Jeff Van Gundy has, as long as anyone can remember, insisted that players whose teams have losing records should not be rewarded with All-Star Game appearances. Because at no other point are players from winning teams rewarded. Except, you know, always.
Credit the Notorious J.V.G.'s consistency — he even made this case when his own players, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, were getting voted onto the West All-Stars despite Houston's losing record. It takes guts to tell your stars they don't deserve accolades.
But it takes a special brand of cognitive dissonance to actually buy what J.V.G. is pitching, that individuals on losing teams should be snubbed when it comes to individual honors in a team game. Coaches and commentators like J.V.G. are the loudest voices in the room when it comes to genuflecting before the Team Concept, that teams and not stars win games. Yet when it comes to determining the best individuals in the game, that certain individual stars can't bring their teams above .500 is held against them. Which is it? Are teams responsible for wins and stars responsible for losses? Or do both pieces play major roles in results?
It's ridiculous to think that you can't be having an excellent season — one of the top 24 individual performances in the league — on a losing team. Kevin Love, a surprise All-Star starter who caught Dwight Howard in the final week of voting, is Exhibit A in the discussion that will no doubt be had on the airwaves and through the Internet about rewarding guys from losing teams.
Love's just one of four All-Star starters from a losing team ... and Minnesota is only one game under .500. There just happens to be a player at the same position with a very strong All-Star case from a winning team to prop up against him: LaMarcus Aldridge. Get ready for even more "Aldridge should be starting over Love" talk than you heard even Thursday night. And while there's a strong case to be made for Aldridge over Love or Blake Griffin, it has nothing to do with Minnesota's record.
Aldridge himself is a pretty good example of why that should be. He was a deserving All-Star last year despite the Blazers hovering around .500 (like the current Wolves). Portland upgraded the roster around Aldridge in the offseason, and presto, the Blazers are a winning team with Aldridge playing basically the same. In what line of deluded logic can a GM replacing J.J. Hickson with Robin Lopez and building a bench turn Aldridge from an undeserving All-Star into a deserving one?
The same applies to Love. Minnesota has been mismanaged for years, and that, not Love's performance, has been why the Wolves have struggled. The franchise is just breaking out of it. Maybe.
An even better example of Love's plight can be found with another All-Star starter: Carmelo Anthony. This time last season, the Knicks were 25-14 and Melo was named an All-Star starter. This year: 15-27 ... and Melo was named an All-Star starter. The Knicks aren't so much worse because of Melo. He is scoring a bit less and shooting a skosh less efficiently. But the big problems with the Knicks are that J.R. Smith suddenly can't shoot, the team's defense is more performance art than basketball tactics and basically everyone in a major role not named Melo has been awful.
Look at Melo's 2012-13 numbers, his 2013-14 numbers and the team's performance in each season. It totally destroys the argument that stars are especially responsible for their teams' poor records. You know that canard about players putting up big numbers on bad teams and how they are meaningless? What if they put up big numbers on a good team one year and big numbers on a bad team next year? Has the player gotten irrelevant or useless in the interim? Do stars bounce between awesome and overrated depending on how their teammates are playing? Does this make any sense at all?
You can argue Love's spot should be in Aldridge's hands based on his own play and get no complaint from me. But to argue that Love, Melo or Kyrie Irving should be out because of their teams' records makes no sense. If J.V.G. and others want to watch only players from good teams participate in games, they can come back for the playoffs. (Well, the entire West playoffs and beginning in the second round of the East playoffs, at least.)
The All-Star Game is for star performers, no matter how much their teammates stink. Love and Melo certainly qualify on their merits.