From One All-Star Snub to Another
It is that time of the year again for NBA fans: All-Star Weekend. We all know the 2021 NBA All-Star game is less than two weeks away and the starters for both conferences were recently released.
Like every season, there are some wrongs that were righted and snubs that need fighting for. This year the wrong that was righted was Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who was wildly left out last season, will represent Washington as a starter out of the Eastern Conference. But of course, there was an outlandish snub that upset the apple cart. Dallas Mavericks phenom Luka Doncic snatched the second starting guard position from Damian ‘Logo’ Lillard as the fans helped him commit highway robbery.
Although it may not have been as egregious as Beal missing the big game last season, it was still an eye-popping snub right off the bat that stuck out like a sore thumb. So, it seems only fitting to show these two guys some love as Beal passes the baton to Lillard as a new member of the 1st team All-Snub club. With that, my Hoopers of the Week are Bradley Beal in the Eastern Conference and Damian Lillard in the Western Conference. Let’s get into it!
First off shoutout to Bradley Beal who has really been the only thing keeping the Washington Wizards relevant this season. Whether it is all the trade rumors or all the hype around making him an All-Star, Beal has held things down in the nation’s capital in spite of the disappointing 10-17 record.
But this week the Wizards did the impossible as they put together a four-game winning streak with wins against the Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, and the Trail Blazers. Believe it or not, this is Washington’s first four-game winning streak in three years! And of course, Beal killed it in every single one. Things kicked off last Sunday against the Boston Celtics against his fellow Saint Louis brethren Jayson Tatum as Beal went on to put up 35 points, seven rebounds, and five assists as the Wizards took the dub 104-91. Then the cook just kept on cooking. Beal followed up with 37 points and eight rebounds against the Rockets, then had a 25-point double-double with 10 rebounds as Washington closed a nail-biter against Denver winning the game 130-128.
But the best game of the week for the Wizards had to be this game Saturday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. Bradley Beal vs. a pissed-off Damian Lillard. Definitely, a sight to see as Dame was not pulling any punches after just barely missing the cut as a Western Conference All-Star starter. But Beal and Washington were able to hold off the frenzy of Lillard and the Blazers, winning the game 118-111. Beal had 37 points in the game and Russell Westbrook even had a good game with a 27-point triple-double.
In all retrospect, Bradley Beal has been putting up these kinds of numbers all year, they just have not been leading to wins. He is currently leading the league in scoring averaging 32.9 points per game on an efficient 47.8% shooting from the floor. Unfortunately, this team just has been wrecked by injuries including Westbrook and Rui Hachimura missing time early along with Thomas Bryant who is done for the year. It is still #FreeBeal along with the rest of the Twitter mob that want to see him playing for a championship contender, but as long as he is in Washington there will always be a reason to watch Wizards’ basketball.
The man is on a mission to show the league who is the top dog. According to the player and media votes, Damian Lillard deserved to be a Western Conference All-Star Starter. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, if you ask Luka Doncic, Lillard deserved to be a Western Conference All-Star starter. From Doncic’s own mouth he said “I didn’t expect that I was going to start this game. I know that maybe [Damian] Lillard deserved it more than me.”
Nonetheless, the fans’ vote pushed the needle in Doncic’s favor, leaving Lillard to come up the rear as a clear-cut reserve selection out of the Western Conference. Which unfortunately for the rest of the league, is just the kind of motivation for a lifelong underdog like Lillard that should leave opposing NBA defenses shaking in their sneakers. And in the last four games, Lillard has wreaked havoc in ways only few NBA players can.
It all started last Sunday against the man in question, Luka Doncic, as the Portland Trail Blazers took on the Dallas Mavericks. Lillard had 34 points and 11 assists with five big threes to lift Portland to a 121-118 victory and spoil Doncic’s 44-point performance. In the next game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he put up a stat line of 31 points, ten assists, and seven rebounds with five more threes to take them down, 115-110. Then to close out the week with games against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Washington Wizards, Lillard combined for 78 points, 28 assists, and ten rebounds with 14 threes (seven made threes in both games). Despite the loss to the Wizards, the Trail Blazers closed this week out with a 3-1 record on the week as Lillard had 43 against New Orleans which was one point shy of his season-high.
Lillard is averaging 30 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game on 44.5% shooting from the field and 38.5% from three. If it is not clear already, this man is putting together a “Kill List” and every NBA team is on it. Regardless of if or when they get CJ McCollum back, the Portland Trail Blazers look more than poised for a real run at the playoffs on the backs of Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony, and Gary Trent Jr. who has really come into his own as of late.
An angry Dame Dolla is not a man to play with. As we progress into the second half of the season, the entire league should be on watch as the 18-11 Portland Trailblazers could well be on their way to becoming a dark horse title contender in the Western Conference.