2011 NBA All-Star Game: Kevin Love Named To Western Conference Team To Replace Yao Ming

Love is leading the NBA in rebounds this season.

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2011 NBA All-Star Game: Kevin Love Named As Replacement For Yao Ming

It turns out that Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves wasn't an NBA All-Star snub after all. The former UCLA Bruin (well, for one year anyway) was named Friday to the Western Conference All-Star team by commissioner David Stern, as a replacement for Houston center Yao Ming, who was voted into the starting lineup but is injured and out for the season. It is the first All-Star selection for Love.

Love is leading the league in rebounds this season, averaging a whopping 15.5 boards per game. In the last 30 years, here is the complete list of players to average 15 rebounds per game in a season: Moses Malone, Kevin Willis, Dennis Rodman (six times, plus another season at 14.9 boards per game), and Ben Wallace. Love is also averaging 21.4 points per contest this season, a career high. Love was excited about getting named to the team:

"This is an incredible honor for me and I'm so proud to be able to represent the Timberwolves organization at one of the league's premier events," Love said. "I'm thankful to Commissioner Stern for giving me his support, as well as to all the great fans in Minnesota who have been behind me and my teammates all season long."

Love joins former UCLA Bruin teammate Russell Westbrook as NBA All-Stars on the Western Conference season. The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, February 20, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be televised on TNT.

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NBA All-Star Reserves: Who's The Biggest Snub?

Anticipating the All-Star reserves yesterday, I wondered who would make the cut and who wouldn’t. With the announcement of the selections today, we can see how I did, and analyze the snubs.

For the Western Conference, I included an injury replacement for Yao Ming in my predictions, so I still have a chance to go eight for eight. The seven reserves announced today (Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Deron Williams, Manu Ginobili and Russell Westbrook) were all on my list. However, I also included Kevin Love, who’s having an absolutely monstrous seasons, and I really thought that the coaches voting for the reserves would overcome their prejudice against losing teams to place him on the team. David Stern still has a chance to make me a perfect eight for eight overall by choosing Love to replace Yao.

Until such time as Yao’s replacement is named, Love is the biggest snub in the Western Conference, but by no means the only one. Steve Nash (a two time NBA MVP who’s still playing great basketball at 36) and LaMarcus Aldridge (almost single-handedly keeping Portland in the playoff race as the rest of the Blazers drop around him with injuries) are also on the short list of players who Stern could tab to replace Yao, and it’s clear that all of them are All-Star worthy.

From an LA-centric perspective, Lamar Odom of the Lakers and Eric Gordon of the Clippers are each having terrific seasons, and strongly resemble All-Stars, at least on paper. Unfortunately, neither had much of a chance of making the team, given the level of competition for the limited number of spots. For the 21-year-old Gordon, he’ll have other opportunities. For Odom, this might have been his best chance – he may have to settle for the title of “Best player in the NBA never to have made an All-Star team.” Andrew Bynum of the Lakers was second behind Yao in the fan vote for starting center, but he never had much of a chance given the number of games he’s missed this season. Given the state of centers in the NBA, particularly in the West, if Drew can ever get fully healthy, he could have many All-Star selections in his future.

The situation in the East is very different. The reserves announced today included players from only three teams: the Celtics (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen), the Hawks (Al Horford and Joe Johnson) and the Heat (Chris Bosh). In the top heavy East, only the six teams with winning records are represented on the All-Star team, and nine of the 12 players come from the Celtics, Heat and Hawks.

The situation in the East was opposite that in the West – instead of having too many All-Star-worthy choices, they had too few. Joe Johnson is arguably the least deserving – it’s his fifth straight selection, so reputation probably plays a part. Yes, he’s averaging over 20 points per game, and yes, he’s been better in the last month or so. But he’s shooting 45% from the field and 31% from three point range, so he’s taking a lot of shots to get those 20 points. Carlos Boozer might have been a better choice, but clearly the coaches felt he’d missed too many games (he’s played in 30 out of 48) to be included.

The biggest story is Griffin. It’s the first time since Yao Ming in 2003 that a rookie will be an All-Star, and the first time since Tim Duncan in 1998 that the coaches have chosen a rookie as a reserve. The same prejudice against losing teams that kept Love off the squad had to work against Blake as well, but there was just too much positive energy to ignore. He’s the most exciting and talked about player in the league right now, he provides the types of highlights every night that this game was made for, and the simple fact is that he’s really, really good. He’s the only player from a sub .500 team on either team at this point, and he definitely earned the spot.

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Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol Among Western Conference NBA All-Star Reserves

The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be played in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 20 at Staples Center, and the local fans will have plenty of favorites to cheer for. The NBA announced its NBA All-Star reserves tonight, on "Inside the NBA" on TNT, and among the Western Conference reserves are Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Griffin is having a stellar rookie season, averaging 23.0 points and 12.7 rebounds, along with a string of double-doubles, and is a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year. This is the third straight All-Star selection for Gasol, who was also an All-Star in 2006 with the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol's teammate, Kobe Bryant, was named a starter for the West last week, giving the Western Conference three players playing on their home floor

Here is the full list of NBA All-Star reserves for the Western Conference:

There will still be a "commissioner's selection" by David Stern to replace injured All-Star starter Yao Ming, who is out for the season.

