As Comrade Bucher has thoughtfully pointed out in his submission today, the basketball world is split on the matter of David Lee or Stephen Curry as the Warriors’ All-Star Game representative.
Actually, though, that isn’t really true. The basketball world as such doesn’t really give a damn about the All-Star Game one way or another, and to the extent that it does care, it usually cares on behalf of its own guys and only its own guys. It’s the Bay Area that cares because, well, because the Warriors haven’t had an All-Star of any kind in 16 years, a record for irrelevance that comes as quite the shock to, well, nobody really.
I mean, the Bucks and Kings haven’t had an All-Star since 2004, when Peja Stojakovic made the team, and you don’t hear their fan bases kvetching about it. And Detroit’s gone six years since Chauncey Billups, and not a peep out of them, either.
But four presidential administrations is a long time, so we fuss and cuss a bit more than most, and we particularly do it this year because the Warriors no longer stink.
Now nobody is greedy enough to think that both Curry and Lee will make it, in part because of the First Law of All-Star Games: You Get On The Team A Year After You Deserve It, and You Get Omitted A Year After You Deserve That, Too. This being the first year of truly deserving it for both, a double omission would be well in keeping with the First Law, and a single omission is quite likely.
In addition, because the NBA has less fat on its All-Star teams (12 and 12 only, just like the regular season), it is harder to get on a team to begin with. It is why Curry is believed to be the more likely one to miss – because coaches know Tony Parker of San Antonio better, and don’t hold either of them in higher esteem than Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Nor should they.
Lee, though, is another matter, as there are two spots in the frontcourt available, and his raw numbers are better than they’ve ever been, and they are also numbers that have less of the me-first taint that Lee’s prior seasons have had.
There are, though, two intriguing reasons why maybe neither should make the team. Contagion, and inspiration.
Contagion, because they don’t play defense in the All-Star Game, and Warrior head coach Mark Jackson may not want the cooties of breeze-by defending to infect his two best players.
Only two All-Star Games since 1975 have featured games that ended in the 110s, and there is never a shred of defense being played at any point unless the game is close at the end and the competitive instinct makes even a rare appearance.
Of course, we know that historically a game with no defense would normally be exactly the kind in which a Warrior would historically thrive, but you so rarely get someone named to an All-Star team because “he couldn’t defend a waste basket, and even if you asked, he would probably refuse.” And this Warrior team defends, which is why it doesn’t stink.
As for inspiration, well, nothing jump-starts a flagging will quite like a lungful of disrespect, even if fabricated. If the Warriors got shut out again, one must surely think it would become one of those meaningful in-the-room talking points.
(Procedural Note: The All-Star Game coach is a perk for having the best record in the conference on January 31, and Scott Brooks of Oklahoma City cannot repeat as coach by rule. The only other reasonable possibilities, then, are Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio;’s Gregg Popovich. Memphis’ Lionel Hollins and Jackson have an outside shot, but we choose not to predict the catastrophic injury that would have to result for either of them to pass Del Negro and/or Popovich).
It is hard to know whether Del Negro or Popovich of San Antonio, has any compelling animus either toward or against Curry or Lee, but they surely have known preferences for their own. The conference’s coaches vote for the remaining seven spots after the fans get done, but that doesn’t mean that lobbying for and against doesn’t take place. In fact, we’d be disappointed if Popovich wasn’t pushing Parker, and since Popovich usually gets listened to, that works for Parker and against Curry.
As a sidelight, the Clippers and Warriors are developing a nice little hate-on these days, and there is one more game between the two on January 21 to cement those ill feelings. If Del Negro were to be the West coach, one can only specu-guess whether he would lobby to keep Lee and Blake Griffin separated.
Which brings us to the other reason maybe it would be better for the Warriors if they both got aced – inspirational speechmaking.
Jackson could make a case within the room that “Nobody believes in you, nobody likes you, nobody wants you. All there is, is you, so get out there and make people regret their choices.” True, that would only affect Lee and Curry, but as they are among the team leaders, their mates might take it personally as an extension of their own under-the-radar status.
And frankly, the Warriors with an edge are way more interesting than . . . well, than the Warriors we are used to.