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.
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.