It wasn’t a surprise to see Hibbert voted to his second All-Star game in three years by the other Eastern Conference coaches. He finished fourth in the fan voting for the frontcourt starters and would have been a starter over Carmelo Anthony had the NBA not did way with the center position on the ballot.
But Hibbert also earned his way on to the squad. He’s averaged 11.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, leads the league with a 92.8 defensive rating according to NBA.com, and is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year as well.
What did come as a surprise was the exclusion of Stephenson.
Stephenson started the year thinking he would be the sixth man thanks to the return of Danny Granger. But with Granger’s injury in the preseason, Stephenson was able to remain in the starting lineup and continue to thrive in what you could argue is his perfect situation.
So far this year, Stephenson has only averaged 14.2 points, 5.3 assists and 7.1 rebounds, while being on triple-double watch every night. That’s insane for a player who didn’t see much playing time until just last season, his third year in the league. And that’s before you even mention his league leading three triple-doubles when the reserves were announced, which he then added his fourth triple-double against the Phoenix Suns the same night.
It’s really hard to understand from a statistical standpoint why he was left off, but from an attitude standpoint it makes complete sense. Because the reserves are voted on by the coaches, and they cannot vote for their players, it’s easy to see why Stephenson’s cocky attitude could have hurt his chances. The cockiness he displays on the court has probably rubbed many coaches the wrong way this season and they did want to give him the satisfaction of calling himself an All-Star.
Unfortunately for them all they’ve essentially done is created a monster whose main goal will now be to prove everyone wrong. As if the Eastern Conference needed another reason to fear the Indiana Pacers.
Seeing the Pacers end up with only two All-Stars despite having the league’s best record currently, is disappointing. No matter how hard they play or how well they do, the respect just isn’t there from fans or media outside of Indiana. Maybe that will all change if they win a championship this season, but for now it’s only added yet another chip to their collective shoulder.