The NBA All-Star game in Toronto is quickly approaching. For the West, we will have Spurs coach Gregg Popovich coaching the team. His Spurs are second in the Western Conference only to the Golden State Warriors, who are winning at a record-breaking pace this season. And for the East, former Cleveland head coach David Blatt was supposed to be coaching the All-Star game as a representative of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But after the surprise firing of Blatt before the All-Star break, his lead assistant will now be the coach. Tyronn Lue will be stepping in to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars since he is the newly named head coach of the best team in the East. And with that, we have two coaches coaching in the game that should really not be. But due to rules the NBA has, both of them are now the coaches that will be leading two groups of the best players in the NBA.
Coach Popovich could probably care less about the All-Star game. The thing he is more than likely thinking about is the playoffs and how to get his team ready for that time of the year. But because of a rule that does not allow coaches to coach in an All-Star game two years in a row, he is the coach that was blessed with the honor of leading the Western Conference All-Stars. And what was even stranger about the whole thing is the coach that would have been leading the All-Star game, if the NBA did not have a rule against it, would have been a coach that missed a good majority of the season before recently. NBA rules say that Steve Kerr would have been the coach should the rules allowed him to coach back-to-back All-Star games. But let’s be realistic here. He may have been with behind the scenes, but this team was not being led to this historic start they are on by him at all. While Kerr has been trying to get healthy, assistant coach Luke Walton took over and pushed this team to the best record in basketball. And for his reward, he got a nice seat next to Kerr and no more fanfare around the league. Essentially this team was under a different head coach. And even though he was not the permanent head coach, he earned that spot as the All-Star game head coach. Rules say that he should not be head coach, the rules in this case punish one of the great stories in the NBA’s first half of the season. Eventually Luke will get his own team where he does not have to be in this type of situation. But for right now, it just seems wrong on a couple of fronts. Let the coach of the best team every year coach the All-Star game no matter if that team was the best team two years in a row. And make the exception that Luke should be able to coach the team. It’s just that simple.
As far as the East, Lue got the chance of a lifetime. Not many times do you see a first-place team in the Eastern Conference fire their head coach around midseason. While Lue is finally getting a chance to prove his worth as a head coach, the whole scenario with him becoming the head coach does not look very pretty. But with him as head coach, the Cavaliers have won four straight after losing the first game he coached in at home versus Chicago a little over a week ago. He has the Cavs dialed in just a little bit more defensively and has their Big Three playing well together. But even with all that, a 4-1 record does not mean he should be coaching in the All-Star game. Lue just took over the job and has not earned the All-Star game nod. And for that, he should actually step aside for another coach even though we know he will not do so. The coach of the game should actually be the coach of the team that is hosting the All-Star game. Toronto coach Dwane Casey has the Toronto Raptors playing some of their best basketball right now. They are second to the Cavaliers in the East currently and they are on a major role, winning eleven straight games to date. And more than just them being second in the East and on a hot streak, Casey has been there the entire season coaching his team. Lue may have been in Cleveland as an assistant coach, but he was not the one calling the shots the entire time. Casey has earned that opportunity to be the head coach and if you ask any coach in the NBA, they will probably say that Lue has not earned this one at all.
Lue and Popovich will be coaching the All-Star game, but neither should be standing on the sideline at all. But because of rules that are in place, the real All-Star coaches will come nowhere near the benches. Of course the coach of each team really does not matter in this one. Neither team will really be running sets in this game anyway. But what does matter is the recognition both Walton and Casey would be getting in this game. And for Casey, it would be huge because this is his second head coaching job in the NBA and by far his best job to date. The NBA needs to examine their rules so this type of scenario does not happen again.