The Game-Players of Titan: Another Weekly Roundtable
USA Today Sports
These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our regular routines and we have every intention of extending them through the rest of the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are.
1. Who wins All-Star Game MVP?
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): Damian Lillard. His 2014 All Star “Break” could be one of the greatest of all time. He has a highlight type skill set that should allow him to have a handful of nice passes, dunks, and bombs. There aren’t many players who can do that, and defense has never exactly been his calling card.
Dan Lewis (@danlewismedia): Anthony Davis. Players are going to be lazily passing back and forth, and the Unibomber has no regards for your pathetic attempts to lob in dunks. It’s nice that he replaces Kobe in the lineup – now he needs to go out and win the MVP for the city of New Orleans.
Kris Fenrich (@dancingwithnoah): Impossible question to answer since I don’t know all the All-Stars, but I’ll take a cop out and throw it to Kevin Durant. He’s averaging 33/game over his last three all-star games and has taken his passing to new places. Playing with world class players will give him more opportunities to expand his beautiful game. Dark horses: Steph Curry and Melo.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): Who are the All-Stars again? I know Durant is one, so I choose him.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): DeMar DeRozan. He makes cool dunks a lot and as a first timer, I can see him being a bit unchill and trying to show out.
Andy Liu (AndyKHLiu): I’m immeasurably biased but I think Stephen Curry is going to shoot and make a ton of threes in a game where no one attempts to move from even line to line. As a starter, here’s thinking he’ll start hot, remain hot, get hotter, and finish hot.
2. Who wins All-Star Game LVP (assuming the NBA had the self-deprecating sense of humor to hand one out)?
Soppe: Melo. Could he get hot? Sure. But could he just as easily go 2/12 and cost his team the game by not getting the ball to hotter players? Yes. That’s not an issue in New York (where any shot he takes is the best shot available), but on a loaded squad, it’s a big time problem.
Lewis: Dwyane Wade. Why he plays more than 10 minutes, I’m not sure. He really ought to just play a few minutes, throw some 75 foot lobs to LeBron, then take a seat on the bench and care for his boys.
Patty: I doubt Chris Paul plays much, so I’ll go a player who won’t be seeing much time.
Fenrich: Kevin Love, but maybe not. I mean, a jump shooting big man with a penchant for Unseld-esque outlet passes isn’t our paradigm for all star excellence.
Karalla: Dirk Nowitzki. Here’s a rare bit of semi-serious All-Star Game analysis: Dirk literally does not care about the game, and his play usually reflects his level of excitement for being in it. He’s scored 108 points in 11 All-Star appearances, and outside of the 2010 game played in Dallas (George Karl, why didn’t you let Dirk take the last shot?!) Nowitzki averages 8.6 points per game and shoots 43 percent. In a game with no defense! My money is on the Blonde Bomber for the LVP.
Redford: Tony Parker. He is a Spur and will loaf around. Monsieur does not understand! Zhoot ze ball! Pfff!
Liu: I guess I’ll go with someone that’ll actually play a lot and possible struggle….eh, who am I kidding? No one that cares will find a hard time doing the things they want to. LVP is whoever is doing the halftime show? Especially if it’s at all similar to last season’s.
3. How does one fix the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Soppe: Well, things only get worse if they move to Russia, right? Cleaning house isn’t a bad idea, but I’m hanging onto Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. At the end of the day, they aren’t getting LeBron, but that’d be the quickest of fixes.
Lewis: Kyrie Irving isn’t a bad player. He’s just on a really bad team. I think Tristan Thompson is a decent player, and will be a contributor for Cleveland for a long time. Everyone else has to be up for a trade though – hey, I wonder if the Knicks would want to trade for Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters?
Karalla: 1. Draft players who are good at basketball, 2. Sign players who want to play basketball, 3. Draft players who are in shape, 4. Do not change GMs every three years, 5. Hire coaches who can design a functional offense. It really is not difficult.
