BOSTON -- Five thoughts on the 2012 All-Star reserves ...
1. Deron Williams would be the first to tell you Deron Williams isn't having a typical All-Star season. Williams is getting his numbers (20.9 points) and if you played pick-a-point guard amongst NBA playmakers, Williams would go no lower than fourth. But Williams' shot has been off (career-low 41.1 percent) and his assist numbers (8.6 per game) are the lowest since his rookie year. And while without Williams the Nets would be a really bad team New Jersey (8-19) is still...a bad team. Boston's Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, has taken on a more prominent role in Boston's offense -- 13.6 points (on 50.3 percent shooting) and 9.8 assists -- and is the most important player on a Celtics team that has surged after a sluggish start.
2. No, James Harden doesn't start, but have you seen him play? Harden is fourth in the league in scoring among two-guards and the indispensable sixth man on the team with the second-best record in the NBA. Harden could probably start for two-thirds of the teams, but his skills as a combination playmaker/scorer for the Thunder off the bench (think, Manu Ginobili) is a big reason why Oklahoma City is considered a favorite to win the title.
3. Dirk Nowitzki said he didn't deserve to be on the All-Star team. So why didn't the voters listen? Nowitzki is averaging his fewest points (17.6) and lowest shooting percentage (46.1 percent) since his second season and sat out four games last month because his conditioning was subpar. Meanwhile Paul Millsap (16.5 points, 9.7 rebounds) has been a monster for a surprising Jazz team that has been in the thick of the playoff race.
4. Count your blessings, Boston. Yes, the Celtics will have only one representative on the roster for the first time in the Big Three era. And yes, it will be the first time Kevin Garnett isn't an All-Star since his rookie season. But the slowly calcifying C's will get four days off to rest tired legs (Garnett, Ray Allen) and nagging injuries (Rondo), the kind of reprieve that could be beneficial in the second half of the season.
5. The argument to add another roster spot begins with Kyle Lowry. The gritty guard is having his finest season: 14.7 points, 7.9 assists, 5.8 rebounds. More importantly, Lowry is the biggest reason a Rockets team that was nearly dismantled before the season is 15-11 and sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference. The competition out west was stiff -- Steve Nash and Tony Parker are both having superior seasons -- but Lowry's importance (on both ends of the floor) on a team in contention should be rewarded.