LeBron, Carmelo aren't quite all-star worthy
By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Wednesday, February 4
Updated: February 4
9:50 AM ET

It's close, but statistically speaking, LeBron James is better than Carmelo
Anthony.

But by going by the standings, and there are those who say those numbers are
even more important, then, well, Anthony is far and away better than James.
But, and this is a big but if we are to believe all the ensuing talk of all-star
snubs, by combining the two criteria, both players are lacking in Feb. 15
credentials because adding them to the team means taking someone else off of it.

"I was like, 'Oh, man, I should have been on there,' " Anthony said in N.Y.
Times after learning he had not made the Western Conference squad. "But it's my
first year and I still have a long way ahead of me. Even though it's just the
All-Star Game, it's much deeper than that. We'll take it as motivation. I
probably deserved to make it, but things happen for a reason."

Ditto for James.

"I think I played well enough to make that team," LeBron said in Lorraine
Morning Journal after learning that he had not made the Eastern Conference
squad. "By not making it, that will make me work harder. It's just another thing
I have to earn, to be part of that elite group. I don't have anything to prove."

But instead of focusing on those two players who did not make it, perhaps it
might be better if we looked at those players who beat them out.
Anthony, a forward, lost out to Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrei
Kirilenko and Peja Stojakovic.

James, a guard, lost out to Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce
and Michael Redd.

"I'm old school," Cavs coach Paul Silas said in the Detroit News when he learned
that his player had not made the All-Star team. "I always like players to pay
their dues and to earn it, but it is what it is. He's earned it. It's just one
of those things."

Ditto for Anthony's representative.

"I love our guys and I think they've played well enough (to be all-stars),"
Nugget GM Kiki Vandeweghe said in the Rocky Mountain News when he learned his
player had not made it. "But every year there are deserving players who don't
get picked. Hopefully, this will inspire our guys."

Both Silas and Vandeweghe were careful not point out any players they believed
should not have made it and they were smart. They've both played in the league,
made their own all-star teams and are now back in the league in different
capacities. They not only understand the game but they also understand the NBA.
And this is the simple truth. These are the facts. These are the numbers.

James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have a 19-29 record.

The players selected ahead of James with losing records were Iverson, McGrady
and Pierce, and here's how they stack up individually.

LeBron James
2004 Stats: 20.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.7 bpg, 41.4 FG%, 27.3 3P%,
75.7 FT%

Allen Iverson
2004 Stats: 27.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.2 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.09 bpg, 39.3 FG%, 29.4 3P%,
74.9 FT%

Tracy McGrady
2004 Stats: 27 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 42.2 FG%, 35.1 3P%, 81.4
FT%

Paul Pierce
2004 Stats: 22.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 40.2 FG%, 33.1 3P%,
83.2 FT%

As you can see, James is good, even great. Brilliant if you've only seen him
through highlights. But these guys are, statistically speaking, better. They
score more points and excel in other categories as well. And as far as the
standings go, Kidd, Redd and Davis, as the leaders of their respective teams,
are seven games better than James in the win column.

Here's how Carmelo stacks up.

Carmelo Anthony
2004 Stats: 19 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.6 bpg, 41.7 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 74.8
FT%

But instead of listing the numbers for Duncan, Garnett, Nowitzki and Stojakovic
and embarrassing the rookie, I'll put it in his own words . . . "but Kirilenko,
man," he said in the Rocky Mountain News.

So let's see.

Andrei Kirilenko
2004 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2 spg, 2.8 bpg, 46.9 FG%, 39.3 3P%, 79.2
FT%

Anthony scores a few more points than Kirilenko, but is outclassed in every
other statistical category from rebounding to assists to shooting to being in a
completely different league in terms of defensive prowess.

Don't get me wrong. Anthony is having a great season. The simple fact that the
Nuggets are 29-21 should make him the Rookie of the Year at this point ahead of
James. But there isn't a coach in the league who would take a 41 percent shooter
scoring 19 a game over what Kirilenko is doing night in and night out for the
Jazz.

