Two things before getting to the topic at hand:
*This could be an important day in Phoenix, where the competition committee is meeting as part of All-Star weekend. Among the likely topics, The Bee has learned, is a major change to the goaltending rule that would allow the ball to be hit anytime after it has hit the rim, meaning it could be knocked away even if it's on the rim or over the cylinder. Goaltending would still be called for a shot on a downward trajectory or coming off the backboard.
Some teams view David Stern advocating the change to bring the NBA in line with the international game as a compromise to FIBA, the sport's worldwide governing body, altering some of its rules to be more uniform to the NBA. Specifically, FIBA is making the three-point arc similar to the U.S. distance and abandoning the trapezoid lane. A league official said there will be discussions in light of the FIBA decisions, but that Stern is not expected to advocate a specific change.
But said one representative to the competition committee, composed of one member of each team: "He's pushed that the last two or three years to the competition committee meetings and people just sleep through it. It wouldn't surprise me if he was pretty forceful about it this time."
*And, many GM types will be in Phoenix, but All-Star weekend isn't typically a trade center. Execs often arrive for league-wide meetings and get out long before Sunday and the game itself that everyone else considers the main event. Geoff Petrie will be among the Kings contingent and it's safe to expect he will be talking with other clubs. Even with the trade deadline looming Thursday, though, it's not the NBA version of baseball's winter meetings.
Consolation-prize time for the Kings.
The rookie-sophomore game takes place tonight without Jason Thompson, a disappointment for the Kings and Thompson in his credibility-building season but not much of a surprise. He's not even the first-year player with the loudest claim to getting jobbed. Minnesota's Kevin Love has that distinction.
It's no slap to Thompson and his encouraging 2008-09 and especially no slap considering the roster that was chosen from a league-wide vote of assistant coaches is one-third players from a previous draft. Nine rookies, but only six from the 2008 draft.
That makes Thompson the eighth- or ninth-best player picked last June, maybe 10th best. Not bad for the No. 12 pick. Plus, everyone from the Class of '08 who will play tonight in Phoenix was selected ahead of him, a very minor sign but another sign nonetheless of the value of the Geoff Petrie selection.
The roster that will face the sophs:
- Michael Beasley, Heat -- No. 2 pick in '08.
- Rudy Fernandez, Trail Blazers -- No. 24 in '07.
- Marc Gasol, Grizzlies -- No. 48 in '07.
- Eric Gordon, Clippers -- No. 7 in '08.
- Brook Lopez, Nets -- No. 10 in '08.
- O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies -- No. 3 in '08.
- Greg Oden, Trail Blazers -- No. 1 in '07.
- Derrick Rose, Bulls -- No. 1 in '08.
- Russell Westbrook, Thunder -- No. 4 in '08.
Picking the best six best rookies is easy: Rose, Mayo, Lopez as the best big, Westbrook, Love, Beasley. There's some debate in the order past Rose-Mayo as 1-2. That's a fair consensus, though. Love could be the only one to finish with a double-double, especially now that teammate Al Jefferson is done for the season with a knee injury. Westbrook is getting better by the week and showing the star potential Oklahoma City expected when it drafted him to play point guard despite very little experience as a ballhandler. If Westbrook ever develops a shot, opponents will be running for cover.
Oden remains an interesting debate, what with Durant, chosen just after him in 2007, posting big scoring numbers. The case could be made that Oden should have been left off the rookie roster, in favor of Love. But Oden also appears to be moving better as the season progresses and knee surgery fades further into the past, and he has grabbed double-figure rebounds in six of the past 12 games. The past three outings: 17 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks in just 28 minutes, 16 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks in 25 minutes, eight points, 11 rebounds, no blocks in 18 minutes.
Thompson, at 10.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 26.3 minutes while shooting 50 percent, probably got some support among the assistant coaches. No big slight that he's not in Phoenix, though. His pre-All-Star showing has put him in a good place no matter what.