NBA All-Star reserves will be unveiled Thursday and the Celtics are hoping a couple of teammates will be joining Kevin Garnett, an Eastern Conference starter, in Dallas for this year's midseason spectacular.
With that in mind, we're dedicating this week's mailbag to your questions on everything related to this year's All-Star festivities. Consider it an All-Star mailbag. We'll tackle fewer questions, but try to give you more in-depth answers.
And, since we can't just ignore everything else in Celtics Nation, we'll close this week's 'bag with a little lightning round on non-All-Star questions.
We start with the most repeated All-Star query of the week:
Q: Who from the Celtics gets picked as All-Star reserves? Rajon Rondo gets his first nod, right? -- Kevin (Norwood, Mass.)
Let's start by detailing the process by which All-Star reserves are selected: Coaches across the league vote for the players they deem worthy, but cannot pick their own players. Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked last week that this leads to a lot of coaches calling rival coaches lobbying for their own players and, in turn, coaches get lied to about who exactly that rival coach will be voting for. Rivers noted that some coaches won't vote for the Celtics just to give their own guy a better shot of making it. Despite the posturing, coaches typically do a good job of picking the seven reserves on each squad.
Who will be joining Garnett in Dallas? The guess here is that both Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo will get invites, giving the Celtics a variation of the Big Three at this year's event. Maybe somewhat surprisingly, it's Pierce -- a seven-time All-Star -- who might need the most help getting in. Rondo seems like a virtual lock at the guard spot. Pierce will find himself in a fight with youngsters like Brook Lopez and Al Horford for that final spot.
Q: From what you've seen, who are your All-Star reserves? -- Liz (London, England)
A: I think colleague John Hollinger just about nailed it in his All-Star reserve column (Insider). The only change I'd make is Lopez over New York's David Lee at backup center. Lee probably has the better offensive numbers (higher field goal percentage, included), but Lopez adds two blocks per game and continues to blossom in his second season despite being on the worst team in the league
Did Kevin Garnett really deserve to make the All-Star Game this year? -- Julie (Tallahassee, Fla.)
A: Considering he missed a quarter of the season and his numbers don't exactly leap off the page, probably not. He's one of the handful of starters who are voted in by fans based more on legacy than anything else. Fortunately, the head-shaking inclusion of Allen Iverson as a starter takes some of the spotlight off the other guys who probably don't deserve to be starting in Dallas. If we're being honest, Chicago's Derrick Rose deserves to be there more than Iverson.
Now, all that said, the Celtics have certainly seen the value of Garnett in his return the past two games and I think an All-Star visit is warranted.
Q: Do you think KG will actually play in the All-Star Game, or will he take the extra rest? -- Rick (Killington, Vt.)
A: Asked that question last week after his return against the Portland Trail Blazers, Garnett was noncommittal and seemed to indicate it would depend on whether any of his teammates would accompany him. The guess here is that as long as there're no bumps in the road over the next week-plus, Garnett will at least attend the game, but I do believe his role will be limited at best. Particularly if Rivers ends up being the Eastern Conference coach, because there's no way Rivers wants to push him too hard in an exhibition game.
Q: Will Doc Rivers coach in the All-Star Game? -- John (Austin, Texas)
A: Potentially, and that seemed like news to Rivers when reporters informed him of that note at Tuesday's practice. See, the coaches of the All-Star Game are plucked from the team with the winningest record in each conference at the All-Star break. Cleveland coach Mike Brown would be in line for those duties, but, because he coached in last year's game, he's ineligible (he can thank the "Riley Rule," established after Lakers coach Pat Riley coached the team eight times in nine seasons from 1982 to 1990).
That means the duties will instead fall to the team with the second-best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference, which, as of today, is the Boston Celtics. But with a rigorous back-to-back against the Hawks (½ game back) and Magic (1½ games back) later this week (not to mention a visit from the Western Conference-leading Lakers on Sunday), that could change in a hurry.
Doc's reaction to the news? "I could care less about that," Rivers said. "You know how I feel about that whole thing."
For their part, Celtics player are eager to force their coach into a working vacation.
