Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 1/16/13
This week, NBA players will take the court in London for the first time since Team USA captured Gold over Spain in the Summer Olympics. Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks are slated to take on the Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena in an effort to stimulate interest in the NBA coming to Europe on a more permanent basis. Commissioner David Stern is confident that it will happen in the coming years. Interest in the NBA has never been higher and the NBA brand worldwide has never been hotter. It is the second-most popular sport in the world behind soccer, and a worldwide league is in the not-too-distant future. A flight in the United States from the West Coast to the East Coast takes approximately five to six hours. At current air speeds, a flight from New York to Europe takes only a little bit longer. Having an eight or 10-team division in Europe is certainly not out of the question within the next 10 to 15 years. This is just too big of a market to ignore. The NBA currently has had preseason games in Europe for quite some time, but this is just the third regular-season matchup ever played in Europe. Last March, the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets played in front of a sold-out crowd at the O2. It seems that regular season games should soon be a regular calendar item also. In a few years an NBA team from the United States taking a five or six-game tour through Europe will be commonplace. All-Star leaders All-Star voting for the starters ended on Monday. The starters for both the East and West team will be announced on the TNT broadcast before the Clipper game on Thursday. As far as anybody can tell, the voting is going as was expected with Kobe Bryant leading the West and LeBron James leading the East. At 34-years-old, Bryant leads the league in scoring with 29.9 points per game. James trails close behind with 26 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. The Los Angeles Clippers should have two starting All-Stars in Houston, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, just like last year. Griffin leads the Clippers in scoring with 17.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, and Chris Paul has added 16.8 points and 9.7 assists while leading the league in steals and assists. MVP talk After the Clippers' franchise-record 17-game win streak, 13-game home winning streak and an undefeated December, Paul is my leading candidate for MVP. Although he sat out the last two games with a bruised right kneecap, the Clippers have been on such a roll and he's dominated just about each and every game he has played in. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is my pick to be the Western Conference All-Star coach. The Clips have been one of the top two teams in the league all year and with one of the deepest benches in the league, they look to continue their amazing season. Trailing Oklahoma City by mere percentage points for the best record in the NBA, the team is on a four-game winning streak and leads Golden State by five and half games in the Pacific Division. Clippers also hold a 12 and a half game lead on their Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Lakers. Centers It is interesting that the NBA eliminated the center position from All-Star voting. It is certainly a sign of the times and a trend on how basketball is played, that we don't limit voting to the five traditional positions anymore. The center or pivot position is all but eliminated in todays game, replaced by traditional big forwards who can stretch the floor with their shooting. This is a fundamental change in the way basketball is played. Low-post skills have been replaced with extremely versatile big men that are more mobile and operate from further outside. This only makes the game faster and more exciting to watch. Fantasy tip As you look at the trend of basketball in the NBA, you see the elimination of traditional big men. For the reasons mentioned above, the game is changing and your fantasy picks need to change also. Every team today needs a stretch four or five. This is a big man who can step out on the floor and hit an open outside shot. The way the game is played today makes a mobile big who can shoot an invaluable asset. Surprise in Lakerland With news that Jordan Hill would miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury sustained in a game against Denver on Jan. 6., the attention has now turned to Earl Clark. Clark has been an understudy in the NBA for a couple years now with the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic, and with Hill set to have surgery and Pau Gasol out with a concussion, he is now playing very productive minutes for the Lakers. He is extremely mobile and can make a shot from distance. Clark is also the perfect complement for Steve Nash and is the latest in a long list of players who have made a living off of Nash's passes. In four games started he has averaged 12.75 points and 10.25 rebounds. Historically clutch Through the years, there have been many players are with the great nicknames. Mr. Clutch himself, Jerry West, was pretty much as good as it gets when you need a basket. Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, won many games at the end for the world champion Detroit Pistons. There are great scorers today that you would be confident to put the ball in their hands at the end of any game. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are perhaps the best young scorers in the game today. Any team would certainly have tremendous confidence with them taking a last shot to win. But as far as all-time clutch scorers, there are two players that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Chicago's Michael Jordan and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant have had game-winners on the biggest stages. If you had one play to win it all there is no question that you would give the ball to one of those two.
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