1997. That was the last year the Golden State Warriors put a player in the NBA All Star game. Latrell Sprewell was the man's name; a short year later he'd go on to choke his coach, and the Warriors wouldn't sniff the ASG again in more than a decade, and rightfully, woefully so.
2013. The Warriors have the 7th best record in the NBA, and two players deserving of making the All Star game. No, seriously. But deserving doesn't always translate to the nod, especially in a tight Western Conference. What does this year's team look like?
Here are the starters:
#12 / Center / Los Angeles Lakers
Dec 08, 1985
SW Atlanta Christian Academy (HS)
#24 / Guard / Los Angeles Lakers
Aug 23, 1978
#32 / Forward / Los Angeles Clippers
Mar 16, 1989
#3 / Guard / Los Angeles Clippers
May 06, 1985
#35 / Forward / Oklahoma City Thunder
Sep 29, 1988
Welp: four players from Los Angeles, two of which play for a 17-24 team. Maybe Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard deserve to be there; one can't put the blame on their shoulders for the laugh-fest that is the 2012-2013 Lakers. Still, this counts as a healthy reminder that the NBA All Star game is not about the best players this year, nor is it about who helps their team win: it's all about big markets, big names, and big ratings. The fans vote these guys in, and you can only assume that the league office is pleased as peaches to have four LA guys in the starting lineup.
For better or worse, those are your starters. So who fills out this Western Conference team? Let's start by looking at the final fan vote count:
Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,504,047
Dwight Howard (LAL) 922,070
Blake Griffin (LAC) 863,832
Tim Duncan (SA) 492,373
Pau Gasol (LAL) 310,845
Kevin Love (Min) 283,458
Omer Asik (Hou) 240,467
Serge Ibaka (OKC) 197,063
Rudy Gay (Mem) 182,523
David Lee (GS) 165,875
LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 160,197
Marc Gasol (Mem) 153,459
Zach Randolph (Mem) 146,980
Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 145,776
Chandler Parsons (Hou) 144,697
Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,591,437
Chris Paul (LAC) 929,155
Jeremy Lin (Hou) 883,809
James Harden (Hou) 485,986
Russell Westbrook (OKC) 376,411
Steve Nash (LAL) 270,741
Tony Parker (SA) 176,168
Stephen Curry (GS) 169,083
Ricky Rubio (Min) 150,227
Manu Ginobili (SA) 118,293
First, let me just say:
GSoM, YOU DID IT!!!
The "it" I'm speaking of, of course, is getting David Lee into the top 10 of West front court vote getters. Earlier this month we looked at the Warriors' chances of getting a representative in the All Star game, and at the time, David Lee hadn't even cracked the top 15, behind guys like Chandler Parsons and Metta World Peace. But we rallied, took the challenge, and got David's name on the list like he deserved. Kudos, GSoM — I'm sure this had more to do with us than it did the massive campaign and constant email blasts to probably hundreds of thousands of people put on by the team themselves. No, Lee can thank the Golden State of Mind community, preferably by sending us all tickets or shoes or something.
Let's review the rules. The team is filled out with seven reserves, voted on by all 30 NBA coaches, consisting of three front court players, two back court players, and two more players regardless of position.
I think there are a couple of slots you can fill without much argument from anybody paying attention. Tim Duncan should get an automatic bid; possibly the greatest "power forward" of all time, still putting up great numbers as the centerpiece (if no longer the best player) on the team with the third best record in the league. Yeah, pencil Timmy in.
You also have to think that Russell Westbrook gets an automatic nod. The best team in the NBA needs two All Stars, and while the statistical argument for Westbrook is meh at best, I just don't see the coaches ignoring how much attention Westbrook requires on both ends of the court.
We now have two Lakers, two Clippers, two Thunder, and a Spur, with five spots remaining. The remaining winning teams in the West, by win percentage, are: Grizzlies, Warriors, Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets. I'm going to just go ahead and exclude potential players on teams with losing records, including: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Dirk Nowitzki, and Damian Lillard. I'm also conveniently going to leave out the Nuggets and Jazz, as I don't see any of those guys coming out of the pack. Sorry, Midwest.
The battle for those last five spots then comes down to these players:
• David Lee
• Stephen Curry
• Marc Gasol
• Mike Conley
• Zach Randolph
• Tony Parker
• James Harden
Well ok! Only seven players battling it out for five spots — things aren't so dire for our boys after all.
I think we see Parker as the second Spur on the team, taking that second guard slot. I also think Gasol is automatic here: the Grizzlies have three guys that are worthy of this recognition, and Gasol is the best of the three. We're suddenly down to three spots, one of which has to be a big. That final front court spot really comes down to Lee vs. Randolph.
And this is where I think the Curse of Spree finally comes to an end, this particular decision. The coaches will have already given a front court ASG slot to a Grizzly, and if Lee vs. Randolph looks like a tough decision and they go to the stats, I think David gets the nod. ZBo's rebounding numbers are better, but otherwise Lee cleans up. And let's not forget: if the tie breaker comes down to votes, we pushed Lee past Randolph in the final count. The temptation to add a Warrior at this point is just too high.
You read that last sentence right. The Warriors deserve this; David Lee deserves this; and I don't see how the coaches disagree.
But let's get greedy: is there room for Steph, who's actually the best player on the Warriors? There are two spots remaining, and four possible players by my count: Randolph, Steph, Conley, and Harden. James Harden is a big name, and probably gets a spot; Houston (and China) voters hit the ballots hard, with four players in the top 25 of vote-getters. Harden is the best player there, and probably deserves recognition for the surprising lift-off by the Rockets.
So one slot for Steph, ZBo, or Conley. Do the coaches reward the Grizzlies or the Warriors with that second All Star? Steph received the most votes of all of them, and certainly wins the statistical tale. He might also be the most nationally recognizable of the three, at least in a positive light. Icing the Clippers on Monday with that shooting display can't have hurt.
It'll be close. But in the end, I think the math wins out: Curry is the best player of the three, and is the most important player on a team that's grabbed national attention in its surprising success.
Ultimately we don't know how the coaches will vote. But I'm certain of one thing: the Golden State Warriors will have an All Star this year. And I'm pretty sure, whether it's Lee or Curry or both, that nobody's going to choke the coach.