Curry or Lee in the All-Star Game? It's a toss-up

Curry or Lee in the All-Star Game? It's a toss-up
January 7, 2013, 8:30 am
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The survey produced a 6-6 split on which one is most deserving and nearly every voter was emphatic about his choice. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson is stumping for both power forward David Lee and point guard Steph Curry to be selected for next month’s NBA All-Star Game in Houston, but odds are that only one of them will be recognized.

If a survey of a dozen GMs, coaches and other front-office personnel is any indication, deciding which one should go could make for considerable debate. The survey produced a 6-6 split on which one is most deserving and nearly every voter was emphatic about his choice.

“It’s Curry, hands down,” said one Pacific Division assistant coach. “He’s the leader. He makes shots down the stretch.”

“It’s David Lee,” said a Northwest Division GM. “He’s the only one on that roster who does what he does.”

Western Conference coaches will vote on how to fill the seven All-Star roster spots left after a fan vote selects the starters. Based on the most recent returns, the starting five would be the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, the Clippers’ Chris Paul, the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, the Lakers’ Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden are considered virtual locks to fill two more guard spots and the Spurs’ Tim Duncan is equally certain to take a frontcourt berth. The Memphis Grizzlies are expected to be represented by at least one of their big men, either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph. There are no set rules on how many backcourt and frontcourt players have to be selected to the roster, but it’s generally a split of five guards and seven frontcourt players. Which tilts the scales toward Lee.

If Paul, Bryant, Westbrook and Harden get the first four guard spots, Curry would have to beat out the Spurs’ Tony Parker for the fifth and final one. If Durant, Howard, Griffin, Duncan and Randolph take the first five frontcourt berths, Lee would have to beat out the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka, the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge, the Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari and the Jazz’s Al Jefferson for one of the two remaining ones. Rudy Gay, listed as a small forward, also could be in the mix, along with Gasol, although no one in the survey saw him being selected ahead of Randolph or (Marc) Gasol.

Those voting for Curry discounted Lee’s league-leading double-double mark (14 at last count) as somewhat hollow, because Lee has had a reputation for posting statistics. Sof ome suspect getting numbers is more important to him than doing the dirty work that leads to winning. “Steph has more influence on their winning or losing,” said a Northwest Division assistant GM. “David Lee is going to get those numbers, regardless.”

But one Eastern Conference GM believes Lee’s numbers are made of different stuff this season. “That’s the key,” he said. “He’s playing for the team now. The numbers are more meaningful.”

But Curry’s supporters believe Lee has, in part, fed off of Curry’s success. “David Lee needs him,” said the Pacific Division assistant coach. “Steph doesn’t need David Lee to be successful. Lee’s numbers are much better when he’s on the floor with Steph than when he’s on it with Jarrett Jack.”

One GM said no matter which one goes, it shouldn’t be viewed as definitive as far as who is more important to the Warriors, because there’s too much of a political aspect to the selection process.

“It has zero to do with basketball,” he said. “It’s the old-boy network, the ‘I’ll vote for your guy if you vote for mine’ kind of deal.”