Posts tagged National Basketball association
Ball Don't Lie EP 60 - Kawhi the Don

Count the Dings' Mariano joins Scott and Joe to recap the biggest news in NBA free agency thus far. Kawhi and PG to the Clippers, AD and Boogie join Bron with the Lakers, Kyrie and KD team up in Brooklyn, Jimmy Buckets to Miami and the swirling rumors surrounding Russell Westbrook. All that and more on episode 60 of Ball Don't Lie!

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ball Don't Lie Free Agency Special (ft. Al_Patron & @TreyBizzy)

Ball Don't Lie returns for an NBA free agency special! Joe Scott & Pierce welcome Al Patron & Alec on the pod to talk about LeBron's jump to LA, Boogie signing with the Warriors, the Bulls matching Zach Lavine's offer, the Kawhi Leonard saga and their thoughts on Drake's Scorpion!

Follow Joe: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Al: @Al_Patron
Follow Alec: @TreyBizzy

The Third Pick EP 11: Bane broke MPJ's back

Scott & Mariano recap the NBA Draft, the Bulls' selections of Wendell Carter Jr. at No. 7 and Chandler Hutchison at No. 22, and what it means for Chicago going forward. Plus, Deandre Ayton to the Suns, Michael Porter Jr. slips, and more!

Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Mariano: @Mariannoo
Follow the Barber's Chair: @BarbersChairNet
IG/FB: @BarbersChairDigital

The Warriors are going to their fourth straight Finals, but what the hell is wrong with them?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, but not without overcoming the Houston Rockets in a 7 game series for the ages. We saw the best assembly of singular talent, against a group that was built perfectly combat it. And though everything had seemed to turn to Houston's favor, talent eventually won out. But despite the Warriors innate dominance and the legitimate talent in Houston, there’s still something awry in Golden State.

The Dubs flash there brilliance most every game, but rarely do it for the span of entire games. It’s not always been this way though, it’s seemed to have started just this season. Though it’s counter intuitive to how we think of dynastic teams, the Warriors are just content to play below their standard until change is necessary. Luckily for them, most teams peaks don’t reach Golden States standards.

Similarly, their lack of respect for their opponents has also troubled them throughout the season. There isn’t “appropriate fear,” a concept that head coach Steve Kerr has harped on constantly, like there was in their last three seasons. Sure they may go over strategy before the game, but the players often size up their opponents as they’re playing, which so often leads to evaluations at halftime and thus their dominant third quarters.

These issues damn near bit the Warriors in the ass against the Rockets, though. After a game 1 of relatively great focus, and a solid offensive game plan, the Warriors cruised in game 2. Though stealing home court advantage kept out the criticism for the moment, their lack of urgency stayed the same. Even as their playoff starter, Andre Iguodala, was sidelined with injury through games 4 through 7, the effort continued to wane.

On the brink of taking a 3-1 lead in game 4 at home, the Dubs lost their 10 point lead at the start of the 4th quarter. The 3rd quarter of game 4 saw an offensive explosion from Steph Curry, but his 17 points would become overshadowed by the mere 12-point quarter the team had to follow it up. The Dubs were caught sleeping, refusing to realize that these games aren’t sure things. Had they made any more of an effort for those 12 minutes, they could’ve dodged a game 7, but it’s a hard thing to change at this point in the season.

I don’t think the players are the only ones to blame for the close call though, some of the onus has to be given to Kerr. They made a big effort in game 1 to hunt switches and let Kevin Durant attack; an uncharacteristic style for Golden State to play but one that was effective. Houston was able to make adjustments though. They let KD attack on isolation plays, and played as physical as possible on the splash brothers, thereby decapitating ⅔ of their 3 headed snake. KD was more than happy to get his buckets, scoring 38 points, as the Rockets beat the Warriors at their own egalitarian game.

ESPN/NBA

ESPN/NBA

It's not that surprising to see Kerr make his adjustments after a game though, rarely do they happen mid game. Occasionally a speech to spark the engine, but he likes to play it game by game. It’s just infuriating when he chooses to go down with the ship, especially when his most infamous blunder came in game 7 of the 2016 Finals. But Kerr finally showed his urgency in games 6 & 7. He cut the rotation down to 8 players, the starters with Kevin Looney, Jordan Bell, Nick Young, and Shaun Livingston off the bench. Maybe going to that rotation earlier could’ve ended the series quicker, or maybe playing the last card early could’ve given Houston a mental edge.

Regardless of the issues surrounding this team, they’re manageable, and aren’t systemic. It’s a matter of circumstance that the players can play without serious consequence or concern. The key to their problems is making sure they don’t become sewed into the fabric of the teams culture.

Ball Don't Lie ep. 19 - All that for a drop of blood?
Steph Curry heard the noise, looks to end the Rockets' playoff run
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It was pretty tiring the last few days, the chatter about the Warriors game 2 loss. My dad’s constant worrying, “Ehh, I don’t know Jules.” All the while I was confident they’d bounce back in a major way, suspecting the catalyst to be Steph Curry after the good old fashion smacking they took in Houston.

The biggest reason for my lack of concern was the Warriors did what they needed to do. Starting a playoff series on the road for the first time in the Steve Kerr era, they needed one of the first two to expel the Rockets home court advantage. But other than their season opener against Houston, the Dubs have rarely lost in anything other than a blowout. When they’re competing, it’s rarely a close game, and their plan coming into game 3 was to compete.

As Draymond Green put it, “We allow one of those a series...We’ve had our one. Now it’s time to lock in.” Green has probably been their most consistent player too, but without the big scoring numbers, his floor game will rarely receive high praise or serious criticism. But in a series against the NBA’s #1 offense, he knows the pressure in on Golden States scorers to really show up.

That might sound ridiculous when considering Kevin Durant dropped 37 in game 1 and 38 in game 2, but 30+ points from KD is a lot different than 30+ from Curry. At their best, the Dubs have Curry creating shots for himself and then creating shots for his teammates. Keeping Steph off the ball on offense is easier to defend because the Rockets can switch off on pindowns, and get more leeway when holding him on the actions.

