Reputation can carry some weight in the NBA. At least, on all-star selection night.
Two years ago, when the Bulls were on their way to a 62-20 record and their first trip to the conference finals since Michael Jordan left the building, they complained about getting no one besides Derrick Rose on the all-star team.
Now that Rose is recovering from knee surgery and the Bulls have been downgraded to pleasant surprise, they get two all-stars. Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were both selected by Eastern Conference coaches as all-star reserves.
Noah made it for the first time in his sixth NBA season. After pulling out a comeback win over Detroit on Wednesday, Noah spoke briefly about the possibility.
“It would be really special,” he said. “But you can only control what you can control. I can’t really control that. Time will tell.”
Deng made it for the second time, after breaking the ice last year. That makes him something of a perennial all-star. He’s sidelined at the moment with a right hamstring strain but has plenty of time to get healthy before Feb. 17, when the All-Star Game will be held in Houston.
The rest of the East reserves are New York center Tyson Chandler, who spent the first five years of his NBA career with the Bulls; Miami center Chris Bosh, Indiana swingman Paul George, Philadelphia guard Jrue Holiday and Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving. All but Deng and Bosh are first-time all-stars.
The East starters are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.
The most surprising omission in the East was Brooklyn center Brook Lopez. He’s averaging 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and shooting 52.1 percent from the field.
In comparison, Noah is at 12.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. He’s also considered a stronger defender. Noah’s biggest advantage might be simply how much opposing coaches appreciate how hard he works.
Chandler was averaging 12.2 points and 11.0 rebounds through Wednesday, while leading the league in field-goal percentage a .676. He won the defensive player of the year award last season.
Boston’s Paul Pierce (18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds) had the numbers to merit all-star consideration, but with Garnett and Rondo both starting, it would have been difficult to justify three Celtics on the team.
Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings (18.7 points, 5.8 assists) and New York’s J.R. Smith (16.7 points) were good candidates who got left out.
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (16.2 points, 9.9 rebounds) came on strong this month but didn’t make the cut. Deng’s numbers (17.4 points, 6.4 rebounds) in the absence of Rose, plus his reputation as a strong defender, likely created strong support from the coaches.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who lobbied for Boozer, said this about the Bulls’ selections: “I was happy for Noah; he’s my favorite player. I was surprised Luol Deng made it.”
The Western Conference reserves feature San Antonio’s Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Houston’s James Harden, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Golden State’s David Lee.
The most glaring omission in the West was Warriors guard Stephen Curry (20.9 points, 6.6 assists). He will get a chance to take out his frustrations against the Bulls on Friday at the United Center.
The coaches will be determined by the best record in each conference through Feb. 3. Bulls boss Tom Thibodeau and Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks are not eligible, since they coached last year.
At this point, the likely coaches are Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, now heading the Clippers.
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