February 25, 2013

Chinese Basketball Association: Regular Season Round-Up & a Preview of the Playoffs

This article was first published on February 19, 2012 on Court Side.

China’s Basketball Calendar roughly parallels their zodiac calendar. By the first week of February, the Year of the Dragon concluded in China, and the Chinese New Year also coincided closely with the end of the regular season of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Now begins the Year of the Snake, and the CBA playoffs will begin about two weeks into the New Year. It’s a time for fresh beginnings and new starts. Once the haze of the festival celebratory fireworks clears, the picture ahead will get clearer.

The professional league in China has taken major strides forward each year since its inception just 18 years ago. This year, a slew of more stars including Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, and the returning Yi Jianlian joined the league that already featured big names like Stephon Marbury and several big name Chinese superstars. It made for an exciting few months of basketball. The questions now begin as we look ahead: Who has the best chance of moving forward to capture the CBA championship? Who will be the big surprises and the big disappointments? Which team can leave the Dragon behind and welcome the Snake with fireworks on court?

Eight of the 17 total teams in the league have qualified for the post-season, which is set to begin on February 27th. The eight qualified teams play the first round of the playoffs in a best-of-five challenge, before moving to best-of-seven in the semi-finals and Finals, which will conclude around the end of March.

The teams who have qualified for the playoffs are: Guangdong, Shandong, Beijing, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Guangsha, Dongguan, and Zhejiang.

Last year’s finalists, winners of seven CBA championships, and by far the strongest team this season, the Guangdong Southern Tigers are looking in top form to return to the Finals for the 11th straight year! Guangdong have become China’s marquee team, featuring many of the best players from China’s national squad and boasting of the league’s best record over the past decade. Guangdong finished the 32-game 2012-13 season with just four losses, decimating nearly every team that came in their way. Guangdong feature China’s best player – Yi Jianlian – who returned to the CBA this season after an unsuccessful NBA stint to boost his already powerful side. They are perfectionists, replacing their successful coach mid-season to add an even more successful coach, and replacing their foreign import Terrence Williams at the end of the season to add Donald Sloan – formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers – to their roster.

Beijing Ducks – led by former NBA All Star Stephon Marbury – were the surprise winners of last year’s CBA title in their first-ever visit to the Finals. Despite a few minor hiccups, Beijing continued to be amongst the league’s elite this season behind the efforts of Marbury (who was amongst the league’s leaders in points and assists), Randolph Morris, Li Gen, and Zhe Ji. Like last year, Marbury has gotten his teammates involved more in the regular season before taking over in the playoffs. Will Guangdong – or any other opponent – find a way to stop him this time around? The Ducks face Zhejiang Guangsha Lions in the first round.

Finishing in the bottom four last season, CBA’s best ‘Asian import on hire’ Zaid Abbas (from Jordan) joined the Shandong Lions this season and helped completely change the fortunes for his new side, assisting other solid foreign imports Pooh Jeter and Jackson Vroman to help take this underdog side to second place in the league. But question marks remain if this team now has the mettle to carry on their hot streak into the playoffs. Their first round opponent are the Dongguan Leopards.

Those with an outside bet to challenge for the title could be the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of China’s cold far West, featuring veteran Mengkte Bateer and talented imports James Singleton and Von Vafer. Xinjiang will first have to deal with fifth place Liaoning Dinosaurs in the first round.

The first round could see an intriguing 1 vs. 8 matchup between Guangdong and the eighth-seeded Zhejiang Golden Bulls. While Zhejiang only barely managed to scrape into the postseason ahead of Shanxi and Bayi, they feature one of the league’s most entertaining scorers in Quincy Douby as well as forgotten former NBA big man Eddy Curry.

Outside the playoff picture, one of the revelations in the CBA this season was Shavlik Randolph of the Foshan Long Lions. Randolph was the CBA’s leading scorer (32.7 ppg) and finished the season third in rebounds (14.4 rpg). He missed the playoffs, but his performance could make him in high-demand in the CBA (or the NBA?) for the future.

