This year's NBA All-Star game is one of the most hyped recreation games of all times- not because of the caliber of players involved, but because the event is being held in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The old All-Star attendance record was 44,735 in 1989 (Houston Astrodome). The most populated regular season game in NBA history (62,046) took place in the Georgia Dome in 1998 when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls took on the Atlanta Hawks.
Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks' owner, has been quoted as saying "All-Star Weekend will make the Super Bowl look like a bar mitzvah". He expects a crowd somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 fans to fill the football stadium. But Cuban has also suggested a change in how fans vote for the annual midseason showcase for the NBA. While fans vote who they want to see play in the All-Star Game, we happen to agree with Mark Cuban after seeing fading stars Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson voted by the fans to be starters in the February 14th game.
After a knee injury sidelined the former seven-time All-Star for the first 23 games of the season, McGrady returned to the court in mid-November; playing in six games, totaling just 19 points. Since then, the Houston Rockets have not played McGrady and have not yet dealt the former league scoring champion. As his days in Houston and the NBA are numbered, how is it that McGrady not only makes this year's All-Star team, but he is voted in as a starter? Because McGrady was selected to the squad, deserving All-Stars like Chauncey Billups and Chris Kaman will sit at home on that February weekend.
In the Western Conference, Denver's Chauncey Billups did not make the team despite averaging a career-high 19.2 points so far this season on 42% shooting from the field, 41.4% from 3-point range and 89.5% from the foul line (fifth in the league); he is also chiming in with 6 assists and 3 rebounds per night. By many measures, Billups is better than last season and he is a key component to the Nugget's rise to second-place in the Western Conference.
With the injury to 2009 #1 overall pick Blake Griffin and the off-season trade of Zach Randolph, Clippers' Center Chris Kaman was not selected to the 2010 All-Star game. He is one of only three players in the NBA averaging over 20 points and 9 rebounds per game. His 20.2 scoring average is by far the best of his career, while his 9.1 rebounds rank as his third best. Last season, the Clippers were just 13-40 at the All-Star break; this season, they are 20-25, a vast improvement considering Griffin has yet to play this season, and former All-Stars and franchise centerpieces Baron Davis and Marcus Camby continue to struggle with various injuries.
In the East, it's a shame Allen Iverson is making his 11th consecutive All-Star appearance, a great feat by any means, yet totally undeserving this year. He has only played in 23 games so far this season, just three with the Memphis Grizzlies who signed Iverson in the off-season, only to waive him after the first two weeks. The four-time NBA scoring Champion is averaging a career-low 14.2 points (tied for 78th in the league) and 4.3 assists per game (41st). Iverson is not even the best "A.I." on his own team; the Sixers' sixth-year Guard, Andre Iguodala, leads the team in scoring, assists, steals and minutes played this season.
The snubs in the East are well-deserving, like New York's David Lee, Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut and Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks.
David Lee of the Knicks is one of 11 players averaging a double-double on the season; Lee's 11.6 rebounds per game rank 4th in the league, ahead of all of the Eastern Conference All-Star Forwards. With his much-improved outside jump shot, the former Florida Gator has become more dangerous offensively, as evidenced by his career-high 19.6 points per contest. Although New York is just 18-27 on the season, with David Lee, the Knicks are looking at having just a few wins and probably present less of a challenge than the lowly New Jersey Nets.
Andrew Bogut is another big man snub for the East's All-Star team. Just a year removed from knee-surgery, Bogut is probably the league's most improved player this season, averaging 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and over 2 blocks (4th in the NBA).
Atlanta makes a strong case to have three All-Stars this season with Josh Smith joining the duo of Joe Johnson and Al Horford. Atlanta barely trails Boston for the East's second-best record at 29-15 and one must think about how far the Hawks have come from just a few years ago when they ranked as one of the worst teams in the league, year-after-year. Smith is the only player who ranks in the Top-20 in both blocks (2.2) and steals per game (1.5); he continually fills the stat sheet with his defense, scoring (15.1 points) and passing (career-high 3.9 assists). Along with his highlight dunks, his excellent play all season long gives Smith the merit of an Eastern Conference All-Star.
We understand that the fans keep the sports going and its their vote for who they want to want to see, but it's become too much of a popularity contest, instead of being about the 24 best players in the NBA which is how the midseason showcase used to be. Yao Ming called the NBA and asked himself to be taken off the ballot this year because despite not playing a single-minute all season, Yao probably would've been voted in as an All-Star starter in the Western Conference. The coaches' voting in of the replacements should be noted- of the 14 players selected, not one of them came from a team with a losing record.
Written by Corey Ruff - NBA-Draft.com President - 2-1-10