Brent Musburger announces retirement

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ESPN– Brent Musburger, one of the most recognizable and accomplished voices in the history of television, has decided to end his legendary play-by-play career at month’s end. Musburger, who has worked in the industry for nearly 50 years as host and play-by-play commentator – including the last 27 with ABC/ESPN – will call two more men’s college basketball games, punctuated by his final telecast, Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (Georgia at Kentucky from Rupp Arena).

“But the next rodeo for me is in Las Vegas. Stop by and we’ll share a cold one and some good stories. I may even buy!” (Gee, ya think?)

You are looking live at some of the worst news to ever hit us here in the Brian’s Den. We’ve lost another legend. First Verne Lundquist retires, now Brent. The end of an era. Nothing could beat Brent’s dulcet tones calling the biggest college football and basketball games. He was my fall Saturdays and winter weeknights growing up. A true icon. A pillar of the announcing community. A gold standard by which all play-by-play/thinly veiled gambling allusions should be judged. But now that he’s old and recently had his millionth controversy in his thoughts on Joe Mixon, ESPN nudged this titan of the industry to retire. Sad!

Power Ranking: Top Five Current Play-by-play men

  1. Joe Buck- Come at me, haters!
  2. Al Michaels- The last legend we have left. We need to make sure Al stays around forever
  3. Don Orsillo- I will never forgive the Red Sox for what they did to him
  4. Sean McDonough- Another former Red Sox guy. Wish we still had him around
  5. Mike Tirico- Still can’t believe he says he’s not black

So tonight, pour one out for Brent. Remember the good times. Celebrate his career. Do not weep, for he would not want tears to be shed for him. Unless he bet on it. Good night, sweet prince.

Why does Harry Connick Jr. have a talk show?

As I spent yesterday trying to come up with some ideas for posts (maybe a new Burning Questions), I found myself flipping channels. Lost in the miasma of daytime TV, prospects were looking bleak. I thought I might have to settle for an uninspiring news story or movie trailer analysis. But then I saw something that shook me to my core. Something so shocking, so unexpected, I had to stop and take note. Harry Connick, Jr. has his own talk show. No, really, he does. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I decided I had to watch this spectacle. Results were absolutely wild.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. How in the world did Harry Connick, Jr. get his own mid-day talk show? How many stars had to align for this to happen? Is he the least likely talk show host in history? I mean they tried to give Magic Johnson his own talk show, but at least he’s infinitely more famous than Harry Connick, Jr. He’s the definition of a D-list celebrity. This is like if someone gave the lead singer of Deep Blue Something his own show. I really wish I was in the room for this meeting. “Alright, so we all know Harry Connick, Jr. for that good Christmas album from the 90s and his memorable roles in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Well, what if he had a midday talk show?” What skills does he have that translate to talk show success? A slight New Orleans accent? Thinking about it, the person that greenlit this show maybe the most reckless and courageous man in the history of the entertainment industry. I mean, this show was a crazy combination of the most boring television I’ve ever watched and the most enthralling entertainment ever produced. I might have to become a regular watcher. I think my new life’s goal is to somehow be a guest on this show. Or better yet, his sidekick. He obviously had a jazz band with him but I didn’t notice a witty sidekick to help add mother-approved comedy for the 3 o’clock crowd. Hey, Harry, sign me up. I’d add some much needed spice to the bland gumbo that is Harry. (a little New Orleans humor to get on Harry’s good side. I can tell we already have great chemistry.) I can help take your show to unprecedentedly middling heights. I need my life’s work to be lost in the ether of daytime TV. Have your people call my people, Harry.

For All the H8ers

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The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl. Again. They’re going to face the Atlanta Falcons, and they are going to win. I’m sorry, America, but they just aren’t going away. So, before the next fake scandal comes just in time to distract them from the Falcons, and before you hear all the experts tell you that the Falcons admittedly all-time great offense will dominate the overrated Patriots defense (which just completely stifled the supposed most talented offense in the league), let me tell you, yes, you, who dedicates your entire life to hating the Patriots and anything involved with them, why you’re wrong. Because I’m a spoiled brat when it comes to the NFL. Because I feel like gloating. Because I want everyone who wants so desperately for this team to be out of the picture to feel like the idiots they are. But mostly, because I can.

