Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players


Why NBA All-Star Game rosters should be more than only 12 players

OAKLAND – No fewer than 20 NBA players, including Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Warriors, have spent the past seven days wondering where they will be on Valentine’s Day. They’ll have a much better idea in a few hours.

Will it be Charlotte, N.C. for the NBA All-Star game?

Or might it be someplace with fresh air, clean water and warm beaches?

There are 14 vacancies on the All-Star Game rosters, with each side allowed to add seven reserves that will be announced Thursday. The roster limit is 12 – for no good or rational reason.

That number should be increased to 13 or 14 or maybe 15. And we say this not only because Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has been a head coach in two of the past four All-Star games, believes the rosters are too small.

“(Adding) three might be a pretty dramatic difference,” says Kerr, who is in line to make his third appearance as a coach next month. “One or two would be fine. I think 13 makes the most sense. We have 13 suited up every night. It seems like we should have 13 in the All-Star Game.”

Well, yes, you should have 13, at the least.

Even when NBA teams voted unanimously, in 2012, to increase team rosters from 12 to 13 active players, the All-Star Game roster remained at 12.

There were 14 players on each aside in the 1972 All-Star game before the limit was trimmed to 12 in 1974. It further trimmed to 11 in 1978 before going back to 12 in ’82 – when there were 23 teams.

Thirty-seven years and seven additional teams later, it’s still 12.

Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken out in favor of expansion, discussions with the NBA Players Association have not reached a consensus.

Silver vividly recalls one of his least enjoyable moments in his first season, back in 2014-15, when Kobe Bryant was injured and he had to choose a replacement between Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins, then with the Kings.

“I didn't like having to make that choice,” he said at the time. “I wish I had another slot for Damian because I think he's deserving of being an All-Star as well.

“From his standpoint, he did everything that was necessary. So maybe we have to find a way to expand the slots we have for the All-Star team."

There have been tweaks to the All-Star voting process, most recently (last season) when players receiving the most votes in each conference were designated team captains, while the other eight starters were placed in a pool from which they could be drafted by either captain, regardless of conference affiliation.

The NBA has grown and generally done a remarkable job of keeping pace in ancillary areas. All-Star Game rosters remain stuck in 1982, as it was before any of the current All-Star starters were born.

It’s most un-NBA of the NBA.

Meanwhile, we media types continue the debate over which players are deserving of being in the game and which players are legitimate snubs.

My seven reserves from the Western Conference, in alphabetical order, are: LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield, Nikola Jokic, Lillard, Thompson and Russell Westbrook. Toughest calls were Westbrook over Jimmy Butler in the backcourt and Ibaka over Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dirk Nowitzki.

[RELATED: Lillard vows to beat Curry brothers in 3-Point Contest]

The Eastern Conference wasn’t nearly as deep, but here goes: Bradley Beal, Eric Bledsoe, Danny Green, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Ben Simmons and Nikola Vucevic. Toughest call was Griffin over Andre Drummond, Al Horford and Pascal Siakam.

The 13th man would be, for sentimental reasons, Dwyane Wade.

There should be, in a league of 30 teams, at least eight reserves, maybe nine, per team. The commissioner likes the idea. The coach of the team that has won three of the last four NBA Finals also is ready to roll with it.

Bring it on, folks, sooner rather than later. It’s way overdue.

Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook defends actions that led to ejection vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook is sick of the unfair labels he believes he's been painted with by the NBA.

The Houston Rockets' star point guard received two technical fouls and was ejected from Thursday night's 135-105 win over the Warriors at Chase Center. The second technical came late in the game. Westbrook elbowed Damion Lee while going for a rebound, and then appeared to stare Lee down after having the ball taken away from him.

Westbrook started walking toward the Warriors' bench and was hit with a technical foul while both were jawing back and forth. The All-Star point guard defended himself after the game, noting he didn't intentionally elbow Lee and that he believes he is held to a different standard. 

"I think it's a situation where, I hold myself to a very, very, very high standard," Westbrook said after the game. "I think with the refs, the fans, the media, the NBA, I'm put in a position where I'm not allowed to really do much. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy. If you watch the clip, obviously I hit Lee. It wasn’t on purpose. I was going to the glass. He got hit. He said something to me. I said something to him. I’m standing there. The guy snatched the ball out of my hand. Guys are coming up to me. I didn’t move. But I’m always the one that gets painted to be the bad guy in the whole situation.

“They asked me to walk towards the Warriors bench," Westbrook continued. "So, I’m just over their walking to the bench. One of their young fellas tell me, ‘Why you walking over here, talking mess with me?’ I turned around and said, 'What you say?’ Now, everybody’s running over to me. Then, (Kevon) Looney steps in front of me. I’m in a position, 'Russ is being Russ,’ which nobody knows what that means.

“I have to do a better job of holding myself to a very, very high standard,” Westbrook continued. “I’ll make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody to paint me as being a bad guy. I just think it’s unfair that after all that, I’m the only one that gets a tech or gets kicked out. That’s not fair. I don’t care what nobody says. There are certainly other people involved in it that were doing so many things that's not OK. But I’m the one that gets a tech, gets ejected and everybody else is cool and goes back to playing."

Westbrook now has 13 technical fouls on the season, putting him three away from an automatic one-game suspension that comes with getting 16 technical fouls in the season.

[RELATED: Dubs' early reviews on Wiggins filled with praise]

The best part of the light dust-up was the look on Klay Thompson's face as Westbrook was jawing with the Dubs' bench.

Teams are enjoying piling on the Warriors this season, but there's no doubt Klay -- who was ruled out for the season Thursday -- will remember this once he returns next season.

Warriors didn't show improvement Steve Kerr desired in loss to Rockets


Warriors didn't show improvement Steve Kerr desired in loss to Rockets

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just before the Warriors departed for the All-Star break, coach Steve Kerr outlined in detail what he wanted to see from his team during Golden State's final 27 games of the season. 

"I want to see an awareness of the mistakes that we're making and the wherewithal to correct them," Kerr said before the break. "We've got to stop fouling jump shooters, we've got to stop turning the ball over." 

The season's final months offer the Warriors a genuine chance to improve. Armed with Steph Curry's inevitable return and the growth of their rookies, the goal seemed within reach heading into the break.

Eight days later, Kerr's urging fell on deaf ears against the Houston Rockets. The Warriors habitually fouled and threw the ball away, culminating in a 135-105 loss Thursday night.

"Yeah, they took it to us," Kerr admitted after the loss Thursday. "They were great tonight from the beginning." 

The Warriors' troubles started early Thursday. Golden State turned the ball over nine times in curious fashion during the first quarter. 

Russell Westbrook stole Draymond Green's errant pass to Marquese Chriss 90 seconds into the game, leading to a Houston 3-pointer. Rookie Jordan Poole lazily threw a pass intended for Damion Lee out of bounds fewer than two minutes later. Fellow rookie Eric Paschall dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds seven minutes after that with the Warriors down 24 points. 

By the end of the night, the Warriors turned the ball over 21 times. 

When the Warriors weren't physically giving the ball to the Rockets, they were providing free points to Houston. Worse, they fouled James Harden -- the Rockets' best scorer -- an inordinate amount behind the 3-point line.

One notable mishap occurred midway through the third quarter when Damion Lee stepped into Harden's landing area as he contested the All-Star's attempt. He was called for a foul, and Harden hit all three free throws to give the Rockets a 24-point lead. 

The Warriors held Harden to just one free throw in a blowout win on Christmas Day. He made 14-of-15 from the stripe Thursday. 

"The other game was more of an exception," Kerr said. "This was more of the rule. He's usually going to get to the line. You try to keep him under double figures and I think we fouled him three three-point shots. That's nine free throws right there. We were undisciplined."

[RELATED: Dubs' early reviews on Wiggins filled with deserved praise] 

The Warriors' latest loss comes at a unique time in their season. Curry's status is expected to be updated in less than a week, allowing him a late-season return for a lottery-bound team. 

Kerr expected the Warriors to fight in the interim, but their response was lacking Thursday. 

"I thought we looked young tonight," Kerr said. "We looked inexperienced and made a lot of mistakes at both ends, but I thought Houston had a lot to do with that. They were terrific."