Chang­ing all-star vot­ing isn’t all about re­duc­ing fans’ power

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey, The Den­ver Post Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey @den­ver­post.com or @chrisadempsey

In 2009, the NBA was on the verge of “All-Star Gate.” Yi Jian­lian was threat­en­ing — re­ally threat­en­ing — to be an all-star starter in the East. His vote to­tals were putting him in the mix with the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Gar­nett. He barely missed mak­ing it. The NBA sighed with re­lief. Had Jian­lian, who av­er­aged 8.6 points that sea­son, been an all-star starter, there might have been a mini-re­volt. He spent three more sea­sons in the NBA, and then he was gone. We haven’t seen him or his ca­reer av­er­age of 7.9 points per game since.

Last week, the NBA slipped in changes to how all-star teams will be se­lected. There were a few sto­ries not­ing the changes, but not a lot of fan­fare. The old: Fans voted for the starters. Now: All-star starters will be 50 per­cent fan vote, 25 per­cent player vote and 25 per­cent me­dia vote. You think it’s just to cut out bal­lot-stuff­ing? That’s only part of it. This isn’t a full-on as­sault on fans.

The other? Money. More on that shortly.

This is a par­tial list of play­ers who shouldn’t have been all-star starters:

• Steve Fran­cis in 2004, a year when Sam Cas­sell was more de­serv­ing.

• B.J. Arm­strong in 1994. He got more votes than Scot­tie Pip­pen on the Michael Jor­dan-less Bulls. Only Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal racked up more all-star votes. Huh?

• A.C. Green in 1990. He had av­er­ages of 13.3 points, 9.0 re­bounds and 1.0 as­sists — and he started ahead of Chris Mullin, David Robin­son and Tom Cham­bers that year.

• In 2014, Kobe Bryant pleaded with fans to not vote for him. He didn’t play in a game un­til Dec. 8. Then he got hurt. The Lak­ers were 2-4 in the games he played, he av­er­aged 13.8 points, 4.3 re­bounds and 6.3 as­sists … and he was an all-star starter. With the most votes.

But the big­ger is­sue has to do with con­tracts. You may have heard of the “des­ig­nated player ex­ten­sion.” Maybe you haven’t. There are only seven play­ers in the NBA who have con­tracts un­der this rule, which al­lows for the orig­i­nal team to of­fer more money than even the usual max deals. Each team can have only one. The up­shot of it: Play­ers have to meet cer­tain cri­te­ria to be el­i­gi­ble for such an ex­ten­sion. Be­ing an all-star starter is one of them.

Can’t leave that up to bal­lot­stuff­ing. Money is at stake.

So fans must re­lin­quish 50 per­cent of their power, and live with who­ever is on the court. Those play­ers will be de­serv­ing, no doubt. And that’s the over­all point, to make sure the pop­u­lar­ity as­pect of it is held to a min­i­mum at best. And, frankly, in that re­spect, ev­ery­body wins.

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