Fenrich: They’ve done well with Lebron, Kyrie, Varejao and even Tristan Thompson is decent, but the coaching hires and front office decisions have been mediocre. This is all easy to say in retrospect as I think a lot of us thought the Bynum and Jarrett Jack moves were of the savvy variety, but there’s something amiss here. Is it Dan Gilbert? Is it a culture thing? Is Kyrie a malcontent? And that’s to say nothing of Anthony Bennett or Dion Waiters. So fixing? How do you fix a car that’s been totaled?
Redford: At risk of sounding like a big big dummy, I think they need to focus the rest of the season on Anthony Bennett because he can be a big part of their future. He’s finally looked like an NBA player and I blame his early season shittinesses on the organization more than on him. He was out of shape but they mangled his development.
Liu: Go back in time and draft the players that they were supposed to? It’d make sense to draft players with high upside at the top of the draft (hero picks) but going with Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters (both solid pros and likely nothing more) along with Anthony Bennett (along the same lines) just made zero sense. So, yeah, in short, you can’t fix this team.
4. Who is the head coach of the New York Knicks next season?
Soppe: Carmelo Anthony? I have no idea who is going to sign up for this job, but I don’t think Mike Woodson is an awful coach (he’s not good, but not this bad). Hopefully the roster looks different by the time they hire a new coach this summer, if not, the next coach is going to suffer the same fate as the current one.
Lewis: Whoever comes in is going to have to be big enough to deal with James Dolan, and will have to figure out how to assemble a successful roster out of this mess. If the front office is able to clear out some of the older players, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after George Karl hard. His resume is grand enough to draw Dolan’s attention, he would be able to handle the big city pressure, and he’ll coax them to enough regular season wins to keep the fanbase happy.
Patty: Mike Brown just seems way too cruel, and unfortunately falls in line with the post-2000s Knicks.
Karalla: Mike Woodson. YEP.
Fenrich: I hate this question because I’m not familiar enough with the coaching carousel to provide answer with any level of confidence. I’ll throw out three names and if one of them works out, I’ll pretend to have been convinced about it all along:
1. Isiah Thomas: Dolan would do this out of spite for his detractors.
2. Avery Johnson: Strong resume and personality. I could see Dolan taking the bait as Avery pitches him on some Dallas 2006 2.0.
3. Mike Woodson: Sometimes it’s easier to stay together than get a divorce.
Redford: That guy who is a Heat assistant that everyone talks about hiring but he never leaves.
Liu: Some Spurs assistant coach. (steals Redford’s idea)
5. Anthony Davis ended up as Kobe Bryant’s injury replacement, selected over DeMarcus Cousins. Good call?
Soppe: I do like it. Davis and Cousins are both studs, so I don’t think there is a wrong answer here, but Cousins’ probably to do something stupid and cause uproar is considerably higher than that of Davis. Plus, the Pelicans (for me at least) are a team headed in the right direction (when healthy), earning them representative more so than the Kings. Davis was the number one overall pick in the Rising Stars Challenge as well, a title that should be rewarded with an invite to the “real” game.
Lewis: I love it. I picked him as my All-Star game MVP, and I’m excited to see him play. I’m not able to catch Pelicans’ games up here in the northeast (League Pass is expensive) so I’m anxious to see how he plays in an actual game. Anything that lets Davis play alongside “bigger celebrity” James Harden, I’m in favor of.
Karalla: The game is being played in New Orleans and he’s more of an “All-Star” type of player in terms of entertainment value to the average NBA fan than his counterpart. Davis throws down cool dunks, and people like dunks. Plus, he’s a national team guy and figures to be for the next decade or so. Recognizable faces are important in a league of marketability. He’s also the first All-Star with a unibrow (that I know of), giving the NBA a chance to break down yet another barrier. We should be celebrating his selection.
Fenrich: Six of one, half a dozen of another. I love both players and they’re both deserving, but in a Western Conference with so many cresting big men, someone’s got to be passed over and this time it’s rightly Cousins.
Redford: No. Davis has narrative and hometown considerations on his side, so it was obvious who the call had to be. But Cousins has had a better season and his efficiency numbers are too good to ignore. For all the twitter-centric gasming over Davis’ length and game, he isn’t the elemental force Cousins is. I am a huge homer so you can probably ignore this.
Liu: On an aesthetic level, yes. And that’s why we watch the All-Star Game, right?