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NBA All-Star selections are mostly fitting

The Times' Ben Bolch evaluates the West and East rosters for the Feb. 26 game at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.

February 11, 2012|By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
  • Kobe Bryant, left, and Miami's LeBron James will be making their regular appearances in the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 26 in Orlando; Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, top right, is a Western Conference reserve despite putting up his worst numbers since his second NBA season; New York sensation Jeremy Lin, bottom right, didn't make the Eastern Conference roster, but the league should find a way to involve him.
Kobe Bryant, left, and Miami's LeBron James will be making their regular… (Lynne Sladky / Associated…)

NBA All-Star selections can seem as predictable as upbeat endings in Disney movies.

In a shocker, Yao Ming wasn't voted in this year even though he has retired.

LeBron James could be 84 and fans would probably still nudge him and his wheelchair into the midseason showcase if he were on the ballot.

Familiarity resonates, even if talent doesn't always.

Which makes this season's selections all the more remarkable: Fans and coaches mostly got it right.

Yes, the picks could use a nip here and a tuck there, but nothing that would require the handiwork of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.

Here's one assessment of rosters that shouldn't prompt many guffaws when introduced Feb. 26 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.:

West team

Starters: Kobe Bryant, Lakers; Andrew Bynum, Lakers; Chris Paul, Clippers; Blake Griffin, Clippers; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City.

Reserves: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Marc Gasol, Memphis; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Kevin Love, Minnesota; Steve Nash, Phoenix; Tony Parker, San Antonio; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.

Starting lineup shake-up: Replace Griffin with Love. Sure, Griffin can dunk over cars and/or Kendrick Perkins in a single bound. He's also averaging a double-double in points and rebounds for the resurgent Clippers.

But Love is averaging more points and more rebounds than his Clippers counterpart while leading the Timberwolves to nearly as many victories as they tallied all of last season. He also hit that game-winning three-pointer against, wait for it, the Clippers.

How did he get here? Nowitzki. The Mavericks star was channeling Wayne and Garth when he said "I'm not worthy," and he was onto something. He had to sit out four games because his knee and his conditioning were lacking, not to mention his shooting; he's putting up his worst numbers since his second NBA season.

Memo to the Western Conference coaches who picked Nowitzki: No one deserves selection merely for being the reigning Finals most valuable player.

How did he get left out? Monta Ellis, Golden State. We get it: The Warriors are so bad they might not contend for the D-League title. Yet doesn't that only enhance Ellis' candidacy?

The unflappable guard is not only one of the league's top scorers, but he also kept his team from sinking to Charlotte-like depths when teammate Stephen Curry was sidelined by an ankle injury. One day (we hope) Ellis will get to slip on an All-Star jersey.

Bring him as the mascot: Metta World Peace, Lakers. The small forward would make a joyful mockery of media sessions, addressing Kobe beef when asked about Bryant and generally making about as much sense as edible flower arrangements.

As an added bonus, the former "Dancing with the Stars" castoff could provide the halftime entertainment.

East team

Starters: James, Miami; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Derrick Rose, Chicago; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Carmelo Anthony, New York.

Reserves: Chris Bosh, Miami; Luol Deng, Chicago; Roy Hibbert, Indiana; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia; Joe Johnson, Atlanta; Paul Pierce, Boston; Deron Williams, New Jersey.

Starting lineup shake-up: Replace Anthony with Johnson. Anthony's points are down and his team was a bust until the small forward strained his groin, leading to more playing time for the sensational Jeremy Lin.

Fans outside Atlanta have generally treated Johnson like Whatizit, the mascot from the 1996 Olympics; that is to say, they're not overly impressed. News flash: The guy can get his own shot as well as anyone in the league.

How did he get here? Iguodala. Here's a big man who does lots of things fairly well, but this isn't about rewarding players for being well-rounded.

How did he get left out? Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee. Makes the flashy play? Check. Capable of single-handedly leading a less-than-inspiring team to victory? Check.

Eastern reserves selection process? Checkered.

Bring him as the mascot: Lin. Had his spine-tingling run started a few weeks earlier, the Knicks point guard would have been voted in by basketball fans in Asia alone.

But if the All-Star game is about building buzz for the league, then find a way to get the second-year phenom to Orlando. Invent an injury for someone so he can fill in.

Or better yet, put him in the dunk competition and have him soar over the couch he's been sleeping on in his brother's place in Manhattan.

Now that's fan-tastic.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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