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SURPRISE! KEVIN LOVE IS AN ALL-STAR STARTER: The dirty little secret about All-Star starting lineup voting is that things rarely change much from the time the first results are released to the final tally. Those first returns usually mirror the final ones.
That wasn't the case at all this year: Stephen Curry caught up to both Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant to be the leading West guard vote-getter (thanks in part to injuries to the vets and an aggressive Twitter GOTV campaign by the Warriors), and Kevin Love stunningly caught Dwight Howard for the third frontcourt spot (joining Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin).
The race for the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in the West frontcourt were always tight, but who would have that the guy from the mediocre small-market team would catch a marquee player in a massive market with ties to China? Score one for the underdog!
Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press shares how Love found out: ""Flip Saunders knocked on Love's hotel room door, 'You're gonna be an all-star starter, buddy.'" He reportedly then got on his knee and begged Love not to leave the Wolves in 2015.
BOOGIE MAN: Jonathan Abrams has a spectacular, must-read profile of DeMarcus Cousins over on Grantland. Abrams captures the dystopia surrounding Boogie's first three seasons in Sacramento beautifully -- it was that bad, and maybe worse -- and gets some amazing quotes from Mike Malone and others. Cousins' quotes on Chris Paul and the NBA's secret a-holes are just breathtaking in their earnestness.
THE INEVITABLE BLAZERS COMEBACK: The Nuggets led by double-digits in the second half and it still totally felt like the Blazers would beat them in Portland in the TNT nightcap. They did. Damian Lillard had a monster dunk.
Blazers owner Paul Allen says fans should not expect any blockbuster deals as the trade deadline approaches, by the way.
INJURY SADS: Kawhi Leonard will miss 3-4 weeks. Air Bargnani is a little bit less enjoyable now that we know the big fella tore a ligament in his elbow. To assign the proper gravity to the situation, Deadspin has set a Bargnani lowlight reel to Sarah McLachlan.
MORE STERN: A long Stern retrospective by your humble newsletterist is now live. At GQ, my friend Bethlehem Shoals digs into the conflicted feelings many hardcore NBA followers have regarding the commissioner as he departs.
HAMMER TIME: Doug Eberhardt makes the baseline hammer a totally understandable concept.
ERA OF GRIZZ: Memphis might be the most interesting team of this mini-era. In this week's Drive & Kick podcast, Paul Flannery talks with Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal about all things Grizzlies. (You can subscribe to Drive & Kick on iTunes.)
LUOL'S LAMENT: In case you're wondering ... yes, Luol Deng is still mad at the Bulls' contract offer.
Happy Friday. See you on Monday.