Monday, February 3rd, 2003
Jason Kidd. Is anyone better in the Eastern Conference? He arrived
in New Jersey via trade from the Phoenix Suns and immediately
lead his team to the NBA Finals. He was second in MVP voting only to San
Antonio's Tim Duncan.
Surely, he is the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference players, right?
Well, no. In fact, he wasn't even close. Kidd won't even get to start in
next weekend's All-Star Game, causing many NBA analysts to ask if the fans
should really get to choose who plays.
The fans voted Allen Iverson into the starting lineup ahead of Kidd,
so the man who is now being called "The Problem" instead of "The Answer"
by his own Philadelphia media will be playing ahead of Kidd, the Eastern
Conference's best player. That's not the only injustice at hand in the East,
How about Vince Carter starting ahead of Antoine Walker at
the forward position? A quick comparison shows that Walker averages better
than 21 points per game -- and has played in 43 games for the Celtics
this season. Carter has played in only 15 games, and when healthy is scoring
at an 18 ppg clip. The Celtics are in the thick of the playoff hunt, the
Raptors are bottom-dwellers looking for some help from this summer's
draft. Clearly, the fans missed the mark by a mile on two of the three Eastern
starters. Not so in the West.
The Western Conference All-Star team takes the court without a single member
of either of the West's top two teams. The most dominant player in the game
will come off the bench to make room for rookie Yao Ming in the starting
lineup, and Dirk Nowitzki, who is the best player on the best team
in the league, will have to yield to Kevin Garnett, whose
Wolves won't even have home court advantage in the playoffs.
We can make an argument for Steve Francis, since he is the only player
in the NBA besides fellow-starter Kobe Bryant averaging at least 20
points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, but wouldn't Steve Nash, who makes
everyone around him better, be a better choise?
And so I ask: who should choose? The 29 head coaches pick the reserves, and
they corrected most of the injustices. Nowitzki, Nash, Michael Jordan,
Kidd, Shaquille O'Neal, Walker, and Chris Webber (replaced
by Peja Stojakovic due to injury) were all chosen to back up the curious
starting lineups. Should the coaches be allowed to choose the whole thing?
Voting for the all-stars is a time-honored tradition in every major sport,
and it is a way to keep the fans involved in the game they adore, but more
and more we are finding that fans may not know what is best for the sport,
and certainly watching a bunch of (popular) secondary players is not as thrilling
as watching the real stars take the court together.
It will never be like it was. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird,
Hakeem Olajuwon, Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Isiah Thomas
-- all taking the court together. Those were the stars who brought the league
where it is today. Nonetheless, the game might be better served if the coaches
are allowed to make sure the best and brightest are on the court when the
ball goes up on All-Star Weekend.