games ahead of the Pistons. Iverson’s scoring is a bit better, but Nelson is a far better shooter and is as good or better than AI in every other category.

Ray Allen: They have the best record in the East, 10 games better than the Pistons. Allen is a far better shooter, and while his assist and steal numbers are lower than AI’s, he’s a better rebounder.

Vince Carter: See Devin Harris. Seriously, I prefer all these other guys to Carter, but I prefer Carter to Iverson. His numbers are better pretty much across the board and the Pistons and Nets aren’t too far apart in the standings. Carter and Harris are carrying the Nets while AI has more help — Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince (who is more deserving of an All-Star nod due to his terrific defense and good stats).

Since AI is in, that means we have to cross two players off that list of five (as there is likely to be just three additional guards on the roster). I would go with Johnson, Harris and Nelson. The Magic deserve two All-Star nods and Nelson’s numbers are a bit better than Ray Ray’s. As for Carter, the Nets probably don’t deserve two spots.

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