The hubbub about NBA All-Star voting normally begins about the middle of January when fans from Team A suddenly realize that their guy is getting fewer votes than a less deserving guy from Team B. So Team A fans muster a campaign to get their guy more votes, then Team B fans respond in kind, and meanwhile China gets every living citizen to vote for its native sons, and, well, off we go.
The NBA enjoys this. More votes = more interest in the All-Star Game = more interest in the NBA in general. That is why the league allows the fans to vote in the five starters for each team while the coaches add the remaining seven players.
This year, however, the controversy started much earlier, as soon as the ballot came out containing the names of the 60 players from each conference who are eligible to get All-Star votes. I was was part of the seven-member media panel that put together the ballot, so I have something to say about the process, and, while I'm at it, answer charges that I'm an idiot.
Complaining about the All-Star
Dallas Mavericks owner
Up in Seattle, meanwhile,
The biggest and most legitimate noise, however, came from San Antonio, because we listed
OK, here's the story, best as I can tell it.
First, I beg you to put aside foreboding thoughts of conspiracy, any belief that we get together in these conference-call sessions and say, "OK, who can we screw this year?" Whenever a media conspiracy is suggested, I have the same answer: We are far too disorganized to have a conspiracy. It's a minor miracle when we all manage to dial into the conference. There are no conspiracies. We try to do this equitably, not to mention quickly, though the "quickly" part usually disintegrates when we bicker about, say, who the 24th forward might be. (This year that did involve Wilcox.)
Anyway, keep in mind four points:
• The NBA mandates that the ballot be broken up by position, with 24 forwards, 24 guards and 12 centers per conference.
• The NBA mandates that all teams have at least three players represented.
• The NBA mandates that the committee meets before the season so the ballots are ready early. That means that decisions must be made on past performance and
• NBA reps are in on the conference call but, by and large, do not get involved in the decisions, though the league may make adjustments later. One of the adjustments they made this year after the ballot's release was putting Duncan back at forward. All members of the committee OK'd it in follow-up phone calls.
Now, how did Duncan end up at center before the switch? The major problem in past years -- and it's a problem that will continue -- was finding 12 qualified centers and, by extension, finding a way to get all qualified forwards on the ballot. The 12-center mandate is why players such as
This center-forward problem was/is particularly difficult in the Western Conference. In past ballot meetings, in fact, we defined the problem through Duncan. It hurt us to list him at forward knowing that Duncan, Dallas'
So this year someone suggested at the top of the conference call that we should list some of the power forwards who play with their back to the basket and guard opposing centers as centers. That way we could get more qualified frontcourt players on the ballot. Everyone quickly agreed. Players such as Duncan, Phoenix's
The thought that Duncan would probably not get a starting nod never came up. Whether it occurred to anyone else, I can't say, but it did not occur to me, probably because I don't even like to
As the game has evolved, center has turned more and more into a vestigial position. Yao and
The 12-center mandate resonates throughout the selection process. No one believes that the Mavs'
Then there's the three-per-team mandate, which makes the selections more complicated than you might think. Is Harris a more deserving inclusion than Portland's
Is Harris more deserving than Seattle's
Had we had the luxury of watching one week of the Sonics' season, we no doubt would've gone with Wilcox and
Once the Duncan adjustment was made, every other complaint is just conversation. I had to laugh when a newspaper story about Harris not making the ballot was headlined "All-Star Snub for Harris?" It wasn't an All-Star snub; it was a "Won't-Make-the-Team-Anyway-Almost-Irrelevant Ballot Snub." There's a big difference between making an All-Star team and making a ballot.
If you still want to proclaim the media panel as idiots, as has been the case on talk radio, feel free. But the real idiocy is getting worked up over a ballot that has myriad stipulations and mandates.