Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Now that the voting is over I Appreciate all the fans that took the time to vote for me for All Star, Thank u for showing me so much love!
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) January 19, 2016
Prior to this season, Isaiah Thomas made it crystal clear that he wanted a promotion from Sixth Man to the Starting Five. He got that four games into the schedule, when Marcus Smart sat with a toe injury. Isaiah hasn’t looked back, ranking among the league leaders in points, assists, and a bunch of advanced stats. All of that has IT believing he now deserves to be an All-Star – which he should – but there’s a problem:
Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who has only played 13 games in an injury-truncated season, is expected to be included when All-Star starters are announced Thursday. He’s second among eastern guards only to Dwyane Wade, more a sentimental choice than one of the best guards in the conference at this stage in his impending Hall of Fame career.
But as a result, Thomas will be jockeying for inclusion alongside Washington’s John Wall, Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Detroit’s Reggie Jackson when reserves are announced on Jan. 28. As a sign of further imperfection, Charlotte’s Jeremy Lin has collected more votes than Thomas, not to mention more than the starting point guard on his own team, Kemba Walker. […]
“It’s only questionable because I’m 5-foot-9,” he said. “Like I keep saying. That’s the only question about it. If I was 6-foot, there wouldn’t be no consideration about how I’d be in there. But I’m going to do my part. And then with this team hopefully we can get a few wins before the All-Star break and even put me in a better position to be there.”
As we all know, the fan voting is just a popularity contest, and Isaiah doesn’t have the high profile of his competitors. He’s been no. 9 in the backcourt vote totals each time the standings have been announced. If the vote was on merit, the results might be different. If you’d like to review some numbers, here’s a statistical comparison of Thomas, Wade and Irving for this season, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Meanwhile, expect to see articles like the following, where NBA media make their choices without the restrictions of the fan vote. IT does get the half-hearted nod here:
Melo and Thomas get the last two spots in what amounts to a shoulder shrug. Crowder might be Boston’s best player, and he deserves consideration for a reserve spot. Thomas takes three or four ghastly shots every game, often with wide-open teammates in his line of sight, and he’s so short, he’ll always be a liability on defense. But it’s unclear if Boston’s army of third options could score enough to win — and for Crowder’s ferocious two-way play to draw notice — without Thomas puncturing defenses. He is the only Celtics ball handler who can hurt you both driving and shooting.
Boston has scored 105 points per 100 possessions with Thomas on the floor, and just 94.5 when he sits – one of the largest such gaps in the league.
Even though Zach Lowe picks Isaiah, he’s not totally sold. Lowe’s starting guards are Lowry and Butler, and he says Wall and DeRozan are no-brainers. Thomas is his only other backcourt choice. (As an aside, shoutout for his acknowledgement of Jae Crowder’s giant strides this season.)
But back to the real world: if those four are locks, and we restore the fan choices, Wade and Irving – both omitted by Lowe – then where does that leave IT? Possibly nowhere.
There’s one hope: perhaps Wall is not a lock. Team records matter, and the Wizards are below the Cs in the standings. Boston is 3-0 against Washington this season, and IT has averaged 23.0 points and 5.3 assists in those three games, compared to Wall’s 19.7 and 9.0. If that’s not enough, compare their full seasons to date, and you could easily make the case that Thomas has been more effective than Wall.
With all that said, the prediction here is that IT will be on vacation during the All-Star break instead of in Toronto. Hope I’m wrong, but it seems like the logjam of top players will be too much to overcome. The silver lining will be new motivation for Thomas during the second half of the season.
On Page 2: Thanks for nothing, NBA
On Monday in Dallas, with the score tied and a few seconds remaining, Zaza Pachulia fumbled away the ball, tracked it down, took two dribbles and heaved a hopeless shot as time expired. In real time, the referee had signaled that Smart tipped the ball away from Pachulia, which allowed the big guy to legally retrieve it.
Except that the replay clearly showed Smart didn’t touch the ball. Zaza should have been called for traveling, and the Celts – with one timeout available – would’ve had about two seconds to win the game with one of Brad Stevens’ legendary ATOs. Instead, the Mavs won it in overtime.
The Celts were hosed and some of us knew what would happen next. On Tuesday the NBA issued its Last Two Minute Report, which reviews important calls and non-calls for all games that are within a five-point margin in the final two minutes. Sure enough, the league admitted the traveling was missed.
That travel call is pretty crucial and inexcusable. @Scalabrine caught it right away from his broadcast position. Should be reviewable.
— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) January 19, 2016
Making it worse, the NBA also acknowledged a foul by Dirk Nowitzki that was uncalled in OT.
While it’s admirable that the NBA is being transparent with its officiating errors, what good does that do the Celtics (or any team) the day after a game-changing blunder? Not to be too dramatic, but playoff standings and draft positions (Boston owns Dallas’ first pick) could have been affected by that one non-call.
As John said in his tweet, this stuff should be reviewable. Or perhaps it’s time to consider allowing coaches to challenge, like in the NFL. I know we all hate the delays, but waiting another minute here and there is better than reading “our bad” the day after.
And, finally: Shouldn’t winning matter most?
Once again, I’m shaking my head about ESPN “best of all time” player rankings. Last Thursday, in the “And finally” section of the Dump, I couldn’t help but react when Celtics legend Sam Jones was snubbed in the shooting guard category by ESPN’s allegedly knowledgeable voters.
Today, it’s worse. ESPN has said Bill Russell is only the third-best center in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (first) and Wilt Chamberlain. Please. Russell won more titles than Kareem and Wilt combined. What else matters?
I already made the case why Russ was better than Wilt, including addressing the myth that No. 6 had better teammates than No. 13. That was easy.
It’s harder to refute Kareem individually because he and Russell didn’t play against each other. But, again, Russ had 11 rings to Kareem’s six – and Russell did that while going against Chamberlain in his prime. Kareem had no such rival. Russell revolutionized defense (if only they had kept stats on blocked shots back then) and was the key to the greatest dynasty in professional sports.
One more thing: I have to pull the old-timer card here. I watched Russell play scores of games – most on TV but probably 35-40 times in person. Saw his brilliance and ferocity right in front of me. How many ESPN voters can say the same?
The Rest of the Links:
CSNNE – Celtics getting Smart with their bench play | Celtics small ball lineup hurting them defensively | Draper & Blakely’s second half Celtics predictions | Thomas to be inducted into Pac-12 Hall of Honor