It’s easy to forget after Brady’s career game against the Steelers super fast and resurgent defense that will definitely stop him, but there was a big-time Internet debate this week: Who has the worst offense left in the playoffs? Mysteriously, the Patriots, who lead the AFC in scoring and finished second to the Falcons in every other category among the four teams in question, were the most popular answer. After all, the Packers had Aaron Rodgers, the greatest quarterback of all time. The Steelers had LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, who have never lost big games. Who do the Pats have? Tom Brady? Is he even good anymore? Everyone was so eager to get rid of the Pats that they abandoned all reason. They would have picked the Rutland Raiders, my high school team, over the Pats. Every excuse under the sun came out: They play in the worst division, (true, the AFC East is inhabited by teams the Patriots absolutely dominate, but the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets combined to go 7-5 against the NFC this year. To use Earl Thomas’ example, the NFC West went a combined to go 6-10 against the AFC. Weird.) they play in a conference full of pushovers, (sure, the bottom of the AFC is weak. The bottom of the NFC isn’t? And aren’t the Broncos (last year’s winner), Ravens (won in 2012 and constantly push the Patriots to the brink), and Steelers (won in 2006 and 2011 and had the greatest, most dangerous offense in the history of Western Civilization before this weekend) in the AFC? In fact, since the Patriots first Super Bowl win, the rest of the AFC has won five Super Bowls to the NFC’s six. That’s not exactly a domination.) and, of course, they cheat.

Listen, at this point if you think they’re cheaters I’m probably not gonna do much to change your mind. I’ll just remind you of some facts: The rule violation that triggered Spygate was not the filming of opponents’ signals. It was the location they filmed it. Filming other teams was not, and is not, illegal. In fact, everyone else does it. The Pats just got busted for doing it in the wrong spot. That’s it. Was it stupid to do it after being told by the league not to? Yes, yes it was. But the huge fines handed down were the result of a new commissioner looking to flex his muscles, and the same commissioner facing pressure from the other jealous owners who were sick of the Patriots’ continued success in an era where it was nearly impossible, not the severity of the crime. It really wasn’t that bad, and, had it been, say, the Giants who had been caught doing it, nothing would have happened. There was no Super Bowl walkthrough video taping. There was no sinister plot to deceive the league and take advantage of the other hapless teams, as much as the dearly departed Senator Arlen Specter wanted to make you believe. (I try to be a good person, but every so often I think about spending the rest of my life being a huge prick and going to hell so I can finally give Specter a piece of my mind. Him getting involved was the most preposterous, unbelievable, and blatant example of overstepping your bounds and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong of all time. He was just bitter his beloved Eagles lost in the Super Bowl so he thought there had to be a nefarious reason. It wasn’t the fact that the quarterback of his team spent the entire fourth quarter puking and still doesn’t know the rules to overtime or anything. It couldn’t be that.) And Deflategate, I mean… If you believe this was anything besides a witch hunt (even before the Giants were accused of doing the same thing and the league quickly cited the Ideal Gas Law as an explanation) you are a moron of colossal proportions. It was the biggest crock of shit in the history of this country. It was just a bunch of jealous, petty owners trying to finally get one over on the team that has spent the better part of two decades beating their brains in. It’s been confirmed that it was a sting operation! High ranking people in the league offices were involved, including Goodell! Could you imagine a group of NBA owners conspiring against Lebron because they were sick of him dominating? Could you imagine the outrage those teams would face? Would they be thrown in jail? They would certainly be forced to sell (look into this, Knicks fans). But, because the NFL controls the press and got out in front of this early, public opinion was already set before the actual facts came out. But, whatever, the Patriots cheat, everyone knows that. No one else does bad things. The Giants would never do things like intercept other teams’ radio signals, keep confessed wife beaters on the team for way too long, or deify a cocaine addicted, underage prostitute buying monster of a man. They’re a classy organization. The Steelers would never trip an opposing player on a kick return, employ a doctor at the head of an illegal steroids ring, rely on a quarterback who has been accused of sexual assault a million times, or not suspend a coach when he gets in a huge bar fight. They’re a classy organization. The Seahawks would never do something like have a giant PED epidemic, practice illegally, or keep players off the injury report all season. They’re a classy organization. The Ravens would never build a statue for a murderer, blame a victim of domestic violence for “her role in the incident,” or make a deranged psychopath who has been accused of everything under the sun, most notably pouring bleach on his kid a captain. They’re a classy organization not the Patriots. You get my point.

