February 2, 2013

All (of my) Stars

The All Star Game is a mostly a popularity contest, and the sooner we come to grips with that, the happier the rest of our existence will be. Fans are allowed to vote for their All Star starters because fans are given the freedom to pick and choose who they want to be seen. Unfortunately for the Basketball Gods, us fans don’t always want the right things. We want our favourites at the All Star Game, even if our favourites don’t deserve it as much as better (or healthier) alternatives.

So in annual All Star fashion, fans made some selections and people had a problem with some of those selections. This year’s list of ‘undeserving’ starters includes Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard, two immensely popular yet less productive big men. With the recent season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo, it’s also clear that some else from the East (probably young Kyrie Irving) will get the starting nod. The rest of the starters on both coasts (Wade, LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kobe, Durant, and Blake Griffin) have justified their popularity with strong All Star caliber play on court.

Screw it! I find myself on the other side of the fence, the side which very strongly believes that fans should be given exactly what they want! The side that wants to see his favourite players on court and the players that he dislikes far away!
My side also happens to be the side that believes that a player’s ultimate value shouldn’t be judged based on the number of his All Star appearances (which are a popularity contest for starters and only a mid-season judge of talent for the reserves) but on the number of First, Second, or Third All NBA Teams that they get named to at the end of the season. Kobe’s popular because he’s been to the All Star Game 15 times; he’s great because he’s made the All NBA First Team 10 times.

With those long disclaimers out of the way, I get to the crux of my point. Here are the players whom I would like to see the starting fives for the East and West teams. I’m going to pick players for each conference on the basis that the NBA set for the All Star Voting: two backcourt and three frontcourt players per team. They don’t all deserve it and they won’t all make you happy. But for one reason or another, these happen to be my favourite players in the NBA. They’re my All Stars:



Derrick Rose: You read that right. Derrick Rose. The man who hasn’t played a single NBA game all season. Or played a single game of basketball since the end of April 2012. But Rose is my favourite player and it would be incredible to see him make a comeback with the All Star Game. Even after the devastating injury, I believe that Rose will have enough in his tank to remain one of the most exciting players in the league. Rumour is that he has begun taking full contact in practice with the Bulls, and should be ready to suit up for the Chicago Bulls soon after the All Star Weekend. I would just like to pre-pone his return a little.

Dwyane Wade: Wade has made a career out of proving his doubters wrong. Underrated in his own draft class, he became one of the biggest stars in the league and rode his way to a championship and Finals MVP in just his third season. He recovered from devastating injuries to come back and lead the league in scoring. He adjusted his game to fit in alongside LeBron James and pitched in just enough whenever needed to win another championship last season. And despite the naysayers, he continues to be one of the elite players in the conference. And despite the fact that LeBron mostly overshadows him now, Wade still has the ability to be the best player on the court on any given night.


Carmelo Anthony: As a Knicks fan, I was always a little sceptical about how ‘Melo would fit in and how he could really elevate this team. This year, most of that scepticism has ended. Anthony has been playing like an MVP contender and the Knicks are one of the best teams in the league. His game does have a lot of faults, but I’m willing to overlook that: ‘Melo is one of the most dangerous scorers of all time, and this season, has become one of my favourite players.

Kevin Garnett: We will be seeing this forward pairing in the real All Star Game anyways, and it’s going to be extremely interesting especially considering the recent clash between Garnett and Anthony (#HoneyNutCheerios). From being a man-child in the mid-90s in Minnesota to graduating as a do-it-all MVP and then moving up as an elder statesmen, leader, and defensive monster in Boston, Garnett is a rare breed of stars in the NBA. He is already a champion and one of the greatest players in history. He is not having his best season so far, but with Rondo injured, expect him to fight till the very end for the Celtics.

Amar’e Stoudemire: Amar’e? – really? – Amar’e?? Yup. Forget the oversized contract, the injuries, the fact that he’s now a bench player, the lack of defensive ability, or the fire extinguisher incident. Amar’e is one of those players I like and I don’t expect anyone to understand why (Warning: I like a lot of players like that). When he’s on song, he’s a lot of fun to watch. And it was his arrival in New York back in 2010 that has made the Knicks’ turnaround possible. Amar’e was the first big name player to sign with the Knicks and bring hope back to the Garden. Anthony followed suit, and even though the two have struggles playing together, the Knicks would’ve been juggling for a lottery spot if he hadn’t signed with them three years ago. So thanks, Amar’e. Stay away from fire extinguishers though.



Jeremy Lin: To those who’ve been living under a rock, Mars or North Korea for the past year: last February, this Asian-American guy from Harvard who used to crash on his teammates’ couch and didn’t have a guaranteed NBA contract got propelled by injuries around to start for a team that played in the world’s biggest basketball market. He went – for the lack of a better phrase – absolutely apeshit. He broke scoring records, he was named the Player of the Week, he appeared on cover of magazines, he hit game-winners, he outperformed some of the game’s best, and he led his disappointing team to a lot of wins. Then, people figured out his weaknesses and shut him down, and then he got injured. Then, he left that city to go play in Houston for a lot of money. This season, he hasn’t been good in Houston, but he hasn’t been horrible either. But in my heart, Linsanity lives forever. So there.

Ricky Rubio: Need I really make a case here? Sure Rubio’s been recently and not lived up to expectations this season. But it’s still Rubio, one of the most exciting playmakers in the game and a devastatingly good defender when he’s on song on the other end of the floor. The Timberwolves and Rubio have been struggling recently, but I still want to see him start in my All Star team.


Metta World Peace: If you’ve been following my blog or my Twitter feed for long enough, you perhaps already know of my unexplainable fascination with the man formerly known as Ron Artest. Metta has been one of my favourites for a decade. From the highs of a Defensive Player of the Year award and a crucial role in a Championship team to the lows of the Malice at the Palace and a dozen other half-crazy incidents through his career, I’ve had Artest’s, I mean, Metta’s back. What can I say: he’s hilarious. And he needs to be an All Star!

Kevin Durant: Leading scorer en route to a historically great shooting season top MVP candidate perhaps ready to become the best player in the NBA makes his three pointers look like layups can score 30 points with his eyes closed is the man everyone wants to take the last shot has the sweetest game in the league could be one of the greatest pure talents in the game for all time just 24 years old and is just too awesome for punctuation.

Pau Gasol: Metta’s Laker teammate has been going through a lot of ups and downs in recent years. His arrival to the Lakers in 2008 rejuvenated them and he helped guide the team to three Finals and two championships. But he has been struggling since mid-2011 and – outside of dominating performances for Spain – hasn’t been himself in the NBA. Still, I believe he’s one of the most purely gifted and intelligent big men in the league and a sentimental favourite.

There. Regardless of whether or not any other fans show up, now here is an All Star game I’d like to watch!

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