A lone positive gleaned from Kobe Bryant’s season-ending injury: a far more worthy candidate has taken his place in the All-Star Game. Less than a day after DeMarcus Cousins was left off the Western Conference roster by the league’s coaches, commissioner Adam Silver named the Sacramento Kings big man as Bryant’s All-Star replacement.
Here’s the pertinent excerpt from the league’s official announcement:
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has been named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Western Conference All-Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game in New York City.
Cousins, who will make his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring (23.8 ppg) and third in rebounding (12.3 rpg). Over the last 20 years, only five players — David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love — have averaged at least 23.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in a season. Cousins is the first Kings’ All-Star since 2004.
Note inclusion of the second paragraph in the quote above. While Cousins is an extremely deserving All-Star, we think his lack of team success and 10 missed games make Damian Lillard a better choice to supplant Bryant.
But per-game statistics are the measure by which casual fans judge a player’s impact more than anything else, and Cousins’ raw numbers are reserved for basketball’s true greats – he’d have been the first player in the three-point era to reach those numeric thresholds and not be named an All-Star.
There wasn’t a bad realistic option here; Mike Conley, one of three Dallas Mavericks, or several more players are playing like All-Stars this season. The West is more loaded than its ever been before.
But Lillard’s leap to elite coupled with the Portland Trail Blazers’ 32-14 record makes him a slightly more worthy injury replacement than Cousins. That’s not a slight to Boogie, either, but an indication of just how good the dynamic point guard has been for one of the league’s best teams.
And considering that he was already “pissed off” by the coaches not selecting him, we can only imagine the fire gleaned by Lillard from this latest sign of relative disrespect. Watch out, league.
Either way, congratulations to Cousins!
What do you think?
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