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2011 NBA All-Star Game: Four Celtics Head Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves

The Boston Celtics already gave fans in Los Angeles reasons to boo with their win over the Lakers on Sunday, but now the fans in L.A. will have more reasons to jeer, as four Celtics will be on the floor at Staples Center in two weeks. The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be played in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 20 at Staples Center. The NBA announced its NBA All-Star reserves tonight, on "Inside the NBA" on TNT, and among the Eastern Conference reserves are Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen from the Celtics.

Here is the full list of NBA All-Star reserves for the Eastern Conference:

The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be televised on TNT.

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2011 NBA All-Star Game: Lakers' Pau Gasol Voted In As A Reserve

Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol won’t be starting in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, but he was chosen as a reserve after the NBA’s head coaches voted to decide which of the non-starters would be represented in Los Angeles for the NBA’s annual affair.

Gasol, a nine-year NBA veteran, will be appearing in his fourth All-Star game after previously playing in the 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2009-10 renditions.

Gasol was practically a no-brainer to be voted in by the coaches as he’s currently averaging 18.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.9 blocks in the Lakers 49 games so far this season.

Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, the other two possible Lakers that were considered possible All-Stars that could have been voted in to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Gasol, were not selected.

The game will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 20 at the Staples Center.

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NBA All-Star Reserves To Be Revealed Tonight On TNT

The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 20, and the fans at Staples Center will likely have several local players to root for. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers headed the All-Star starters, which were announced last Thursday. Tonight, at 4 p.m. PST on TNT, when the All-Star reserves will be announced, expect Blake Griffin and Pau Gasol to be Los Angeles players joining the Black Mamba.

Blake Griffin of the Clippers has been the talk of the league this season. His high-flying dunks already got him a ticket to the slam dunk contest, but the rookie of the year lock seems a likely choice for the All-Star game as well. Averaging 23.0 points and 12.7 rebounds, Griffin's numbers are hard to ignore.

Speaking of points and rebounds, former UCLA Bruin Kevin Love is destroying the boards this season. Love leads the league in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds, and is averaging 15.5 boards to go with his 21.7 points. In the last 30 years, here is the complete list of players to average 15 rebounds per game in a season: Moses Malone, Kevin Willis, Dennis Rodman (six times, plus another season at 14.9 boards per game), and Ben Wallace.

Pau Gasol is another likely reserve to be announced tonight. Averaging 18.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists as a key part of the triangle offense, Gasol is a good bet to make the All-Star team for the third consecutive season. Gasol was third in the Western Conference among forwards in fan voting, behind starters Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Gasol has the added advantage of starting 32 games at center this season, which makes him a prime candidate to replace injured starter Yao Ming.

All-Star reserves are chosen by the coaches in each conference. Each coach is required to vote for two guards, two forwards, one center, and two other players, and they can't vote for players of their own team. Each reserve is assigned a numerical value of one through seven, in case a tiebreaker is needed. The 2011 NBA All-Star Game will be televised on TNT on Sunday night, February 20.

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NBA All Star Selections: Anticipating the Snubs

When the NBA All Star Game reserves are announced on Thursday, there will be some snubs, as there always are. As many observers have pointed out, the All Star game rosters have had 12 players per conference since the days when the league had 18 teams. Now there are 30 teams, and the rosters are still 12 - there are bound to be some good players left home. Kobe Bryant's already in the game as a starting guard in the West, but five more LA players (Lakers Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum and Clippers Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon) deserve All Star consideration.

This season, more than any other in recent memory, there are way too many great players in the Western Conference to accommodate on one 12 man roster. The West could populate two 12 man squads with All Stars without reaching for any of the selections. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Eastern Conference. If a player who deserves to be an All Star who is not selected to the team is called a snub, we may need a new term for the opposite - the All Star who is selected despite not truly being deserving. Call that player a buns (the opposite of a snub).

The starters have already been selected, and happily there's really no quarrel there this year.

East

West

Dwight Howard

Yao Ming

Amare Stoudemire

Carmelo Anthony

LeBron James

Kevin Durant

Dwyane Wade

Kobe Bryant

Derrick Rose

Chris Paul

 

Of course Yao Ming was undeservedly selected to start despite being out for the season, but in this case those billion Chinese voters have actually done the game a service. Had Yao NOT been on the ballot, one of the 'true' centers in the Western Conference would have been voted to start. No offense to Bynum, Nene and Tyson Chandler, but Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan (who both play plenty of center, despite being listed as forwards on the ballot) are much more deserving and the West doesn't really need any undeserving players taking up spots.

No argument with the East starters either. That's a pretty amazing group right there. It's when you start talking about the reserves that it gets a little dicey.