Said Ray Allen: "We talked about it as players starting out the year, but we didn't help his cause out this past month. He definitely deserves to be there, and the [entire] coaching staff, because they've worked so hard."
Q: Are we going to see Eddie House and Paul Pierce in the 3-point shootout? -- Dave (West Hollywood, Calif.)
A: Neither player has heard anything recently about their chances, but both continue
to stump for their chance to appear (House through a series of YouTube videos, Pierce pleading numerous times for a chance at redemption).
The guess here is that Pierce will get the nod, particularly if he's already in Dallas as an All-Star reserve. But it's not like he hasn't earned the chance regardless of if he plays in Sunday's game. Pierce is now second in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 47 percent (he's 20th overall in 3-pointers made with 71). Pierce has stressed numerous times this season how much work he's put into developing that 3-point shot and he's been by far the most consistent threat on the Celtics from beyond the arc.
As for House, he'd earn a spot based on reputation alone because his 3-point shooting has been rather abysmal this season (51-of-139, 36.7 percent). One year after shattering Danny Ainge's franchise record for 3-point percentage (House shot 44.5 percent last season), House should probably take the extended break to revisit the basics rather than worry about an All-Star competition.
Non-All-Star Lightning Round
Q: This is going to be a tough stretch for the C's -- what are you expecting? -- Jimmy (Leominster, Mass.)
A: NBA back-to-backs are like MLB doubleheaders -- you walk away happy with a split. I think the Celtics will actually have a tougher time in Orlando, where the Magic will be eager for revenge from Christmas. Boston should be focused for Friday's visit to Atlanta, considering the Hawks have already rallied from three second-half deficits to top the Celtics in all three meetings this season. The good thing about Sunday's visit from the Lakers is that, while it comes at an awful time, the Celtics should have no problem finding the energy and desire to compete that day. It's the next night in Washington that screams of letdown. Let's say anything better than 2-2 is gravy.
Q: What nickname do you like better "Big Baby" or "Uno Uno" -- Patrick (Dover, Mass.)
A: The only thing harder than getting a nickname is getting rid of one. Those things just happen. Any time I write something on Davis I catch myself referring to him as "Baby" more than I do his last name. It's a fun little story, but Rivers said it best when he noted that actions are more likely to change opinions on Davis than a nickname swap.
Q: Why hasn't Doc played Bill Walker more? It seems like he has a lot of ability and he could help on the bench. Do you see him around long-term? -- David (Stoneham, Mass.)
A: Doc has stressed that he'll play Walker more in the coming months if for no other reason than to get Allen and Pierce a breather. True to his word, Walker played the final minutes of the first quarter the other night. Expect to see more of that on occasion. As for Walker's long-term value, he's really going to have to distinguish himself in practice to earn an opportunity.
Q: Do you think that the Celtics can still be championship contenders, even with all their injuries? What do you think they would need to be contenders? -- Roberto (New York City)
A: Honestly, I think they just need health. As I've said all along, I envision they'll bring in a backup point guard to take Lester Hudson's vacant roster spot, while also keeping an eye on any low-cost big men who can fill that P.J. Brown-type role, particularly as Shelden Williams fades from the rotation. The Celtics will get a major boost with the return of Marquis Daniels, who Rivers mentioned in the same breath as James Posey on Tuesday.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Monta Ellis rumor? Would you do a Ellis and Corey Maggette for Ray deal? Maybe with us throwing in a future first-round pick? What about Ellis and Vladimir Radmanovic for Ray? If Ray gets traded, do you think he forces a buyout and tries to win another title with Boston? None of these trades will probably happen. What do you think will happen? -- Evan (Boston, Mass.)
A: Evan's clearly pumped for trade season, but I can tell you I rather despise it. As Evan himself noted, none of these trades will probably happen. Yet we'll endure two months of rumors that the Celtics could land [insert superstar name] for J.R. Giddens, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine's expiring contract. I think the Celtics and Rivers are sincere when they stress how much they like this team. Barring injuries, I think their moves will be minor as there's something to be said for simply maintaining chemistry. Of course, a big-splash move by a rival -- I'm looking at you, Cleveland -- could force them to reevaluate.
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.