To argue otherwise would be to include Shawn Marion, Rashard Lewis, Larry Hughes
and Michael Finley in this argument of snubs. How about Corey Maggette,
averaging 19.9 a game on 46 percent shooting?

There are 27 players in the NBA averaging 18 or more points a game.
Try to find another player who has 124 blocks at this point to go along with 42
3-pointers while ranking third in his team in assists and fifth in the entire
league in steals for a team with a winning record whose second-leading scorer on
the court this month is Carlos Arroyo.

Sure, James and Anthony sell more jerseys, sneakers and seats in the stadiums.
And there is an argument to be made of this as columnist Bernie Lincicome writes
in the Rocky Mountain News :

"Either Anthony and James are what they are or they are not. They are the lead
item on the nightly basketball news, whenever Kobe Bryant is not in Eagle
County. They are forgiven flaws that veterans must apologize for.

"If James and Anthony are all of this, then they should be authenticated as
such, and Anthony certainly was, finishing in fan voting just behind Kevin
Garnett and Tim Duncan and ahead of even perennial Karl Malone, not to mention
Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic.

"We, the public, have been assured that, in Anthony and James, we are seeing the
future and should be making notes for later.

"What the coaches are saying is that the future is fine, but it is just not Feb.
15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles."

But the fact is, to add Anthony or James means that you've to subtract one of
these other players or simply base the game on Jersey sales and make room for
Memphis point guard Jason Williams on the roster.

And perhaps the biggest indictment comes from the two, themselves. After saying
the right things and doing the right things under such extreme media scrutiny
all year, they wait for this moment to put their foots in their mouths.

"I wasn't part of their team they picked first," James said after being asked if
he would be an injury replacement on the All-Star team. "I wouldn't like to be
part of the team . . I'm an only child. I never want to be picked second. I
don't come second. Don't even put me on that. That's how I feel."

Ditto for his partner.

"I'm not going to play if somebody gets hurt," Anthony said. "I don't want to be
picked if somebody gets hurt."

Which only proves, more than anything, that perhaps they are a bit too young,
still, to be on the All-Star team in the first place.

[hr]

Spurs, Pistons give more bang for the buck
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Tuesday, February 3
Updated: February 3
11:42 AM ET

The fans have spoken. Quality players who are good citizens in the community
mean more than stars with fat contracts and even fatter rap sheets. Value for
the buck means more than deep pockets. An organization's ability to relate to
the fans and the city means more, according to you, than winning championships.
How is it possible, in an age of star over inflation, lavish spending and luxury
taxes, that a team with one of the most conservative payrolls in the NBA, the
San Antonio Spurs, and another team that doesn't have anyone making more than
$6.5 million a year, the Detroit Pistons, rank in the top four of ESPN the
Magazine's Fan Satisfaction Rankings while the two teams with the highest
payrolls in the NBA -- the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers -- rank
27th and 28th respectively?

Call it bang for your buck. Fans appreciate a good bargain when they see it, and
no one does it better than the Spurs and Pistons.

The Spurs are in a position to win another championship and are doing it with a
committed payroll of just $46 million. They have just one star, Tim Duncan, but
somehow ranked No. 1, out of 121 professional sports franchises, when fans were
asked to rank players' effort on the court and their likability off it.

The Pistons have the second-best record in the East, yet don't have a player
making even close to a max contract. The fact that the team is looking at $5
million in cap room next season without losing any key players is just
astounding. Even more surprising, the Pistons ranked No. 3 out of 121 teams when
fans ranked the likability of a team's players on and off the court.

Bang for your buck isn't all that's important.

The Mavericks and Kings were the only teams in the league to get high marks
despite huge payrolls. The Mavs succeeded in the poll because of high ratings
for owner Mark Cuban and his ability to relate to fans and make the team more
accessible. They also ranked high on their new arena and general popularity of
the players to whom the Mavs pay big money.

