Okay, so first the good news: DeMar DeRozan will make his first All-Star appearance next month in New Orleans, and deservedly so.
I'll let my seething anger at Lowry's snub explode all over this page in just a minute; but let me say that DeRozan's selection by the coaches reflects some real, tangible, improvements in his game -- improvements that have been on show all year, but particularly since Rudy Gay's departure.
After teasing us with a stretch of decent 3-point shooting, DeRozan has regressed back to his career average in that department, but his numbers have gone up across the board, in points (per 36 minutes, as well), rebounds, and assists per game. He's also attempting a career high 7 free-throws per game, illustrating a willingness to vary up his game, and not simply settle for the jump-shot.
His PER so far this season is 17.9, up from 14.7, and while he should be judged vis-a-vis the other shooting guards in the East (as opposed to his previous season stats), DeRozan's numbers hold up against any shooting-guard in the East, not named Dwyane Wade.
Orlando Magic fans may feel a little aggrieved that Aron Afflalo didn't make the team over DeRozan -- Afflalo is far more efficient than DeMar -- but unfortunately for them, the Magic's putrid record likely came into play. The Raptors, on the other hand, are 3 games over .500 and in this Eastern Conference, absolutely have to have a representative.
A sincere congratulations to DeMar DeRozan. Well deserved.
And now for some good old-fashioned righteous indignation.
The remaining Eastern Conference Reserves are as follows:
John Wall (no-brainer) Chris Bosh (sure), Roy Hibbert (definitely), Paul Millsap (bravo!), Joakim Noah (screw you, Bulls front office), and Joe Johnson.....
Now, I don't want this to turn into some kind of Joe Johnson hate-fest, but seriously; Lowry's candidacy essentially boiled down to a choice between him and Iso Joe, which is ridiculous.
If the coaches were intent on only picking one Raptor -- for reasons of geography, record, or whatever -- then that Raptor should've been Lowry. I'm happy for DeRozan, but Lowry has been the best, and most important player on the team, and it's not really close. He's also been the best point-guard in the Eastern Conference this season -- yes, better than Kyrie Irving, who is a starter for the East.
If someone like Lance Stephenson -- a vitally important player on the best team in the NBA -- had been picked instead of Lowry, I would've been okay with it. But Joe Johnson? Perhaps the coaches were confusing his salary for his stats.
Lowry is having a better season than Johnson in every major department; including scoring, rebounding (he's 7 inches shorter!) and assists per game. He also has a higher true shooting percentage, and PER that Johnson. In fact, Johnson's PER is a meagre 14.9. Lowry's is 20.4! Oh, and that's all before you include the small fact that Lowry has taken more charges than any player in the NBA this year, and has become one of the best defensive guards in the league.
So what the hell happened?!
Well, a few things probably worked against Lowry. First is the aforementioned fact that the coaches may not have felt comfortable selecting 2 players from a team that's only 3 games over .500. Secondly, Lowry doesn't exactly have the best reputation with NBA coaches -- and that's not without good reason. He's seen as a prickly character who's very hard to coach, and he had a high-profile falling out with Kevin McHale in Houston. Should that factor in to whether he deserves to be an All-Star this season? No, absolutely not. But it probably factored in, nonetheless.
Lastly, and this relates to Johnson making his 7th All-Star appearance over Lowry (Seriously, James Worthy only made the All-Star Game 7 times!); I'm really not sure how much time the coaches spend agonizing over this vote. With games coming thick and fast, spending time thinking about voting guys into the All-Star game (guys not even on their team), is probably very low on their list of priorities. When it comes to selecting those last couple players it's likely that they go for a 'name' -- a player with a solid body of work over his career.
Random NBA coach: Oh, well, Joe Johnson's good, I haven't checked the numbers, but i'm sure he's having a good year. That Kyle Lowry is difficult.
All this is understandable, but it doesn't make it any less annoying that the best point-guard in the Eastern Conference won't get his due this year. Some might say that caring so much about the All-Star Game is a little stupid, to which I'd reply that when we look back on a player's career we tend to -- rightly or wrongly -- judge him first and foremost on his All-Star appearances, or lack thereof.
To close on a positive note, Lowry will get a much deserved break, and might play with an even bigger chip on his shoulder for the rest of the year
Don't make him angry, Eastern Conference coaches. You won't like him when he's angry.