Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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O.K., so we finally have the names of the NBA All-Star starters (and reserves, which were announced on Tuesday).

As you may know, this season’s big game is in Atlanta on March 7. Most of the starters were obvious, but there was at least one surprise that caught everyone’s attention.

For the Eastern Conference, the backcourt was claimed by Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving and Washington’s Bradley Beal. The frontcourt is going to consist of Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

For the Western Conference, the backcourt will contain Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Dallas’ Luka Dončić. The frontcourt has Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Denver’s Nikola Jokić.

Durant and James are the captains for their respective conferences.

Though the title of All-Star starter is a great honor, many actually wanted Portland’s Damian Lillard to get the nod over Dončić. Even the Dallas superstar agreed!

Lillard has basically carried the Blazers without starters C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić, averaging 29.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and eight assists.

However, Lillard is going to be a reserve for the Western Conference. There wasn’t any way around that. I couldn’t imagine the social media rants and riots if the voting was foolish enough to leave him out.

Even if he doesn’t state it publicly, Lillard is probably taking the snub personally. His nickname is about to go from “Logo Lillard” (because he can hit shots from around halfcourt) to “Full court Lillard!”

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: That’s funny – I thought Michael Jordan retired. The Chicago Bulls have a shooting guard that’s lighting up the stat sheet. Playoffs are in their sights.

Let me adjust my glasses… oh, it’s Zach LaVine.

Before the 2017 season, LaVine was tossed in a package deal for star Jimmy Butler. Now, he’s breathing life into a Chicago squad that’s looking to make noise. Chicago is right behind the Knicks for the seventh seed in the East with a 14-16 record. LaVine is a gigantic reason that they’re there.

He’s averaging 28.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists. In his last five games, he’s averaged 31.2 points! This is next-level dominance by the 25-year-old. Similar to Lillard, LaVine made the All-Star reserve list. A playoff run is very possible for the Windy City.

Lowlight: Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and witness a collapse like no other. Even Barnum and Bailey couldn’t come up with an idea like this.

On Saturday, the Warriors visited the Hornets. The aforementioned Curry was unavailable because he wasn’t feeling well, but Golden State kept the game close. Charlotte was down 100-98 with 13 seconds left.

After a jump ball, Charlotte’s Gordon Hayward and Golden State’s Draymond Green wrestled for possession. While it appeared that another jump ball was in order, the refs granted the Hornets a timeout.

Green has been a solid player over the course of his career, but one of his biggest flaws is his temper. Green pleaded his case to the refs… only for them to eject him from the game with two technical fouls!

Charlotte’s Terry Rozier hit the two technical free throws, and they were given the ball back. Rozier then hit a contested midrange shot for the win and finished the game with 36 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr was frustrated with Green in a post-game interview, as he should be. His team is sitting at eighth in the West. Could this loss cost them come playoff time?

Random Stat: Phoenix Suns’ point guard Chris Paul, also nicknamed the “Point God,” passed the legendary Oscar Robertson for sixth most assists in NBA history. Robertson had 9,887 assists in his career.

One of his biggest accomplishments was being one of two players to ever average a triple-double throughout a season (Russell Westbrook did it for three straight seasons from 2016-2019). Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in the 1961-62 season.

While Paul may not be on the same level as Robertson was in terms of being a nightly triple-double threat, he is one of the top point guards ever. Paul is also seventh all-time in steals. As I mentioned in the first issue of this column, Jazz legend John Stockton is the all-time leader in both assists and steals.

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