The Spurs, Pistons, Kings and Grizzlies also get high marks in the fan relations
category -- judged by readers to be the most important of the seven categories.
Speaking from experience working with these teams as a member of the media --
the fans are right on. All of these teams really know how to sell their product
and they understand their audience. Not surprisingly the Hawks, Blazers, Knicks,
Wizards and Bulls all took major hits in this department. Again, speaking from
experience here, it's tough to argue with the fans. These teams have done a
terrible job, in the past, of selling their product or making the team relevant
to their fans.

Championships and perceived closeness to championships matter. The Spurs rank
No. 2 among all teams and No. 1 among NBA teams. The Lakers ranked 10th. In the
weirdest stat of the entire poll, the Chicago Bulls ranked 20th overall and
third in the NBA in this category. Please tell me that the poll was taken before
the team self destructed at the start of the season. The Pistons, Rockets and
Mavericks also get high marks in the category.

Not surprisingly, the Blazers ranked dead last, out of 121 teams, when fans
ranked the players' reputations on the court and in the community. What can
Blazers GM John Nash learn from perusing the rankings? Fans care as much about a
team's image and its ability to connect with fans as they do about consecutive
playoff appearances.

More surprisingly, the no-name Utah Jazz ranked 10th on player likability
despite the fact that most fans outside of Utah would be hard pressed to name
one player wearing a Jazz uniform this season. The Kings, Hornets, 76ers and
Grizzlies also ranked in the Top 25. As far as bad rosters go, the Bulls, Magic,
Hawks and Knicks all joined the Blazers at the bottom of the barrel.

Speaking of the Jazz, long-time coach Jerry Sloan ranked No. 3 out of 121
coaches -- tops among the NBA. Only the Cowboys' Bill Parcells and the Chiefs'
Dick Vermeil ranked ahead of him. The next closest competition was the Lakers'
Phil Jackson, who ranked No. 10. Second-year head coach Eric Musselman was, by
far, the youngest coach to get his props. He ranked 27th ahead of such veterans
as Jeff Van Gundy, Jim O'Brien, Paul Silas, Flip Saunders and Rick Adelman.

Former Knicks Coach Don Chaney sits at the bottom.

Why are the New Jersey Nets so intent on moving to Brooklyn? Their stadium came
in dead last among NBA teams when fans ranked the friendliness of the
environment in which their team plays. The Magic and Sonics also got
surprisingly low ratings in this category.

The survey ranked owners based on their honestly and loyalty to their home city.
Surprisingly, the Maloof Brothers, who were the most popular NBA owners last
season, have fallen from third to 10th despite the Kings strong surge this
season. This year Spurs owner Peter Holt took the top spot, ranking No. 2 among
all owners in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. Cuban ranked fifth. The Pacers, Kings,
Lakers, Pistons, Jazz and 76ers all ranked in the top 25. Despite finally
opening his wallet last summer, Clips owner Donald Sterling, for the second
straight year, sits at the bottom of the barrel.

Discount the Knicks' rankings a bit. Only one team, the Hawks, ranked worse
overall, but the survey was taken before Isiah Thomas took over and Stephon
Marbury came to town. Our guess is that the Knicks would take a pretty big up
tick in the rankings.

Finally on to the movers and shakers. The Pistons rose from 13th to fourth in
this year's rankings. Jerry West must be doing something right in Memphis as the
Grizzlies went from 73rd to 38th in this year's poll. LeBron James had a more
modest effect in Cleveland than one would think. Last year they ranked 106th.
This year they're up to 83. Not sure that's worth the $100 million Nike is
throwing his way.

[hr]
ESPN.com - Dallas' 'Big 3' has companyESPN.com: NBA

Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Dallas' 'Big 3' has company
By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider

Last year the Mavericks got everyone talking about their "Big 3" of Michael
Finley, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash after their amazing start and amazing play
offensively. They were as good as it gets (to borrow a term from a great movie).
So in the offseason other teams went about improving their talent bases, either
through experience and maturity or via trade and free agency. Let's look at some
of the other "big threes" in the league, and you decide who is the best.

