After a career of earning All-Star nods based on the respect of coaches rather than the votes of fans, Paul Pierce missed out both ways.
The reserves for the NBA’s 62d All-Star Game were announced shortly before the Celtics tipped off against the Knicks Thursday night, and while perennials such as Tim Duncan (14 appearances) and Chris Bosh (eight) added more bullet points to their résumés, Pierce was left off after a run of five straight selections.
“You knew eventually that day was going to come,” Pierce said after scoring 22 points in Thursday’s 89-86 loss. “You have a lot of young great players in this league that’s really stepped up this year and they’re all well-deserved.”
The players chosen were a relatively fresh crop, with five first-timers for the East: Chicago’s Joakim Noah, New York’s Tyson Chandler, Indiana’s Paul George, Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday, and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. Chicago’s Luol Deng will make his second trip.
Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett were both tapped as East starters a week ago, voted in along with New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Once upon a time, the Celtics sent a minimum of three players, now the Heat are the only team with three All-Stars.
With the Celtics riding a five-game losing streak, coach Doc Rivers sounded disappointed, but not surprised.
“Our record had a lot to do with it,” Rivers said. “[Pierce] played well enough to make it, but listen, we’re two games under .500 and we already have two guys on the All-Star team. I think the coaching by-laws say we can’t put three guys on. So that’s probably the reason.”
Garnett is going for the 15th time, which ties him with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for the lead among active players. Rondo, the only player in the league averaging double-digit assists (11.1), will make his fourth straight appearance.
The reserves are voted on by the head coaches, and in any other season, Pierce’s main competition would have been Deng, who leads the Bulls in scoring, and George, who is having a career year for the Pacers in the absence of Danny Granger.
But the league chose to abandon the usual guard-forward-center voting designations for a frontcourt-backcourt system that acknowledges the lack of true centers around the league. Noah, Chandler, and Bosh are the only true big men on the roster.
Although the Heat have the conference’s best record, by rule coach Erik Spoelstra is not allowed to coach the East team for a second straight year. Instead, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau was given the honor.
Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Houston’s James Harden, Golden State’s David Lee, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Memphis’s Zach Randolph, and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook round out the Western Conference roster.
The West starters are Bryant, his teammate Dwight Howard, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, and the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Rondo had a triple-double Thursday, and he flirted with one in each of the two previous games. Last Friday, he went for 30 points. But in assessing how well his point guard is playing, Rivers said he didn’t put much stock in numbers.
“It’s just how you’re playing with the group, the unit on the floor,” said the coach. “I don’t even look much individually. I look at five guys. There are times where guys are playing well but the group’s not playing well and sometimes that guy might get punished by coming out.
“With Rondo, same thing. You just want the group to be as efficient as possible when he’s on the floor.”
Asked if he was concerned about whether Rondo was hunting down triple-doubles — or if any players were more concerned with numbers than overall chemistry — Rivers actually said he didn’t mind chasing numbers as long as it was in the interest of the team.
“If they are trying to get numbers and our team’s playing well, go get those numbers,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s stuff I don’t focus on.”
Hoping for best
Having reached a boiling point after the loss to Detroit Sunday, Rivers made pointed remarks that if things didn’t change, the roster would. He backed off slightly before Thursday’s game, but said he had to continue to do what he could to get the most out of the players in the locker room.
“Let’s hope we don’t,” Rivers said. “If you start playing better, then you don’t have to do that. Obviously, if you don’t, then we have to do something at some point. But I just think we have what we need in the locker room. I’m just not getting it out of them. I have to figure out a better way of doing that.
Defense comes first
The Knicks’ Iman Shumpert and Boston’s Avery Bradley have earned reputations for being hounds on defense, but Rivers said they go about it in different ways. Shumpert does it with size, Bradley with relentlessness. “He’s a hell of a defender,” Rivers said of Shumpert. “He’s just so big. Avery’s more of a ball pressurer all the way up the floor. That’s different.” . . . In light of the recent Anthony-Garnett dustup, Garden security was instructed to remove any signs from fans that made specific reference to Garnett’s reported insults . . . Making his return to the Garden for the first time since “retiring” after the 2010 Finals, Rasheed Wallace made sure to cross the hallway and drop in on the Celtics locker room, yelling a loud greeting.