Big Snub in Big D?
Forget the snubs for a minute (I promise we'll get to those) and focus in on the more important All-Star matter: At this point in his career, Allen Iverson can do no right in the eyes of the media, even when he’s voluntarily voted into an exhibition game by his adoring fans. It’s a situation he cannot control, but who cares? His decision to honor the fans’ choice has been branded as disrespectful towards the game, and the selection process as a whole has come under fire as a result.
Besides criticizing a guy for something he had no control over, I have a few problems with this. First, is the utter lack of consistency with the “A.I. doesn’t deserve to be in the All-Star game” argument. Hey, people, Kevin Garnett got voted in too! But, because it’s been acceptable to blame Iverson for all of the League’s problems (hip-hop generation, volume scoring, the dress code, the All-Star game) dating back to his rookie year, KG gets exonerated despite missing games and playing the worst basketball of his career. I just ask for consistency in an argument, that’s all.
Second, is the related issue surrounding the current system for voting in All-Star starters. More than a few analysts have suggested in lieu of Iverson’s selection, the public have lost touch with the game and that they are costing a deserving player a chance to play in Dallas.
As a fan, I feel disrespected by the accusation. Fans do watch the game. Despite spending our money on merchandise, buying tickets, concessions and parking, and investing time in front of the T.V. to support our favorite teams, we as fans get very little. We are subjects of an authoritative owner structure that denies us any say in the direction of the team. As evidenced in recent history with the Clippers, Grizzlies and Warriors, owners can cut costs, cheap out on salary, put out an inferior product and still can be profitable. Economic citizens only in name, fans don’t get to vote out bad owners or inept management; we simply have to take whatever we’re given.
I guess its part of the deal – capitalism and all – but, we as fans deserve something, right?
The players get big paychecks and endorsement deals. Coaches select the All-Star reserves. The media gets to vote on end of season awards, including Most Valuable Player and get to select the All-NBA teams. Some secret committee gets to elect new inductees into the Hall of Fame.
And we get to vote for the players we want to see in the All-Star game. It’s not much, and I resent that people want to take that away. It’s not a crime against humanity if people want to watch Allen Iverson play alongside their favorite players for one night in a fun, if ultimately low-quality and forgettable game of basketball. Truthfully, I think it’s the least we deserve.
And if you have an issue with China and her 300 million basketball fans influencing the vote, then I don’t think you’re going to like the 21st century too much.
With that, let’s get to the picks.
Their Pick: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
My Pick: Rondo
The Celtics invested five years and $55 million into their young point guard last summer, and Rondo has answered by putting up an indisputable All-Star season. The East’s best ambidextrous player ranks first in the League in steals and third in assists, but perhaps most impressive, thanks to an improving pull up jumper, Rondo is shooting a career high 53% from the field, the fourth straight year his field goal percentage has increased.
Their Pick: Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
My Pick: Johnson
Atlanta’s Mr. Dependable has been amassing the same rock solid numbers Hawks fans have come to expect over the years. His 09-10 numbers have been on par with his averages from the previous two seasons, keeping Johnson towards the upper-crust of NBA players. Johnson is having another very good season, and with the Hawks making a legitimate case as the No. 2 team in the East, some feel that the versatile 6-7 guard has been the main reason behind Atlanta’s success. We’ll deconstruct that myth later on.
Their Pick: Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
My Pick: Bosh
Contract year or not, Bosh is enjoying career numbers across the board, averaging 24-11 on 52% from the floor. Fluid enough to face up, yet strong enough to post up when the matchup is right, Bosh has developed into a devastatingly efficient offensive weapon, notching a 59.5 True Shooting percentage. With 34 double-doubles to lead the League alongside Dwight Howard, the real question was never if CB4 would be an All-Star this season, but whether this will be his last All-Star game as a Toronto Raptor.
Their Pick: Paul Pierce, Celtics
My Pick: Pierce
Pierce’s 19-5-4 averages are the lowest of his 12 year career, so why the All-Star nod? The Truth is maintaining a level of efficiency that he’s never played at before in the NBA. 47.5% from the floor, 47% from three (2nd in the League) and 85% from the stripe (thanks to a departure from an awkward, exaggerated hurdler’s free throw stance) – all career highs – add up to a 63.7% True Shooting percentage, good for seventh in the league and just narrowly behind Dwight Howard and Nene.
Their Pick: Al Horford, Hawks
My Pick: David Lee, New York Knicks
Nothing against Horford, who is a rugged rebounder/defender who sets the tone for Atlanta’s physical style of play, but Lee is putting up better numbers and having more of an impact on his team. Asked by the Knicks to expand his offensive game over the offseason, Lee has developed a slick face-up game, getting by opponents off the bounce to either finish at the rim or to set up teammates (his 3.4 assists are the highest of his career). It works because it’s set up by Lee’s vastly improved midrange game, which opponents are now forced to respect. Though his scoring is up, Lee is still rebounding the heck out of the ball – his 26 double-doubles are eight more than Horford’s – and shooting a high percentage. Lee’s marked overall improvement and the Knicks’ slight progress as a team should have put him in over Horford, who still struggles to make sustained impacts with the ball on offense.
Their Picks: Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats; Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
My Picks: Wallace; Josh Smith, Hawks
Wallace’s insane rebounding totals and game-changing defense over 42 minutes a game was the equation I relied on to validate Crash’s All-Star case. The Bobs’ League leading, switching defense doesn’t happen without No. 3’s athleticism, ability and focus on the defensive end. Congratulations to Wallace, the Bobcats’ first ever All-Star.