Also missing the playoffs were two high-profile former NBA All Stars, both of whom who saw their teams finish in the bottom four: Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas. McGrady had a decent individual season for the Qingdao Eagles, but his efforts weren’t enough otherwise to save his poor team from a last place finish in the league. Gilbert Arenas showed glimpses of form for the Shanghai Sharks, but he missed more than half the season to injury and his squad suffered in the constant flux, finishing at 14th place.

But the ones left behind are the past; they’re the ones slain by the Dragon and unable to compete with the Snake. Now we look ahead: Will Guangdong get back to the top of Chinese Basketball? Will the Ducks bring the title back to China’s capital? Or will the New Year bring a new champion?

February 24, 2013

League Champions: What if the NBA championship was always decided in the regular season?

What would NBA History look like if champions were crowned for the work they did over the dominating six month period of league play instead of just the final two months of playoffs? Year after year, we hear of teams who play fantastic basketball in the regular season (like the Bulls in the past two seasons), only to be exposed and defeated over a grueling best-of-seven playoff series. On the flip side, we see teams who are underdogs in the regular season but are able to put together a magical run (see: Dallas Mavericks 2011) to the title in the post-season.

This is what I did: I checked the team with the best regular season record from each year of the NBA since its inception in 1947 to compare with the team that actually won the championship that year. You’ll be surprised to hear that 36 times out of the total 66 NBA seasons (that’s 54.5 percent) the league and playoff champions have been different. That’s over half the time! That means that, over half the time in NBA history, the ‘best’ team of the league that year didn’t win the knockout stage.

So here is an analysis of teams who would be holding NBA titles if the championship was handed for the regular season.

Click here to read full article!

February 23, 2013

Dead on the Deadline

February 22nd done came and went. And it was definitely a trade deadline to remember.

For the next few minutes at least. 

Or in my case, for the next day and a half, since I've set up for the unenviable task of rounding up all the magnificent small moves that 'highlighted' the NBA's Trade Deadline Day. 

Many NBA observers are calling it the Most Boring Trade Deadline ever. But all jokes aside, the lack of big moves isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a sign that many NBA teams are getting smarter about moving some pieces just for the heck of moving them, and are instead hoping to improve chemistry in the unit that they already have. On the flipside, one could say that it is also a sign that teams are just being over-cautious and are scared to take a risk. 

Sometimes though, the best moves are the small ones. We're already around 60 percent into the season, and any drastic change would require new players in starring roles to learn their new system in limited time, without the luxury of a training camp or a pre-season. Sometimes, the small moves, such as adding a much needed back-up point guard and beefing up the front-line can make a big difference. 

This year, the list of players that didn't get traded has been far more exciting than the ones who did. Circulating in the rumours over recent weeks were names like Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Carlos Boozer amongst many others. In the end: all of the above will be wearing the jersey at least until the end of this season. 

But here is a list of the 'biggest' players that did beat the buzzer and move to a new squad before the Deadline expired:

JJ Redick: Redick isn't going to be your team's best or your team's second-best player (unless your team is the Bobcats), but on good night's, he can surely be the third best. That - my friends - is the marquee name in this deadline. The Magic traded Redick along with my main man Gustavo Ayon (#AyonSanity) and Ish Smith to Milwaukee in return for Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, and rookie Doron Lamb. Redick is a solid shooter and will make an interesting clog of guards in Milwaukee along with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Is his arrival the early sign of Jennings' departure over the summer? 

Thomas Robinson: Fifth pick in the NBA draft and the best player for last year's national championship runners-up Kansas, Robinson never quite found his footing in Sacramento behind a logjam of big men. The strong power forward only played about 16 minutes a game. The Kings traded him along with Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt, and a second round pick to Houston in return for Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, and cash. Hopefully the young man can fit in well along with the core of Harden, Lin, Asik, Parsons, and the eighth place Rockets. This trade happened earlier than Deadline Day, but I'm adding it here anyways because I'm desperate. 

