SAN ANTONIO — 76ers coach Doc Rivers said he is “shocked” that James Harden was not named an All-Star reserve Thursday night, and has called for coaches’ votes for those spots to be made public.
“I don’t get involved in that stuff a lot,” Rivers told The Philadelphia Inquirer following the 76ers’ shootaround in San Antonio, a setting where coaches typically do not speak to the media. " … I didn’t even think it would be a question [that Harden would be selected]. And for him not to be on the All-Star team when, at the time that voting went in, we were the second seed — Boston has two, Milwaukee has two, we have one.
“I think your record should matter, I think James Harden’s numbers should matter and I do think a history of his work should matter. This is maybe something that we should consider having coaches votes’ public. … This never should have happened.”
Sixers’ MVP contender Joel Embiid predictably was named an East reserve, after being left off the starters’ list despite leading the NBA in scoring at 33.5 points per game. Rivers said he “assumed” Harden, who leads the NBA in assists (11 per game) for a Sixers team that entered Friday’s game at the Spurs with a 33-17 record, also would be honored for the 11th consecutive season. Instead, the Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle, the Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday, and the Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton were selected.
Harden was also averaging 21.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game entering Friday, while totaling four triple-doubles. He missed about a month with a foot sprain early in the season but has played in 25 of 27 games since returning in early December.
“The most disappointing part for me,” Rivers said, “we’ve asked James Harden to sacrifice for the team, to make the team better. He’s done that and he still has gotten the numbers. That should stand out, and somehow it didn’t.”
It was Rivers’ latest critique of the All-Star selection process during the past week. After Embiid was not named a starter following the calculation of fan, player and media votes, Rivers said the best 24 players should be chosen regardless of position and conference. But the coach was less agitated about Embiid’s exclusion, knowing he would certainly be named a reserve.
The coaches’ reserve ballots, which cannot include their own players, are not released publicly. The votes for the NBA’s postseason awards, such as Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year, however, are made public. Those are voted on by media members who cover the league.
Harden, meanwhile, was one of the last players on the floor at the Sixers’ shootaround, working through shooting drills with assistant coach Sam Cassell and running the stairs. When approached about the news after he finished his on-court work, Harden said there is “nothing to say.” This was after Harden posted “The disrespect” on his Instagram story after the reserves were revealed Thursday night.