Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was voted a starter among the Eastern Conference players selected to the All-Star game. It will be his first all-star appearance to continue what has been an amazing ascension for a late first-round pick who spent time in the G-League as a rookie.
Siakam, in his fourth season, earned the third-most votes among frontcourt players in the East. The vote is comprised of 50% of the fan vote and 25% from media and players.
And this formula led to some interesting decisions.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James were the respective leading vote-getters for each conference, which means they will be the captains and select their teammates from the pool of all-stars. Those voted starters will be starters. The reserves will be named next week.
It’s worth noting that Siakam had the second-most Eastern Conference frontcourt votes from fans — behind only Giannis — and was third in the player vote while fourth in the media vote.
Recently, we promoted Miami’s Jimmy Butler as someone who was worthy of being a starter and the media agreed. Butler, on the ballot as a forward this year, was third in the media vote. But was sixth in the player vote. That speaks volumes.
Coincidentally, Butler’s teammate, Bam Adebayo, finished ahead of him in the player vote.
That says even more about who the players credit for Miami’s great first half.
Also notable is New York native Kemba Walker was named an All-Star starter for a second straight year. Trae Young and Kyrie Irving earned more fan votes among guards, but Walker received the most votes for any guards from players and media.
Considering how much time Kyrie has missed due to injury, the players and media got it right.
Meanwhile, Young and Luka Doncic were both voted as starters. The two will be forever linked because of the draft day trade between the Mavericks and Hawks which led to Young winding up in Atlanta and Doncic in Dallas. Doncic right now is in the MVP conversation, but Young, at least, has had enough prolific performances to earn all-star starter status.
Young, 21, and Doncic, 20, represent the second time than an All-Star game will include multiple starters who are 21 years old or younger. The last time that happened was in the 1998 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, when Kevin Garnett, 21, and Kobe Bryant, 19, were voted as starters.
It wouldn’t be a trip to New York for LeBron James without someone asking him the question that has been asked of him for at least the last 10 years:
What will it take to get you to take your talents to the Mecca?
After the Lakers edged the Knicks, 100-92, on Wednesday night at the Garden, LeBron again professed his love for the Garden stage, as he called it, “my favorite arena in the world to play” and added it was “absolutely special.”
So you know what was coming next. LeBron has had opportunities to sign with the Knicks as a free agent (none more prevalent than 2010), but passed. It has left many New Yorkers to wonder what’s it going to take?
One reporter had an idea: what if the Knicks drafted your son, Bronny?
LeBron let out a laugh. We have speculated here that LeBron could sign with whatever team drafted his son to form the first father-son duo in NBA history. Bronny James could be draft-eligible as early as 2023, if the NBA, as expected, drops the age restriction to 18 by then. LeBron will be 38 years old and could be a free agent if he signs a one year deal after his current Lakers deal expires.
But that’s not a master plan he was willing to divulge.
“My son is in the ninth grade, man,” he said. “I’m trying to worry about what project he’s got to turn in tomorrow. That’s what we’re worried about right now. That’s what’s most important; school, home and being the best big brother he can be.”
OK so you’re saying there’s a chance . . .
Did you see Zion’s debut?!
The better question is, by now, who hasn’t seen it?
The No. 1 pick and most anticipated rookie since LeBron James finally took the court in an NBA regular season game on Wednesday night. The result was a loss for the Pelicans, 121-117, against the Spurs. But the buzz about his performance — all of it in a three-minute span of the fourth quarter — have New Orleans suddenly thinking big.
Williamson had 22 points in an extremely controlled 18 minutes of action. He had not played since the preseason, when a knee issue turned into a minor arthroscopy to repair a torn meniscus.
It started out as a relatively quiet game until the fourth quarter, when he exploded for 17 straight points. He hit 4 of 4 from three-point range. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the most points scored in a player’s NBA debut when playing less than 20 minutes. Zion’s impact was felt not only on the court in New Orleans, but in the ratings. According to reports, Wednesday’s game was the highest-rated NBA game on ESPN this season outside of the Christmas Day lineup.
But despite all of the excitement, the game was still a loss for New Orleans. Williamson was on a minutes restriction, so he left the game with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter and did not return. The Pelicans clearly sacrificed a chance to win in favor of bringing their prized rookie along slowly.
The loss cost New Orleans in the standings. They are now four games behind the Spurs for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West.
But with Zion now in the lineup, can they make a run? Pelicans GM David Griffin believes so, which is why you won’t see them sell off veterans such as Jrue Holiday or JJ Redick before the trade deadline.
So let’s ask the question now: if the Pelicans do make a run to clinch a playoff berth, can Zion win Rookie of the Year despite missing already half the season? There are 37 games left. Ja Morant so far has a big lead in the Rookie of the Year race and also has the Grizzlies in contention for the final playoff spot in the West.
But with Zion now in the mix, that can change quickly.
And for those wondering, the least amount of games played by a player who won Rookie of the Year was Patrick Ewing. He played 50 games in 1985-86.