Jordan Crawford: Famous for once dunking on LeBron while still in High School and proclaiming that he is better than Michael Jordan, Crawford is a professional high-volume/low-efficiency scorer from Washington. The Celtics traded for him on the deadline, because I guess they need an off-the-bench offensive spark urgently, especially since the injured Rajon Rondo isn't around to get them easy shots anymore. Leandro Barbosa and others went the other way to Washington. 

Eric Maynor: The Thunder sent their half-decent back-up point guard to Portland in exchange for Giorgio Printezis and a trade exception. That's all I've got to say about that. 

Ronnie Brewer: Brewer is a solid perimeter defender who was being wasted away on the New York Knicks' bench after a decent start to the season. The Knicks sent up to Oklahoma City in exchange for a future second round pick and cash. Brewer will be a good defensive back-up for the Thunder, while the Knicks used the extra cleared cap space to sign Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract.

Sebastian Telfair: Arrived in Toronto from Phoenix in exchange for Hamed Hadaddi. Yawn. Remember when Telfair was supposed to become a big deal?

A few other smaller trades look place, and you can find a nice recap of updates here on SLAMOnline.com.

February 21, 2013

How India invaded the NBA All Star Weekend

No, there are no Indian players in the NBA, much less than players with the elite talent to make it amongst the world’s best that played the NBA All Star Game on February 17th. But the Indian presence at the world’s largest annual NBA gala got bigger than ever at Houston 2013.

As SLAM Magazine veteran Lang Whitaker noted in his GQcolumn a few days ago, the “All-Star is about basketball, but it's really the biggest industry convention for people who cover the NBA.” Let me add to that point that the weekend (or half a week) is the biggest industry convention for anyone and everyone even loosely connected to the league. Having covered the craziness, excitement, and the superstar overload first hand at the All StarWeekend in Los Angeles two years ago, I can attest that – even though the official events at the Weekend may not be of anything more than exhibition value – it is still the ultimate basketball festival, the centre of the NBA universe.

And with NBA’s interest growing in India (and other Asian/international markets), it was inevitable that India’s interest would grow reciprocally for the NBA…

This year, the NBA held for the first time the ‘Sprite Uncontainable Game’: 22 amateur ‘undiscovered talents’ between the ages of 14-30 were chosen from nine countries around the world to win an all-access trip to the All Star Weekend and play in the ‘Uncontainable Game’. Two young Indian players – Bopanna Pardhana Nanaiah (22) and Akilan Pari (23) – won NBA India’s national3x3 tournament last year and were the lucky two chosen for this event. Thousands of players from Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Mumbai took part in the NBA 3x events last year, with the Finals held in Mumbai in October.

Players from Canada, China, Estonia, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the United States added flavour to the final international rosters.

Nanaiah (from Kodagu in Karnataka) and Pari (from Pollachi in Tamil Nadu) were divided into ‘Team Intense’ and ‘Team Sudden’ respectively. They were lucky enough to be in the presence of some great NBA players: Team Intense was ‘coached’ by Kobe Bryant, Andrea Bargnani, and Al Horford; while LeBron James, Omri Casspi, and Serge Ibaka were the coaches of Team Sudden.

There were many more familiar faces at Houston last week. NBA India’s Senior Director of Basketball Operations Troy Justice and his young padawan for NBA coaching in India Eban Hyams also soaked in the non-stop action at the weekend. Justice even conducted an NBA Fit clinic with legendary point guard (and my childhood favourite) Gary Payton!

For the past few years, the NBA has invited top representatives of basketball federations from around the world to the All Star Weekend, and India was represented until recent years by former Basketball Federation of India (BFI) CEO Harish Sharma. Sharma passed away last year, but the presence of the federation at NBA’s biggest ‘industry convention’ continues.

And of course, those following the NBA from back home in India would’ve noticed a continuing increase of mainstream media coverage live from the league into Indian daily newspapers, our TV channels, and our webpages. NBA fans in India had their most in-depth look at All Star events ever this year, as both Sony SIX and CNN IBN were on-site, gathering footage and conducting interviews of the weekend’s events.