But I think out of all the transgressions against the Patriots this week, the one that really got me going was the notion that Aaron Rodgers was suddenly the best quarterback of all time. Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s probably one of the six best quarterbacks ever. But best? Over Tom Brady? Because he made some good throws? Call me skeptical. Sure Rodgers is talented. He’s probably the most talented qb to ever play the game. He can do things that Brady could never dream of doing. Which is what makes Brady better. He’s overcome his obvious physical shortcomings to have the greatest and most successful career ever. This is his 7th Super Bowl appearance. Only four teams have that many. Rodgers has one championship and a growing resume of underwhelming playoff losses. He’s essentially a better version of Dan Marino. Why does he get such a free pass for kind of sucking when they lose? Brady gets raked over the coals when he doesn’t play well and they win. I keep hearing that Rodgers does everything on his own. That he has no help around him. While he obviously can’t do anything about the lousy defense, I was curious about the claim that he’s working with trash teammates. So, I did some research. I figured a good gauge of “talent” was draft position, so I took a look at every player that caught a pass this season for the Packers and the Patriots and calculated their average draft position (since there are 253 players drafted every year, I gave any undrafted player a value of 254). The Packers’ players averaged a draft position of 133. So a late fourth rounder. Not all that great. The Patriots stand at 172. A late fifth rounder. That’s a fairly significant difference. Well the random undrafted guys who catch one pass can skew the result, obviously. Well what about the cores of the passing game, the guys who caught at least 30 passes? The Packers are at 72. A third rounder. Not bad. The Patriots are at 158. A fifth rounder. A full two rounds’ difference between the main guys Aaron Rodgers is throwing to and the main guys Tom Brady is throwing to. I didn’t feel like doing that for every team, so I don’t know how it all compares, but don’t tell me Rodgers has no one around him when Brady is working with less pure talent than Rodgers is. But I think it’s just a case of Brady fatigue. Rodgers was the hot name, so he was advertised as the best. I guess I can understand it. After all, it happened last year with Steph Curry and Lebron. But it’s just so dismissive with Brady. There’s such a level of contempt that’s not there for any long-dominant player.

The true hatred for Brady is something I struggle to understand. Is his not a true American story? He could barely start in college. He was drafted 199 overall. Odds were against him even making the roster. He was behind an established starter who had no intention of giving up the position. He was a nobody. But, he got an opportunity. And he ran with it. And his maniacal drive and obsession with perfection lead him to get better and better and better. Aren’t those the qualities we celebrate in business? Isn’t hitting it big and marrying a super model every little boy’s dream? Is it just a case of jealousy? Whenever I ask people why they hate Brady, they just come back with some nonsense and settle on “he’s arrogant.” But he’s not. He’s the perfect teammate. He’s the perfect leader. He has never once taken credit for his success. He always defers to teammates in wins and takes the blame when they lose. And he’s one of the most charitable players in the league and a great dad. “He’s a crybaby and yells at the refs.” I guess you weren’t watching Aaron Rodgers scream at the officials the entire second half on Sunday. (Of course, it was after they were well beaten so it may have just been a way to try and save face and get people talking about how competitive he is.) Or when every other quarterback in the league does it. “He yells at teammates.” Only when he they mess up. (By the way, I hate when people get mad at qbs for yelling at teammates. He’s the leader of the team, of course he’s going to yell at people. He needs to make sure everyone is on the same page. I have no problem when Brady does it, just like I have no problem when Matt Stafford does it, just like I have no problem when Jay Cutler does it, just like I had no problem when Peyton did it.  Sometimes it’s the best way to get the best out of a player. The best leaders know what motivates everyone. That’s why the player you see Brady yell at the most is Edelman. It gets him going. Meanwhile, he hardly ever gets on Gronk’s case, because he knows that probably wouldn’t work. Brady’s greatest skill may be his leadership. He inspires supreme confidence in everyone he meets. I’ve obviously never met him (I think I’d die if I did) but I would take a bullet for him. I would willingly sacrifice my life for him if it meant he got to play another year in New England.) The arguments are all so tired and stupid. Tom Brady is the greatest football player ever. Period. End of story. Years from now, you’ll look back on your blind hatred of him with shame. He’s the greatest ever yet still the most humble. How can you hate that? How can you hate this level of self-made greatness? I count it as one of the greatest privileges of my entire life to have watched his career from day one. You should, too.

