Lopez heads class of All-Star newcomers
by Kevin Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON — Brook Lopez was confused. When this year’s All-Star reserves were announced, he noticed the list was missing a couple of names.
But Lopez was not searching for his own name, despite his breakout season for the Brooklyn Nets. Lopez was searching for the names of his teammates in Brooklyn’s backcourt: Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
“Honestly, when the first reserves were announced, I was surprised that Joe and Deron weren’t among those selected,” Lopez told USA Today Sports.
The Nets’ seven-footer – averaging 18.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a career-high 2.2 blocks this season – expected more of the norm, where perennial All-Stars make it back to the game as a lifetime achievement award.
And so, Lopez’s inclusion on the All-Star team seemed to be a pipe dream until Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season. Even then, conventional wisdom had commissioner David Stern replacing the point guard with another guard, perhaps Williams or Johnson.
But it appears Stern was confident enough in the backup point guards – Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia 76ers’ Jrue Holiday – who are also first timers. Three days after the Rondo announcement, he announced Lopez would be headed to Houston after all.
This season, the Eastern Conference features a horde of new faces, Lopez and Indiana’s Paul George among them. They join Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah and New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler on the front line, as both veterans were also honored with their first All-Star distinction this season.
Noah’s and Chandler’s contributions have stood out more because of injured stars on their respective teams. For the Bulls, Derrick Rose’s absence through the first half of the season has required increased production from Noah. He has anchored the Bulls defensively and kept them in the thick of the playoff race during the former MVP’s recovery period.
In Chandler’s case, the 11-year veteran had to man the middle for a refreshed Knicks team, one set on beating teams through timely three-point shooting and Carmelo Anthony’s scoring prowess. Chandler’s role in cleaning up the glass became far more pronounced while New York … [For more on Nets' Lopez heads large class of All-Star newcomers, click here.]