The Commish Picks
These should be the League’s 24 All-Stars.
There has to be some way that we can fix All-Star voting. I get that the game is just as much, if not more, a gift to the fans as it is a reward for the invited players. So to take voting out of the fans’ hands is not only unfair, it would damage league-fan relations. But when you have a kat like Bruce Bowen threatening the snag one of the two starting forward spots…well, we got a problemo.
Bruce Bowen shouldn’t even be able to play at a Phoenix YMCA that week, let alone appear in the actual game. I’ve spent too much time trying to come up with some creative rationale for why 1.5 million people would vote for Bowen and my mind goes blank. Collusion, conspiracy, technological-malfunction—those are the only three possible explanations.
Yi Jianlian?! Look, China, you gotta stop being so ethnocentric here. You guys are ball fans in Shanghai and Beijing and Hong Kong. You know full well that Yi is no All-Star. I’m fine with you swelling with national pride when you drag Yao’s picture to the center slot in your online ballot. But check the nationalism and let sanity rule when you start contemplating an Yi-selection.
And what of the near-fiasco with Chris Paul? Anyone old enough to remember TMac’s exceptional days is old enough to recognize that he couldn’t even crack an All-Star lineup for Texas, let alone the whole conference. Seriously, this is madness.
So here’s what I propose: Fans’ votes count for 2/3 of the final tally and players and coaches combine for the final third. Here’s the fairness-kicker: If a player is voted in by the fans, but doesn’t make the starting lineup once the player/coach votes are factored in, that player gets a spot on the bench. Yes, that player—perhaps as undeserving as Bowen or Yi—will still be taking up a roster spot, but the fans still get to see that player and the true player-reward of starting will most likely go to the guys who most deserve it. That’s a fair compromise. My first idea was to send the undeserving fans’ choice to the D-League All-Star game.
With that said, this year’s picks were not tough at all. I don’t think you’ll find any real, egregious snubs. If you’re a logical, thinking adult, these should be your squads:
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: He plays the best basketball on the planet just as often as Bron and Kobe.
Allen Iverson Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: He’s had a terrible January. He’s also been the second-best guard in the East for most of the season.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: Bron has been a straight-up gunner in previous All-Star games, but his hogging/gunning hasn’t detracted one bit from the entertainment quotient. I think he cracks 35 in Phoenix.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: As long as he’s getting his double-doubles and his squad is winning at its current clip, then he’s in.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic: I think it’s funny that Dwight gawks at his hand, in jest, after he drops a jump-hook or a periodic lefty banker. It’s like he’s saying, “Do you see what I’m starting to do?” I do. I see you, young dude. The moves are coming.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic: Jameer is the only “tough” kat in the Magic starting lineup. He’s like Derek Fisher with a lot of skill. Without him playing at this level, Orlando would still be a middling squad and a joke of a contender.
Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland went from being a one-man sludgefest on the offensive end, to a free-wheeling outfit. Talk to Bron, his teammates and the Cavs organization and they’ll tell you that Mo is the reason.
Ray Allen, Boston Celtics: Ray was the C’s best player during their 27-2 start. And with Devin Harris (nagged by injuries and falling back to earth) and Vince Carter getting benched for second halves by Lawrence Frank and no other player even remotely deserving, Ray backs into this invite.
Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons: AI is the greatest All-Star performer of his generation. If he’s healthy, I’m fine with him being in the game. He’s a staple.
Chris Bosh, Tornoto Raptors: Bosh may be this season’s biggest disappointment. He went from talking about playing for this season’s MVP to being incapable of leading his squad to a .500 record. If he were out West, he’d be watching this one on the tele.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers: Danny’s not just scoring a bunch of points, he’s dropping clutch buckets late in games, some of them game winners (he’s tied with Wade for second, behind Bron, for 4th quarter scoring). In fact, in my book, he’s catapulted Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson as the perimeter player that leads that pack just below Kobe-Bron-DWade.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: The C’s most valuable player (his teammates have frequently echoed that designation) is rounding into form. He’s shooting 50 percent in January after a rocky start.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: How much longer do you think Kobe has at this “elite of the elite” level? I say he has three more years as one of the League’s top-five players and then he settles into a five-year stint at a Ray Allen Level. I’m looking forward to Kobe kicking it in third gear around early-March.
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: Chris has yet to show that Zeke, Magic, JKidd, AI type of flair for putting on a show in All-Star games. I’m looking for a nice 15 and 15 performance from him. Problem is, other than Amar’e, all the fast break horses are out East.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: I really thought Timmy was gonna take a dive this season. Ummm, I was dead wrong.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns: I thought Amar’e was gonna lead the League in scoring this season. Ummm, I was dead wrong. But he’s still an All-Star. Not a starter, mind you, but an All-Star.
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets: I’d rather have Shaq in this spot. But I can’t knock the fans for this pick. Yao, after all, has been the only steady cog on an injury-plagued squad that has managed to stay ten games over .500.
Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers: That 52-point game against the Suns might be the season’s best individual performance by any player. Roy is destined for one of those “perennial All-Star” careers.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs: He still lacks as a point guard, but you can’t deny his impact on the floor.
Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets: He’s been one of the League’s most valuable players for about six seasons, now. The Denver-Detroit disparity has made this abundantly clear.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: Quite possibly playing the best ball of his career. In an ideal world, he’d be starting instead of Amar’e.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers: There are kats, such as Al Jefferson, with better numbers, but Pau is a star this season. He’s putting up productive numbers, but it’s his impact (like Mo Williams’) that’s of importance here. Kobe and Phil will tell you.
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets: I feel like Melo is moving into All-Star staple status, even though he’s only been to two. But if he’s playing well and the Nuggets are winning, then he’s in. David West or Paul Millsap ain’t stopping that.
Shaquille O’Neal, Phoenix Suns: Last season, when Shaq was pretty much sucking, I wrote that he needs to be grandfathered onto the All-Star squad. This season, I just wrote how the Suns training staff has him playing his best ball in about four seasons. If it was up to me, he’d start.
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.