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01-26-2004, 04:57 PM
Who will make the all-star cut?

The fans have spoken. The media have spoken and spoken. Soon, the coaches will get their say too.

The final All-Star Game voting tallies won't be announced until Thursday, but if all goes according to current voting trends, Vince Carter, Jermaine O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Ben Wallace will be in the East starting lineup. Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Steve Francis and either Shaquille O'Neal or Yao Ming (the one race still too close to call) will start in the West.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The East starting five is solid. At least, this year, Carter is actually playing. The West starting five is a bit shakier. TD and KG are obvious choices. Kobe is an interesting fan vote given his legal troubles at the moment. But given the contenders at the two guard position (Ray Allen, Emanuel Ginobili, Michael Finley) can you blame them? Francis is about the fifth-best point guard in the West this season, but who's counting.

Once the starters are announced, the league will turn to the coaches to make the final seven selections. Predicting what they'll do has turned into a laughable proposition.

The all-star selection process is one of the great unsolved mysteries left in the universe. There is no rhyme or reason. No pattern. No logic. Might as well sacrifice small animals, throw their innards on the ground and let a shaman or two divine the stars.

The fans would vote in Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley if they could. Everyone thought LeBron James would be a shoo-in with the hype and the shoes. Go figure that, per the latest NBA results, he ranked behind Carter, O'Neal, Wallace, Iverson, McGrady and Jason Kidd in fan voting in the East. The fans want to see the stars, the flash and the dunks. Period. There's nothing wrong with that.

The media love to rail on the fans for getting it wrong. Of course, we too, rarely get it right (witness the Jazz and Bucks). We're great at hyping our pet projects or making selections that bolster preseason predictions -- but what do we know?

Ron Artest is deserving of a spot on the Eastern Conference roster.
The coaches have the better chance of getting things right. They do more than peruse box scores or breath heavily over the latest flavor of the month. They're less likely to be swayed by a good player putting up great stats on a horrible team. And they're more likely to give a guy who busts his butt every night (read Ron Artest) over a no-substance scorer (read Shareef Abdur-Rahim). They also have grudges. That's why you'll never see Rasheed Wallace or Latrell Sprewell get any love this time of year. Again, nothing wrong with that.

With that said, here's the part where I tell you to ignore all of that and listen to me. I don't, however, have all of the answers. My all-star ballot doesn't make much sense either. Is it OK to vote in a guy like Zach Randolph, whose entire team needs to be checked into a rehab center? I have no idea. What about a guy like Brad Miller? His numbers are all at career highs, and he's a key player on the best team in the Western Conference. The Kings would be lost without him. But, is he really among the best six or seven big men in the West? It's debatable.

Company policy forbids me from mutilating squirrels, so, for the second year in a row, I went for the next best thing. I called up five successful GMs and asked for their perspective. I respect the GMs' opinions for a couple of reasons. One, they see the whole picture. Skill, work ethic, bang for the buck, marketability and character all play into it for them. Second, they see the whole league. GMs are constantly scouting other players, looking for a good fit, or that guy who will put them over the top. It's not an exact science. But to these five guys, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, it's as close to science as any of this gets.

While no one agreed on everything, here's a rough consensus of who should be flying first class to Los Angeles in February.

Eastern Conference Starters

G- Jason Kidd, Nets
G- Tracy McGrady, Magic
F- Ron Artest, Pacers
F- Jermaine O'Neal, Pacers
C- Ben Wallace, Pistons

Comments: All five GMs agreed that Kidd, O'Neal and Wallace were the best at their positions in the East. McGrady and Artest garnered four votes, with one vote going to Paul Pierce and another going to LeBron James.

Baron Davis
Point Guard
New Orleans Hornets

41 23.4 4.2 8.0 .387 .639

There aren't any huge surprises here. Baron Davis is having, arguably, a better season than Kidd this year. What kills Davis, according to the GMs, is his 38 percent shooting percentage and his love affair with the 3-point shot. Everything else -- points, assists, steals, defense and ability to carry his team -- is great this year. McGrady is having a down year, especially when you compare it to what he did last season, but he's still the most talented swingman in the game. Artest should finally get the love this year based on his tough defense (Will he actually defend in the All-Star Game?), emerging offensive game and his calm demeanor this season on and off the court.

