NBA

Booker overlooked as Butler and Westbrook snare NBA All-Star reserve spots

By Sports Desk January 30, 2020

Devin Booker was the most notable omission as six first-timers won NBA All-Star selection among the 14 reserves named on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook headlined the list of players selected by NBA coaches to round out the roster options for Team LeBron and Team Giannis.

Phoenix Suns guard Booker was denied a place despite averaging 27.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists through 44 games this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder veteran Paul, Houston Rockets star Westbrook, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz youngster Donovan Mitchell snatched Western Conference guard spots, the latter handed his maiden selection alongside team-mate and fellow first-timer Rudy Gobert.

Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis will also be among the newcomers at United Center in Chicago on February 16.

Suns general manager and three-time NBA champion James Jones questioned Booker's absence.

"I've played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All-Star," Jones said in a statement.

Frenchman Gobert's inclusion alongside Sabonis (Lithuania), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Nikola Jokic (Serbia) plus starters Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) lifts the number of international players to eight, a record for an All-Star Game.

The 2020 edition will feature several format changes to honour Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Among them will be a 'target score' to chase in a timeless fourth quarter, the figure being the leading team's tally after three periods plus 24 points - representing the number Bryant wore during the second half of his glittering NBA career.

LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, the designated captains, will select their teams from the available player pool on February 6.

 

Eastern Conference reserves:

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

Western Conference reserves:

Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

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    The NBA fined Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell $25,000 after his scathing criticism of officials following his ejection in Wednesday's overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Mitchell stormed off the court and kicked a water cooler towards a security guard after he was tossed from the showdown in Philadelphia, where the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers prevailed 131-123.

    Utah's Mitchell picked up two technical fouls in overtime after 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid had forced OT with a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining.

    Level at 118-118 at the start of overtime, the 76ers went on to outscore NBA leaders the Jazz 13-5 in the additional period before Mitchell unleashed post-game.

    "I'm never ever one to blame a ref, blame an official, but this is getting out of hand," Mitchell, who posted 33 points, said after the game.

    "There have been games like this we've one. Games we've lost. We're nice, we don't complain, we don't get frustrated, we fight through things.

    "But the fact that we continuously get screwed in a way by this … It's getting f****** ridiculous."

    Mitchell was fined for public criticism of officiating and his conduct while exiting the playing court, executive vice-president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe announced.

    Jazz team-mate Rudy Gobert was also fined $20,000 for public criticism of officiating.

    Gobert was quoted as saying: "Our guys are not able to get calls everybody else in the f****** league gets. We know we are the Utah Jazz, and maybe some people don't want to see us go as far as we can go, but it's disappointing.

    "Three times in a row, Mike Conley is going to the rim, and they're grabbing him right in front of the officials, and there's no calls. And on the other end, there are calls that are invisible that are being made."

  • Jazz's Conley earns first NBA All-Star selection after replacing injured Booker Jazz's Conley earns first NBA All-Star selection after replacing injured Booker

    The Utah Jazz's Mike Conley will participate in this weekend's NBA All-Star Game after Devin Booker withdrew due to injury.

    Booker had replaced injured Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis for Sunday's game between Team Durant and Team LeBron, but the Phoenix Suns guard has succumbed to a left knee sprain.

    It has paved the way for Conley to earn his first All-Star selection as chosen by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, with the 33-year-old Jazz point guard replacing Booker on Team Durant.

    Conley is into his 14th NBA season – it is the latest into a career (by seasons played) that a player has ever made his first All-Star team, per Stats Perform.

    He will also step in for Booker in the three-point contest, which will take place before the All-Star Game on Sunday.

    Conley is averaging 16.1 points and 5.7 assists per game, while he is shooting a career-high 42.2 per cent from three-point range in 29 games this season as the Jazz (27-9) lead the NBA.

    Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics are the Team Durant starters.

    The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), with Conley joining that list.

    Team LeBron is headlined by Lakers superstar LeBron James, two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

    Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (76ers), Chris Paul (Suns), Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Paul George (Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Jazz).

    Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

  • Blake Griffin expected to be in demand after agreeing Pistons buyout Blake Griffin expected to be in demand after agreeing Pistons buyout

    Blake Griffin could be set to swap the team sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings for a potential title contender after agreeing a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons. 

    Stories on Friday of a parting of the ways between the Pistons and Griffin hardly came as a surprise, considering he had not featured for the team in their previous 10 games prior to the All-Star break. 

    Both parties agreed for the 31-year-old to be held off the active roster as the franchise worked towards a solution over his playing future.

    With no trade able to be worked out, a settlement has instead been reached with Griffin – whose contract was due to run until the end of the 2021-22 season – that will see him become a much-coveted free agent. 

    "Blake has been a great representative for our franchise and for the city of Detroit," Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement.

    "His work ethic and his approach to the game contributed a lot to our culture. He has been a consummate pro and we wish him continued success. I'm grateful for everything he did for our team and for our community."

    Now the six-time All-Star waits to see what offers come his way. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are among those interested.

    Griffin had averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 36.5 per cent in his 20 outings for Detroit, who have found wins hard to come by in the 2020-21 campaign. 

    Those figures are well down on his career numbers, though. After 642 games, he averages 21.4ppg, as well as 8.7 rebounds and a field goal percentage of 49.5 per cent. The only area of improvement this season has been free-throw success, landing 71 per cent compared to 69.5 per cent overall.

    Selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Griffin spent his first eight seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers, though his debut campaign was a write-off due to injury. 

    However, he was named Rookie of the Year in 2011 after playing in all 82 games, making his first All-Star appearance and also winning the dunk contest. Further injury issues hampered his progress, yet the Clippers still gave him a five-year, $173million contract in July 2017. 

    Just six months later, he was traded to the Pistons. Griffin was the leading piece in a six-player deal that also saw Detroit give up protected draft picks to acquire the power forward. 

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