My All-Star Ballot: Part I
The NBA plans on announcing the all-star starters tomorrow night on TNT. I think it's pretty safe to assume that there won't be any Wizards selected by the fans. Gilbert Arenas was fifth in the last poll, Caron Butler was sixth behind Yi Jianlian (In my best Lil Jon, "What!?") and Antawn Jamison wasn't even in the top 10.
I know Arenas managed to get a miraculous, unheard of, unbelievable 665,917 votes in the final two weeks of fan balloting last year to defeat Vince Carter by a mere 3,010, but he's not playing right now, and I'm not expecting a repeat (there was no big birthday bash or buzzer-beaters to propel him this time).
So let's look at the guys who should be among the first 10 players on the court come Feb. 17 in New Orleans. I was able to sneak in my vote just before the balloting ended last Sunday.
Western Conference All-Stars
The fans will likely select: Kobe Bryant, Lakers, and Tracy McGrady, Rockets
Who I voted for: Bryant and Chris Paul, Hornets
Could this be the first year Kobe wins MVP? Probably not, the way LeBron James and Kevin Garnett have been playing. But Bryant is indeed doing more (winning) with less (scoring). That could change now that Andrew Bynum is out for another seven weeks, but it is a telling stat that the Lakers are 8-1 when Bryant fails to score 20 points.
As for Paul, there isn't a point guard in the game playing better right now - that includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, Tony Parker or anyone else you want to throw in. Paul could become the first player in NBA history to average 20 points, 10 assists and three steals for an entire season. He also has his team in first place in the Southwest Division - ahead of San Antonio and Dallas. Who woulda thunk it?
The fans will likely select: Tim Duncan, Spurs and Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
Who I voted for: Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
I know some people might look at Tim Duncan's stats (18.8 points, 11 rebounds) and think that he's having sort of down year, until you realize that he's playing a career-low 33.6 minutes per game - second lowest of any of the top 50 scorers in the NBA; Manu Ginobili plays the fewest minutes). But how can you keep an NBA champion off the roster?
I think it's great that Anthony is about to get the same recognition in the West that his comrades in the East (LeBron and D-Wade) have been getting the past few years, but Allen Iverson has been the best player on the Nuggets all season. And, you cannot ignore how the Mavericks season turned the moment Nowitzki started playing like an MVP again. I'm not saying Anthony isn't deserving - he really is - but with his latest ankle injury, this may very well be the starting lineup when all is said and done.
The fans will likely select: Yao Ming, Rockets
Who I voted for: Amare Stoudemire, Suns
You've got to give Yao props for keeping the Rockets competitive while Tracy McGrady was out, but it doesn't change the fact that Houston has been a disappointment the first half of the season. The Rockets wouldn't even be in the playoffs if the season ended today (which would also explain why Tracy has been omitted).
I know Phoenix hasn't been a dynamic force this season, but the Suns still have the best record in the West and need at least one rep in the starting five. Since Nash gets bumped for Paul, Stoudemire gets the nod.
The East will come later today. . .
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