The 2013 season for the Arizona Cardinals was arguably their best since reaching the Super Bowl a half-decade ago, but they didn't have much to show for it. The surprising Cards posted their highest point differential since 1993 (when they were still called the "Phoenix Cardinals") and managed a gigantic Week 16 win on the road against the Super Bowl-bound Seahawks, delivering Seattle its only home loss in two years. However, with stiff competition in their division and conference as a whole, the Cardinals missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Arizona has often served as the example during the NFL postseason as a team that "deserved" an appearance in the postseason. This conversation has evolved throughout the playoffs, including talk that the league may add an extra Wild Card team in the coming years.
In every competition that only allows a certain number of participants -- whether it be the NFL Playoffs, March Madness or the BCS Championship (and soon to be Playoffs) -- there's always a group that falls just short of the cut line. The nature of the conversation often gravitates towards those that don't make it, even when the teams that did also have incredible stories.
The NBA All-Star Game is no different. The week leading up to the naming of the All-Star reserves is generally dominated by three things: Who was named as a starter, which starter shouldn't have been chosen (generally followed by who should have replaced them), and who should fill out the reserves.
However, the days following the naming of the All-Star reserves is a different scenario.
Even if players (like a certain hometown guy) were "snubbed" of a position on the starting roster, there is still the opportunity for those guys to be chosen for the team. After the reserves are chosen, though, it isn't quite as simple: if you aren't named, you didn't make the team. (Unless you get really lucky and sneak in as an injury replacement.)
The "snubs" dominated the national conversation after Thursday. Headlines about which players made the team included the guys that didn't. On SB Nation, there wasn't a single national headline with reaction from players named to the All-Star team that was independent of those who didn't -- though there was at least one exclusively about those passed over.
Have things gone too far? Are fans now more familiar with the names of those who weren't chosen (Lance Stephenson, Goran Dragic, Anthony Davis, etc.) than those who were? Unfortunately, we may be missing the forest through the trees on this one.
In fact, there were a plethora of storylines outside of the players glossed over that are deserving of recognition: In the Eastern Conference, there were three first-time All-Stars named by the coaches: Paul Millsap, John Wall and DeMar DeRozan.
Each one of these players is having a career year in both individual production and team play. Millsap, always considered one of the more underrated players in the NBA, is keeping the Atlanta Hawks playing well without its best player, Al Horford. Wall spent 2013 and the first part of the New Year blossoming into the the type of player we expect a first overall pick to be, becoming his team's first All-Star since 2008. Wall's selection could very well serve as a marker for Washington's entrance back onto the NBA's radar screen. DeRozan is also having a career year, too, becoming an offensive weapon for the resurgent Raptors after their trade of Rudy Gay.
Another storyline lacking coverage is the consistent play of some of the all-time greats, including Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker. Nowitzki is a mere percentage point away in two categories from becoming a 50-40-90 player this season (50% shooting, 40% from three and 90% from the line) at age 35, leading a revitalized Mavericks team to Western Conference relevance and a push for the playoffs. This is the 12th All-Star appearance of his career and it marks a comeback of sorts, as he didn't make the 2013 All-Star Game because he was injured.
Parker is having another steady and effective year for the Spurs, who are yet again at or near the top of the conference. Statistically, Parker is shooting over 50% from the field and a career-best 44% from beyond the arc, with 18 points and six assists sprinkled in over just 31 minutes per game.
Some may even throw Chris Bosh on this list of guys playing at consistently elite levels. Named to his ninth All-Star game, Bosh is excelling in a different role due to Dwyane Wade's altered schedule this season, proving his ability to adapt to whatever is thrown his way.
Finally, the story right here in Portland is one of the most overlooked of the All-Star period. As noted by the team's press release, it is the first time in 20 years that Portland has had two All-Stars. It also marks the first appearance for Damian Lillard who, in just his second year, has become one of the most electric scorers in the NBA. Finally, it adds an additional piece to LaMarcus Aldridge's career year, recognizing his work this season and placying him among the franchise's best (only four other players have been named to three All-Star teams in Trail Blazers history).
Like in the NFL, college football or college basketball, there's always chatter during All-Star voting week about the guys that "just missed" or "should have made it." That very well may always be the case, but with a finite number of spots available, only a certain number can.
Therefore this season's All-Star Game shouldn't be about the guys that missed the All-Star Game. It should be about the first-timers, up-and-comers and those making history for their franchises. It should be about the ones that made it.