So there you have it. Hopefully I changed your mind a bit. Maybe not. Maybe this post is exactly why you hate the Patriots and their fans in the first place. I don’t even know if any point I made made any sense. I kind of blacked out when writing this. At the very least, I hope you have a greater appreciation for the dynasty you’re watching. But, as always, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the Falcons are gonna win by 30. Good. More fuel to the immortal fire that drives the Patriots Express. Now either get on board or get off the tracks. I’d hate for one of my readers to join the long list of Patriots’ victims.

Championship Game Picks

Ahh, Championship Sunday. One of the greatest days of the year. The last true football Sunday of the season. Where legacies are forged. Where heroes are crowned and goats poop their pants under the bright lights. And, more often than not, the Patriots prevail. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After a near perfect week last week, proving to the skeptics that the wildcard round’s poor showing was, in fact, intentional, we’re back to .500 in the Brian’s Den. After we go 2-0 this week, assuring a winning record for the playoffs, the I’ll be able to flex my precognitive muscles in the Super Bowl. I would encourage the public to be on the right side of history.

Before we get to the picks, I want to give a shoutout to the moronic and incompetent Knicks owner James Dolan, CEO of the worst cable company ever created. I thought the worst part about being cursed with Optimum Cable would be the social stigma that comes with admitting to relying on such a second-class company, but I was wrong. In my area, Optimum no longer carries CBS. CBS! The first channel ever created. It’s basic cable. It’s pretty much free to have. Everyone in America has CBS. But Optimum is too cheap to pay the affiliates what they want. It’s stupefying. So now I have to watch the AFC Championship Game on my laptop. It’s embarrassing. I’ve never felt so poor and destitute. Hey James, I’m glad you run the worst franchise in sports. Have fun hanging out with Carmelo you kazoo-playing scumbag! Rant over.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

When I started thinking about this game, I only knew one thing for sure: I was betting the over. This game is gonna be a shootout. No one’s stopping anybody. Last one with the ball wins. Right? Well, I’m not so sure. In the media’s rush to see who can gush lovingly over Aaron Rodgers more in an effort to fill the fatherly void in his life and make everyone move on from Tom Brady (full post coming Monday. If the Pats win.), everyone has forgotten that the Falcons are one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Packers defense is so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad. They’re as bad as you can get against the run and the pass. The Falcons are as good as you can get running and throwing. This is a total mismatch when the Falcons have the ball. The Green Bay offense is 100% Rodgers at this point. What if he’s not perfect? It’s happened before. Did all those first round exits and underwhelming postseason losses suddenly not happen just because he made some crazy throws? Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and say he’s gonna have a bad game. He’s going to dominate. But the Falcons defense is pretty fast and can kind of rush the passer sometimes. They can do what the Cowboys did in the second half of last week’s game. All they need is one or two stops the entire game! If the Rodgers is off schedule early, this could get ugly.

PICK: Atlanta -4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (-6.5)

We all know where my heart lies, but what about my head? Spoiler alert: the same place. People are scrambling to sell that the Steelers can win and take down the big, bad Patriots. Sure they can win. This isn’t a Globe Trotters game. It’s not scripted. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to. This Pats defense is trash! Their stats are totally inflated due to the fact that they played almost exclusively crappy QBs, which they had complete control of, by the way. LeVeon Bell will rush for 400 yards while adding another 250 receiving yards! It’ll be over by half! Brady’s done! You know how many times the Pats have allowed a 100 yard rusher in a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era? 4. In 32 games! Once every 8 games a running back has a big game against the Pats in the playoffs. Odds are that’s once every 3 seasons. They aren’t going to be caught off guard here. They know how to take away the opponent’s best weapon, and I’m pretty sure Bell qualifies. Ben Roethlisberger is been horrible in the playoffs. Outplayed by both Matt Moore and Alex Smith. And he’s garbage on the road. He’s on the road this game. The so-called greatest and most talented offense ever constructed couldn’t score a touchdown last week. They’re Facebook living locker room speeches. Everyone has the flu. It’s pure chaos in Pittsburgh. Plus, you may not have heard this, but Tom Brady owns the Steelers. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions against Mike Tomlin. The Patriots offense was better than this would-be juggernaut in every offensive category! I’m not super confident that the Pats cover. After all, Big Ben thinks the backdoor is always open and is a master of garbage time tds against the Pats. But, I would be stunned, dumbfounded if the Pats lost. Patriots vs. Falcons, book it.

