Handling votes, fans must get grip

ON THE NBA

Pro Basketball

January 19, 2003|By Milton Kent

The NBA will announce the final results of fan voting on Thursday night for next month's All-Star Game, and based on what we've seen to this point, there are reasons to be nervous.

OK, let's take as a given that All-Star Games are for the pleasure of the fans, and that the fans should see the players they want to see. That's all well and good, but the fans shouldn't take that as a green light to be silly.

Most of the fan choices in the last balloting totals were reasonable, but there were a few that made you wonder whether the clubs did a good job collecting the ballots in the 29 NBA arenas before alcohol sales were cut off.

For instance, how does Toronto Raptors forward Vince Carter not only lead Eastern Conference forwards in voting, but also be second overall in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers? Carter has played in only 10 games this season because of knee problems. That's right, 10 games. The next thing you know, the fans will be suggesting that the Orlando Magic's Grant Hill, who has missed 12 games with tendinitis in his ankle, should be on the doorstep to start.

Oops, Hill was third in the East in the last voting. Nothing against Hill or Carter, but neither has played in enough games to have enough of an impact to warrant All-Star selection, and if either or both are voted in as starters, they will cost a deserving player(s) a slot on the 12-man conference roster.

Here's a look at one observer's choices for the All-Star Game roster for both conferences, with the deserving starters at each position listed first.

Eastern Conference - Guards: Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Jerry Stackhouse, Baron Davis.

Left out: Michael Jordan, Paul Pierce, Richard Hamilton.

Forwards: Jermaine O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Richard Jefferson, P.J. Brown.

Left out: Kenyon Martin, Mike Miller.

Centers: Ben Wallace, Brad Miller.

Left out: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Antonio Davis.

Western Conference - Guards: Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Steve Francis, Steve Nash, Michael Finley.

Left out: Bobby Jackson, Stephon Marbury, Jason Richardson, Bonzi Wells.

Forwards: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand, Chris Webber.

Left out: Pau Gasol, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace.

Centers: Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming.

Left out: Rasho Nesterovic, Michael Olowokandi.

Though Jordan last week repeated his reservations about playing in the game in Atlanta, the league should expand the rosters for both conferences by one spot for him and David Robinson to be honored on a league-wide stage one last time before they both retire at season's end.

Quiz

The Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller is poised to become one of only four players in NBA history to play 1,200 games with the same team. Two of the other three are obvious: the Utah Jazz's John Stockton and Karl Malone, but can you name the other player? Here's a hint: Despite being named to the 50 Greatest Players list, this man won only one individual award during his career.

Aches and pains

It's way past time the NBA got rid of the ridiculous injury list setup that forces teams to essentially lie about the status of its players to manipulate the roster.

Each team is permitted only 12 players on its active roster, with up to three players on the "injured list," where they must stay for at least five games. However, many of the players listed as injured typically aren't, but are there as practice fodder or insurance in case someone gets hurt.

The NBA Players Association is concerned that, without an actual injured list, some teams would stash players at inopportune moments to keep them from meeting incentive bonuses. But, as one coach pointed out last week, no coach would keep any player who had a chance to help his team win from playing.

Here's a solution: The league should eliminate the injured list, as it is currently constituted, and let each team designate before each game which 12 of the 15 players on its roster will be active for that night. To ensure that no one gets buried, a player could be inactive only for a maximum of 10 consecutive games.

As for the injured list, the league should allow teams to put whomever they want on it, but the player would have to remain for a minimum of 20 games.

Star search

It had to happen: The NBA's entertainment division, which is so good that it makes Ahmad Rashad appear talented, has announced plans for its own reality television show, with the payoff being a tryout with an NBA team.

The show, which carries the catchy name, Who Wants to Be An NBA/WNBA Player, will follow contestants from around the world who are trying to land a slot on an NBA and WNBA roster, respectively, and marks the first time that a major sports league has gone in for one of these talent-type searches.

According to a league release, an expert panel of judges (hopefully, none of whom has ever worked for the Clippers) will slice the list of contestants, who would have emerged from regional competitions around the world, down to 20 finalists - 10 male, 10 female.

Those finalists will be flown to an NBA city for the final rounds, which consists of strength and conditioning tests, followed by competition in two-on-two and three-on-three games, as well as playing HORSE. The male and female winners will land a tryout with an NBA and WNBA team.

Quiz answer

John Havlicek, who played in 1,270 games with the Boston Celtics, won the Most Valuable Player trophy for the 1974 Finals, though he was named to four All-NBA first teams.

Quote

"Sometimes when I'm at home, I have to check and see if the door is locked."

Yao, on the heavy attention he has received.

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