Keeping the ball in Curry’s hands when they run their motion actions or pick and rolls above the arc is inevitably going to cause a defensive breakdown because of his gravity. The Rockets are much better suited to have KD initiate offense, and to guard KD in his post-up isolations as the offense tends to stagnate. So when the defense turned up in the 2nd half, so too did the Warriors offensive movement.

Curry was getting to the rim repeatedly in the 3rd quarter, the first two layups were gimme’s. Oracle was starting to get loud. As Steph started to feel it, he was relentlessly attacking James Harden’s defense, first taking him off the dribble, then straight ghosting him on a back cut in transition. It was his 4th straight layup, and I looked to my parents and told them “He’s making a three next time down.” Next thing you know, a 30 foot bomb and a shimmy to boot.

But his biggest shot was his floater that prefaced his public address to Oracle. He faked Trevor Ariza out of his shoes, and threw up a shot over Clint Capela. Classic Curry. Then he yelled out, “This is my fucking house!” Surely this had been brewing since his offensive struggles in Houston. But it had been a while since we’ve seen a flurry like this from Steph. This was his response to the noise. Just a friendly reminder what he’s about.

Ball Don't Lie ep 18 - Same Old, Same Old
Celtics aren't scared of LeBron, Cavaliers
Michael Dwyer/AP

Michael Dwyer/AP

After taking a haymaker from LeBron James in the 1st quarter (with 21 in the 1st quarter and 42, 10 boards and 12 assist) and Kevin love having 22 and 15) the Celtics were able to withstand a triple-double from the King and a 22-point, 15-rebound performance from Kevin Love to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Cavs going into Game 3 on Saturday.

Six players on the Celtics scored in double figures in Game 2, led by Jaylen Brown's 23 points, and a strong second half from Boston, outscoring Cleveland by 20 and making every hustle play. The swaggerless starting backcourt of the Cavaliers, on deck to make $35 million next year, scored 3 points on 1-11 from the field in a combined 53 minutes.

JR Smith played hungover, and after going 0-7 from the field, he let his frustration out on a dirty play, pushing Al Horford in the back in midair and earning himself a flagrant one. This nearly sparked a brawl with Marcus Smart, who would've thrown a punch if not for Tristan Kardashian grabbing his arm. JR instantly looked shook diggity talking tough while walking away (he probably got flashbacks of Nate Robinson body slamming him and remembered his hands are trash because smart wanted ALL the smoke.) Woj even called JR fugazi in an article years ago claiming he wanted to be from Newark badly but was a nice kid from the burbs. JR vs Smart is a matchup to watch in game three, as the latter will trail JR on screens and make it tougher for him to get off a shot.

Tristan Kardashian let Marcus Morris yell in his face like he was Kris Jenner on national TV. To quote Stephen Jackson "Straight sucka shit, he's a wannabe that doesn't know what he wants to be". He's Canadian Reggie Evans with an $82 million dollar contract.

The Cavs' lack of perimeter and interior defense is getting exposed this series, giving Boston an edge as they head back to Cleveland. Just like their Cavs, this crowd just doesn't have the same intimidation factor anymore. I'm sure JR and the other role players will shoot better, but their personnel has issues guarding the Celtics on the wings. Boston's entire starting 5 can shoot from multiple spots on the floor and take you off the dribble. It wouldn't surprise me if Boston stole a game in Cleveland.

If you look at Twitter you already see Bron stans abandoning ship. The Cavs are about to be in salary cap hell. The 8th pick they got from Boston in the Kyrie trade isn't enough to convince LeBron to stay. Rodney Hood, a free agent at the end of the year, has looked confused and hesitant on both ends of the floor the entire playoffs. Jordan Clarkson, who looked decent early on in the season with the Lakers, is playing like the moment is too big for him currently. Larry Nance isn't even in the rotation.

Bron stans are going to follow the drinking gourd wherever he goes, but for now we'll see what else this series provides us. LeBron is going to show up and dominate, but these Celtics don't fear him or this team. After the deadline JR Smith claimed "we got a fuckin squad now", but so far everyone but LeBron have disappeared. Ty Lue saying the Celtics "gooned it up" was lowkey calling his squad soft, and the fact that multiple players on the Cavs praised coach Brad Stevens and Smart to the media shows disarray on the horizon.

The Ricky Davis-era Cavs might be on deck soon, and I don't feel bad watching Cleveland's demise. Their fan base lost their minds thinking they were a dynasty. Those jabroni's better throw on that 2016 championship DVD because they're about to be irrelevant and lottery bound for the foreseeable future. If the Celtics win Game 3 I think the Cavs panic and get swept. Boston is 37-0 all-time when up 2-0 in a series ,and while LeBron is great, this team is full of mis-matched parts and its hard to see them digging out of an 0-2 hole.

Just Not Enough: How the NCAA is still getting over

Last month, the NCAA appointed Commission on College Basketball proposed sweeping changes to current NCAA policies in response to the FBI’s investigation into mass corruption in college basketball recruiting.

The Commission, which is lead by Condeleezza Rice, took six months to comprise a 60-page report Wednesday that broke down issue in the sport. An excerpt from the report said the following in regards to the current state of college basketball.

“It is the overwhelming assessment of the commission that the state of men’s college basketball is deeply troubled. The levels of corruption and deception are now at a point that they threaten the very survival of the college game as we know it.”

As a result of their findings, the commission recommended 5 changed they felt should be enacted immediately.

1.   End one-and-done rule

The one-and-done rule is pointless, and everyone involved with it knows. It serves no purpose for a player to spend one year in school, which is really one semester. Most one-and done players withdraw from class during second semester to focus on basketball anyway, so to mandate that they delay their professional careers despite being 18 is unfair and un-American.

While many focused on the end of the one-and-done rule, there was one part of their recommendation that should have garnered more attention than it did.

Since the one-and-done rule was created by the NBA, the commission suggested that if the NBA/NBAPA refuses to change the rule that freshman ineligibility will be recommended to the NCAA.

This would basically force players to stay in school at least two years.

2.   Allow undrafted underclassmen to return

Any player who was not selected in the draft and decides against pursuing a career overseas right should be allowed to retain his eligibility and turn to college basketball. 