PICK: Patriots -6.5

New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

The new Power Rangers trailer looks awesome

I don’t think it’s breaking news when I say that I’m a huge Power Rangers guy. Love Power Rangers. Seen about a million episodes of Power Rangers and may be among the preeminent Power Rangers scholars in the world (sad, I know). I am all in on this movie. I think it looks awesome. I admire the will power to resist making the black kid the black ranger. I only hope that they kept some of the Mighty Morphin tradition going and bullied and oppressed the blue ranger because he’s gay in real life. I’ll save my treatise on why Mighty Morphin is far from the best edition of Power Rangers (it’s in Space) for when this movie comes out, which can’t come soon enough. I just hope for his sake that Jason David Frank got a cameo or something. I’m sure he wasn’t too busy.

NASA plans on sending a rover to Mars to collect possible life samples in 2020

source–  As early as July 2020, the 1-tonne, 6-wheeled vehicle will blast off from Florida, carrying 43 such tubes on a 7-month trip to the red planet. Once it arrives, the rover will drive across the Martian surface and fill each tube with dirt, rock or air. Then it will seal the tubes, place them on the ground, and wait — for years, or possibly decades — for another spacecraft to retrieve them and fly them back to Earth. It will be humanity’s first attempt to bring back part of the red planet.

If all goes to plan, these will become the most precious extraterrestrial samples ever recovered. Tucked inside one of those metallic tubes could be evidence of life beyond Earth in the form of a microorganism, biominerals or organic molecules.

(Most of the article is just boring stuff about how much they love keeping things clean.)

I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. How can NASA be so foolish? How can they not see what the result of this experiment will be? Has no one seen a movie or watched tv?

This all falls on this Adam Steltzner guy. Either he’s just as naive as NASA is and has no idea what’s coming, which shows a level of gross negligence not seen since the green lighting of Speed 2: Cruise Control. Or, he knows exactly what he’s doing and should immediately be locked up with no chance of parole.

Because this life they’re going to bring back? It’s not coming in peace. The fact that it’s probably just microscopic organisms makes it even more dangerous. These life forms are either carrying deadly diseases (best case scenario), or capable of acting as a symbiote that can control people’s minds. Ever heard of Venom and Carnage? I guarantee Steltzner has. I’d be shocked if his end goal wasn’t using these lifeforms in some kind of power play. Maybe he allows himself to be controlled, inevitably enhancing his physical abilities; or maybe he contains the lifeforms and waits to infect important people, knowing the devastating effect the symbiotic relationship has on long term health. The fact that none of this has occurred to NASA is a huge red flag. Does he already have a way of controlling people? Is he blackmailing the entirety of the NASA board? Or perhaps he himself is an emissary of Mars and is trying to slowly bring his brethren to Earth for a hostile takeover.

I’m not going to stand for it. I’m prepared to march on Cape Canaveral on the day of the launch to protest. Someone needs to stand up for our species, and I’m willing to lead the movement. Unless, of course, the Mars faction wants to cut me in on their plans. I’m not a fool. I know when I’m outmatched, and humans generally don’t have much of a chance against extraterrestrials. I’d be an asset to the Martians. I know how humans think and have no problem selling them out if it means I wind up on the right side. Then, once I’ve ascended through the ranks, I’ll take out Steltzner during the final battle to prove I was secretly with the humans all along. I’ll be a hero. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’m going to protest at all. I will do everything in my power to ensure this launch takes place. Science must move forward!

My NBA All Stars

As I’ve mentioned recently, the NBA All Star starters will be announced on Thursday, followed by the reserves being announced a week after. The starters will probably be wrong, since Dwyane Wade and Zaza Pachulia (yes, that Zaza Paculia) will be in the starting lineups and neither should be in the same state as the All Star Game. Moving past that, I’ve put together what I think the rosters should look like. All stats are accurate as of January 17, 2017.

