#IMHO: All-Stars, LeBron and Playoffs

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

 

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2020 at 9:12 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: IMHO

Mike:

All-Star voting ended late last night and the votes are being tabulated as I type this. And it looks like the starters in each conference are pretty much set. In the West, you’ve got Doncic and Harden in the backcourt, and Bron, AD and Kawhi up front. In the East it’s Trae and probably Kemba in the backcourt, with Embiid, Giannis and Jimmy Butler.

But once the starters in each conference get counted up, the coaches in each conference will select the All-Star reserves, which is where it always gets tricky. In the Western Conference, for instance, does a player like Devin Booker finally make his first All-Star team? Or does former All-Star MVP Russell Westbrook make it, despite being load managed and not shooting the ball very well? Does Brandon Ingram earn his first berth, or will Ja Morant sneak in? And in the Eastern Conference, will Bam Adebayo make his All-Star debut? Or will one of the Celtics young frontcourt players beat him out?

I’ll give you my picks when this swings back to me, but for now, let’s start with your All-Star reserve selections…

 


From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2020 at 4:28 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

So, you’re just going to create the question and then throw me out there first to catch the heat, huh? OK, then, I’ll take the first shot at it. My seven reserves in the West would be, in no particular order and minus any position restrictions: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic, Brandon Ingram, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and Donovan Mitchell.

In the East, my reserves would be: Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam, Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Domantas Sabonis and Andre Drummond. As always, there are some tough cuts to make and guys who feel like they’ve been snubbed. But I’m satisfied with my list of reserves. I can defend every single one of these guys with ease, if necessary.

Now your turn, Lang.

 

Khris Middelton Smiling

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 12:51 PM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

I like most of your selections, Mike, with one caveat that I’d like to stress, like I always do at this time: This isn’t the all-NBA team, this is the All-STAR team, so I want as much star power as possible. The All-Star Game is supposed to be about mascots and celebrities and having fun, so let’s get as much fun and celebrity into the game as possible. For instance, I’d bring in the Lopez brothers for a pregame wrestling intro…

In the West I’d swap out Paul George, who’s been out a lot this first half, for Damian Lillard, who could drop threes from halfcourt. And as for the East reserves, well, who cares? Kidding! Even though the Bulls have struggled, I’d probably include Zach LaVine over Drummond, just so he could dunk on some people.

And speaking of stars, I’m curious what you made of Charles Barkley‘s comments criticizing ESPN for airing high school games featuring LeBron James son, LeBron James Jr. Did Chuck have a point, that this is just exploitation? Or, considering that they aired LeBron’s games when he was in high school, is this just a media outlet meeting a viewership need?

 

Damian Lillard postgame

From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 2:47 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

I tend to agree with what Barkley is saying on this. I feel like it’s exploitation. The fact of the matter is LeBron James was on national TV and on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old because he was rated as the top prep prospect and a sure-fire No. 1 pick the moment he declared for the NBA Draft. That’s not even close to being the case with Bronny Jr., and that’s not a slight in any way. This exposure feels forced and a high-end troll job by the biggest sports network in the world.

And the thing that gets me the most is that LeBron once went out of his way to say he wanted college coaches and the spotlight nowhere near his kids as they started to embrace basketball. Now, it’s a completely different perspective, it seems. These kids aren’t elite players just yet. They’re simply the sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And on its own, that shouldn’t warrant this level of scrutiny or spotlight. Michael Jordan’s kids never went through this at quite this level. Kobe Bryant’s daughters aren’t going through it now. I’m not a fan of it, especially because it’s being presented more as a reality show as opposed to elite players gaining exposure because of their status, ranking or accomplishments on the court.

But I digress. Prediction time, Lang. Give me one team in the West and one team in the East that is out of the playoff picture right now that you believe will definitely make it in by the end of the regular season. As much as the Pelicans have the hype, return of Zion Williamson and the most favorable schedule, and as much as the Spurs have the experience and postseason history, I’m going with Dame Lillard and Portland righting the ship and getting in on the West side. In the East, it might be a completely lost cause, but Chicago’s roster is much better than its record right now. At some point, they have to get it together and make a push. Unless the Bulls are broken up at the trade deadline.

 

LeBron James and LeBron James Jr.

From: Lang Whitaker

Date: Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 9:19 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

The thing about Portland is this just doesn’t feel like their year. Aside from all the injuries, you’ve got Dame dropping 60 in games and they’re still having to go to overtime to finish teams off. I know Nurkic is close to returning and that will give them a lift, but there are some seasons where destiny just isn’t on your side. This feels like one of those seasons.

I’ll go with Memphis to make the 8 spot, because this feels like the opposite season for the Grizz, where they get better and mess around and win into that 8 spot.

And in the East, well, who cares? Kidding! But to be honest, I don’t trust any of those teams from the nine spot on down. I guess maybe the Pistons? Although I think they’ll be sellers rather than buyers. Maybe the Hornets? But they’re 6 losses out of the final spot, which seems insurmountable. Maybe it just is what it is?