By Andy Roth
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
The wrong Atlanta Hawks' player got the nod to the NBA All-Star Game, while Kobe Bryant realizes the Los Angeles Lakers will have to make some changes if he hopes to get a sixth ring this season.
Here are those stories and more in "The Pulse of the NBA":
Joe Johnson will be appearing in his sixth straight All-Star game after being selected as an Eastern Conference reserve. But in my estimation, the coaches made the wrong choice and overlooked the Hawks' most valuable and best player this season in Josh Smith. I think he's the No. 1 reason Atlanta has played so well since losing Al Horford to a torn left pectoral muscle on Jan. 22 (an 11-6 record).
The Hawks' versatile power forward feels this is the second straight year he's gotten the All-Star snub and believes there are factors besides his play on the court. "I played enough good basketball to feel that I'm deserving of the All-Star team this year," Smith said.
"Unfortunately, it didn't happen. It has to be something else, it has to be something else. There?s really no explanation anybody can give me on why I wasn't there. You've got to appreciate the way I play this game. I play with a lot of passion and I play with a lot of energy and effort. I always leave everything out on the court when I play so I don't know. Maybe I stay to myself too much in the offseason? I don't make the rounds, kissing up to people and doing it the political way. I stay to myself and work hard. As long as I know and everybody knows what I'm capable of doing, especially when I play against them, that's all that matters."
There are a number of power forwards better than Smith, but not many who have his all-around game (15.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 3.4 apg). And when you look at the numbers, it's not hard to see why Smith thinks there's something else that comes into play regarding his All-Star snub. "I felt as though I should've made it last year, so it's two years in a row now," Smith said.
"There's more to this game than just playing hard and doing it the right way. You kind of don't get your hopes up because you know that it's a ton of politics."
"At this point, it's something I'm used to," Smith added. "I'm immune to it, and it's really funny to me because you know it's something else than what it is. Maybe I don't have the big name agents that the assistant coaches had, the ones who have players now that are probably putting a little extra something in their ear. I can't do anything about it, but just play. There's nothing that I can do that I haven't been doing. Like I said, I'll just keep playing the way I'm capable of playing and just leave it in the hands of the people who keep voting the wrong people in."
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Last Wednesday, Kobe Bryant told ESPN Radio in Los Angeles that he expects some moves will be made to upgrade the current roster. "I'm sure they'll do something," Bryant said. "They'll tweak something. I don't know what. But I'm sure they'll do something."
It's going to take more than a little tweak to make this a championship- caliber team, but that's the prize Kobe still has his eyes on. "The motivation is for us to build a contender," Bryant said. "It's not to just kind of sit around and see what falls in our lap. That's not the impression that I get from management at all, so I think that allows me to be patient. You can't just rush into things and then you make bad decisions, you make bad choices, you're locked into bad contracts. So, it's important to be patient, make right choices and we'll be fine."
With the Lakers having two washed-up starters in their lineup (Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace) and the league's lowest-scoring bench (20.5 ppg), it's going to take a significant addition for this team to turn into title contenders.
While the Lakers concluded their six-game road trip on Sunday, general manager Mitch Kupchak reportedly held a private workout for free agent Gilbert Arenas, who according to a source with knowledge of the workout looked "slimmed down" and "explosive". The former three-time All-Star guard has averaged 21.2 points and 5.4 assists during his 10-year career, but was a shadow of his former self last season in Orlando, where he scored just eight points per game on 34- percent shooting in 49 games with the Magic.
As good as Arenas may have looked in the workout, I don't think it would be wise of Kupchak to possibly rely on his addition alone to cure the Lakers' offensive woes. Another player reportedly on the team's radar is unrestricted free agent J.R. Smith, who is reportedly returning to the United States this week after signing to play in China during the NBA lockout. Smith's athleticism, his ability to create his own shot and his 3-point accuracy (lifetime 37-percent 3-point shooter) would make life a lot easier for Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
NEW YORK KNICKS
The Knicks are 5-0 during the Jeremy Lin era after their come-from-behind win in Minnesota on Saturday. Whatever your opinion may be off all this "Linsanity," I think it's pretty clear it shows how overrated Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are.
Prior to Anthony's injury in the first quarter against the Jazz on Feb. 6, the Knicks were 9-14 in games he played. The Knicks managed to beat Utah that night after losing Anthony and were already missing Stoudemire due to the death of his brother, while Lin made his first start.
With Anthony and Stoudemire still sidelined, the Knicks went on to beat the Washington Wizards, Lakers and Timberwolves. The Knicks are 8-14 with Stoudemire in the lineup, so basically they've been a really bad team when their so-called stars play.
The numbers just don't lie.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.