When you look at the best players in the NBA, you immediately notice that there are just more great players in the Western Conference. For instance, if you rank the top players in the NBA by Player Efficiency Rating (PER), you get some pretty interesting results. (I realize that PER not a full proof metric, but it's a common means of ranking different players against each other.) Of the top 40 players who average at least 28 minutes per game, 28 of them are in the Western Conference. That's a fairly astounding 70%. And other than the top 4 (which contain James and Wade and Howard), the mix remains fairly consistent through the rankings: 6 of the top 10, 12 of the top 20 and 21 of the top 30 come from out West. In other words, to fill out a roster of 12 Eastern Conference players, you're choosing players who are comparable to the 25th or so best player in the West. You could indeed create two All Star teams from the West without lowering the standard set by the East.

So who is going to get snubbed in the West?

The coaches have already cast their votes for the reserves, and we are just awaiting Thursday's announcement. They vote for two guards, two forwards, one center and two wild cards, but happily they are given more leeway to be flexible on positions than the fans who fill out ballots. That means that coaches can choose to put Duncan or Gasol at center.

Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki are no-brainers among the Western Conference bigs. Deron Williams and Manu Ginobili are no brainers in the backcourt. There are a lot of other players that at first glance appear to be no brainers, but upon closer inspection might be left out in the squeeze of so many deserving candidates.

Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Duncan, Zach Randolph, David West, Paul Millsap and Lamar Odom all deserve serious consideration at the remaining forward spots. Unfortunately, that's eight names, and there are at most four spots (if you include both wild cards and Yao's center replacement). If Carmelo Anthony gets traded to the Eastern Conference between now and the game, that would open up one more spot.

Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry are all having All Star worthy seasons among the remaining Western Conference guards. Unfortunately, there are at most TWO spots available for those seven players, and that's only if both wild cards go to guards. In reality, it's likely that one wild card each will go to the guards and the forwards. The reality is that Martin, Ellis, Gordon and Curry have absolutely no chance of making the team - not playing for teams with losing records, not in the Western Conference this season. The extra backcourt spot will likely come down to Nash or Westbrook, and I'm guessing that Westbrook (who is having a monster season) will get the nod.

Back to the forwards, if we give one wild card spot to them, we're likely left with Love, Griffin and Duncan making the team, either as reserves or as Yao's replacement. Why do those three get in? Well, Love is having a season for the ages from a statistical standpoint. Players are rarely chosen from losing teams, but players are NEVER left off the roster when they're averaging 21.6 points and 15.6 rebounds. Love has to make it. Griffin will make it for several semi-obvious reasons: his numbers are undeniably great, the game is in Los Angeles, he's the most exciting and talked about player in the game today, and he was made for this spectacle. Even if Griffin isn't chosen by the coaches, David Stern will correct that mistake when he picks Yao's injury replacement. Duncan will make it because the Spurs have the best record in basketball, because he'll get lots of center votes, and because of his body of work.

Astoundingly, that leaves Nash (a two time MVP having perhaps he best season), Ellis (sixth in the NBA in scoring), Gordon (eighth in the NBA in scoring), Martin (with a shooting efficiency unparalleled in the NBA), Randolph (one of four players averaging 20-10) and Aldridge (carrying a Portland team that is still in the playoff hunt despite endless injuries) off the team, among many other terrific choices.

So no matter what happens, there are going to be some serious snubs in the West; there just aren't enough spots on the roster.

What about the bunses? Who is going to make the Eastern Conference team who doesn't really deserve to? There will likely be four Celtics selected as reserves: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Of those, Allen is arguably the least deserving, as he doesn't do a lot besides shoot - but golly can he shoot. (As an aside, if you compare Ray-Ray's shooting efficiency to Kevin Martin's you'll see that Martin has similar prowess, while scoring over 50% more on a per minute basis; if Allen is an All Star, Martin should certainly be one.) In addition, Chris Bosh will join his Miami superfriends, likely meaning that the East squad will take seven of their twelve players from two teams. Al Horford is having a terrific season, and certainly deserves a spot. That's eleven spots that seem pretty likely (depending on how you feel about Allen).

So what about the 12th spot? Here's where it gets dicey.

Carlos Boozer has better statistics than any other candidate, but he's missed 18 games this season, including all of October and November. Will the coaches vote for a player who has missed forty percent of the available games to this point? Beyond Boozer, what are the options? It may come down to choosing between a couple of Hawks: Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Unfortunately, Johnson had a very sub par season going until only very recently; if he's chosen, it will be based on reputation more than anything. Meanwhile Smith is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds per game; nice enough numbers I suppose, but they pale in comparison to some of the players who are certain to be left off the Western Conference roster. It tells you something about the poor choices available when Raymond Felton and Luol Deng (both good players, but far from the level of the available choices in the West) are being discussed as potential All Stars.

No matter what happens when the All Star replacements are announced Thursday, there are going to be ten or twelve snubs in the West; and a couple of bunses in the East.

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