For the other wildcard, the coaches went with Rose, who got off the season to a slow start battling a lingering ankle injury, but has turned it on in January. I think Rose has proven that the Bulls’ early season struggles were due in large part because he was hurt, but All-Star selections should be based on who has been the most consistently excellent over the year. And to me, there’s a better choice available down in Atlanta.
I mentioned earlier that Joe Johnson has been statistically identical to his last two seasons, so somebody else has to responsible for the Hawks’ increased win total. So who is it? Jamal Crawford’s ball handling and dynamic scoring has certainly played a role, but it’s been Smith who has made the most difference. Beyond ditching the three-point shot from his game, no doubt a huge reason why he’s playing so well, J-Smoove has become a more willing passer and a more complete defensive player. The crazy athleticism is still there, but now he’s playing smart basketball. He’s in the running for Most Improved Player, and I’m pretty shocked that the East’s current No. 3 team’s MVP isn’t an All-Star.
Voting order: 1. Bosh, 2. Rondo, 3. Wallace, 4. Smith, 5. Pierce, 6. Johnson, 7. Lee
Their Pick: Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
My Pick: Paul
Admittedly, Paul hasn’t played as well since an ankle injury sidelined him for three weeks in mid-November… Completely understandable when you realize trying to match averages 25.5 points and 9.2 assists on 60% shooting is virtually impossible for a 6 foot point guard. Also attributable to his dip may be because CP3 has had to adjust to several new players and a mid-season coaching change. Paul is still the best point guard in the League – he’s first in steals and second in assists – and the Hornets surprising 25-20 record stands as a testament to that claim.
Their Pick: Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
My Pick: Roy
If Paul is getting approbation for propping up a weak supporting cast in New Orleans, than Roy should receive an honorary framed plaque commemorating his singular contributions to the Portland area. Devastated by injuries from players Greg Oden, Joel Pryzbilla, Nicholas Batum, Rudy Fernandez down to the head coach, Blazer Nation was on the brink of meltdown, as pre-season championship aspirations went down along with half their roster. But, Roy has taken it upon himself to carry the Blazers to a respectable record, even adjusting his role to accommodate new arrival, Andre Miller. His numbers haven’t changed much from last year, and accordingly, neither has his status as an All-Star.
Their Pick: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
My Pick: Nowitzki
For the record, Dirk is looking forward most to the parties in Dallas during All-Star weekend, then the game. I think the 23 other All-Stars are in agreement. Dirk was a legit MVP guy before smashing his elbow into Carl Landry’s teeth, but if there is one positive to take from the incident, it’s that his dirty, goofy, bulky elbow pad goes very nicely with his dirty, goofy hair.
Their Pick: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
My Pick: Durant
The advanced metrics movement took a huge hit in the eyes of many NBA fans, including myself, when Wayne Winston, former stat guy for the Dallas Mavericks, made the preposterous claim that, according to an adjusted plus/minus formula, Kevin Durant was the worst player in the entire NBA during 2008-2009 season. Further adding to the obscenity of this absurd conclusion, Winston said "I would not sign the guy It's simply not inevitable that he'll make mid-career strides… he'd have to improve a lot to help a team” if his team had a chance to sign Durant for free.
I’m not going to sit in front of my screen and type out a detailed response why I think a statistic that says Jason Collins is better than Durant is wrong, because that would be a huge waste of my time and it’s off topic. I will say this, however: Last year, KD was a top-15 player at least. I knew that because I watched him play and took into account that he was playing alongside a rookie point guard with no real point guard skills, among other things. Was he a perfect player? No, but that’s because he was 20 years old in his second season playing on a crappy team. I knew that he’d improve this season because I’ve read that his work ethic is off the charts because he loves the game and how he’s a consummate teammate, showing up to summer league games to support the team’s rookies.
And now, at only 21, he’s competing for a scoring title and attending the All-Star game as a reserve. The story here isn’t that he suddenly “gets it.” In fact, he’s always had “it.” I doubt if fundamentalist stat gurus, like Winston, “get it.” I’m done with this. Perhaps later we can discuss the real issue here: The dangers in buying into the lunacy of fundamentalism, in all of its shapes and forms.
Their Pick: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
My Pick: Randolph
Big ups to the coaches for setting aside Randolph’s checkered past and looking at his fantastic season objectively. Z-Bo has confounded his critics and has given Chris Wallace temporary credibility as a GM by posting up career scoring, rebounding and efficiency numbers. Randolph has always had the talent, but has lacked discipline on and off the court to realize his potential. His maturation into a leader has been one of the bigger non-stories of the year, and his selection as an All-Star has been one of the most improbable.
Their Picks: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz; Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
My Picks: Williams; Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets
Williams finally gets his long-deserved All-Star bid. The choice was easy – Williams is Utah’s most important player and is putting up the consistently excellent numbers we’re all used to. Mike Bibby, you can reclaim your spot as the best current player never to make an All-Star game.
I deliberated the Gasol vs. Billups case for a time, but ultimately chose Mr. Big Shot. Both are equally indispensable second guys on contending teams, and both are putting up good numbers. But, Gasol’s time spent out of the lineup is something that I just wasn’t comfortable with. Somewhat amazing that the Lakers, arguably the best team in the League, gets only one player in Dallas, but I’ve always felt that the All-Star game should reward individual performance over team record. Getting to the line more frequently than ever, Billups’ 21.1 scoring average is four points better than his career average, and he is still deadly from the three-point line.
Voting order: 1. Durant, 2. Nowitzki, 3. Paul, 4. Roy, 5. Billups, 6. Williams, 7. Randolph