3.   Allow Agents

This would be a 180 from the current rule, which bans players from any contact with agents before declaring for the NBA draft. The goal of this rule change would be to eliminate some of the corruption found in the FBI’s report by streamlining the certification process, thus allowing the NCAA to ensure players are talking to certified agents and not being misled.

4.   Increase Penalties

This is a scare tactic the commission believes will deter coaches/schools from cheating in the future. A five-year postseason ban as well as possible loss of revenue sharing are a few highlights of the increase, but as long as this remains a billion dollar business, there will be someone willing to bend the rules.

5.   Combat shoe company corruption with summer league of their own

The AAU circuit is currently ran by the three major show companies, and many have accused the three of using their money and influence to lure players to sign with their brands.

In order to stop this, the commission suggested that the NCAA team with the NBA and USA Basketball to develop a summer program of their own. 

While the changes would be much appreciated, they don’t address the real issue with the relationship between the NCAA and its athletes.

Profits keep rising, and the people earning the profits are being shut out of the spoils. 

According to Athletic Director University, D-1 Athletic Directors salaries are now averaging more than $500,000, with AD’s at power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) pull in over $1 million annually. 

Schools make millions, coaches make millions, Athletic Directors make millions, but if a player gets one two many meals he can be considered ineligible. 

In 2013, the National College Players Association and Drexel University released a study to determine how much college athletes would be worth in an open market. The study borrowed revenue sharing models from the NBA & NFL to calculate the value of collegiate athletes in the respective sports. 

The results were quite shocking. According to the study, the average FBS football player is worth $137,357, while the average men’s basketball player is $289,031 per year.

When this study was conducted, the average player earned $23,031 in scholarship money. 

The days of rationalizing this unfair treatment by suggesting a college education is some mystical accomplishment that you can’t put a dollar amount on. If that was the case, Navient wouldn’t call me three times a week (I don’t have it bro).

I'm not advocating for players to be paid millions, or even game checks. What I am suggesting is a system that creates an account for each player that can be cashed out once a players career is over.

Another solution would be to give players control of their image and likeness in order to earn money. Marquee athletes should be given the same opportunities to make money off their hard work that the Universities have.

And what will the NCAA do about athletes in non-revenue sports who feel like they should be paid too? 

Tell them they played the wrong sport.

Case(y) Closed
Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Now, depending on who you ask, you’re either shocked by the news of Dwane Casey’s firing, or not at all.

For me, someone who has not been shy to call for a head coaching change during his tenure, Toronto changing course comes to me as both surprising and not. Some of the positives with Casey during his time with the Raptors was the slow process of a sustained culture of winning, and he didn’t just use his words, the actions from the players spoke, and the teams got better as the years progressed.

Getting to the playoffs five years in a row, after the franchise as a whole had been to the postseason a grand total of five times its first 13 years of existence, that was a major boost into the culture that both Casey and president Masai Ujiri wanted to implement going forward. He challenged his players to be better game after game, and was never satisfied with wins – he wanted to keep getting better. That’s someone you’d want to play for, because the expectations he imposed on you were challenging enough that you’d want to improve, not just for yourself, but for the betterment of the team.

At times Casey was out-coached. He was slow to react to the opposition's chess moves, and looked frantic or desperate to make things happen; forcing the issue, if you will. As a coach, you want to be the most prepared person in the room. To know the tendencies of your opponent, to take advantage of opportunities given to you, those are things that take a lot of time and experience to adapt.

It also helps that you have great players in your disposal, and one particular reason why Casey ended up canned after being swept by the Cavaliers (again), is because he was working with good-but-not-great players. DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowry are All-Stars, absolutely. They’re not household names outside of the country of Canada, heck, they’re probably not even household names outside of the Greater Toronto Area. They both improved their games, but not in the season that matters, and that happened to be the regular season.

We’re one season removed from the “culture reset,” which a year ago Masai Ujiri famously proclaimed that the Raptors had to do; 59 wins, the 1-seed in the East, and pretty much a lock for NBA Coach of the Year was not enough for Casey to retain his position as the head of the North.

Where I stand with the move is this: the Raptors are in the worst position you can think of in terms of their team status. They’re a good team, not good enough to be great, and other teams within the conference (Celtics, Sixers, Pacers, and Bucks for examples) are loaded with a lot of young talent and have a higher ceiling. The championship window for the Raptors is closing, and the Raptors need a leader with Championship pedigree to take them over the top. Whether it’s challenging DeMar & Kyle to take their games to another level and bring everyone along with them, or making the Raptors a team that the league will actually take seriously in the months of April & May, a lot of it falls on the roster, but it does start with the coach.

Everyone will be quick to point out that LeBron James is the reason for his dismissal, but you have to cut ties with mediocrity some time. If this is a Mark Jackson-Steve Kerr situation, then that’s what happens, but if not, it’s the risk you take in order to get better. Consistency with getting to the playoffs is good, but all that effort for early exits every year isn’t ideal, and something has to give. Being the first top seed in 49 years to get swept before the Conference Finals is frustrating, and patience is always key to building a sustained successful franchise, but you’ve got to make a move that doesn’t jeopardize the roster and send the Raptors back into the Dark Ages.

avengers i dont wanna go mr stark.gif

Dwane Casey is a good coach. He influenced the locker room in many ways in order for the Raptors to ascend into a team where people had to mention in the same breath of title contenders. Even if the results didn’t pan out, the fact that the inkling of respect was evident, was a lot. It was more than what was given to the Raptors in their franchise’s history, so Casey deserves a lot of credit for his contributions.

It’s time to look ahead as to what the future holds. Whether significant roster moves are coming (*cough* Ibaka *cough*) or if the Raptors land gold with a new coach, the state of the franchise is in limbo until further notice.

Thank you for your time, Dwane Casey, we’ll take it from here.

Where that may be? Hopefully upwards.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Warriors-Pelicans Western conference semifinal preview

At first glance the seeding of this years playoffs, it seemed as though the Warriors had an easy road to the Finals. They had swept the Pelicans, Blazers, and Spurs in the playoffs before, but with the utter dominance New Orleans displayed against the Blazers, there’s still some concern in Golden State.

