Marc Stein: All-Star Game

Here's your top All-Star interviews

February, 15, 2014
Feb 15
7:56
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- If you missed ESPN Radio's comprehensive "Meet The All-Stars" show Saturday night, you've clicked to the right place for your reprieve.

Your safety net.

Assembled here is a selection of some of the network's best interviews with various All-Stars from this week's festivities in New Orleans ... each of them augmented by expanded coverage of the selected sitdowns from trusty TrueHoop correspondents.

Stephen Curry
The full interview: Courtesy of Warriors World

The standout quote: "There’s no panic at all about the situation [regarding Golden State's slump to No. 8 in the West]. We’re just going to try to get better each game. As it gets to crunch time after the All-Star break, hopefully it all clicks and we find ways to hold leads and capitalize on leads.

Anthony Davis
The full interview: Courtesy of Bourbon Street Shots

The standout quote: "I didn’t think that I would be having this many blocked shots. Guys in the NBA are a lot smarter and know how to use their body well to get shots off. I see Chris Paul do it all the time, Kyrie [Irving], Deron Williams. All those guys really don’t get their shots blocked. So I’m like, 'What am I supposed to do?' It’s more from help side now, when they’re driving and they don’t really see me and I come out of nowhere and try to play them head up and then block their shot."

Goran Dragic
The full interview: Courtesy of Valley of the Suns

The standout quote: "Nobody knew if [playing two point guards together was] gonna work, including me or Eric [Bledsoe]. We talked with the coach, Jeff [Hornacek] and he said, ‘Let’s try this.’ You guys have to embrace your roles, have to accept what kind of roles you’re going to have and try to help the team. I think so we did that. Me and Eric, we talked a lot before the season, you know, because he played his whole life as a point guard, I played my whole life as a point guard, so it was something new for both of us. I think so, just talking, talking with him and trying to figure out those things on the court, think so that’s why we are successful because we share. We share things, and we know if we want to be a successful team, we have to play together."

Kevin Durant
The full interview: Courtesy of Daily Thunder

The standout quote: "[Winning MVP] would mean a lot. MVP in this league, you can’t downgrade that. It doesn’t matter who you are or how many you’ve won ... you can’t downgrade MVP. Of course the ultimate prize is to win the championship. But as far as regular-season accolades, that’s right up there at the top. It would be cool. But that’s out of my control. Only thing I can control is how I play the game and everything else after that will fall in line.”

Kevin Love
The full interview: Courtesy of A Wolf Among Wolves

The standout quote: "I think [incessant speculation about Love going to the Lakers is] funny because it’s not my fault I was born there. I chose to play at UCLA and stay on the West Coast and play for Coach [Ben] Howland, who had been to two consecutive Final Fours at the time. So for me, I’m just happy where I’m at right now. I want to turn this thing around. I want to win as many games as we can these last 30 games and just get through this and do the best we can because we have a team that -- when healthy -- can do some damage."

John Wall
The full interview: Courtesy of Truth About It

The standout quote: "I think [All-Star selection] made up for [any Team USA disappointment]. But you know what I mean, it's very tough. Team USA? You put everything behind you. You take the name off your back, you put the Wizards away, and you're playing for your country. Nothing's bigger than that. ... I did the best I could to go there and be a professional when I went through the summer workouts. You look past it -- that's what they decided to do -- and I'm still gonna support my country and move forward. I'm happy I'm here at All-Star Weekend to be an All-Star."
NEW ORLEANS -- Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant finally diverted Friday from his longstanding campaign to downplay any conversation about personal achievements by conceding in an interview with ESPN Radio that winning his first MVP award would "mean a lot."

In a sitdown for ESPN Radio's "Meet The All-Stars" show which airs Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET, Durant took the rare step of allowing himself to imagine how it would feel to hold off heavy MVP favorite LeBron James over the last 30-plus games of the regular season and break through to win the game's most coveted individual honor for the first time.

"It would mean a lot," Durant said Friday. "I mean, you can't never -- MVP in this league -- you can't ever downgrade that. Whoever you are, no matter how many you've won, you can't downgrade MVP.

Read the full story here
NEW ORLEANS -- If Sunday's All-Star Game is close in crunch time, last-shot specialist Joe Johnson says he's going to demand the ball from East coach Frank Vogel.

Ahead of LeBron James, Paul George, you name it.

Johnson was actually half-kidding when he said "I definitely should get it," but the exchange was just one of the highlights from a fun conversation Marc Kestecher, P.J. Carlesimo and I had with the Brooklyn Nets guard Friday that will air Saturday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio's "Meet The All-Stars" show.

