How to make All-Star picks wildly fun
The NBA looked a bit stodgy last season when it refused to televise the All-Star draft, in which team captains Stephen Curry and LeBron James chose up sides. Finally there is justice — it will be televised this year — but the 3-Dot has a few improvements to suggest.
Commissioner Adam Silver wants to stage the draft in the last week of January, and that’s terribly short-sighted. With All-Star weekend still two weeks away, there’s a strong possibility of drafting players who either will be injured or unavailable (should they choose to withdraw for personal reasons). So why not stage it on game day?
Picture this: With the crowd buzzing — it’s in Charlotte this season — the players and team captains assemble on court about an hour before tip-off. The draft will be held right then, complete with trashtalking, triumphant gestures and righteous protest. Practice? When have you ever seen strategy in the All-Star Game? Make this a playground-style affair. Once the draft is complete, the TNT analysts can have a field day sorting out the picks.
There’s also the matter of appropriate leadership. If the recalcitrant Kawhi Leonard is named captain (as the leading vote-getter in the East) and isn’t comfortable with the draft process, he can pass off the assignment to someone who revels in the spotlight — say, Kyrie Irving or Joel Embiid.
If done properly, this thing could be wildly entertaining. And the game itself would have a freshness, a sense of pure spontaneity, it never had before.
Bring on the rematch
Date on the NBA calendar suddenly taking on a neon glow: The Warriors at Milwaukee, Dec. 7. The Bucks knew they were good, they proved it in Thursday night’s 23-point rout in Oakland, and the magnificent Giannis Antetokounmpo proclaimed “we’ve arrived” in a postgame TNT interview. If the Warriors enter the rematch with a healthy Draymond Green ,a hot-shooting Curry and full motivation — as opposed to the “mindless intent” lamented by head coach Steve Kerr on Thursday night — look for an entirely different outcome ... In truth, the Eastern Conference has arrived. The Bucks, who didn’t establish an identity when Jason Kidd coached the team, are a thing of beauty under Mike Budenholzer.
The Celtics are a work in progress, trying to bring Warriors-style cohesiveness to the league’s deepest roster, and if Irving continues his ball-sharing ways, they’ll have it together by playoff time. And Toronto is the critics’ choice for the East’s best team at the moment, running a fluid offense under head coach Nick Nurse and savoring Leonard’s allaround brilliance ... The West? Plenty of challengers to Golden State, but none looking as strong as the East’s top three (make that four if the 76ers pick up a shooter or two). Houston has been simply awful, playing matador defense and misfiring so glaringly in Thursday night’s 98-80 loss to Oklahoma City, head coach
Mike D’Antoni called his offense “anemic.” The Rockets have yet to be fully healthy, but as long as Carmelo Anthony plays a prominent role, they can’t be taken seriously.
Cal football coach Justin
Wilcox has made a huge impression on alumni, school administrators, fans, just about everyone. He brings the priceless element of defense, and with the Bears so short on elite skill players, it’s the only way they can be competitive in the Pac-12. But nobody’s defending Wilcox’s decision to rotate quarterbacks in and out of the Washington State game, a potential upset that slipped away when Brandon McIlwain floated a badly overthrown interception. Which wasn’t so unusual, considering that McIlwain was responsible for 11 turnovers over a threegame stretch (losses to Oregon, Arizona and UCLA), five of them returned for touchdowns. “I was scratching my head,” Pac-12 Network analyst
Toby Gerhart said in studio after watching the highlights. “Why was McIlwain in there? In that situation, I would have had my (primary) quarterback,
Chase Garbers, handle it. I just didn’t understand that play.” Garbers is nowhere near the caliber of quarterback featured throughout the conference, but these games should belong to him, especially at crucial times ... Meanwhile, an air of mystery surrounds Cal’s starting QB last year, Ross Bowers, who has been out since the season’s first game with a thumb injury. The Bears do not disclose season-ending injuries, and Wilcox has said Bowers’ ailment doesn’t fit that category ... Better news: Tim DeRuyter,
Cal’s defensive coordinator, is among the nominees for the Broyles Award, honoring the top assistant coach in the collegiate game ... And how about Fresno State, 8-1 under former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, landing at No. 23 in the latest playoff rankings, ahead of every Pac-12 team but Washington State?
Because we can’t get enough
Willie McCovey: Aside from the home run believed to be his longest — 515 feet in St. Louis in 1966 — he had four other shots estimated between 500 and 510 feet: 1966 at Candlestick off the Mets’ Jack
Fisher, 1967 in Philadelphia off Jim Bunning, 1969 at Candlestick off the Phillies’ Rick Wise, and 1969 in Atlanta off
Gary Neibauer. Most of the time, you hear 500 feet and figure it’s an exaggeration. With McCovey, you thought the estimates were conservative ... Will Clark won’t make the Hall of Fame when a special committee casts its “Today’s Game” ballots, but Giants fans know this: For at least the first six years of his career, he had a Cooperstown look. I always voted for Clark on the annual ballot, just for the sake of recognition, and I did the same for two other exceptional left-handed first basemen,
Don Mattingly and Keith
Hernandez ... USA Today’s plugged-in Bob Nightengale doesn’t foresee much suspense in the Bryce Harper freeagent bidding. He says the Phillies might be the only team willing to give Harper $400 million, “and he will sign with them. Bank on it.”
Stephen Curry (center) picked an All-Star team in February that included (from left) Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.