Looking back at the first time these teams matched up, the first round in 2015, the Pels put up a pretty good fight. Anthony Davis had his national coming out party. He averaged 30 for the series, and made it look easy over a prime defensive Draymond Green, and a still capable Andrew Bogut.

But the Pelicans came as close to winning game 3 as they possibly could have, if it weren’t for a miraculous three by Steph Curry to send it to overtime where Golden State took control of the game and the series. Since then these teams have changed dramatically.

Some news of Golden State came out of practice Thursday though. Marcus Thompson of The Athletic reported that Kerr put Curry down as “questionable” for Game 1 of the series. We could see this as the payoff of letting Curry rest through the first round, but I’m not falling for that. I think there’s some internal concern about what this Pelicans squad poses to the Warriors without #30.

Anthony Davis has become a truly brilliant NBA player. There’s no doubt that he’s a superstar, the best big man, and arguably the highest ceiling in the years to come (he’s only 25!). Put aside all of his in game accolades though and you’re left with an admirable young man. He’s had to put up with an inordinate amount of organizational incompetency, more than any young Star should have to. It’s a mark of a selfless player to endure that much strife without much more than an interview with Woj.

That aspect of AD is one the reasons his team has seen so much success, being the kind of guy you can rally behind. But his style of play is just as vital to his his teammates success. He commands defenses at all spots on the court, too quick for big men and too strong for guards and wings. That willingness to move the ball is why players like Holiday, Niko Mirotic, and E’Twaun Moore have been getting buckets from three. With an easier scheme they can rely on for offense, it’s allowed the Pelicans the stamina to compete harder on defense.

Against the Warriors though, the defensive game plan they showed against the Blazers might not be as effective. The Dubs just don’t work off the pick and roll as much as Portland, so the aggressive trap the Pels used against the Blazers won’t be as much of a factor. In fact if NOLA does resort to the trap against Steph, GSW is more than prepaid to create out of the 4-on-3 situation it presents. I think that it will still come down to outside shooting for the Dubs though. Davis is so good at protecting the rim that most of the Warriors’ offense should come off inside-out offense, whether that be drive and kicks or triangle actions initiated from the post.

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

My concern for GSW isn’t necessarily on offense, it’s how they handle NOLA on the defensive end. If they run a traditional 5 the whole game, Davis can eat the whole game. Nobody other than Draymond really stands a chance, and Kerr’s shown how tentative he is to run Green at the 5. Just look at their 4th quarter minutes game 5, Kevon Looney played almost the whole quarter, and they paid the price by blowing a huge lead. But if they’re willing to give Draymond the most minutes at center, it will certainly save them on defense, but then will also make for a more potent offense.

Though the talent gap is clearly in Golden State’s favor, the Pelicans are going to come out with as much energy as they can muster. Other than Rajon Rondo, they have a bunch of young, energized players who’ll be willing to sell out on defense, even if it means a screwed up rotation. But the Dubs have also had trouble with tight defenses plenty, as it tends to muck up the ball-movement that GSW’s offense predicates on. It’ll also be interesting to see how well Jrue Holiday can play Curry. He’s given him trouble in the past, being 6’4” and all, but Holiday is so calm and physical on defense.

The series may just be the Dubs toughest, if only for the fact that they’ve not seen this Pelicans team. Only in their last matchup in April (with Curry out and an eye on the playoffs, they lost) did they actually see the Pels without Boogie in their lineup. Their first game while most likely be a feeler, but if the Pels can capitalize on the opportunity, they could steal an early one on the road. But regardless this round will most certainly be more interesting than the last.

Prediction: Warriors in six

Free agent moves the Bulls should consider this summer
K.C. Johnson/Chicago Tribune

K.C. Johnson/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bulls have made some good moves recently to bring in young talent and draft picks for this upcoming season. The plan seems to be coming clearer that we will be bringing in players that fit Fred Hoiberg’s system. The Chicago Bulls have not been a franchise to make a huge splash during the NBA free agency period. The most notable free agents we’ve signed this decade were Carlos Boozer and a declining Pau Gasol. The Bulls spent most of Derrick Rose’s healthy career trying to pair him with a backcourt mate and out of desperation brought in Rip Hamilton. I personally will never understand how as an organization, we believed bringing in Carlos Boozer was the move to help get us over the hill.

The chemistry between Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine has not been there since LaVine returned from his ACL injury. Kris Dunn has been the better player of the two and it’s not even close. I believe the cause of this subpar play from Zach LaVine is rusty from coming off injury and not being able to be acclimated into Fred Hoiberg’s system. I am hopeful that Zach LaVine is retained and able to learn from a healthy offseason in Fred Hoiberg’s system. He needs to learn how to co-exist with Kris Dunn. These two gelling is of the most important because it’ll determine where the team goes in the next couple of off-seasons.

The moves that happen this offseason can shape which direction this team is heading in the next couple of years. It’s very important that we hit in the draft but also add some talent in free agency. There are some guys that can be brought in to help in a position that isn’t addressed in the draft.

We know that center and small forward are positions of need. We need viable pieces that fit with our young talent added on. I like the idea of trying to throw money at DeMarcus Cousins to be our starting center. I think he would be a good piece because he’s not a ball dominant player. Kris Dunn can control the ball and have a hell of a frontcourt in Lauri Markkanen and Cousins. He’s shown he can co-exist with Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Having good young players gives you a better chance of reeling in free agent talent, and the Chicago Bulls have some nice pieces in place.

Jabari Parker would be a good player to add to the small forward room. He’s an athletic and long player who runs the floor pretty well. I think it’s enticing to him because he is from Chicago so bring him home. If we go Center in the 2018 NBA draft this move makes a lot of sense.

I am hoping that we are able to secure a top 5 draft pick and it’s looking like management it’s trying to trend towards this as well. Benching Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen makes it clear the goal in mind. If we get one of the big men in this draft then the idea for Cousins becomes illogical. The rest of March is critical to see how this offseason will go.

The NCAA's one-and-done problem is the NBA's fault
(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

The One and Done era is a timeframe in which no entity, organization or person wants to take credit for.  No one wants to take credit for 17 & 18- year-old basketball players in America not being allowed to make an honest living for themselves and their families.  When it is worded like that, it sounds worse than the NBA wanting their players to be a year removed from high school to enter their league.