My man Mike Mazzeo from ESPN New York has the thorough rundown from the chat right here, which includes Johnson's disclosure that first-year coach Jason Kidd is getting "a bit more stern" with the Nets as they inch toward the playoffs ... as well as Brooklyn's belief that there's still time in the regular season to find a groove because "we're in the East."

“He’s grown from training camp to this point, he's grown each and every day, he’s getting better," Johnson said of his coach. "More than anything [there's] a side to Kidd that I’ve never seen, he’s had to become a bit more stern. Because as players, him coming straight from playing to coaching, it’s been a little different. It’s kinda hard to look at him as a head coach and still as a good friend.

“He’s not really our friend anymore."

Radio: All-Star interviews

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
10:53
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- The All-Star Weekend interview circuit typically doesn't kick into full gear until Friday, but this particular Thursday of All-Star week was a busy one for the ESPN Radio team.

Our chats with five All-Stars as well as the defending dunk champion follow, with more on the way. All of them scheduled to air Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN Radio's annual "Meet The All-Stars" show co-hosted by Marc Kestecher and P.J. Carlesimo.


Stephen Curry | Golden State Warriors













Anthony Davis | New Orleans Pelicans













DeMar DeRozan | Toronto Raptors













Blake Griffin | Los Angeles Clippers













Kevin Love | Minnesota Timberwolves













Terrence Ross | Toronto Raptors



Biggest All-Star snubs

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
10:51
PM ET


One man's top three All-Star snubs in each conference:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

I realize that Dragic making the Western Conference's roster would have forced West coaches to omit either Damian Lillard or Tony Parker. I still think the crafty lefty deserves to be in New Orleans when both he and his team have zoomed past all reasonable expectations by such a substantial margin. Generally, it feels morally wrong to propose a West squad without a single Spur, but in this rare case I think it's justified. Dragic over Parker for me.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

The Unibrow is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and more than three swats nightly. The All-Star Game is in New Orleans. Those realities strongly lead me to believe that Davis, not Dragic, will be the player chosen by incoming commissioner Adam Silver to replace the injured Kobe Bryant, despite the fact Davis is obviously not a guard. The momentum is already bubbling behind the idea that we're going to see Davis, with his top-five player efficiency rating, when the NBA's 63rd midseason classic actually tips off.

3. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins has the strongest statistical case, along with Davis, to be the West's 12th man. It was largely my internal struggle trying to choose between Boogie and Davis when I made my reserve picks on Friday, that convinced me that I couldn't settle on one for my seven-man West bench. But I'm giving Conley this slot because there was a loud Twitter uproar on Boogie's behalf when he didn't get the nod from West coaches. Virtually no one out there is even stating the steady Conley's case, so we decided that's our job.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Two Raptors on the All-Star team when there were projected to be none when the season began? East coaches apparently couldn't buy into that radical concept, which means Lowry -- arguably the East's best point guard so far this season -- will be a spectator. He really should have gotten Joe Johnson's backcourt spot -- my Toronto-loving Grantland colleague Zach Lowe is especially bummed about this -- but the coaches apparently weren't ready to live in a world in which the Raps are suddenly awash in starry names.

2. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats

I know I'm in the minority here. I also know that I'm sticking to the claim made here last week that the long-awaited inside scoring and credibility Jefferson has brought to Charlotte -- without undermining the Bobcats' defense like so many skeptics predicted -- gives him a stronger claim to a spot on the East's bench than, yes, even Chris Bosh.

3. Arron Affalo, Orlando Magic

The change in my thinking that I have made since Friday is that both DeRozan and Lowry should be New Orleans-bound. If I did things over, Lowry would have nudged past Afflalo on my original list of East reserves. But I still have Afflalo, scoring at a career-best rate while also playing at a new peak in terms of overall efficiency, is a more deserving All-Star candidate than Twitter darling Lance Stephenson. If ever there was a season in the East that we don't need to obsess about win/loss records while picking All-Stars, this is it. So Afflalo had the edge on Stephenson (who's barely above the league average in PER) with me. The Pacers will be more than represented with Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Frank Vogel in N'awlins.
Roy HibbertIssac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesRoy Hibbert is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14.

NBA coaches have received their All-Star voting instructions.

And here on Stein Line Live they'll receive all the guidance they'll need to make their choices ... following the same official guidelines ordained by the league office.

East head coaches, like their West counterparts, are being asked to vote for seven reserves from their conference by Tuesday at noon ET under the following conditions:

1. Coaches must vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards.

2. Players must be ranked in specific order of preference in all three categories.

3. Coaches are explicitly told as part of the voting process that the position at which a player "is listed on the All-Star ballot should have no bearing on your vote." Each coach is encouraged, furthermore, to vote for players "at the position he thinks is most advantageous for the All-Star team" and "not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season."

