"You always have to focus on them because they've been to the Finals three years in a row and they're still one of the teams you always have to focus on," Rockets guard Eric Gordon said Saturday at NBA All-Star media day. "They're not the only team we're focusing on, but we know that we possibly could meet them in the Western Conference finals."
Gordon was there because he was taking part in the 3-point contest. Sunday night, though, the team with the NBA's best record will only be represented by one All-Star: James Harden. The Warriors, on the other hand, have four.
"They should have four," said D'Antoni, who will coach Team Steph in the showcase, including Harden and three Warriors. "They're the world champs. So that doesn't bother me. Now, we should have two, at least, so --"
He trailed off, but let Harden pick up from there.
"I got a lot to say about that," Harden said. "Everybody knows Chris Paul is on the Rockets. And the Rockets have the No. 1 [record in the league] -- how does that not happen? I know he's frustrated. He never brings it. That's why I said what I said. He's never going to bring it up. But I'll defend him for him. He should be here with me in L.A. as an All-Star."
Paul's case was an intriguing one. He's been undeniably excellent -- when he's played. But for the second year in a row, the superstar point guard was omitted from the All-Star Game because of health. Paul is averaging 19.2 points, 8.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds a game with his usual excellent efficiency, but he's also missed 18 of the Rockets' 57 games.
Then again, they're 33-6 with him and 11-7 without. And it's basically impossible to argue that he's not one of the 24 best players in the league -- or even one of the 12 best in the loaded Western Conference. Fun argument in Paul's favor: More than half the selected All-Stars in this year's field have played in fewer wins than him, though they've all played in more games. In other words, if Paul had played in 10 more games and the Rockets had gone 0-10 in those games, he'd probably be an All-Star right now.
Team success doesn't equal All-Star bids, but the math is weird. The Warriors have had the best record at the break each of the past three seasons and had at least two All-Stars each time. The last time a team with the best record at the All-Star break only had one player in the game? That would be 2010, when LeBron James led the Cavaliers to a 43-11 mark at the break and had no coworkers selected with him to the game, despite Shaquille O'Neal and Mo Williams having made it the year before.
So, yeah, the Rockets aren't thrilled.
"How could we have the No. 1 record going into the All-Star break, and it's only (Harden)?" Gordon said. "You've got a lot of productive players on our team. And they get four. So that's definitely, for sure, not fair."