Lots of people have thrown blame on everyone for this rule that the NBA instituted in 2006; agents, the NCAA (whom I love blaming for just about everything but this is not that time) and even the media.  Unfortunately, the blame lies with none of them but with, surprise surprise, the NBA.  More specifically, the front offices of all 30 teams in the NBA.

In the spring of 1995, pre-social media, there was a rumor that a high school senior out of Farragut Academy in Chicago was going to enter the NBA Draft.  Prep hoops back then was not the money hype machine that it is today so high school players weren’t big celebrities like they are today (see Williamson, Zion.). No one nationally had heard of this kid but thanks to these rumors, Kevin Garnett was starting to become a known name.

Garnett would not be the first player to go from high school to the NBA, as Moses Malone had that distinction in 1974, but he would be the first to make the leap in over 20 years. The Minnesota Timberwolves took a risk by drafting Garnett fifth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft but that risk soon paid off as he made his first All-Star team in only second season and looked to be the next evolution at the power forward position.

You may have heard in reference to all professional leagues that “it’s a copycat league”. That definitely fit the NBA from 1995-2005 when, due to the arrogance of the NBA front office execs they ushered in the One-and-Done era that required a basketball player to be one year removed from high school before they can declare for the draft.

Yes, the Timberwolves struck gold with Garnett in 1995, the Lakers did the same in trading for a young Kobe Bryant on draft night in 1996, the Raptors unearthed a diamond in the rough with Tracy McGrady in 1997 and in 2003, drafting LeBron was a no-brainer for any team, especially for the home state Cleveland Cavaliers.  The problem with those success stories during the decade is that NBA execs kept trying to recreate that by drafting high school players at a rapid rate who did not come close to the measurables of the prior four.

See, the problem isn’t that high school players entered the draft, the problem that they were drafted in hopes of being the next KG or Kobe or T-Mac or LeBron; or even the next Dwight Howard, JR Smith or Al Jefferson. But they won’t get someone else in another player, they won’t even get the second coming of another player; however that will not stop them from drafting a high school player high.

Think back to when you were 17 or 18 and the mindset you had. Now imagine one of the biggest organizations or companies in the world notices your talent and offers to make you an instant millionaire to work for them. You will have $10 million dollars in your bank account before you turn 21. The only catch with the job because, of course there’s a catch, is that you have to be the face of the company, improve rapidly, mature much sooner than you’re expected to and don’t do anything to embarrass the company even though you’re a kid. If that catch isn’t met, no big deal, your contract won’t be renewed and you’ll be seen as a bust and your ability to be hired elsewhere will be spotty at best. Sounds pretty unfair to me.

That is exactly what high school players are asked to do when they are drafted into the NBA, especially if they’re drafted in the lottery. Drafting an athlete into your league is risky no matter their age and background. Drafting an athlete that has experience, assumed maturity and has seen ups and downs throughout a brief career is a safer bet than a teenager that can jump high.  Be smarter NBA execs and remove your ego.  High school basketball players should be able to enter the NBA Draft and be afforded the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family. Doesn’t mean they should have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

The legend of Vinsanity: examining Vince Carter's place in Raptors lore

For the average basketball fan out there, if you’re wondering about a team to follow and you’ve been browsing your options as to which team you want to root for, there are many options in terms of what you’re looking for in a long-term commitment to a team. Some people like the style of play from one team (see: Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs), some enjoy specific star players, and other may have some sort of a special connection to a particular city. And even if you live in said particular city, it’s not a prerequisite to root for the home team (although, why the hell not?).

In Toronto, there isn’t much to root for in our short history, but for the long-suffering Raptors fans who had to endure specific eras of the franchise, it’s been quite the string of emotions in a span of 22 years, but mostly lows than highs.

Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

On the heels of hearing rumbles about this year being Vince Carter’s potential final run in the NBA, and also Chris Bosh saying that he’s not finished with his basketball career, although his health might say otherwise, what are the odds that two of the most prominent players to ever play for the Raptors would be making some kind of news while the Raptors are enjoying their best season thus far at an all-star mark of 41-16?

To be fair, the writing has seemingly been on the wall for Vince for a few years, and there are many opinions about if the Raptors & Vince should come to some reunion. Reports have come out saying that there is no longer any interest of a reunion, so that dream can peacefully lie on the hill from whence it came. With The Carter Effect documentary honouring the impact that Vince made on Canadian basketball, it’s not to say that VC hasn’t been shown love at all in TDot, but the journey from his reign as ‘Air Canada’ to the most dissatisfying ‘Bosh’ years, to where we are now in the current state of the Raptors, it’s truly a tale in 3 acts that warrants a revisit just to appreciate how far the lone franchise in Canada has come.

Many are of the belief that if it wasn’t for Vince Carter and the red hot spotlight that he brought to the Toronto Raptors during his tenure from ’98 to 2004, the team, much like the Vancouver Grizzlies, who moved to Memphis (who Carter would also play for during the latter half of his career, ironically enough) would cease to exist. And you’d think that the city of Toronto would have embraced basketball long before ’95 when the team was created, when the first ever NBA game was played between the New York Knicks and Toronto Huskies in 1946. Only a lifetime of ‘what ifs’ could be asked if the team didn’t dissolve, and a culture of basketball was allowed to thrive along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then the Blue Jays. Toronto would have been permeating in sports all around, but it took one Vincent Lamar Carter to grace his presence in the city and captivate the hearts of millions and eventually inspire Canadian kids all over to embrace basketball and make it possible for them to envision life in the NBA, and now you can’t have a conversation about basketball without seriously considering the factory that Canada has built to supply the game of great talent (Andrew Wiggins, Jamal Murray, Kelly Olynyk, and Tristan Thompson for examples).