4. Coaches are obviously not allowed to vote for their own players.

The starters in the East, as announced Thursday night, are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George in the frontcourt, with Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving at guard. The East bench, which will be announced next Thursday on TNT, would look like this on ESPN.com's mythical ballot:

Backcourt: 1. John Wall (Washington Wizards); 2. DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)

Wall began the season facing seriously ramped-up scrutiny and pressure after signing a max-contract extension. His response: 20.2 points, 8.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game to outshine Irving and put the long-suffering Wizards in position to capitalize on the car crash that is the Leastern Conference standings from the No. 3 seed down.

The Wiz still haven’t crept over .500 for even a day -- even with Wall playing the best ball of his life -- but they figure to be a factor in the race for home-court advantage in the first round from here. And the All-Star berth Wall is sure to finally snag in his fourth season should ease at least some of the sting from this week’s bad news, when he was omitted from the 28-man player pool that USA Basketball has chosen to handle the next three summers.

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is another point guard who has seized upon the injury absences of Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, as well as Deron Williams’ ups and downs, to unexpectedly contend for an All-Star spot. You could make the case that Lowry has been the second-best QB in the Least, behind only Wall, since the Raptors traded away the ball-stopping Rudy Gay. But the defiant DeRozan, on this scorecard, has been the most influential Raptor post-Gay, both on the floor and in the locker room as the Raps' anti-tanking spokesman. He's a fan favorite who also possesses the sort of rim-attacking game that makes the most sense in an All-Star setting. So since we're not quite ready to send two Raptors to New Orleans, DeRozan is the choice here alongside Wall.

Narrowly.

Frontcourt: 1. Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers); 2. Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls); 3. Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks)

Hibbert’s game might well be the furthest thing from DeRozan’s, but he also happens to be the league’s runaway Defensive Player of the Year and the unquestioned anchor for one of the best defensive teams we’ve seen in decades. Coaches appreciate that sort of work even more than we do, so Hibbert’s a lock.

Miami’s Chris Bosh is another heavy favorite here, but I’m going with a second defense-minded big -- like it or not -- because Noah has been so stubbornly good as a two-way force in keeping the 21-20 Bulls glued together in the wake of Derrick Rose’s knee woes and the trade exile of Luol Deng. (Related question: Do we really need three Heatles in New Orleans if they’re coasting like everybody says?)

As for the last slot ... Millsap is our best stab with Al Horford regrettably lost for the season to another torn pectoral muscle. The undersized Millsap can’t quite match Horford’s sky-high efficiency, but he’s a sneaky good two-way player who has proved to be one of the bargains of the season for an Atlanta team that reached the 41-game marker at a hard-to-fathom three games over .500.

Wild cards: 1. Arron Afflalo (Orlando Magic); 2. Al Jefferson (Charlotte Bobcats)

In pretty much any other season, we’d be among the loudest voices screaming that an 11-32 team can’t have an All-Star. Yet this is that one unsightly season, at least in the Leastern Conference, where we’re lucky to see five teams with winning records in the morning paper and where there are no such rules.

So ...

Afflalo’s offensive consistency and highly accurate shooting eye, while grinding away on an overmatched Orlando squad that doesn’t surround him with much help, gives him a real shot at his first-ever trip to All-Star Weekend.

Jefferson, meanwhile, has won us over by helping to keep Charlotte in the East’s top eight through the season’s first half despite the very limited offensive options around him ... and without dragging down the Bobcats defense like so many cynics thought he would. It's realistically tough to imagine Bosh not getting the coaches' support to join LeBron and D-Wade, but I find myself drawn to the Millsaps, Afflalos and Jeffersons to fill all those unforeseen openings caused by the league's injury epidemic.

The East's foremost snubees: Bosh, Lowry, Lance Stephenson, David West, Luol Deng, Anderson Varejao, Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter-Williams, Joe Johnson, Andre Drummond and Jeff Teague.
Chris PaulAP Photo/Danny MoloshokEven though he may not suit up, expect an All-Star nod for Chris Paul.

NBA coaches have received their All-Star voting instructions.

And here on Stein Line Live, they'll receive all the guidance they'll need to make their choices … following the same official guidelines ordained by the league office.

West head coaches, like their East counterparts, are being asked to vote for seven reserves from their conference by Tuesday at noon ET under the following conditions:

1. Coaches must vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards.

2. Players must be ranked in specific order of preference in all three categories.

3. Coaches are explicitly told as part of the voting process that the position at which a player "is listed on the All-Star ballot should have no bearing on your vote." Each coach is encouraged, furthermore, to vote for players "at the position he thinks is most advantageous for the All-Star team" and "not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season."

