Peterson: All-Star selection process is a joke

By By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

I’ve seen better. Don’t get me wrong, this year’s NBA All-Star teams are loaded up the wazoo, and for good reason. With just 24 available spots and 30-something players in the league performing at an All-Star level, a handful of players are bound to get the shaft every year.

Occasionally, a Jamaal Magloire (2004), Wally Szczerbiak (2002) or an Anthony Mason (2001) will somehow slip past security and get into the annual game. Thank heavens we’ll be spared from watching any of these kinds of goobers suit up this year. Each player heading to New Orleans on Feb. 17 is at least deserving of the honor.

Yet, the coaches — and the fans — still didn’t get it right when the results were finalized last Thursday. There are a few players who will be watching the game from home who were even more deserving. The problem lies within the utterly faulty selection process.

Here’s the gist of it: Fans vote for the starting fives of both the East and West teams, essentially reducing it to a popularity contest. The coaches get to decide the reserves (seven extras on each team). To eliminate bias, coaches can’t vote for their own players. Sounds simple, right?

In the words of a fresh prince: “I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there — I’ll tell you all about how?” this process sucks.

The “fans” are clearly made up of a few knowledgeable die-hards and many casual spectators, including little kids in the stadium who fill out the voting cards because Stuff the Magic Dragon told them to and roughly one billion NBA-loving Chinese homers.

How else do you explain Milwaukee rookie Yi Jianlian getting the fifth-most votes among East forwards ahead of guys like Caron Butler and Hedo Turkoglu? Or that Houston’s Yao Ming earned more votes than Michael Jordan ever did? Twice.

On a popular hoops blog site, fans had a running thread devoted to getting Minnesota’s Antoine Walker into the All-Star game. Had it worked (and fortunately, most were smart enough not to vote for the washed up forward), it would have been a travesty — albeit a funny one.

How does Jazz guard Deron Williams or Blazers guard Brandon Roy (who, thankfully, was selected by the coaches anyway) not crack the top ten in voting among West guards? Williams and Roy checked in behind Dallas’ Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse — Jerry freakin’ Stackhouse!

The answer is that most voters don’t know a pick and roll from a sushi roll.

I don’t even want an explanation as to why Houston’s Luis Scola finished ahead of Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko and L.A.’s Lamar Odom among West forwards.

The solution I propose is this: before anyone can vote, he or she must correctly answer a general NBA history question such as, “Who averaged a triple-double in 1961?” (The Big O. Duh.) Thus we could separate the true NBA fans from the posers.

Don’t think the coaches get off scotch-free, however. At least three reserves could be switched out for more deserving candidates.

Atlanta’s Joe Johnson is the biggest shocker. This distinction would belong to New Orleans’ David West but because the game will be held in his backyard, coaches likely took that into consideration.

Johnson, though, isn’t even the best choice from his own team. The Hawks’ Josh Smith — who averages similar numbers offensively but is twice the defensive presence — would’ve made much more sense.

Detroit’s Richard Hamilton really has no business being on the roster in place of guys like Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace, Boston’s Ray Allen and Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu, who are all having stellar seasons.

What it boils down to is that the All-Star selection process is turning into a joke. It’s only a matter of time before we hear the announcer calling out the starting lineups, “And at center for the West?Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje!” followed by a few snickers from the crowd.

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