(Darren McNamara/Getty Images)

(Darren McNamara/Getty Images)

The expectations for the Raptors in their early years were simple – there were none. Having been a lottery team for the first 4 years of existence, there was an opportunity to stockpile talent and then see what would happen next. Personally, I didn’t really start paying attention to basketball consistently until I was about 10 or 11. My mom brought me to a game against the Alonzo Mourning-led Miami Heat in 2002, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. That said, I didn’t have to partake in the garbage that was being churned out from the SkyDome in the initial years, but I was still in elementary school, and no one really cared for the Raptors outside of the fact that we thought the logo was cool. The nickname ‘Craptors’ evolved naturally through their lackluster years (and I put that lightly) in the post-Vince era. In ’98, Vince won Rookie of the Year – that was good; in ’99, the Raptors made it to the playoffs for the first time in their history – that was good. Then in the year 2000, it happened. Yes, the Raptors won a playoff round and advanced to the 2nd round, but that wasn’t the highlight of that year. You know exactly what it was – the infamous Dunk-Off during All Star weekend. That’s when the basketball world (and world alike) discovered what the fans in Toronto pretty much already knew – we had a star. Since that magnificent display of athleticism and power, every dunker whom has shown some form of prominence has had to be compared to the likes of really two players: Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. That’s saying a lot, and the nickname of Air Canada was born (it helped that the Raptors played in the Air Canada Centre), but the play on words that drew instant comparison to ‘Air Jordan’ made it that much more significant. What else happened that summer? Oh yeah, this little thing called the Olympics and he cleared a 7-footer for one of the greatest dunks ever to exist on Earth. It was quite a time.

The 2000-01 Toronto Raptors set the standard for the franchise that future teams would have to catch up to. Despite the shock of losing Tracy McGrady in the offseason to Orlando (more ‘what ifs’), that team was loaded. Vince, Oakley, Alvin Williams, JYD, Dell Curry (yes, father of Stephen), Mo Pete, and freakin’ Antonio Davis (just to name a few). If there was any team that year that was poised to make a run for the Finals, it was this team. Philly had Allen Iverson, and Milwaukee had (a young) Ray Allen, but the confidence was that the Raptors would make their first Finals appearance vs. the Lakers. Again, I was 11 at the time, but you couldn’t escape the excitement from all corners of the city, no matter your age or allegiance to the Raptors. Vince showed the city and the NBA that the Raptors could be contenders for the future, and that was especially evident in the 2nd round series against the Sixers. Having the opportunity to dispose of the MVP, A.I, was a very real scenario that the Raptors could have taken advantage of. Being the leading scorer in 6 of 7 games during that series, VC put the team on his back, and in a back and forth thriller, where it looked like the Raptors could have cemented their status as a team that was ‘for real,’ that dream bricked off the rim just like Vince’s (unnecessary) fadeaway attempted game winner in Game 7. That wasn’t the worst part – it was the smile afterwards that turned Vince from beloved to hated in many of the minds and hearts of Raptors faithful.

That shot seemingly sent shockwaves in the world of the Raptors from that point on, because everything just seemed to get worse from that point forward. Raptors got back to the playoffs, but lost to the Pistons in the first round. Vince was hurt for the majority of the 2002-03 season, and that ended in a fire pit of misery. Luckily, we drafted some guy named Chris Bosh, and things looked like they were going to be good moving forward – Wrong. Wrong. Traded JYD & Antonio Davis, and seemed like it was a team that was all aboard the tank train. 04-05 will be the season that will haunt a lot of Raptors fans, because that’s when ithappened – the trade. To the Nets, no less. Management & Vince, by their own accords, have retold the story of why it happened (years later), but that didn’t stop Raptors fans from holding onto their hatred. We booed. A lot. Every time. There’s a generation of fans who grew up just hating Vince Carter by birthright. It was that bad. The game-winning 3 in 2006 at the ACC is a memory that still haunts a lot of people, but it got worse (because of course it did) when the following season, the Raptors played the Nets in the playoffs, and we lost in 6. Why him? Of all people, why did it have to be him? That’s what stung the most. It completely diminished the fact that the 06-07 team matched the high mark in games won for the franchise (which wouldn’t be broken until 2013-14), and that maybe the team would give us things to look forward to in the future (which it didn’t). It was just Vince. The hatred of him was the narrative. He was the one who ruined the glory that the Raptors were supposed to have. He’s the reason T-Mac left. He’s the reason why we didn’t advance in 2001. Him. Him. Him.

Only when Vince was on the last leg of his career is where the appreciation and calls for forgiveness evolved from whispers to actual conversations. That only came to be once the kids who idolized him in the city of Toronto (and surrounding regions) were entering the NBA and were thanking him for being the genesis of their pursuits to the big league. That’s a claim that can’t be associated to many players. Vince Carter has been designated as a role player for many years because his career was riddled with injuries. Of course there are still going to be a contingent of people who will hold onto past grudges, but for the majority of people who had an opinion on the matter of VC, the impact on the game in Canada matters more to the fans than a missed 3 pointer or bad blood with management that resulted in a trade. The Raptors are more than likely going to retire his number (which was also Amir Johnson’s number, but I think he’d understand), and he’s one of the greatest Raptors ever, and the argument is that he still is (although DeMar has certainly made his case). VC was a budding superstar that turned journeyman, and the Raptors bathed in the waters of mediocrity before the tables finally decided to turn in their favour. It’s very interesting to see the parallels of the player, and the franchise that came to be noticed because of the player. Love him or hate him, he’s a Raptor forever, whether you like it or not. There are many ‘what ifs’ that have followed the Raptors and Vince throughout their respective tenures, but what is true is that the two will be forever linked.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Lakers core paving the future

If you haven’t noticed, the Los Angeles Lakers have been playing out of their minds recently. Winners of 12 of their last 16 games, the Lakers see the light at the end of the tunnel. This team no longer looks like a lottery team and has its sight set on the future while having one of the best young cores in the NBA right now.

When you look across the NBA, you would be hard pressed that has a young core that is better than Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Julius Randle. All of the players mentioned above have shown the provide something to the team in the present, and you can also see amazing potential in all of these kids. One of the biggest improvements to this Lakers team has been the improved play of Randle.

