Late Wednesday night, the NBA chose an homage to the way things were.
Commissioner Adam Silver needed to find an All-Star Game replacement for injured Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. He had a trove of players to consider, including two who play in Washington, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.
He chose Carmelo Anthony.
All-Star Game starters have long been chosen more on name recognition than merit. Fan voting is anchored in this concept and that it went unchallenged for so long stood hand-in-hand with the approach of former commissioner David Stern.
Silver learned under Stern, then took over in 2014 with a less defensive and more forward-looking agenda. He’s concerned about making replays faster, the game more engaging and global. Little things matter to him in a way that Stern would previously shrug off. In just more than two years, Silver has felt like a glove-in-hand choice for the millennial shift of the sport.
Silver was already dealing with Anthony’s turmoil-filled team when he stepped in this week to mitigate the dispute between Knicks owner Jim Dolan and former player Charles Oakley. Silver brought them into his office for a talking-to. Michael Jordan participated via conference call. The situation was surreal, but was also in keeping with Silver’s prompt and direct approach as commissioner.
The announcement that Anthony would be going to New Orleans in place of Love came two days later.
Anthony’s case for All-Star Game inclusion is rooted in two things: Name and points per game. Anthony was once of the league’s premier players. He’s not this season. Instead, Anthony is a 32-year-old who shoots too often for one of the league’s mediocre teams.
Silver’s selection of Anthony runs counter to one of the supposed premises when bestowing honors. Winning is supposed to matter here, and the Knicks have no ability to do that. They are 23-34, just 1.5 games in front of the restructuring Philadelphia 76ers, and 12th in the not-so-good Eastern Conference coming into Thursday.
Beal not being selected drew the most public ire. Finally healthy, he is having his best season. Beal’s effective field goal percentage — which accounts for the higher value of a 3-point shot — is a career-high 55.9 percent. Anthony’s is 49.9 percent. Beal’s offensive rating is 116 and defensive rating is 111, both superior to Anthony. His maximum contract and recent health have pushed him far enough into the public eye that grousing about his exclusion was widespread.
But, Porter, plays on the conference’s third-best team at the All-Star break, may have the strongest body of work and be a more clear comparison because of shared position.
He leads the league in offensive rating, at a staggering 130, and 3-point percentage. His defensive rating is 106. Here are the categories in which Porter exceeds Anthony: Field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, rebounds, steals, offensive rating and defensive rating. Porter is well in front of Anthony in the latter two since the Knicks star has upside down ratings of 110 on offense and 112 on defense. That means Anthony is a net detriment to his bad team despite the occasional eye-popping quarter.
None of them will be going to the All-Star Game since the forward-moving commissioner took a step back.
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