Boston Herald Steve Bulpett column

Boston Herald |

--When the new format was announced for the NBA All-Star Game -- leading vote-getters from each conference as captains, then picking sides from the entire pool -- my best friend said, "Oh, this could be really bad if they make it public. It'd be like down at the park. No one wants to be the last guy picked."

Word probably will get out somehow, but the league has said there are no plans to televise or publicize the order of picks. There was the concern that picks would be made based on friendships rather than merit and that feelings would be hurt.

But just think of the reality-show drama and gossip that would be created if it was all out in the open. Motives, real or not, would be ascribed, which would no doubt add spice to ensuing regular-season meetings.

And what if a captain didn't pick a teammate? Ooooh, the intrigue.

The question we're left with is simply this: If the NBA was worried about bruised feelings and appearances of pettiness (will LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving? Or vice versa), why choose this format in the first place?

This week's

C's timeline

Tuesday, vs. New Orleans, -- This will be a rough one for the Celtics as they must deal with rust. . . . Just kidding, of course, but it will be interesting to see how the C's come out after playing just one game in the last night days because of their London trip after squeezing in 43 in the first part of the season. The Pelicans are a dangerous bunch with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans also has four former Celts on its roster -- Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, E'Twaun Moore and Jameer Nelson.

Thursday, vs. Philadelphia, -- Note the earlier than usual tipoff time. It'll be interesting to see how the 76ers respond after what happened in London Thursday. Philly was up by 22 before falling behind by as many as 19 and losing to the C's, 114-103. Certainly Brad Stevens would like to avoid a repeat of that start.

THIS BALL HOG STIRS UP MORE

TROUBLE FOR WALTON, LAKERS

I was stunned by the reaction of some coaches -- but no so much to the response of others, or at least one -- to the ESPN story in which LaVar Ball said the Lakers no longer want to play for Luke Walton.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Walton and the club are perfectly capable of handling this on their own (and Luke's humor was the perfect parry), there is a simple First Amendment issue that seems to be escaping everyone. What does get a bit messy is the convergence of the network being both a league partner and a news outlet.

But when coaches are ripping ESPN for choosing to publish Ball's comments, the shock gets a little lost. According to Rick Carlisle, "I'm saying that they should look at their sources and do a better job of determining whether they have any merit or any validity. Or are they just blowhard loudmouths?"

You have to wonder if Rick has ever watched ESPN, or if he even has cable.

Ball was famous at first for being Lonzo Ball's father. Now he's famous for being famous.



At first, I found his bluster sort of entertaining and believed the problem people had with him stemmed in part from other issues we'll leave aside for now. But I parted with him when he was entering his high school sons' locker room at halftime of a game, taking over and trampling the authority of the coach.

That he's continued to be seen as a worthy subject is, as Steve Kerr pointed out, a measure of our society. I can't begin to tell you how many people who weren't basketball fans wanted to know about then-Celtic Kris Humphries just because he'd been married to a Kardashian for a minute.

I did write a sidebar on LaVar Ball at summer league in Las Vegas to point out that he wasn't just a normal person who turned it on for the cameras. I was engaged in a private conversation with Magic Johnson in a backstage area when Ball interrupted with a smile and a loud, "Aaaaaah," before proceeding to talk himself up for the advice he was giving his son.

Magic shrugged it off after LaVar left.

"Yeah, I know what it is," he said. "And I know what it is for real. It's just building a brand and, you know, it is what it is."

It appears, however, that it's more than that now. And it's a problem for Magic and the Lakers to solve.

WOULD-BE CELTIC OKAFOR ADMITS A NEED TO MOVE PAST 'DUMB MISTAKES'

Interesting stuff from Jahlil Okafor in his Players' Tribune piece. The Celtics flirted with the possibility of acquiring the big man on a couple of occasions, but once he fell out of the 76ers' blueprint, he was dealt to Brooklyn for less than the C's had been discussing.

"I just wanted to play basketball -- that's all I've ever wanted to do," Okafor wrote. "But I didn't fit into Philly's plans. And I totally understood why Coach (Brett Brown) couldn't play me. They're trying to build those guys into a playoff contender -- and I wasn't going to be there when that happened. So it didn't make sense for them to have me in the rotation.

"But, man, it's still tough. And you still want to play.

"It was like everybody knew I was gone . . . and we were all just waiting for it to happen.

"First, I thought I was going to get traded over the summer. And then I thought I was going to get traded in the preseason. And both times, for whatever reason, it never went down. But I know this league is a complicated business -- and that trades can take time. So I really just tried to stay patient . . . and handle my situation as professionally as I could.

"Part of handling the situation professionally, I decided, was making sure that whatever team in the league did end up trading for me -- they were getting themselves the best possible version of Jahlil Okafor. That meant going through some very real, very honest reflection about my strengths and weaknesses, both on and off the court. And it meant growing up fast -- into a professional that I knew I could be proud of."

That last reference could well be to an altercation he had with a heckler outside a Boston club during his rookie season. Some of what athletes are expected to put up with is more than a bit unseemly, but understanding the risk/benefit breakdown of situations is critical to navigating the waters.

After discussing his specific needs for better defense and the like, Okafor wrote, "I also recognized that maturing as a person would be just as important. I know I have to move past being one of those young guys who's making dumb mistakes. I have to become the kind of person who's 'the bigger person' -- who walks away from the bad situations, and doesn't make excuses. And I've been working hard, and I'll continue to work hard, to make those things happen too."

A week ago yesterday, Okafor almost made a Celtic loss happen. He had 12 points in 121/2 minutes, and if the Nets had gone to him more, they may have been able to avoid the 87-85 defeat at the hands of the C's.

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