EAST

STARTERS

thomas-isaiah-usnews-getty-ftr_7kqxdq3s1uhn1gpdmp1z56fvgIsaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics– I’d say you could call me a homer if Isaiah wasn’t one of the best ten players in the league this season. He leads the East in scoring, shooting career high percentages from the field and from the free throw line, and is top twenty in assists. In the pre-Harden and Westbrook world, leading the conference in scoring and still managing six assists per game was a rarity. He has completely dominated the months of December and January and has established himself as one of, if not the, best fourth quarter players in the league. The Cavs’ army of devoted fanboys doesn’t want to hear it, but he’s been better than Kyrie this season.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ersKyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors– The second backcourt spot was a toss up between the duo up north of Lowry and Demar Derozan. The Raptors have been the best team in the East outside of Cleveland again this season, and their offense is now operating at crazy heights, currently averaging more points per 100 possessions than even the Warriors. Though Derozan carried the team as Lowry got off to a slow start this season, Kyle’s been scalding hot since. It’s almost getting redundant at this point since you can seemingly say it every year, but he’s having the best season of his career. He’s averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and player efficiency rating, while shooting a Curry-like 44% on 7.5 three point attempts per game, and is second in the league in real plus-minus. He’s the true engine for the league’s best offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game OneLebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– It’s seemingly been a quiet season for Lebron, but he’s still been Lebron. Top ten in points and assists, still rebounding well, and is the best player on the best team in the East. He’s still flopping and overdramatic, still seemingly forgets the Warriors actually beat his team in the Finals two years ago and that it isn’t some one sided rivalry, but he’s still the best.

giannisGiannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– The Greek Freak has become what everyone but Danny Ainge (shoutout to Kelly Olynyk! No, I don’t lose sleep over the fact that Giannis should be a Celtic! Why do you ask?) thought he could be. He is a (pun intended) freakish athlete that effects the game in virtually every way. He’s kept his offense at the level we saw at the end of last year, scoring at will inside, setting up teammates, and getting to the line at the highest rate of his young career. He still can’t shoot three’s, but when you can dunk from the three point line it doesn’t really matter. He’s a menace on defense and could become the fourth player ever to average 2 blocks and 2 steals a game.
chicago-bulls-jimmy-butlerJimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls– No one seems to notice or care, but Jimmy Butler has turned himself into one of the best player in the league and he keeps getting better. He’s singlehandedly kept a bad Bulls team afloat, and all his stats either are or are close to career highs. He’s third in the league in real plus-minus. I never thought he’d become this good, and I have no idea how much better he can become, but I’m not betting against him.

RESERVES

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland CavaliersKyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers– Kyrie is probably going to start in real life, and although he doesn’t crack my starting lineup, he’s still an all star. He’s having his best statistical season, and as the second best player on last year’s champions he’d probably make the team regardless. I don’t know how he’s only shooting 46% from the field, since whenever I watch him he never seems to miss. Everyone always wants to say he’s better than Steph, but there’s just something missing. His defense is still bad. He still doesn’t really pass, but that doesn’t matter when you have Lebron. I know there’s a lot of Curry fatigue out there, but I don’t think Kyrie is the answer.

kevin-love-ftr-042315_wpjp86vjxtqz1lpdo12prs6voKevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers– The best way to get into the #clique and make the Instagram pics is to play like the all star you were in Minnesota. He’s back to averaging 20 points a game, is top ten in rebounding, and is lighting it up from 3. Being on the best team in the East doesn’t hurt his all star chances.

maxresdefault1John Wall, Washington Wizards– Somehow always overlooked, John Wall is playing the best ball of his career and is probably the most underrated player in the league. He leads the East in assists and steals, is scoring more than ever, and is more efficient than he’s ever been. He’s leading a resurgent Wizards team that has exceeded expectations, partly due to Bradley Beal actually staying healthy, but mostly due to the fact that Wall has become a truly elite point guard capable of winning games by himself in the Eastern Conference.

derozanmvpDemar Derozan, Toronto Raptors-Mentioned above, but Derozan really carried the Raptors in the first part of the season, leading the league in scoring for a solid month. He’s cooled off slightly, but he’s still averaging a pretty efficient 28 points per game. He gets to the rim and to the line at will, and is a midrange marksman in a league full of 3 point gunners. He’s one of the most frightening players in the league attacking the rim.

