by Ryne Nelson

OK, I’m willing to say it now: Tracy McGrady will lose his starting guard spot at All-Star 2010. As usual, the second West guard spot is a tightly contested popularity battle, with three players (McGrady, Steve Nash and Chris Paul) all showing early chances of being voted in.

But today, it’s safe to say the battle has gone down to two. T-Mac is out of the running, folks.

Mac’s support has been on a slow decline since the first balloting returns three weeks ago. His lead is now a slender hair above 1,000 votes. Chris Paul edged-out McGrady during the final voting period in 2009, despite a much larger difference in total votes. This year, though, don’t expect any drama surrounding T-Mac’s bid at the starting five. He’s on pace to finish fourth among Western guards.

Out East, it looks like we’ll see the same starting lineup as last season — LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard.

Out West again, with Amar’e taking center-eligibility, Melo’s the lock at the forward slot. And it doesn’t seem likely that Tim Duncan will edge out Dirk Nowitzki since the All-Star game’s in Dallas.

Oh, and we should point out that, despite the Internet and SportsCenter and Twitter, playing in a small market hurts the marketability of game’s young stars. Deron Williams, Brandon Roy and Kevin Durant had their chances nullified from the get-go because of their relative lack of exposure. It’s sad, really…

2010 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING
EAST FORWARDS
LeBron James1,579,530
Kevin Garnett1,317,739
Chris Bosh644,473
Paul Pierce320,499
Josh Smith293,680
EAST GUARDS
Dwyane Wade1,539,968
Allen Iverson806,749
Vince Carter651,134
Ray Allen452,708
Gilbert Arenas407,581
EAST CENTERS
Dwight Howard1,479,625
Shaquille O’Neal536,681
Al Horford157,050
Andrea Bargnani146,595
Brook Lopez133,106
WEST FORWARDS
Carmelo Anthony1,410,356
Dirk Nowitzki753,971
Tim Duncan685,390
Pau Gasol667,767
Kevin Durant474,506
WEST GUARDS
Kobe Bryant1,606,032
Tracy McGrady649,563
Steve Nash648,558
Chris Paul622,619
Jason Kidd405,027
WEST CENTERS
Amar’e Stoudemire1,143,849
Andrew Bynum676,634
Nene235,276
Marc Gasol190,476
Antonio McDyess130,058