Randle has been one of the most consistent players on this team and is balling like crazy in the last year of his contract. He’s been able to prove why he deserves to be the Lakers' starting power forward for many years to come. His conditioning and playmaking has improved a lot from previous years, and his physicality makes him a headache to guard. His status with the team going forward is up in the air, but with how he has been producing lately and the fact that he’s impressed Magic Johnson has Lakers fans optimistic they’ll be able to re-sign him.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma may have been two of the biggest steals in the 2017 NBA draft. The addition of Josh Hart to the starting line-up in Lonzo’s absence has been a huge key to why the Lakers are currently the second-hottest team in the NBA. He plays the game the correct way, knocks down open shots and competes like crazy on the glass and on defense.

Kuzma has been one of the best scorers for this Lakers team, and has become a fan favorite. He also has dominated the personal match-up each time he has faced Jayson Tatum, and led the Lakers to an impressive win over the Celtics.

The biggest two pieces to this Lakers core though is the duo of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. These twenty year old's have shown that they are ready to take the NBA by storm in the coming years. Lonzo became the youngest player to ever record a triple double and the Lakers have a higher win percentage with him in the line-up. His impressive court vision and his surprising defensive talent has Lakers fans dreaming of future NBA championships. Ingram has been equally impressive with how much he improved from his rookie year. He’s able to finish at the rim with a much higher success rate this season, and even has shown his ability to set others up for a easy basket. Also, both of these young future all-stars are under team friendly deals as well.

These five players are going to be the core that brings home championship #17 to Staples. Not only have they been impressive on the court, but they have made LA a desirable free agent destination in the summer of 2018 or 2019. Every one of those guys has shown that they can compete and play at the NBA level, as well as produce a decent win total without a superstar. The Lakers are on pace to pass their win total last year and not by a small margin either. Last year the Lakers didn’t win their 22nd game until early April. This year, with the young core balling like the young goat’s they are, did it in early February with a ton of winnable games left on the schedule.

The small ballers in the world like to think the youth movement in LA is nothing special. The small ballers out there want to believe our two future starts Ingram and Lonzo are busts, and that Kuzma and Hart have had a fluke year. They also want you to believe that Randle couldn’t even get the Lakers a first round pick at the trade deadline. Next time you see a small baller, let them know that a storm is coming, and that storm has a young core that will be coming for their throats.

Jordan vs. Kobe: How the 1998 All-Star Game became the NBA’s self-fulfilling prophecy

Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Madison Square Garden. February 8, 1998.

Do you like a good NBA conspiracy theory? Then boy oh boy, have I got one for you.

Let’s go back to the fall of 1997. For a league that had just enjoyed one of its most memorable NBA Finals ever and its second best TV rating since the NBA-ABA merger, life was rocky. The league's signature team was in disarray. Imagine if the 2018 Warriors had the drama and discord of the 2018 Cavs, and you can picture what the 1998 Bulls looked like.

What do I mean by “drama and discord”? Well, 11 days after Scottie Pippen sealed championship #5 for the Bulls with a steal for the ages, Jerry Krause tried to trade him.

That fell through in part because Michael Jordan put his foot down. But if Jordan was running the show, it was news to him. In October, during the preseason, a reporter asked Jordan if he would try to pressure Jerry Reinsdorf into re-signing Phil Jackson, whose contract (along with MJ’s and Pippen’s) expired after the 1998 season.

“You see how Jerry Reinsdorf operates,” Jordan said. “My influence doesn’t have anything to do with his decision-making.”

And if Jackson didn’t return?

“I would quit,” Jordan said.

On that particular day, Rodman remained without a contract. Pippen was debating whether to have toe surgery. The name of Iowa State University head basketball coach Tim Floyd was circulating as the probable replacement for Jackson. Krause and Jackson were publicly feuding. Jordan was angry with Rodman and possibly Pippen, who went through with the surgery, costing him the season’s first 35 games. Pippen was angry with Krause and Reinsdorf. Jackson looked like he was in a lame-duck season, meaning Jordan was too.

This was the most popular team in sports.

At the same time, the league itself looked like a lame-duck season. A lockout loomed at the end of 1997-98, with commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Russ Granik openly discussing the work stoppage as “something we’re going to have to consider.”

The Daily Spectrum, Utah, Sep. 20, 1997

The Daily Spectrum, Utah, Sep. 20, 1997

Then on December 1 sprang the wild card: an NBA player choked his coach.

This was the famous Latrell Sprewell - P.J. Carlesimo encounter, an incident so upsetting to league order that the league suspended Sprewell for the remainder of the season — 68 games. An Associated Press story at the end of the calendar year summed up the league’s troubles:

HEADLINE: NBA ‘97 — from unbeaten Bulls to Sprewell
SUBHEAD: A seemingly stable league experiences growing pains

On Dec. 31, 1997, the Bulls were 20-10, but struggling, and were coming off a loss in Minnesota the day before caused in part by Jordan’s panic at a hoax phone call to the stadium claiming that MJ’s mother was in the hospital. Pippen had not yet played. John Stockton was just back from injury. Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Shaquille O’Neal were injured.

The old guard was crumbling and you couldn’t even say “wait till next year.”

***

The young guard was a dunk champ gunning for 6th Man of the Year, and on Dec. 17, 1997, he gave the world a show. I would say “Kobe Bryant and the Lakers came to Chicago,” but you tend not to say “Player X and his team” when Player X comes off the bench.

This is what the stats of the 18-5 Lakers looked like when they took the United Center floor against the 14-9 Bulls:

  • Shaquille O’Neal — 8 games, (8 starts), 35.6 min., 24.5 pts (injured)
  • Eddie Jones — 23 games, (23 starts), 36.3 min., 19.0 pts
  • Kobe Bryant — 20 games, (0 starts), 26.0 min., 17.4 pts
  • Nick Van Exel — 23 games, (23 starts), 32.6 min., 15.5 pts
  • Elden Campbell — 22 games (16 starts), 28.3 min., 14.8 pts
  • Rick Fox —  23 games, (23 starts), 30.7 min., 11.2 pts
  • Robert Horry — 21 games, (21 starts), 32.2 min., 7.9 pts
  • Derek Fisher — 23 games, (0 starts), 16.0 min., 4.9 pts

Bryant was not a starter, but he was a star. He was the league’s reigning dunk champ and a smash hit in commercials. He offered a G-rated counter to the league’s best young scoring guard, fellow second-year player Allen Iverson of the 76ers, who the day of that Bulls-Lakers game was 8th in the NBA in scoring yet made news for issuing an apology to his head coach for missing practice a few days prior, and serving a one-game team suspension.

