I just got my All-Star Ballot in the mail. Oh, I’m not special, you probably got one too, and I do mean email, and the general daily NBA.com email at that, but I still got one. I just like when people at ESPN or wherever mention their balloting for Heisman or AP voting. I was listening to Colin Cowherd today, I know, mistake #1. He took it a step further saying he was offering a ballot for some big college thing and refused it because, yeah of course he watches more college football than anyone, but it’s a less than honorable pursuit in that they allow Joe Blow from Farmington, New Mexico, or whichever small town he likes to marginalize today. He had called out “a writer” for “something like the” News and Observer in Raleigh or somewhere for his stance on the AP vote, which was the beginning of the rant. So, yeah, North Carolina is considered “fly over” for him as well as New Mexico and wherever else. The point is, voting for things, like awarding a national champion, most valuable anything, or All-Stars is either taken far to seriously or is rendered an abject failure for a variety of reasons.
The NBA All-Star voting begins, I guess now? And ends at the end of the month. 26 days of voting, 5 games into the season? Yeah, we’ll pick correctly based on just that, no problems. I don’t know, maybe it will be better with less time for people to stuff the ballot boxes. I think you’re only allowed a single ballot per day online. The whole thing is a bit of a farce.
Fan voting is really a strange concept, but I think it’s important that the league allow for fans to interact and influence one of the major events the NBA puts on every year. It got good and weird once we reached the internet age partnered with Yao Ming entering the league. Yao was worthy of his selections because of his play but as the #1 overall selection based on fan voting? I think the Chinese influence and the sheer number of people able to vote by way of NBA.com were what allowed him to start in the games he was available for, and selected to start, even while injured.
No member of the Charlotte Bobcats will likely make the All-Star game, based on voting or really anything else. In the history of NBA basketball in Charlotte, NC, between the Hornets and Bobcats there have been only 8 appearances, 3 for Glen Rice (including one ASG MVP), One for Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, One for Baron Davis, One for Eddie Jones and one for Gerald Wallace. I’m not bitter. I can’t name many more All-Star worthy seasons, or at least, early seasons. Even as a middle-schooler, devoted to guys like Muggsey Bogues, Dell Curry, J.R. Reid and all the rest of the guys I thought were the best. Like Rex Chapman and Kendall Gill were just below Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in my mind, back in the early ’90s but, no, no other All-Stars and I even guessed far lower than 8 appearances.
So it’s not my own Charlotte related Napoleonic-NBA-Market-Syndrome, that makes me question the NBA All-Star selection process. It’s mostly the last few years. With “Super-Stars” shifting from coast to coast and North to South, teams coming together to form Super-Friends-esque, party groups that tour the country and bestow their majesty upon those fly-over states and friendly sites that are grateful for the distraction of their fledgling franchises and players that would fit in better with the Goonies, to the Miami Heat‘s country-club crowd.
My point is, the Bobcats, the Grizzlies, the Bucks, most teams actually, have players that weren’t invited to the cool kids table. They either went to college, don’t have swagger, don’t dunk and make a face then strut, don’t work the refs well enough, don’t fit in with the guys like Dwayne Wade, Kevin Garnett and all the rest of the super-teams. So when thinking about an all-star ballot, the guys who have legitimately, and distinctly set themselves apart, not by their play or their “killer instinct” or clutch play, but by saying “we’re getting together to win a championship” after having limited success in other places are selected first.
I wouldn’t advocate a system like Major League Baseball has for theirs, which insures a single player from every team is represented. That’s just ridiculous and is pretty much impossible in the NBA. The NHL has tried so many different things for their All-Star game, that I seriously don’t know if it’s East vs. West or what it is, and it was played in the town I call home last season. The NFL just pays for guys to go to Hawaii for a week every year, that shouldn’t even count as a game. If they want to, they should go ahead and make that a flag football game.
The NBA All-Star game is a huge event. TNT covers it, basically devoting a weekend to the whole spectacle of it. The skills event is great. Celebrities show up. It’s a perfect place to display all of the talent that the league has. My problem is, whether it’s Yao Ming being selected as a starter posthumously(for his career anyway), the Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan/Shaquille O’Neal Lifetime Achievement Selection or whatever that makes you scratch your head when selections are announced, there are problems with the All-Star game.
The shortened season doesn’t help. As I said, asking a fan to fill out a ballot after most teams have played 7 games is a bit ridiculous. I understand keeping the game as scheduled on February 24th because of the magnatude of the weekend and what it means for the city of Orlando and the league. I get that. The sample size is going to be weird, and more than ever, guys are going to be selected based on historical reputation and their work in the post-season of the previous year. That is already a bugaboo for me. So is using the work bugaboo, so don’t be distracted by word selection. Just understand, I don’t think that’s what the All-Star game is all about.
It is important to protect the brand and that means the stars everyone expects to see in an All-Star game, should be there. Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki and anyone with multiple MVPs that have pretty good stats and teams in position to make the playoffs should definitely be there. What I really disagree with are the group christenings. The year the Pistons won the Championship, they sent 5 players to the All-Star game. That’s just weird. The Celtics got together and guys who had been All-Stars before the teamed up were selected again. Like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce got worse when they got together? Not neccessarily, but then Rajon Rondo started outplaying his older teammates and he had to get a spot on the All-Star Squad as well.
