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FROM MY SEAT:: View on Vegas



The 2006-07 NBA season having reached its symbolic midpoint, this Sunday's All-Star Game has me considering a hoop thought or two. From All-Star snubs to local trade talk, pro basketball is never short on headlines, now, is it?

  • A year ago, Memphis fans were celebrating Pau Gasol becoming the first All-Star in Grizzlies history (including the franchise's six years in Vancouver). Gasol held himself well in Houston, too, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. But a year later? Having missed two months while recovering from a broken foot, Gasol didn't even make this season's list of All-Star snubs (more on that later). He's instead the focus of trade talk, with the likes of Portland (Zach Randolph) and Chicago (Ben Gordon and/or Luol Deng) rumored to be on the phone lines with Griz president Jerry West.

    I'm not going to pretend to know what will happen with the bearded face of the Memphis franchise, but take this to the bank: if Gasol's traded, it will have more to do with unsteady ownership than with the improvement of our local team. Anyone with eyes can look at the Grizzlies roster and see the talented youth that surrounds Gasol: Hakim Warrick, Rudy Gay, even the injured Kyle Lowry. This is not a team devoid of hope, or a squad that has grown old together and has collectively reached the downside of its career curve. Certain to get a top-four draft pick come June (one that could land a future cornerstone in Greg Oden or Kevin Durant), the Grizzlies have a better chance of reaching .500 a year from now -- with Gasol, mind you -- than other teams (Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte) near the bottom of the NBA standings.

    But then there's the ownership catch. With Michael Heisley especially eager to find a buyer in the aftermath of the Brian Davis fiasco, having a figure on the expense side of his balance sheet that totals more than $12 million a year the next three seasons (Gasol's salary) is hardly bait for that buyer. Buy low, remember. When the trade deadline arrives February 22nd, it's economics that may shove Gasol out the door.

  • Every February there's debate over the players elected by fans to start the All-Star Game, and their relative merits when compared with the reserves selected by coaches. Why not reinvent the game's format, and have a team of elected players (the top five vote-getting players at guard and forward, and the top two centers) face a team of coaches' choices? And when fans are foolish enough to elect injured players to start (see Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal), the fans' team gets to fill its roster only after the coaches have chosen their twelve. Something tells me one of these squads would have a little extra motivation, an ingredient sorely needed once the game starts.

  • I find the media storm over Carmelo Anthony's All-Star "snub" to be nothing short of offensive. Here's a player who has missed more than a third of his team's games, the result of a suspension for having been a central figure in the December 16th melee between the Nuggets and Knicks at Madison Square Garden. For a league that's obsessed with its image to consider spotlighting such a player merely two months after his punch-and-run night in New York would be the height of hypocrisy. Which is precisely what we have, now that commissioner David Stern (the man who endorsed Anthony's suspension) has added 'Melo to the Western Conference All-Star roster. Pardon me for hitting the mute button on my remote when Anthony's introduced Sunday.

  • Six players will be playing in at least their sixth consecutive All-Star Game this Sunday: Tim Duncan (9th), Kevin Garnett (10th), Kobe Bryant (9th), Allen Iverson (8th), Tracy McGrady (7th), and Dirk Nowitzki (6th). Nowitzki is the only one never to have been elected by the fans.

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