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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

Carmelo Anthony deserves the All-Star recognition

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks drives to the hoop in the first half against Luc Richard Mbah a Moute #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Carmelo Anthony didn’t hide the fact that he wanted the fans to vote him in as a starter in the All-Star Game. But it would have been more fitting if the coaches had picked him for the team.

Anthony is having an All-Star season and is performing differently from the way he has in the past. The Knicks wouldn’t be in the playoff hunt if Anthony hadn’t expanded his game and become more of a facilitator and leader on this team.

He deserves recognition for that, and the coaches would have rewarded him. Instead, Anthony got his wish, narrowly beating out Chicago’s Pau Gasol by 360 votes to earn the third starting spot in the Eastern Conference frontcourt in the Feb. 14 game in Toronto.

Anthony acknowledged that it meant more to him because he has come back from knee surgery, but also because of how he’s playing. He is averaging a career-high and team-best 4.1 assists per game.

“The way that the game is coming to me, the way that I’m approaching the game, the way that we’re playing as a team,” Anthony said. “I think nowadays the All-Star voting, people see the way that the team is going and the way that you’re winning, the way that you’re playing. A lot of times that’s what they’re voting on. That’s what they’re looking at. I’m still excited about All-Star Weekend.”

Anthony was happy to win a popularity contest, but being selected by the coaches — if it had come to that — should have been more meaningful to him, especially given that he is putting his team’s success before his own more than ever.

Not so Cavalier

The Cavaliers’ decision to fire coach David Blatt seemed to come out of leftfield, but it appeared likely that he wasn’t long for the job. The lopsided loss to the Warriors on Monday didn’t reflect well on Blatt, who was hired before the Cavaliers landed LeBron James.

A popular theory was that if the Cavaliers didn’t win the title this season, Blatt would be gone and Cleveland would pursue Tom Thibodeau or John Calipari or just promote Tyronn Lue. Well, it’s Lue’s job now. The players like him, and most importantly, James does.

There was an interesting scene during the blowout loss to Golden State. James was sitting next to Lue on the bench and having a serious conversation. James was doing most of the talking and Lue was staring straight ahead, just listening.

The reports say James had nothing to do with it and had no idea Blatt would be fired. The latter definitely seems hard to believe. Ownership and management probably already knew how James felt.

Golden statement

After the Warriors sent a message to the Cavaliers — or was it the Cleveland players sending one to ownership that they wanted a change? — Magic Johnson tweeted that the Warriors “let Cleveland know that even if the Cavs were at full strength, they still would’ve won the championship.”

This time the Cavaliers had Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and still were dismantled.

“I agreed with that tweet before the tweet, after the tweet, during the tweet,” Warriors forward Draymond Green told KNBR radio 680. “I definitely agree with it.”

All-Star stuff

The fans voted James, Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry and Paul George to start for the Eastern Conference and Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard to start for the Western Conference.

Lowry deserved to start in front of the home crowd. He jumped over Irving, who was more than 32,000 votes ahead in the previous returns and missed the first 26 games this season. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall would have been good choices, too.

The Warriors’ Draymond Green earned the start, but it’s Bryant’s final season and All-Star Game, so the fans gave him the lifetime achievement award.

From our view, the East reserves should be Wall, DeRozan,Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, Andre Drummond and Paul Millsap.

The West reserves should be Green, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Dirk Nowitzki.

Former Raptor Vince Carter, who helped save basketball in Toronto, should be involved in some capacity for All-Star Weekend.

Toronto no longer spews venom at Carter for forcing a trade to the Nets in 2004, so it would be cool to have him take part. But Carter said he would like to spend the break with his 10-year-old daughter and watch her tennis tournament.

Remembering Johnny Bach

Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson were among those who paid tribute with heartfelt words for longtime and revered NBA assistant coach Johnny Bach, who died at the age of 91 on Monday.

Bach was born in Brooklyn in 1924 and attended Fordham University, where he later coached. He spent more than 20 years in the NBA as a player, head coach and assistant. According to Jackson, he was the “defensive coordinator” of the Bulls’ first three-peat championship team.

Jordan called Bach “one of the greatest basketball minds of all time” and said “he was more of a coach to me.” Jackson, in an essay on his Twitter page, talked about Bach’s interests, physical and mental toughness and spirit and how much he learned from him.

Jackson wrote, “I’ll think of him and that spirit he embodied, especially his motto after a late night on the road: ‘What? You can’t be tired, you can sleep in the grave.’ Sleep well, Johnny.”

High value

The NBA is doing very well and prospering.

According to a Forbes article listing the most valuable NBA franchises, teams are worth an average of $1.25 billion, up 13 percent over last season. That figure is sure to rise with national partners and sponsors increasing their commitment to the league, local TV deals being negotiated and new arenas being built in several cities.

There still is a threat of a work stoppage in 2017. The players’ union, no doubt, will use these figures in their negotiations.

Fast breaks

Kristaps Porzingis on having the NBA’s fourth-highest-selling jersey: “It’s unbelievable. The support in New York, the fans here love basketball. For me, it’s a dream come true to see that many people wearing my jersey.” Remember, the fans booed the Porzingis pick and one young boy cried when the Knicks drafted him. He and Porzingis have become friends.

The Knicks can laugh because they won the game in overtime, but if they would have lost after Porzingis fouled Utah’s Gordon Hayward while he attempted a three-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation with the Knicks up by three points, Derek Fisher might not have said this: “If Kris stays down and stands there like a light pole — he’s 12 feet tall, basically — we’re out of here 40 minutes ago.”

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