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NBA Beat: All-Star rosters might be too small

Portland guard Damian Lillard lost out on the final spot on the Western Conference All-Star team when Commissioner Adam Silver chose Kings center DeMarcus Cousins to replace injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was voted as a starter by fans.
Portland guard Damian Lillard lost out on the final spot on the Western Conference All-Star team when Commissioner Adam Silver chose Kings center DeMarcus Cousins to replace injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was voted as a starter by fans. The Associated Press

Is it time to expand the NBA All-Star rosters?

With over 400 players in the league and 24 spots available, the game truly caters to the elite. There is no rule that every team must be represented, as there is in baseball.

And unlike in football, which has the Pro Bowl after the season, there isn’t a rash of injuries and replacements for Super Bowl players that leads to seemingly half the league earning Pro Bowl recognition.

That doesn’t mean the NBA model is perfect. NBA teams have 13 active players for a game, and there are more teams than there were decades ago.

At least one more spot would seem to be justified, but more times than not, the fans voting for the starters and coaches selecting the reserves get it right, according to Commissioner Adam Silver.

“At the end of the day, however we do the selection process, as I go through the list in the East and the West, I think with the exception of Damian Lillard – and it was a very close call for that slot – the fans together with the coaches do a pretty good job,” Silver said.

Lillard lost out on the final spot in the West when Silver chose Kings center DeMarcus Cousins to replace Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was voted as a starter by fans but is out for the season after shoulder surgery.

Cousins got the nod by having more votes from coaches to be a reserve than Lillard. If there were 13 spots, as in a regular-season game, Lillard would be on the team.

“It was a tough decision, as I’ve said, but I can’t imagine a player more deserving than DeMarcus,” Silver said. “... It was a very tough call with Damian Lillard, and he and I texted back and forth. I feel for him a little bit. I think from his standpoint he did everything necessary, too.”

The All-Star Game is an exhibition, so giving the fans a say makes sense. If Bryant receives more than a million votes to start as he nears the end of his career, that should be fine.

Same in the East, if fans want to see Carmelo Anthony, even though the Knicks are having one of their worst seasons ever.

After all, if it’s about the stars, both qualify.

“We have fans involved; we have coaches involved,” Silver said. “I read some reports where the media is saying, ‘We would do a better job than the fans and the coaches.’ The commissioner’s office gets a say if there’s a reserve (replacement). I could see adding the players into the mix. That’s what they do in the NFL for the Pro Bowl.”

There’s no perfect solution. If there are 13 players, there will be a 14th player sitting out who feels he should be in the game.

But at least that player wouldn’t be Lillard this year.

Trending up

The Detroit Pistons had reason to be down after losing Brandon Jennings for the rest of the season to an Achilles’ injury. Jennings was playing as well as he had his entire career, and the Pistons were rolling and looking like a playoff contender.

But D.J. Augustin apparently isn’t going to let the season just slip away.

Augustin has averaged 21.8 points and 10.5 assists in his last four games. Detroit has won three of those games.

Trending down

Remember when the Kings were the talk of the NBA in November? They started 9-5, optimism was high, and players mentioned the playoffs without sarcasm.

Things have broken down quite a bit since then. Sacramento had won only eight more games entering Saturday, they are on their second head coach, and they could have a third, George Karl, before the end of the season.

The Kings had lost 10 of their last 11 heading into Saturday night’s game at Utah.

Last words

“Take my quotes from the last four games – it’s a broken record. Until we understand it, it’s going to be like that. The same exact thing over and over again.”

– Washington coach Randy Wittman to reporters after the Wizards’ fifth straight loss.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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