I just watched an episode of Futurama, which is hilarious and I’m a geek for liking it and mentioning it as and analogy to the NBA but I’ll go ahead. Bender, the lazy, booze-hound robot was able to duplicate himself in twos but at 60% of his original size. His duplicates were able to do the same, and so on and so on until they were eating away the world and turned all the water into alcohol. Bender had to save the world and had to summon his underlings and they, being like him, didn’t want to. His argument to them was “Hey, If there are a quintillion of us, we will each only have to do one-quintillionth of a thing.” And that’s what I think these little super-teams are doing. Michael Jordan, and the superstars of the ’80s and ’90s didn’t do that. For some reason, rather than elevating the play of the players around them, the players today are happy to ditch their drafted-homes for some place that they can gather 2 or more guys of their same “talent” level and win that way. I don’t like that about the NBA in general and I think it’s shown most blatantly in the All-Star game.
When you think about the All-Star squad, it’s sort of a process of elimination. In the East, you look at the playoff picture and back-fill on down, starting with the Heat, the Eastern Conference Champs, and their coach will coach, probably based on record at the break and you’ll put their three big stars on the team, Lebron, Wade and Chris Bosh. 3 down, 9 spots to go, just like that. Chicago is next in the heirarchy, you put Derrick Rose on the team for sure and Joakim Noah or Luol Deng down in pencil. 4 spots, 2 maybes and 8 spots left. You put the Boston “Big 3 plus Rondo” on there I guess? If Boston’s record is good enough when teams are selected and they have some significant games on national TV, yeah, you’ve got 3 or 4 spots taken right there. We’re down to 5 spots with 3 maybes, and we’ve only looked at 3 teams. The Hawks? Give Joe Johnson, Al Horford a call, they’re on their way to Orlando, with Josh Smith on the maybe list. 3 spots left for the entire Eastern Conference, with 4 maybes from the teams already mentioned? Are you serious? You see how this gets out of hand quickly and, to a small market fan, and a fan of guys who don’t get their due, very injudiciously.
By the way, we didn’t mention Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire or any of the other guys who are likely to be voted as starters or just understood as members of the team. There are guys like Ryan Anderson of Orlando, a couple guys in Philadelphia (Lou Williams and Spencer Hawes), Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger have helped in Indy, just guys like that are having nice early seasons but they won’t sniff the All-Star game because the guys who get all the attention, the guys who are just understood to be All-Stars will take up the roster in many people’s minds before you can get to nice stories and special seasons that deserve some recognition.
You could do the same thing with the West. Dirk, Jason Kidd (maybe) from Dallas, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook from Oklahoma City, the Lakers get their 3 guys in (Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) and you’ve got 5 spots unassigned without talking about Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan or Tony Parker from the Spurs, Kyle Lowery or anyone else.
So, what do you do? How do you do away with it? Do you have a “Senior Bracket” with Duncan, Bryant, Kidd, Nowitzki against the Boston big 3 and some other veteran guys? Do you shake up the rookies vs. sophomores game? Do you do international players vs. Americans like the NHL did for a few years? Go all pro-wrestling on it, make Lebron, Wade, Kobe, Carmelo and Chris Paul on the Diva Squad and have them take on Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin as the “Good Guys?” There is no good answer. I even thought about a “Guys you assumed would be here no matter what” vs “Nice stories, first timers and deserving talent.” That kind of stuff is completely subjective and messes with tradition and legacies and wouldn’t be worth “righting” the “wrongs” that I see.
You have to let the fan vote be what it should be, which is a popularity contest, for the starters. There has only been one or two absolute misses for the fans in recent memory. Let them roll, the fan vote is nice, it gets more email addresses for NBA.com and gauges interest. The coaches and whoever else determines the rest of the roster, simply don’t want to piss anybody off. I’m sure those conversations go the route of “Well, if you include Rondo, you have to include Garnett, and if you include Garnett you have to put Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on there as well.” The logic is flawed and has been for a while. I don’t know if it was the Boston dominance that put Larry “Legend” out there with McHale and Robert Parrish, that Detroit team I mentioned, where everyone said “If they’re good enough to make the Eastern Conference Finals for like 5 years and win a Championship and no one really stands head and shoulders above, all 5 guys get on.” It just changed the dynamic, where yes, I agree with rewarding wins and Championships but seeing a squad and not being able to single out “All” Stars, or pick the best of them. Those Chicago years, you had to put Scottie Pippen out there with Michael Jordan. I don’t think, just because they joined the team at the same time, that Rondo, Garnett, Allen and Pierce all come as a package deal, same for Miami or Los Angeles.
I wish, just somehow, that the All-Star game looked like the All-NBA teams, and All-Defensive teams, mixed together and divided among conferences. But it is a beast who stands alone. The sizzle gets the action and the steak gets about 10 minutes in the second and third quarters. The All-Star game is a spectacle and a weekend but in the grand scheme, to a fan, it doesn’t matter who plays. If I were a player having an amazing season in Golden State or Portland and it was ignored and I never got to that level again, I’d be bitter.
For me, I want guys who truly deserve the recognition to get it. I want the NBA to spread the wealth, all the way down to the Bobcats, Wizards, Pistons, Kings, Houston and Milwaukee. Guys who stand out and bring it every night on a bad team, are truly stars, while a 4th option on a strong, nationally relevant team, might be less deserving.