Let me hike up my old-man pants, adjust my Kangol, and wave my walking stick for this one, because I’ve got a problem with the YouTube, the Tweeter, and the short attention span of grown-ass kids these days.
It’s their fault that Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have been all but declared locks for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, while a more deserving Western Conference power forward will almost certainly get ignored. Zach Randolph should be booking his second straight All-Star trip, but he’s going to get snubbed.
I know why. And I get it. (I’m not that old.) According to the Clippers’ sideline reporter during yesterday’s L.A./Indiana game — in which Griffin scored 47 points, more than any NBA player in any game this season — “Blake Griffin” is the most-searched NBA name on YouTube, while “Blake Griffin dunk” is the most-searched term. In Minnesota, K-Love made his mark with one amazing game early in the season (it didn’t hurt that it was against the Knicks), and now his reputation precedes him as the guy who will rack up 30 points and 30 rebounds every night. So if you watch ESPN and NBA TV highlight shows enough and hear “Kevin Love/Blake Griffin IS A BEAST!!!” enough times, it might drown out the sound of what’s really going down.
Theirs are two names who have come to define this NBA season: Love leads the League in rebounding, Griffin leads the League in wreaking havoc, and Randolph will have to pay for it. All because we’re now taking a dump on — or perhaps it’s offering amends to — the ghosts of Elton Brand and Al Jefferson, unofficially waiving the unwritten All-Star edict that a team performance means something.
It might surprise you, but Randolph’s stats are right on-par with Griffin and Love. He is averaging 20.1 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, ranking 3rd in the NBA in overall rebounding (Love is first, Griffin fourth), second in offensive rebounding (Love is first, Griffin fifth), and fourth in double-doubles (Love is first, Griffin second). Z-Bo is one of only four players in the League putting up 20-and-10 averages, joining Love (21.2 ppg, 15.7 rpg), Griffin (22.5 ppg, 12.8 rpg) and Dwight Howard in that exclusive club. He has four 20-and-20 games this season (Love had six, Griffin zero).
So what’s the difference? Why does Randolph deserve an All-Star nod when Love tops him (albeit barely) stats-wise and Griffin is the buzz of the NBA whose style is perfect for the All-Star ethos of entertainment?
Randolph is winning games. His Memphis Grizzlies are 19-22, two and a half games out of a playoff spot behind the injury-racked Portland Trail Blazers, whom they could realistically catch before February’s All-Star Weekend.
Griffin’s Clippers are 15-25. Love’s Timberwolves are 10-32. Griffin is on a fourth-place team in a division where only one squad (Lakers) has an above-.500 record. Love is on a 14th-place team in a 15-team conference. Is Randolph’s supporting cast in Memphis any more talented than Love’s team in Minnesota? Yes. More talented than Griffin’s team in L.A.? Not necessarily. But Zach is the one who has his team contending for the playoffs.
And yet Z-Bo will be the one most likely snubbed come time for All-Star selections. Maybe it’s because he still has something of a bad reputation (although Randolph just won the NBA’s Community Assist award for December 2010). Probably it’s because he hasn’t had an eye-popping 30-and-30 stat line and hasn’t been a staple on the nightly highlight reel.
Griffin and Love’s All-Star arguments are built on a foundation of statistics. But if their numbers are essentially even with Randolph, shouldn’t the edge go to the guy who’s winning more games? Somewhere, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is hating.
Why can’t all three — Randolph, Griffin and Love — make the All-Star Game? There’s not enough room. At most, there are six open spots for forwards in the West. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are leading the pack in fan voting as likely starters, while Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are strong candidates with better career resumes and reputations. That leaves one spot, maybe two, for Griffin, Love and Randolph to fight over. Barring a ‘Melo trade to the East, and/or Gasol being listed as a center, that’s how it’s going to shake out.
My only hope is that, unlike the Tweeter accounts and Top 25 polls of their college counterparts, NBA coaches don’t leave the responsibility of picking the league’s All-Stars to some younger lackey who will let YouTube be his guide. Hopefully they get this one right.
Who do you think is more deserving of an All-Star spot: Blake Griffin, Kevin Love or Zach Randolph?