The Times Group (behind the Times of India newspaper and Times Now) has a digital partnership with the NBA, and have been sending correspondents to cover the league on-site for years. This year, Saibal Bose was there feeding back daily stories from the events. On Saturday, Bose reported that the NBA Commissioner David Stern considers India  a ‘potential basketball giant’, and about how he would like to emulate the success of the IPL to help grow NBA in India. On Sunday, Bose spoke to superstar Kobe Bryant about potentially coming to India, to which Kobe replied: “I am working on my cricket skills.”

I couldn't be in Houston this year, but NBA.com/India handed the baton to fellow hoops-geek Jonathan Rego to cover the Weekend through his Fan Blog daily. Rego’s blog is an entertaining read, following his journey as he met the game’s biggest stars, reported on little-but-important things that the television audiences may have missed, and put into words the indescribable experience of being immersed in the fantastic world of the NBA for the first time!

Beware NBA: the floodgates have opened. And the Indians are coming!

(Now can we get a player good enough to actually play in the league? Please pretty please?) 

February 19, 2013

NBA India hires Yannick Colaco as managing director

NBA India has hired Yannick Colaco as their Managing Director this week. The Goan Colaco spent the previous ten years of his career working with Nimbus Sport – the company behind Neo Sports/Neo Prime, etc. – and was their Chief Operating Officer from 2009 till recently. Colaco will join a team that includes Senior Director for Development Akash Jain and the omnipresent Senior Director of Basketball Operations / Superhero Troy Justice amongst others in the NBA India office.

Click here to read full feature!

February 17, 2013

Air 50: 50 Reasons why Micheal Jordan is the Greatest Of All Time

“There’s Michael Jordan, and then there’s the rest of us.”

Those words were said by the man that many – including I – consider to be the second greatest basketball player in history, Earvin Magic Johnson. But even Magic considers Michael to be on a different stratosphere to himself and other greats. In recent years, fans of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have dared compare such mere mortals to the almighty Basketball God. Let’s get it right: Michael Jordan is the Greatest Of All Time. Basketball’s G.O.A.T. Greater than LeBron, Kobe, Magic, Russell, Bird, Duncan, Shaq, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, and a host of other legends. Like Magic himself said: the battle is for second place.

And if you don’t believe me, I drop 50 reasons why Michael Jordan – who turned 50 years old today – is number 1.

Click here to read the full feature

February 16, 2013

Houston, we have all the stars: An All Star 2013 Preview

The home of the Houston Rockets is hosting basketball’s biggest annual festival – the 2013 NBA All Star Game – on Sunday, February 17th (Monday morning in India). Between LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and fans’ leading vote-getter Kobe Bryant, the exhibition will feature some of the biggest names in basketball today. All your favourite players (or at least most of them; sorry D-Rose) will be on the same court together, bringing fans in over 200 countries basketball’s biggest party.

From the Shooting and Dunk Competitions to the big All Star Game itself on Sunday night, here is my preview and my predictions for what to expect over the next two days!

Click here to read full feature!

February 7, 2013

India’s Big Basketball Hope Satnam Singh Bhamara: One Step Closer

This feature was first published on Court Side News on February 2, 2013.

You may have heard of Satnam Singh Bhamara already. You may have already heard about the 7-foot (215 cm) teenager from a remote North Indian village. You may have heard about the giant 10-year-old boy who couldn’t even spell ‘Basketball’ that was found on his father’s farm in Punjab. You may have heard how this boy was taught Basketball and within four years, become the brightest young player in his country. You may have read about how this young man was recruited amongst a chosen few Indian youngsters to get a scholarship from the renowned IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, USA. How this boy continued to improve and began to dominate Junior and Youth championships in against strong Asian competition.

And if you’ve been paying attention, you would have definitely realized how this 17-year-old has developed into the biggest hope for Basketball fans from India’s 1.2 billion population, a fan-base that has yet to see one of their own make it to the big league.