635848408893220753-ap-46794507105-1Paul George, Indiana Pacers– PG13 is having another good season, but the league takeover that seemed imminent a few years ago has yet to materialize. His once elite defense has slipped this year, but his efficiency on offense has improved, with his highest field goal percentage since his rookie year. He can be streaky from 3, but he’s hot right now, and is the best player on a slightly lackluster Pacers team. In an East without a ton of legitimate all star candidates, though, he makes the team.

kemba-walker-121014-getty-ftrjpg_1f1vcl0978voj1qipxipij8znhKemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets– Fun fact: my freshman year at the University of Connecticut was the year that Kemba took over college basketball and dragged the team to the championship, so Kemba will always hold a special place in my heart. (For the mathletes out there, that would mean my senior year was the year Shabazz Napier did the same. Combine those two with the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins, and I’ve seen a lot of winning in my life. I’m an expert in winning.) However, this is no sentimental pick. After the best season of his career last year, he’s been even better this year. His shooting percentages keep getting better as his usage rate goes up. The rest of the Hornets have been inconsistent, but Kemba has kept the team from free fall with his consistently good play.

121915_jabparJabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks– The last spot on the roster could go to a few different players, but my vote goes to the player I think will win Most Improved Player. The other half of one of the most exciting young duos in the league, Jabari Parker has really blossomed as a scorer. After shooting a Wade-esque 25% from 3 his first two years, all of a sudden he’s up to 41%, while steadily bringing his field goal percentage closer and closer to 50%. His defense is….not great, but his smooth, efficient offensive game gets him onto the roster.

Apologies to: Kristaps Porzingis (he should be up for sainthood), Joel Embiid (team is too bad), Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal.

No Apologies to: Hassan Whiteside for the most egregious stat chasing I’ve ever seen. He’s not a good player. Like, at all.

WEST

STARTERS

james-hardenJames Harden, Houston Rockets– These first  two entries won’t be very exciting because they really need no reasoning. For my money, Harden has been the best player in the NBA this season. The move to point guard has totally unleashed his unique skill set, and now he’s leading the league in assists and is third in scoring. He’s a beast.

russRussell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– He’s averaging a triple double.

 

 

 

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Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Crazily enough, putting one of the most talented scorers in the history of the NBA with the two best shooters of all time leads to good offense. Durant has been predictably (and otherworldly) efficient, but his defense has been a surprise. Though he’s shown flashes of being an elite defender, he’s embraced that side of the ball this season and has been a disruptive force and is currently twelfth in the league in blocked shots. He’s a decent player.

120415-nba-kawhi-leonard-pi-mp-vresize-1200-675-high_-20Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs– Kawhi “Mr. Electricty” Leonard has taken the mantle of Spurs talisman and has fully committed to the role, quietly chugging along and showing no personality while doing it. But guess what? He’s still getting better. He’s transformed himself from an athletic rebounding specialist in college into an elite offensive player and terror on defense. He’s the best two way player in the league (Lebron doesn’t try enough on defense), and has vastly exceeded all realistic expectations for what his career could be. But it still feels like there’s untapped potential here. I don’t know if the Spurs got lucky or if they really are three steps ahead of everyone when it comes to scouting and player development, but they found another potential all time great to replace the one that just retired.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit PistonsAnthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– This spot could easily go to DeMarcus Cousins, but I’m going Davis because of the absurdity of some of his stat lines. 50-15-5-5-4. 45-17. 41-16-4 steals. Seemingly every night, he’s doing something crazy. Kind of funny how after last season everyone forgot they loved Davis to fawn over Karl-Anthony Towns. Davis took it personally, apparently. He’s Mr. Glass, though. He misses like every other game with some minor injury. Kobe used to play through pain, if you hadn’t heard. Wouldn’t mind seeing Davis try doing the same.