4. Coaches are obviously not allowed to vote for their own players.

The starters in the West, as announced Thursday night, are Stephen Curry and Kobe Bryant at guard, with Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love in the frontcourt. The West bench, which will be announced next Thursday on TNT, would look like this on ESPN.com's mythical ballot:

Backcourt: 1. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); 2. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

All-Star voting is the one instance in which I promise you coaches all over the West wish Paul and Russell Westbrook were 100 percent right now. It would make their voting jobs considerably easier because those two obviously rank as automatics when healthy.

The uncomfortable reality at the moment is that all of these decisions get a lot more complicated if CP3 and Russ are both unavailable for selection. So you fully expect Paul to be selected even if no one knows just yet whether his separated right shoulder will heal to the point that he can actually play. Then it becomes incoming commissioner Adam Silver's job to worry about injury replacements if Paul, like Bryant, decides that he can't go.

Westbrook is all the way out of contention after his third knee surgery in less than eight months, but simply hearing Paul say this week that he hopes to be back in time for New Orleans -- and you can understand why an All-Star Game there means so much to him -- is surely all the incentive West coaches will need. The numbers take care of the rest: CP3 is averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 assists per game, which puts the Clippers' reigning All-Star MVP two full dimes ahead of No. 2 assist man Curry's 9.2 average.

Harden, meanwhile, can bank on another All-Star nod despite the increasingly loud dismay with his defensive contributions. Last season's need to save his energy for offensive exertions would seem to be lessened on this Rockets team, after all the help Houston general manager Daryl Morey has brought in, but Harden's overall statistical production (24.3 points per game to rank fifth in scoring along with his 4.9 boards and 5.4 assists per game) can't be ignored.

Frontcourt: 1. LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers); 2. Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets); 3. Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

Aldridge isn't quite an MVP candidate, as some Blazermaniacs would contend, but that's largely because Durant and LeBron James are the league's only legit contestants in the MVP race. Portland couldn't have realistically hoped for more than the 24.2 points and 11.6 rebounds coming nightly from Aldridge, who never really even flirted with averaging a double-double in his first seven NBA seasons.

The new ballot format that did away with centers starting last season wound up hurting Howard more than any other player in this season's voting. Given all the drama that has swirled around him for the past couple seasons -- as well as the public's historical reluctance to show much sympathy to the game's best big men going all the way back to Wilt Chamberlain -- you certainly don't anticipate an overwhelming amount of sympathy to be shown. The coaches, though, aren't about to snub Dwight when he's averaging 18.6 points, 12.6 boards and 1.8 blocks for a top-five team out West.

Then there's Nowitzki who, at 35, is not far away from delivering a 50/40/90 shooting season while maintaining a spot in the league's top 10 in terms of PER. I like Nowitzki’s chances far better than most because he’s exactly the sort of universally respected vet that coaches can’t resist going for. And the lack of a clear-cut candidate from San Antonio's ensemble cast -- it's no treat trying to choose Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and even Manu Ginobili as the top Spur so far based on their playing time and production through the first half of the season -- should only enhance Dirk's odds after a rare All-Star Weekend off last season.

Wild cards: 1. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); 2. Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns)

Do the Blazers deserve two All-Stars when the Spurs, on this ballot, have none? I would say yes based on how far Portland has exceeded expectations and how much Lillard's shotmaking and fearlessness have contributed to that level of overachievement. Supporters of San Antonio's Parker will undoubtedly howl in protest, but Lillard has done almost as much to transform the Blazers offensively as Aldridge, which can't be ignored.

And when it comes to the chore of making a seventh and final selection in the West -- and thus snubbing another 10 or so worthy contenders -- I can't deny that I was swayed not only by The Dragon's crafty left-handedness but also the irresistible pull of Suns Fever.

DeMarcus Cousins and New Orleans' own Anthony Davis were enticing options for this last spot, as they both possess better all-around numbers than Nowitzki despite being unable to match Dirk's impact in the team-success department, but I felt as though the Suns deserved an All-Star more than any other club outside of the West's top six.

Consider it our thanks to Phoenix for supplying one of the few uplifting storylines in a first half filled with depressing injuries all over the NBA map. And Dragic is obviously the most worthy of the Desert Cinderellas, especially given the Durant-esque load he has to shoulder now with fellow lead Eric Bledsoe injured.

The West’s foremost snubs: Mike Conley and Parker, Cousins and Davis … and then Duncan, Zach Randolph, David Lee, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Pekovic and Ty Lawson.

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