O'Neal may be the only guy in the group having an MVP season. He continues to mature every season and has turned into the East's most dominating big man on the offensive end. I always get a kick out of putting Wallace at center. He doesn't play the position, hasn't for the past two season, but in the size-challenged East, he's as close to an All-Star as you can get. All 15 starting Eastern Conference centers just don't make the cut. So you must move on to the second-best power forward in the East and that's Wallace by a landslide.

Eastern Conference Bench

G - Paul Pierce, Celtics (5 votes)
G - Baron Davis, Hornets (5 votes)
G - Allen Iverson, Sixers (4 votes)
G - Michael Redd, Bucks (3 votes)
F - Vince Carter, Raptors (3 votes)
F - LeBron James, Cavaliers (3 votes)
F - Lamar Odom, Heat
(3 votes)

Comments: Everyone knows that the East is very guard heavy, but this is a little ridiculous. Depending on how you rank positions, there are six guards here and just one forward, Odom. Carter and James can technically be listed at forward because of their size and the positions they play on their team, but objectively, they're closer to guards than they are to forwards. What happened to the rest of the forwards? The problem is there are few players worth voting for. Odom barely made it in with just three votes. The Nets' Kenyon Martin got two votes, the Cavs' Carlos Boozer and the Nets' Richard Jefferson got one each. No one else even garnered so much as a vote.

The nature of the guard-heavy East also produced a two interesting snubs. The Knicks' Stephon Marbury and the Pistons' Chauncey Billups garnered just two votes each. Marbury was probably hurt the most because of his teams' poor records. Billups has been huge for the Pistons this season, but his numbers, when stacked up against the other top guards in the East, aren't as convincing.

Western Conference Starters

G- Sam Cassell, Timberwolves
G- Peja Stojakovic, Kings
F- Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves
F- Tim Duncan, Spurs
C- Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers

Comments: Garnett and Duncan were the only unanimous selections this year. Stojakovic edged out Kobe, 3-2. Shaq beat out Yao Ming 4-1. Cassell edged out Steve Nash 4-1. It's tough to argue much of anything here. Stojakovic at two guard? I let that slide. It was clear that the GMs weren't comfortable voting in Kobe and were looking for an out. If we let Eastern Conference GMs vote Ben Wallace in at center, then why not Stojakovic at the two. He can play the position and does it about as often as Wallace plays center.

Cassell was a little bit of a surprise. He's having a career season, but given his inability to make the team previously, it's nice to see the voters put the past behind them. Shaq may not be having a great season, but the fact that, whenever he does play he's dominating, gives him the edge this year.

Western Conference Bench

G- Kobe Bryant, Lakers (4 votes)
G- Steve Nash, Mavericks (3 votes)
F- Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (4 votes)
F - Brad Miller, Kings (3 votes)
F - Pau Gasol, Grizzlies (2 votes)
F - Zach Randolph, Blazers (2 votes)
C - Yao Ming, Rockets (5 votes)

Comments: There's room for plenty of healthy debate here. Let's start with the guard snubs. Ray Allen, Michael Finley, Steve Francis, Emanuel Ginobili, Mike Bibby and Gary Payton got one each. Allen would've been a lock had he played most of the season, according to several GMs who left him off the ballot. There was a feeling that he just hadn't played enough to earn a spot. Francis is, by all accounts, having an off year, though the GM who voted for him said we shouldn't penalize him for trying to play with Jeff Van Gundy's system.

Manu Ginobili
Shooting Guard
San Antonio Spurs

40 12.9 5.0 4.2 .406 .768

One GM, in love with Ginobili, thought he was the second most important cog on the Spurs. Bibby has been great this year, but gets lost in the shuffle with so many Kings. Payton has been good for the Lakers, but like Bibby, just got lost in the shuffle a little bit.

The West is big heavy, so it was no surprise to see them grab five of the seven other spots. Yao was the only reserve everyone seemed to agree on. It was a little surprising that one GM left Nowitzki off his vote completely. He's struggled this season, but not that much. There was a popular sentiment for Miller who, in addition to scoring and rebounding, has turned himself into one of the best passing big men in the game.

