This Sunday, Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith and Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer will watch the 2010 NBA All-Star Game from the stands instead of the bench. Can anyone explain how this is possible?
Let’s be honest. Snubs happen every single year in every sport’s all-star game, because there are too many good players and not enough good spots. This happens especially in the NBA, where there are just 12 spots to go around—so for the most part I let the “snub argument” pass.
However, the 2010 NBA All-Star Game will feature four fill-in players due to injuries to Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, and Kobe Bryant in the West and Allen Iverson in the East, who will miss the game due to an illness to his daughter. It’s one thing not to vote in either Smith or Boozer, but to then say Smith wasn’t the best player left off the roster or that Boozer wasn’t even the THIRD best player left off the initial team is ludicrous.
Starting in the East, Iverson was replaced on the roster by David Lee, which was the right move. Lee is having an incredible season and deserved to be in the game, regardless of how badly the Knicks have played. The real issue with the East’s roster is that they selected the wrong Atlanta Hawks player.
Al Horford will be making his first All-Star appearance of his career—a decision that is head scratching to say the least. Comparing Horford with Smith, it’s hard to come up with an argument that Horford deserves to be in the game more. Smith is averaging better stats in these categories: points, steals, blocks, assists, and assist-to-turnover, doing so while averaging a minute less than Horford.
Horford has a one-rebound advantage on Smith and commits less turnovers. However, Smith averages over eight rebounds and only turns the ball over two times a game, so it’s not as if he lost his All-Star vote because of those numbers.
The Hawks are 33-18 at the break and sit just one-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Magic, thanks in large part to Horford, Smith, and the silent assassin Joe Johnson. But when someone thinks about the Hawks, most think first of Smith’s high-flying dunks and deadly defense before they think of the blue-collar, hard-working Horford.
The All-Star Game is all about flashiness and, if there is one player who defines that, it’s Smith. He has one of the most intriguing styles of play in all of basketball that includes a jump shot, post moves, above-the-rim potential, stingy defense, and the potential to swat a shot on any possession. To keep that out of the All-Star Game just because Horford is a center is a crime. Josh Smith deserves to play in the game.
More baffling than Smith’s All-Star snub is the fact that Carlos Boozer was left off the team when the original rosters came out, and then we watched as three more players were selected over him as replacements. The first was Chauncey Billups, who was rightfully put into the game after putting together one of the best seasons of his career.
Jason Kidd was also selected as a replacement and, as hard as it is to think of him as an All Star, the game is being played in Dallas so he will get to play in front of his hometown fans. He also didn’t have to fly into the winter storms that have hit Dallas.
The real beef with not having Boozer in the All-Star Game this Sunday is the fact that Chris Kaman was selected as a replacement over him. Just as it was with Smith and Horford, let’s compare the two West forwards and try to make sense of this all.
Boozer, who missed three games early in the season, is averaging more rebounds, steals, and assists, and has a better field goal percentage. He is behind Kaman by less than a point per game and, while Kaman averages over a block per game, Boozer is one heck of a defender.
While the stats match up more closely than Smith/Horford, the real problem here is that Boozer has led his team to one of the best records in the conference, while Kaman has his Clippers destined for yet another lottery in June. Whether or not the NBA admits they take team records into consideration when they make their selections, it’s clear they do (why didn’t David Lee get in the first time around?).
The Clippers are 19 games back of the Lakers, while the Jazz finished the first half on a blaze and now find themselves just two games behind the Denver Nuggets for first place. When two players like Boozer and Kaman are so close in terms of numbers, shouldn’t the record of the team they play for have some say in the equation.
The NBA All Star Game will attract many viewers because the game’s best players are competing. It’s just unfortunate that Josh Smith and Carlos Boozer have to be two of those watching.