First is the original trio in Dallas. They made a lot of changes in the
offseason, bringing in Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker as two other marquee
players, and that has had an impact on the trio's individual numbers. In the
long run, though, the Mavericks have improved in other areas, rebounding in
particular.

But it is still the same theme, with those three counted on heavily to score,
score, score, with their opponents doing the same. Teams average -- get this --
100 points per game against Dallas. While their play is improved of late, and
the chemistry is getting better (I think this is a better team than last year's
group), they still have the same issues as a year ago -- to defend or not to
defend? I think you know which one they choose.

Next up the Nets, with Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd. They
don't shoot it as well as the Dallas trio, but they are every bit as effective
at scoring, especially in transition. Plus they compete on the defensive end,
and K-Mart (who should be an all-star this year) and RJ continue to improve.
The only thing holding this trio back has been the tension among them since the
departure of Byron Scott (that's another story for another time) and the
questionable roster moves that have not bolstered the supporting cast.

But for basketball skill and entertainment value, they are surely a must-see
act. Nobody runs the break like Jason Kidd, and who better on the other end of
that break than the high-flying act of Martin and Jefferson? (Kidd, Martin, and
Jefferson sounds like a law firm -- you think they really had anything with the
dismissal of Byron Scott?)

When you think Sacramento and talk big three, how impressive must that team be
to do so without putting C-Webb in their triangle? Chris Webber has yet to play
a game, but the Kings have not skipped a beat with Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, and
Peja Stojakovic. These guys have been simply amazing, scoring at will while also
showing a deft passing touch.

Brad Miller came over from the Pacers and has been just what the doctor ordered,
providing scoring, rebounding and a bit of toughness on that front line. Bibby
has bounced back from an injury-riddled season last year that saw him struggle
in the playoffs.

And what can you say about Peja that hasn't been said already? He continues to
improve each and every game and has become Sacramento's go-to guy and an MVP
candidate. His jumper is automatic, and what is even more impressive is his
ability to move without the basketball. He is arguably the best shooter in the
game, but you can't argue that no one moves better without the ball. And on the
best passing team in basketball, that is a lethal combination.

The Lakers version is the injured three, but it can be every bit as lethal
offensively. Since The Mailman is still injured and expected to be out the
longest, we'll go with GP, Shaq, and Kobe for the sake of this comparison. When
healthy, they are as good as, if not better than, any trio, because they are
equally as good on the defensive end.

What Payton lacks in having lost a step, he more than makes up for in smarts on
the defensive end, and both Shaq and Kobe can change a game defensively, as
well. Their trio is the perfect scenario -- they can all shoot it (though I
wouldn't want Shaq shooting jump shots), post it, defend it and pass it; all are
used to taking a game over; and all three are winners (only Payton doesn't have
that ring). And come playoff time, all have the ability to take their games up
another level.

Last is the trio that right now truly is the big three. I'm talking about the
MVP of the first half in KG; the best point guard in the West over the first
half in my homey from Baltimore, Sam Cassell; and arguably the best third option
(with a first-option mentality) in Latrell Sprewell.

This group has been special, and each has something to prove. Remember, this is
a team that has been kicked out of the first round in each of the last seven
years. But you wouldn't know it by their play, which has been inspiring for all
those T-wolves fans out there. They continue to put up amazing numbers and win
games.

What's been most impressive is Minnesota's league-leading record on the road. To
win away from home, you have to be able to defend it, and the T-Wolves have done
a good job of that so far. Also, with the offensive impact Sam and Latrell have
had, what really stands out for me is that KG's numbers across the board are all
up. That's why, hands down, this guy is the MVP of the first half.

But it's only the first half, and things should get a little warmer in the
coming months. Every team will be jockeying for playoff seeding out West, where
all but the Suns are still legit in terms of playoff aspirations.

Greg Anthony, a veteran of 11 NBA seasons, is a regular contributor to ESPN
Insider. Click here to send him an e-mail.