RESERVES
curry-profSteph Curry, Golden State Warriors– How about the fact that Steph’s “down season” is still better than Kyrie’s career season? Steph is averaging more points, assists, rebounds, steals, and fewer turnovers than the man who many think (wish?) is better than him. He’s still one of the best players in the league. He’s still the greatest and most prolific shooter of all time. This is his worst three point shooting by percentages. Everyone saying he’s struggling and looking to bury him. He’s shooting 39.8% from 3. On an absurd number of attempts. If the season ended today it would be the first time in his career he shot under 42% from 3. I think he’ll be just fine.

draymondDraymond Green, Golden State Warriors– The West this year is so ridiculously stacked with potential all stars that I can only take three of the Warriors’ big four. (Sorry, big five. I forgot Zaza is an all star.) I went back and forth on this so many times, but in the end Draymond’s unreal defense this season is what gets him in. Not to mention the fact that he’s averaging more assists than last year while averaging almost one full fewer turnover a game. Plus, given the choice between the two, I would rather have the Warriors win the title than the Cavs. I feel like Draymond missing the all star game would be infinitely more detrimental to their success than Klay missing out.

gordon-hayward-122914-getty-ftrjpg_wqfrrr1g069o1nc0qpa17td6eGordon Hayward, Utah Jazz– After years of hearing about their promise, the Jazz have finally showed up as a playoff contender, lead by (hopefully) future Celtic Gordon Hayward. After years of keeping the crown fairly easily, Hayward took the title of best American white player from Kevin Love and has kept it this season. Almost makes me teary eyed to see two white boys in the NBA All Star Game. Unfortunately for analysts, Hayward doesn’t fit the traditional white guy mold. He may be scrappy and have a high basketball IQ, but he’s also a great athlete, great off the dribble, and makes the players around him better. He’s averaging career highs in points and rebounds, while shooting more efficiently despite his ever growing role on offense. Not to stray too far from his heritage, though, he’s an avid League of Legends player and was once a pro tennis prospect. Need to counterbalance basketball greatness with that kind of nerdiness to keep his whiteness levels in check.

marc-gasol-grizzlies-ftr-getty-031915_7neuch1v6caw11j9q59gvbk58Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies– I don’t know why no one thought to let Marc shoot 3s before this season, but he’s gone from having 12 career 3s before this season to shooting almost 40% while taking over 3 per game. Long been one of my favorite players to watch, Marc has taken his game to a new level. With Mike Conley missing significant time and Zach Randolph’s reduced role, Marc has the Grizzlies as the six seed in the West. He’s scoring more than ever while still dishing out his 4 assists a game and playing great defense. In many ways he and Tony Allen are the most lasting pillars of the Grit n’ Grind era, and he’s taken them into the 21st century.

r170266_608x342_16-9DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings– Extracurricular antics aside, Boogie is a true beast. Always good for at least 28-10, he’s added a pretty reliable 3-pointer this season, and has a career high PER. He still has lapses on defense, but his active hands help get his share of steals and blocks. The closest thing to the dominant big man of yore, DeMarcus can score on anyone at anytime.

chris-paul-getty-ftr-010516_ifl1w3gzvaps1jgwobqsazzyuChris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers– CP3 just keeps putting out great seasons. He leads the league in real plus-minus by a wide margin. He leads the league in steals (again), is top five in assists, doesn’t turn it over, and is shooting his usual healthy percentages. All the while maintaining a solid flop rate and continuously yelling at teammates. The actual all star game is better with him in it, as he usually finishes with about 15 assists.

Portland Trail Blazers v New York KnicksDamian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers– God, this was tough. So many players going for the last spot on the roster. In the end, I’m going Lillard. He’s having his best offensive season, with a career best turnover percentage and true shooting percentage. The fact that his defense has been so bad and he still has the Blazers in the playoffs shows how good he’s been with the ball in his hands. Let’s end this before I change my mind again.

Apologies to: Klay Thompson (ask me again tomorrow), Rudy Gobert (best defensive player in the league), Blake Griffin (too injured), Karl-Anthony Towns (how did he not make it?), C.J. McCollum, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe.

LAST SECOND UPDATE:

Chris Paul is going to miss 6-8 weeks after getting thumb surgery, so he needs to be replaced.

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Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Yet another tough call, but there just aren’t many guys that can average 20-10, especially at such a young age. He’s really good, and makes the team despite his team’s disappointing season.