The Last Word: Two Stars and a Snub

Lang Whitaker is many things - executive editor of Slam Magazine, a contributor for NBA TV, a book author, and most importantly, a die-hard Hawks fan. After starting 2-for-2 in pushing the Hawks into the postseason, he's back for his third season in 2009-10 to share his thoughts on the team exclusively for Check back every Thursday throughout the season to read his latest musings, and read him every day at

Two Stars and a Snub
by Lang Whitaker

It's official: Last night, Joe Johnson and Al Horford were named as reserves to the Eastern Conference team for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas. Good for Joe, and good for Al. And good for the Atlanta Hawks.

But let's also acknowledge that Josh Smith should have made the All-Star team. As my man Kevin Pelton wrote on Basketball Prospectus yesterday: "Basically, it’s hard to make the argument that Smith has not been one of the league’s best 20 or so players, and certainly one of the 12 best in the Eastern Conference…We’re talking about the third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder on an elite team that is sending two other players (Johnson and Al Horford) to Dallas."

Logic doesn't always play a part in the All-Star teams. It's a numbers game, affected by position limits and coaches trying to get a maximum number of teams represented. A few people told me the Hawks don't deserve three All-Stars. Well why not? The Celtics have three All-Stars, and we're 3-0 against them this season. As Pelton noted, the Hawks an elite team, and we've got three guys who are among the best in the League at their positions.

Most importantly, Josh Smith plays like an All-Star, flying up and down the floor, dunking, blocking shots. He makes games fun to watch, and to me, that's what an All-Star should be.

But all is not lost, not yet. From the outcry around the media yesterday, it would seem that almost everyone believes Josh should be on the Eastern Conference team. If any big man suffers an injury in the next two weeks, Josh would seem to be the logical replacement choice, or maybe the second choice behind David Lee. Let me be clear: I do not want to see any player get injured. I'm just saying that there's still a chance we'll see three Hawks as All-Stars. In 2007, when Joe Johnson made his first All-Star Game -- as an injury replacement, no less -- there were actually 5 guys added to the game as replacements for injured players. It happens, and it still might happen this year.

It's easy to get fired up about Josh not making it, but looking forward, let's celebrate the guys who did make it and what the Hawks have accomplished so far this season. We've got two guys in the All-Star Game, we're fighting for first place in our division and we've got a coach with no eyebrows.

At the halfway mark, all things considered, it doesn't get much better than that.

This week we hear from reader Kevin, who wrote in about the Hawks losing their appeal of the Cavs game from a few weeks ago...

"Have you blogged about this game and the potential ramifications it could have going forward? I would be totally surprised if you have not addressed the issue. I can say I am very disturbed that David Stern considered it a non-factor in a one-point game with less that 2 minutes remaining. How do we end up replaying a Miami minute last year and not address this as a major mistake made by all 3 officials and any “unbiased” official working the shot clock. Are you able to contact league offices and voice the fan's disapproval with this appeal?"

First of all, thanks for writing in Kevin. You know, I don’t think the League office needs me to contact them and let them know the Hawks fans are upset about the ruling. As Mo Williams said after the game, the Hawks should be upset, because the Hawks lost the game.

Do I wish the League had allowed us to replay the end of the game because of the clock error? Of course! But as much as it pains me to say it, I understand why the protest wasn’t upheld. Clock errors happen all the time. Maybe not as egregiously as what happened in Cleveland, but think about how many times, say, the clock doesn’t start immediately on an inbounds pass, or an extra second ticks off here or there when a ball bounces out of bounds. Keeping the clock is an imperfect science. (Letting 10 seconds run off, well, that’s really imperfect.) But fouling someone out, that’s something that’s measureable and completely exact.

I understand the difference. I only wish that I didn’t.

Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes throughout the week at Also, catch Lang every Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. on NBA TV's "The Beat." He can be reached at

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