February 04, 2011
An NBA spokesman has pointed out that David Stern "won't wait long" to name a replacement for Yao Ming(notes) on the Western Conference All-Stars. Which makes sense, because voters shouldn't have waited long before deciding not to vote for Yao in the first place. And it also makes sense because the NBA shouldn't have waited this long to keep the archaic "two guards, two forwards, one center" ballot intact, with so many great bigs shuffling between power forward and center over the last decade.
You can kind of see what the fans were thinking for all those years, when they selected Vince Carter(notes) ahead of more suitable wings on the Eastern All-Stars -- even if Vince's turns as an All-Star weren't all that remarkable. Love might be one of my favorite players to watch in this league, but Steve Nash is just about everyone's favorite player to watch. Ever. Kids of all ages, children by the millions wait for Steve Nash when he comes running, and who wouldn't want to see him toss oops of all kinds toward Blake Griffin's(notes) inviting hands?
The problem is that Nash hasn't had as good a season as Kevin Love, though he's about a centimeter off. Few players have had as good a season as Kevin Love, if we're honest, which makes the fact that Love wasn't either voted on or chosen as one of the top-12 players in his conference an absolute joke.
Nash is, at least offensively, having a career season. And yet, even with that career season, he's on par with (depending on how you value assists or rebounds -- and Nash isn't even leading the league in assists) a player in just his third season. This is how legendary (dropping 21 a game, over 15 rebounds a night, shooting 45 percent from long range) a season Kevin Love is having.
And yet the Western coaches didn't vote for him because, I don't know, it didn't feel right? Pillocks, all.
They voted in Tim Duncan(notes), by the way. Tim is one of the best big men of all time, possibly this league's greatest defensive force over the last 40 years, and a player whose work we won't stop respecting until they have to drag him off the court. But he's also averaging 13 points and nine rebounds this season. Three assists, two blocks. Great year for his deep Spurs, but 13 and nine.
Think about that. Reverse those roles, find some amalgamation of per-minute stats or super efficiency or win shares or any other advanced metric you want to come up with, find a way to help it support a 13-and-nine guy making the All-Star team, and the old guard would lose their lunch. "Bullying!" they'd cry, as some hopeless baseball scribe did a few months ago in reference to Felix Hernandez's Cy Young Award win. The nerds would have gone too far. The sanctity of an exhibition game that nobody much cares for, three quarters in, would be torn to bits.
But if it's a name we've heard of? A player we get to see on those Thursday nights when 24 other teams (and nearly a hundred NBA coaches with an influence on the voting process are actually at home, for once) are off? Perhaps the greatest player of his generation, starting at forward (or center, nobody will tell us) for the best team in the NBA? Gotta go with him. Even if his averages have been doubled up by some guy in Minnesota on a regular basis this season.
Carmelo's on the fans, though. They're not charged with running games. They're not charged with working up game plans. And, perhaps, the idea behind Love pulling in all those big stats (even if Minnesota's terrible D costs him tons of rebounds) on a terrible team is spot on. Except he's not pulling in all those big stats because he's on a terrible team. Maybe he's pulling in all those big stats because terribly voting coaches are doing a terrible job of preparing to play Kevin Love. Maybe they're worried about Tim Duncan, who comes in to town two days after the terrible Timberwolves.
It's a joke, and it's one we're going to feel silly about years down the line. And it's unfortunate that yet another higher-up will cost Love a chance at really showcasing to a large audience what he's better at doing than anyone else in the league right now. Between (possibly) David Stern and this league's coaches and David Kahn, people don't really know what's up with Kevin Love right now, beyond those numbers. Which is a shame.
The Timberwolves haven't helped. The team's otherwise spot-on promotional crew put together a video last month that showcased Love's "numbers" (in the form of a cologne) to his great discredit. This turned me off, so imagine how much it turned off a too-bored assistant coach who wants to remind you there is more to the game than numbers?
The Timberwolves should have named Love's fragrance "Impact." Not only because that sounds like the name of a sort of thing that douche-y guys would spray all over themselves (without looking, I bet Kenneth Cole does make a cologne named "Impact"), but because that's what Love has on a game. He changes games. He wins few of them, but as a single player, you can only change a game so much. And, amongst the 12 already chosen for the Western All-Stars, he's certainly changed as many games as any of those guys. I mean that.
But he'll stay home more than likely. Because we can't rock the boat, the idea of replacing Tim Duncan (defends! plays with great players!) with Kevin Love is unsettling, and Steve Nash is the station at work that everyone can agree on. Even me. I love this song.
It doesn't make it, or me, right. And in a long season where a lot can go wrong, it's nice to see deserving players take in what's right. Especially as they'll be sadly cast aside -- though it's no fault of their own -- come May.
The Spurs will get what they deserve, come May. The West's top seed, and the expectations of a championship contender. Because they are a championship contender. And Tim Duncan is a huge part of that. It's going to be so nice to watch them take it to the kids come spring. And, probably, come summer.
It would have been nice to watch Kevin Love in a couple of weeks, though, playing among his peers. He deserved as much.