If you’ve been following Bhamara’s story, then here’s the next chapter. Here’s where the 11th grader stands now, and where he’s looking ahead. Now, hear it directly from him.

“I’ve been working hard for the past year,” said Bhamara – speaking in rustic Punjabi – over a phone interview from Florida, “I think that I have made many improvements in my game. I had trouble keeping pace with the American game in the beginning, but now, I can run up and down the court quite comfortably. This has helped me be more aggressive in-game situations. My coaches and I have also been working to help my post-game: hook shots, jumps shots from close the basket, and finishing strong around the basket.”

Bhamara represents IMG’s Senior School team and says that the squad is halfway through their season. But he is no ordinary High-School student; in his vacations, he travels back to India for more Basketball, to represent state and nation in various important tournaments.

In December, Bhamara was back in India to represent home state Punjab in India’s biggest domestic Basketball competition – the Senior National Championship – in Ludhiana. Led by Bhamara, who was his team’s leading scorer in most games, Punjab finished runners-up in the tournament, only to lose the Finals to the side from Uttarakhand. The 17-year-old showed no trouble playing against – and dominating – veteran Indian players at the peak of their powers.

“I think I played really well at the Senior Nationals,” says Bhamara, “I was able to make my stamp on each game on both ends of the floor. I knew it was an important tournament, and despite some niggling injuries to my wrist and my elbow, I played hard and gave it my all. The best game was probably against Delhi where I scored 31 points.”

Bhamara was strong on the other end of the floor too: more than one respected big man in India struggled to score on Punjab whenever Bhamara manned the paint. From barely getting action in Senior tournaments a year ago, he graduated to becoming the focal point on his star-studded team.

But the next step for the youngster will be to dominate for India – at the Senior level – like he has been for his state. Bhamara’s biggest international breakthrough performance came two years ago when he was Asia’s leading at the U16 FIBA Asia Championship in Vietnam. This year, he will be setting his sights on returning to play for the Senior squad which – led by newly appointed American Head Coach Scott Flemming – will be playing in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship in Philippines.

“I still have to make a lot of improvements in my game,” Bhamara says, “I have to get fitter so I can be even faster up and down the court. I have to work on my footwork and my post moves. I want to double my effort in everything that I’ve learnt so far.”
During his short trip back to India, Bhamara was also able to pay a brief visit to his village Ballo Ke in Punjab, where he is hoping to be a role model for more youngsters to pick up basketball. He held a meeting with many in the village and has even sought the help of high ranking administrators in Punjab to build a full-length court in the village.

Like any intriguing High School talent in the US, Bhamara is already hearing offers from colleges hoping to recruit him. So far, he says that he has heard from D1 schools like Oregon State and Stanford. “But I’m still only in my Junior year,” he says, “I have a lot more time before I even think about college. I have to focus on my studies in school right now – I still struggle with the English language, and I have to get better to improve my overall academic performance.”

With each passing year, Bhamara is moving one step closer to becoming a top Asian talent. He is moving one step closer to his dream of being the first Indian to play NCAA D1 hoops, and of course, to fulfilling the dream of every young basketball player to play in the NBA. There is still a long way to go before Bhamara – still a raw talent – can be determined to be good enough for the world’s top leagues. But most importantly to the youngster, he is one step closer to becoming the kind of player that India’s basketball future can be built around.

“I have to improve as much as I possibly can,” he says, “So I can keep coming back and playing for India!”

February 4, 2013

ONGC Men & Tamil Nadu women win 27th Federation Cup in Bangalore

The finals of one of India’s premier national basketball competitions – the 27th Federation Cup All India National Basketball Championship for Men & Women – came down to a deservingly exciting finish at the Sri Kantaveera Stadium in Bangalore (Karnataka) on Sunday, February 3rd. An up-and-down matchup in the Women’s finale saw Tamil Nadu survive for a 1-point win against Maharashtra. In the Men’s Final, Uttarakhand’s dominant side ONGC stormed their way to a blowout victory over IOB (Chennai).

Click here to read full recap!

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!