After that was really wide open. Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko, Elton Brand, Erick Dampier, Carmelo Anthony and Rashard Lewis all got one vote each. In my mind, Kirilenko is more deserving than Randolph based on his overall contribution to his team. The Jazz are winning and Kirilenko is getting it done in every category. Randolph's scoring and rebounding numbers are better, but he gives up as many points as he scores every night on a terrible team. It's also surprising that three teams with winning records -- the Nuggets, Sonics and Jazz -- don't have any representatives on the team.

But what do we know?

"This isn't rocket science," one GM said. "You just kind of vote your gut and try to keep the past out of it. But bottom line, this is just personal preference. The coaches will see things differently and I could absolutely see a guy like Kirilenko or Dampier, who give them fits every night, get in. We'll find out soon enough."

Spoken like a true shaman.

Joe All-Star

Now that we've got that out of the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention five guys who didn't get much support for their all-star bid. Whether it's because their team is terrible, their play isn't highlight-reel quality, or they've just appeared on the radar, here's my vote for five average Joes "almost all-stars" who are doing special things in the NBA this year.

Andrei Kirilenko, G, Jazz
The Stats: 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 2.1 spg, 47 percent shooting
The Skinny: He may be the most complete player in basketball. His numbers are never flashy on the surface, but dig a little deeper and he's pretty amazing. He became just the third player in the past decade to have a game in which he scored at least five points, had five boards, five assists, five blocks and fives steals. The fact that he's already done it twice this season is just amazing. He won't make the all-star cut this year, but Kirilenko has been the big reason behind the Jazz's surprise run this season.

Andre Miller, G, Nuggets
The Stats: 15.9 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 spg on 46 percent shooting
The Skinny: The Nuggets added two big weapons to the worst team in basketball last summer -- Miller and rookie Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony himself is also worthy of all-star recognition, Miller was given the keys to the Nuggets' offense and he's been running it to perfection. The fact that he's bounced back from a horrible season in Los Angeles proves that Miller isn't just a guard who puts up good numbers on a bad team. He's also a leader capable of turning around a team when he has the right talent around him.

Carlos Boozer, F, Cavs
The Stats: 13.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg on 50 percent shooting
The Skinny: Lost in all of the LeBron hoopla is the emergence of Boozer as one of the most dominating power forwards in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a second year player who mysteriously slipped into the second round on draft night. Boozer seems to improve by the game. When LeBron went out with ankle injury, Boozer proved that he can be a lethal scorer in the paint as well. He's averaged 23.5 ppg, 16 rpg and 1.5 bpg over his last four. With Cavs GM Jim Paxson slowly weeding out distractions, it may be just a matter of time before Boozer works his way into the All-Star Game.

Emanuel Ginobili, G, Spurs
The Stats: 12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.9 spg
The Skinny: The Spurs have one of the most boring, traditional and lethal offenses in the league, but thanks to Ginobili, it now has the requisite spice to make it palatable. Ginobili has been amazing for San Antonio, especially when Tim Duncan is struggling or out altogether. His quickness and gambling on the defensive end have made him one of the team's most valuable players in the plus/minus stats. In a conference with a dearth of great two guards, give Ginobili another year to get his feet wet and he should be well on his way to his first all-star selection.

Elton Brand, F, Clippers
The Stats: 20 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg on 53 percent shooting
The Skinny: Don't hate the guy just because he plays on the Clippers. The former all-star will likely be passed over because the Clippers are struggling once again, but there isn't a more consistent double-double guy in the NBA. Brand may not be exciting, but the consistency in horrible conditions is enough to impress us.

Honorable Mention: Erick Dampier, Warriors; Shawn Marion, Suns; Donyell Marshall, Raptors; Keith Van Horn, Knicks; Jim Jackson, Rockets; Richard Jefferson, Nets; Chauncey Billups, Pistons.

The Kids

While we're at it, the league is set to announce the rosters for the Rookie-Sophomore game this week as well. They've traditionally done a pretty good job of getting it right, but just in case there's any confusion at the league office, here's our take on who should be in.

Rookie All-Stars


G - Dwyane Wade, Heat
G - Kirk Hinrich, Bulls
F - LeBron James, Cavs
F - Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
C - Chris Bosh, Raptors


G - Leandro Barbosa, Suns
G - T.J. Ford, Bucks
G - Raul Lopez, Jazz
G - Keith Bogans, Magic
F - Jarvis Hayes, Wizards
F - Josh Howard, Mavericks
C - Chris Kaman, Clippers

Comment: The top five are pretty easy to pick. All five have been outstanding at their positions. Given their relative draft positions, none of it should come as big surprise. The bench isn't that controversial either. The biggest snubs are Udonis Haslem of the Heat and the Jazz's Aleksandar Pavlovic getting pushed out by Lopez and Bogans for the last positions on the team. Still, when you look at this list, there's no question that this is one of the best rookie classes ever.

Sophomore All-Stars


G - Frank Williams, Knicks
G - Emanuel Ginobili, Spurs
F - Tayshaun Prince, Pistons
F- Carlos Boozer, Cavs
C - Yao Ming, Rockets


G- Ronald Murray, Sonics
F- Amare Stoudemire, Suns
F - Jiri Welsch, Celtics
F - Drew Gooden, Magic
F - Mike Dunleavy, Warriors F/C - Mehmet Okur, Pistons
F/C - Nene Hilario, Nuggets

Comment: This group was considered a huge success for a rookie class, but it pales in comparison with the Class of 2003. Yao, Stoudemire, Boozer and Ginobili all look like they have star written on them. Prince, Murray, Nene, Gooden, Dunleavy and Welsch also appear to have a bright future. Last year's point guard class was awful, however. Frank Williams and Jaric were the best that we could come up with, and neither player has done more than impress in small stretches.

What's also interesting is who's not on the list. Caron Butler was a starter last season but has struggled to rebound from offseason knee surgery. Dajuan Wagner was supposed to be the second coming of Allen Iverson, but injuries have wreaked havoc on his young career. An injury to Jay Williams, another starter from last year, may end his career. Several other players are just now starting to come around. The Wizards' Jared Jeffries, the Clippers' Chris Wilcox, the Lakers' Kareem Rush, the Suns' Casey Jacobsen and the Bucks' Dan Gadzuric are having promising seasons, but not enough to make the cut this season.

Rumor Central


Juwan Howard


Jan. 26 - GM John Gabriel has been shopping Howard, along with swingman Gordan Giricek, since mid December. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic may be interested in swapping Howard for T-Wolves center Michael Olowokandi.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Jalen Rose has been pushing the Raptors to make a trade for Howard. The Cavs, Sonics, Nuggets and Pistons have also reportedly shown interest.


Rasheed Wallace


Jan. 26 - The latest 'Sheed rumor over the weekend, courtesy of the Newark Star-Ledger, involved a three-team trade that would have sent Wallace to Atlanta, Shareef Abdur-Rahim to New York and Keith Van Horn to Portland. However, talks reportedly broke down because the Blazers insisted Kurt Thomas also needed to be part of the deal. The Knicks still appear to be the team most interested in Wallace, with the Cavs, Rockets and Nets also keeping tabs on him.

Donnie Nelson and Blazers GM John Nash met last week to discuss a trade that would send Wallace to Dallas for Antawn Jamison and Tariq Abdul-Wahad. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes and ended without a deal. Nelson told the Dallas Morning News that the talks with the Blazers are "dead" and "it never really was alive." ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported this weekend that owner Paul Allen decided he wanted to keep Wallace for now. Does that mean that 'Sheed is officially off the trading block?


Zydrunas Ilgauskas


Jan. 26 - Is Zydrunas off the block? With so many teams in need of a big man, Ilgauskas has been a pretty hot commodity. The Mavs (for Antawn Jamison), Knicks (for Keith Van Horn and Frank Williams) and Blazers (for Rasheed Wallace) have all tried to pry Ilgauskas away, but so far GM Jim Paxson isn't biting.
Now comes word from the Akron Beacon Journal on Sunday that Ilgauskas is off the block and will remain with the team for the rest of the season.


Melvin Ely


Jan. 26 - The O.C. Register reported Friday the Clippers were shopping little-used power forward Melvin Ely, who's mired on the bench behind Elton Brand, Chris Wilcox, Chris Kaman and Peja Drobjnak. "It's hard to get all the minutes around at that position," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We have Brand, we have Kaman, Wilcox and Drobnjak. On a given night, you're only going to play three, maybe four guys."
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday the Bulls might be interested in an Ely-for-Marcus Fizer swap. Fizer is in the last year of his contract, which would allow the Clippers to get further under the cap this summer to make a run at Kobe Bryant.

Peep Show

Boston Celtics: Forward Vin Baker was suspended over the weekend again after he tested positive for alcohol, according to several Boston papers. The Chicago Tribune is reporting on Monday that the Celtics will likely terminate Baker's contract, worth approximately $35 million over 2 1/2 years, after his suspension for testing positive for alcohol.

Indiana Pacers: Forward Al Harrington is scoffing at rumors that he wants out of Indiana. The New York Post reported last week that Harrington was unhappy with his role on the team and wanted out. It was nonsense," Harrington told the Indianapolis Star. "I don't know where it came from," Harrington said following the Pacers' loss at Washington on Saturday. "I'm a Pacer right now. I'm happy to be a Pacer. Hopefully I'll help get this team to the Finals this year. . .I'm happy. I'm happy that we're winning. There's no better feeling than that."

Sacramento Kings: Chris Webber claims he's upset about criticism that he's taking too long to come back and has isolated himself from the team. "There is no one more dedicated than I am to help the Kings win a title," he told the Sacramento Bee. "No one wants to start playing more than I do. It just always seems as if there is a negative attachment to things written about me. But nothing is more important to me than playing, not my family, not anything."

New Orleans Hornets: Jamal Mashburn has been cleared to start practicing with the team. But did his long layoff, combined with rehab in Miami, alienate his teammates? The Times-Picyune is reporting that some of his teammates have questioned why he's chosen to stay away from the team. "I've always been brought up that if you're part of the team, you stay around it," said George Lynch. "But if he had to go back to Miami to get back in shape to help us in the long run, we understand. Whatever it takes for Mashburn to score 20 to 24 points a game, we know it will help make us a better team."

Philadelphia 76ers: Things seem to be falling apart in Philly. The team is 19-25 and no one seems happy right now. "Maybe we're not as good as we think we are," point guard Eric Snow told the Philadelphia Daily News. That's led to some speculation that rookie head coach Randy Ayers is on the hot seat. Swingman Aaron McKie says that Ayers is doing his job, it's the players who aren't doing theirs. "We have enough veteran players around here to know and understand what we're supposed to be doing out there, and we're just not doing it," McKie said. "Randy's here working hard every day, telling us what to do over and over and over, and we're just not responding.

01-26-2004, 05:53 PM
I just wanted to thank you for always posting these articles. I really appreciate it, and I know that other do as well.

01-26-2004, 06:13 PM
Sure do, thanks a lot

01-26-2004, 08:51 PM
Originally posted by: thebac
Francis is about the fifth-best point guard in the West this season, but who's counting.

i am curious who are voting for steve francis.

all the knowledgeable rocket fans i noticed acknoledge the rocket will have a real chance two years later, when francis' contract will be over.

maybe only those not-so-knowledgeable fans vote.

01-26-2004, 10:41 PM
Its prob all the chinese people that vote for Yao

01-27-2004, 01:16 AM
Thanks again for posting these thebac! Also, I was kind of surprised that insider didn't really talk about Finley's prospects for making the all-star squad, especially in the light of the stellar last couple of weeks that he has had...

Max Power
01-27-2004, 01:23 AM
What is sad is that BOTH of the Rockets who will make the team are undeserving. Brad Miller is playing FAR better ball than Yao.

01-27-2004, 01:59 PM
I wonder if a certain Point-forward gets selected by the coaches..... i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

01-27-2004, 02:53 PM
You're all very welcome i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif