Golden State seeks to break All-Star streak
Call it the Curse of Sprewell.
In February 1997, Latrell Sprewell represented Golden State at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. But Sprewell the following December choked then-Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo and never played again for the team.
Since then, the Warriors haven’t had an All-Star representative, by far the longest ongoing streak of any NBA team. Tied for second longest are Milwaukee, with Michael Redd the last one, and Sacramento, with Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic the most recent, not having had All-Stars since 2004.
But Golden State’s drought could end with the Feb. 17 game in Houston. The Warriors have two legitimate All-Star candidates in forward David Lee and guard Stephen Curry, and their surprising 15-7 record sure helps the chances either could be selected as a reserve by Western Conference coaches.
“If Steph and I make it, I can promise that we won’t choke the coach, Coach (Mark) Jackson,’’ Lee, a former University of Florida star whose Warriors play Friday at Orlando after a surprising 97-95 win Wednesday at Miami, said with a laugh. “We get along with Coach too well. It won’t be an issue.’’
Lee, averaging 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds, said it would be “great’’ to make a second All-Star appearance, having earned a trip with New York in 2010 as an injury replacement. Curry, averaging 19.5 points and shooting 43.1 percent from 3-point range, said it would a “huge honor’’ to make his first appearance.
“You can definitely make a case for both of us,’’ said Curry, who like Lee, believes the Warriors’ chances of having an All-Star are enhanced greatly by their hot start. “It’s nice to be in that conversation. Our team is winning, and it’s our job to keep that going.’’
The Warriors have made playoffs just once in the past 18 seasons. They’ve had a losing record in each of the previous four seasons and in 16 of the past 18.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise there’s plenty of room on the wall at the team’s practice facility in Oakland, Calif. There is a listing of every Warrior to have been selected to an All-Star Game, impressive names such as Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. But it comes to an end after the 1997 designation of Sprewell.
“There’s a lot of them from back in the day, and then the wall just sort of stops,’’ said Lee, in his seventh NBA season, third with the Warriors. “It would be huge for the organization to get one since we haven’t had an All-Star in a while.’’
In an attempt to fill the wall, the Warriors had listed players who had participated in other All-Star events. But Curry said Jackson got rid of that after he arrived before last season.
“There’s plenty of space,’’ Curry, in his fourth season with Warriors, said of the wall. “It got bad when we actually put up the other events like the three-point contest, rookie challenge and dunk contest. They were up there but they took them down for motivation. That stuff (other All-Star events) is well and good, but the only one that really matters is probably the Sunday game.’’
Since February 1998, there have been 14 All-Star Sundays devoid of Warriors (there was no game in 1999 due to an NBA lockout). The team’s crummy records have led to several players staying home despite gaudy statistics.
Guard Monta Ellis, now with Milwaukee, was snubbed during recent seasons in which he averaged 25.5 and 24.1 points. Forward Antawn Jamison, now with the Lakers, once fell short during a season he averaged 24.9 and guard Jason Richardson, now with Philadelphia, couldn’t get in during one in which he averaged 23.2.
One of the toughest snubs for the Warriors came in 2007-08 when they actually had a good record. Point guard Baron Davis couldn’t get in even though he was en route to averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 assists and Golden State to a 48-34 mark.
“We certainly have guys worthy when you’re talking about Steph Curry, when you’re talking about David Lee,’’ Jackson said when asked if Warriors finally might get an All-Star. “I’ll put their body of work this season against anybody at their positions. But more important, we’re about team. If we can take care of our business, that will take care of itself. But those guys are very deserving.’’
Lee knows a bit about breaking an All-Star drought. When he made the game in Dallas in 2010, he became the Knicks’ first selection since Sprewell and Allan Houston in 2001.
So Lee has some experience with breaking any curses involving Sprewell.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson