James Harden Will Start All-Star Game
All-Star Western Conference coach Steve Kerr got a little lucky with news Blake Griffin wouldn’t be available to play following surgery Monday to remove the staph infection in his right elbow.
Kerr would have had a tough decision given James Harden is the league’s top scorer at 27.7 points per game, has the most 30+ scoring games at 24 and most 40+ scoring games with six. Given Harden is also the sole representative from the Rockets there may have been pressure to start him.
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Also factoring in is the performance of the Beard through to the All Star break in leading his Rockets to a tie for the third best record in the West.
Technically Houston is seeded fourth because they are tied with Portland but the Blazers take the tie-break by virtue of leading their division. The other contributing fact is Harden has had to lead without the services of Dwight Howard for 20 games (2 of which he left early due to injury so closer to 22 games).
On the other hand it’s unlikely Kerr would have received too much criticism had he been forced to make a decision and chosen to start Klay Thompson at the shooting guard. Thompson will likely start out of position at the small forward but will join his back court Splash Brother teammate Stephen Curry who received the most vote from fans.
Kerr had decided to employ a Phoenix-esque 3-guard line-up in concert with a front court of New Orleans Pelican power forward Anthony Davis and Memphis Grizzlie center Marc Gasol. However, now he’ll need to once again reassess who’ll start at power forward as Anthony Davis adds to the growing list of All-Stars who had to pull out due to injury.
As for who’ll be added to the team to replace Anthony Davis’, Commissioner Adam Silver has named Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki to the team. In fairness this was a logical replacement since Dallas are in fifth place and had no representation. Plus it provides another big which is essential given how guard heavy the West team already is. It just happens to be gravy that Nowitzki and Durant are arguably the best 3-point shooting bigs in the Association. It’s hard to imagine the East will be able to compete when you look at the Splash Brothers, Harden, Nowitzki, Russell Westbrook, Durant, Damian Lillard and CP3 all on one team!
In addition with Anthony Davis’ not being able to play, someone will also have to be named as his replacement for the Degree Shooting Stars Competition in the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night event.
Several stars have had to pull out due to injury:
- Kobe Bryant
- Blake Griffin
- Anthony Davis (from both the game and the Degree Shooting Stars event on Saturday)
- Dwayne Wade
- John Wall (from skills competition only)
- Steven Adams
- Kelly Olynyk
- DeMarcus Cousins replaces Kobe Bryant
- Damian Lillard replaces Blake Griffin
- Dirk Nowtizki replaces Anthony Davis
- Replacement TBA for Degree Shooting Stars (Davis’ Team)
- Patrick Beverley replaces John Wall in Taco Bell Skill Challenge
- Jusuf Nurkic replaces Steven Adams on Rising Stars World Team
- Matthew Dellavedova replaces Kelly Olynyk on BBVA Rising Stars World Team (though I would’ve like to have seen Nik Stauskas get the invite!)
Could More Stars Cancel Due to Injury?
There is also still a possibility that Jimmy Butler may pull out due to a shoulder injury. An MRI on Wednesday confirmed it is just a strain which should appease Bulls fans given how bad the injury initially looked. Since this is his first All-Star game it’s likely he’ll play, but will he also compete in the skills competition? I would imagine a decision will be made tomorrow to allow ample time for a replacement if need be.
The other player one would assume would have cancelled were the game not being held in New York is the sole representative from either New York team (Knicks/Nets) Carmelo Anthony. Melo has been plagued and playing through an injured knee all season leading us to speculate if he’ll shut down his season shortly after the All-Star break.
Anthony did not dress Wednesday versus Orlando or this past Saturday vs. Golden State and was forced to leave the game Monday versus Miami in the fourth quarter due to knee soreness.
For Houston Rocket fans, they can now smile knowing the man whose put the Rockets on his back and played through copious injuries will get his well deserved starting assignment.