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Bryant was a kid-friendly dunker. He was the latest in a string of players dubbed the “Next Michael Jordan,” but unlike the others his anointment made sense from a basketball standpoint. They had similar bodies and similar games. The hype wasn’t just in Los Angeles, which was to be expected. On the day that the Lakers came to Chicago, the Tribune sports section ran a front-page spread called “Kobe Bryant: The Air apparent?”

In his column, Sam Smith wrote that Kobe “may be the closest talent to Jordan to come into the NBA in the last decade.” Lakers GM Jerry West called Kobe “simply the best prospect we ever worked out,” while Pacers GM Donnie Walsh said that Kobe “does something every game I see him that’s Michael Jordan stuff.”

The sports section ran statistical comparisons between Kobe and Jordan as rookies and in that season, and on the inside of the paper named Kobe the “Player To Watch,” writing:

“Dare we say that the teen sensation is beginning to look like a precocious Michael Jordan?”

Remember: they were talking about a 2nd-year, 19-year-old backup.

With Shaq out and starting guards Jones and Van Exel combining against the Bulls for 14 points on six of 25 shooting, Kobe took control: 12-20 off the bench, shooting 3-5 from three and 6-9 from the line for a team- and career-high 33 points. Jordan had 36. The Bulls won by 21.

In the fourth quarter, with the Bulls comfortably ahead, Jordan asked Jackson to be put back into the game. He wanted to guard Kobe. It wouldn’t be the last time.

***

On Dec. 23, one week after the Jordan-Bryant matchup, the first results in the All-Star voting came out. And this is where we get to our conspiracy.

Here were the West guards:

  1. Gary Payton, Seattle: 89,262
  2. Eddie Jones, L.A. Lakers: 78,138
  3. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers: 68,163
  4. Stephon Marbury, Minnesota: 64,445
  5. Jason Kidd, Phoenix: 54,338
  6. Nick Van Exel, L.A. Lakers: 50,160
  7. John Stockton, Utah: 36,585
  8. Clyde Drexler, Houston: 31,952

Here were the guards on Dec. 31:

  1. Payton: 106,536
  2. Jones: 93,674
  3. Bryant: 82,591
  4. Marbury: 73,962
  5. Kidd: 66,030

On Jan. 8, 1998, Kobe was down to 4th:

  1. Payton: 131,487
  2. Jones: 98,381
  3. Marbury: 90,757
  4. Bryant: 87,484
  5. Kidd: 84,553

On Jan. 18, as reported by the L.A. Times, Bryant was down to 5th, with Marbury now starting opposite Payton and Jones 3rd. (Vote totals weren’t published, unfortunately, nor was the 4th place guard.)

And then, on Jan. 22, seemingly out of nowhere, with no significant game to point to that would indicate a leap, he was 2nd.

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Four days later, the voting was over.

  1. Payton: 555,715
  2. Bryant: 395,686
  3. Stockton: 344,259
  4. Marbury: 331,749
  5. Kidd: 305,834
  6. Jones: 300,658
  7. Drexler: 238,150
  8. Van Exel: 232,274
Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Just like that, Kobe Bryant was an All-Star starter at age 19, the youngest starter in the game’s history. He was third on his team in scoring with 17.3 points per game, and had come off the bench in all 38 games he’d played. Among his fellow players who had yet to start a game, he was the NBA’s leading scorer.

“It was a goal of mine,” Kobe said after the voting was finished. “Now that it has become reality, it’s more gratifying than anything.”

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

For what it’s worth, I did not set out to write a conspiracy story. I just wanted to write a story about the impact that the ‘98 All-Star Game had on the league in the two decades to follow due to the Jordan vs. Kobe storyline. And we’ll get to that.

But when I started looking at the vote totals and how they progressed, and added that to what we know about how the NBA under David Stern manipulated events to create outcomes that were favorable to the league, I started to wonder.

So I’ll ask point-blank: did the NBA fix the voting to push Kobe Bryant into the starting lineup and hence the All-Star Game, since he obviously would not have been selected by the coaches? Let’s look at both sides.
 

REASONS IT MIGHT NOT BE TRUE

1. Even at 19, Kobe was hugely popular, so him snagging a starting spot in a popularity contest is not impossible. And since we don’t know how the vote totals are counted, perhaps there is a logical explanation for the drop from 3rd to 5th and then the rise from 5th to 2nd.

2. He was averaging 17 points per game at the time, and had dropped 33 on the Bulls on Dec. 17, so he was clearly talented and was a future star. If the lockout hadn’t wiped out the ‘99 All-Star Game, Kobe almost certainly would have made it even as a coach selection.

3. Gary Payton was the runaway leading vote-getter among West guards, but the competition was open after that. Other than Kobe, the guys who at various points either held the #2 spot or fought for it were Eddie Jones, Stephon Marbury, John Stockton, and Jason Kidd. Good players, but nobody who was truly crushing it in either play or popularity.

4. Part of my reasoning for why it might be true is that the voting numbers look weird, but again, I've never looked closely at the week-by-week totals, so perhaps this is just how it goes sometimes. Additionally, I can only think of three instances in which the league might have been inclined to fix the voting, and in each case it went the way that might not be best for the league:

● 1992, Magic Johnson (He was voted a starter despite being retired following his HIV announcement. I could see this argued either way: that either the league thought it would be good for him to play so that everyone could get used to seeing him on the court in preparation for the Olympics, or that the league would NOT want him to play because he was A. retired, and B. had HIV.)

● 2003, Michael Jordan (He was not voted a starter, despite everyone pretty much knowing that it would be his final All-Star Game. The coaches rightfully selected him to come off the bench, and then the public basically bullied the East starters into relinquishing a starting spot, which Vince Carter did.)

● 2004, LeBron James (You could argue that the league would want its “new” future to start in his rookie year, especially with Kobe going through his rape case. But LeBron finished 4th among East guards and was not selected by the coaches.)