In all likelihood, Luke Walton will be spending All-Star Weekend on vacation in two months. This would be a travesty, and it is time for someone to tell NBA commissioner Adam Silver to prevent a miscarriage of recognition.
I will take on the job.
As most of you know, the honor of coaching each conference’s All-Star team goes to the coach whose team has the league’s best record prior to the break. Last year, that job fell to Steve Kerr, who was in his rookie season coaching the Golden State Warriors as they were en route to the franchise’s first title in 40 years.
But the voluminous NBA rulebook also has a section nicknamed the “Riley Rule,” which was put into place in the 1980s when Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers perennially had the best record in the Western Conference going into the break. He coached several All-Star Games in a row, which consistently robbed him of a chance to work on his suntan during the one brief respite a majority of the league gets to take after training camps begin in October and the Finals wrap up in mid-June. The “Riley Rule” now prevents coaches from working consecutive All-Star Games.
This season, assuming the Warriors maintain their stranglehold on the top spot in the West (they enter Wednesday’s game against Utah with a 26-1 record, four games up in the loss column on 24-5 San Antonio), the Riley Rule will come into effect because Kerr and his staff coached the West last year at Madison Square Garden. That means Gregg Popovich would be packing his passport and heading to Toronto to coach the West in mid-February.
No doubt Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will be representing the West, and probably Klay Thompson, too.
He will be somewhere else, completely out of the spotlight. Kerr is expected to return to the bench in January after recovering from complications following back surgery, and Walton will slide one seat over to the lead assistant’s chair. All of the victories that Walton guided the Warriors to as interim coach will be credited to Kerr, helping him shatter Tom Thibodeau’s record for reaching 100 victories faster than any coach in NBA history.
And that, folks, would be an injustice. (For more on Walton’s official 0-0 record, check out Jan Hubbard’s brand new column on that very subject).
So what can be done about it?
Well, Silver can do just about anything he pleases, which is a privilege previously known unofficially as the “Stern Rule.” You know, the rule that allows the commissioner to do things like veto a trade of Chris Paul from New Orleans to the LA Lakers just a few months after shutting down the league via a lockout.
All that the commish needs to do is get the blessing of Michael Goldberg, head of the NBA Coaches Association, check with Popovich to see if he wouldn’t mind taking a holiday over All-Star Weekend, check with Kerr to see if he wouldn’t mind doing the same thing, and then call a news conference at which he would deliver a brief opening statement:
“Due to the extraordinary circumstances that have occurred this season – namely the Golden State Warriors breaking the record for consecutive victories to start a season – I am hereby designating Luke Walton as the head coach of the Western Conference All-Stars. His career coaching record may officially be 0-0, but we all know better, don’t we?
“There comes a time every so often when a leader must bend the rules to do the right thing, and as commissioner of the NBA, I am here today to announce that I am doing the right thing.”
More on this subject in this video with Noah Coslov of Cinesport:
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.