Posted Nov 18 2010 3:04PM
Paul Millsap, I'm taking this opportunity to issue a public apology. This isn't made on the behest of some PR firm or through a bunch of handlers -- as if I had any. It's from the heart. And this apology needs to be made today, right now, as the 2011 NBA All-Star Ballot is revealed.
Voting for the 60th NBA All-Star Game begins today. The showcase of the league's best and brightest, returning to Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 20, 2011, is being broadcast on TNT domestically and to more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
In addition to paper ballots at arenas, fans anywhere can vote in 20 languages on NBA.com and through mobile phones by texting the player's last name to 6-9-6-2-2 ("MYNBA") or by visiting m.nba.com on any wireless carrier.
Balloting in arenas will continue through Jan. 17. NBA.com voting, wireless and SMS balloting concludes Jan. 23. Starters will be announced live on TNT on Jan. 27, during a special one-hour pregame show (7 p.m. ET) before the Miami-Knicks and Celtics-Trail Blazers doubleheader.
All that said ... Millsap, buddy, I hope you make it. For the last 32 days, I've regretted my decision not to be more firm, more passionate, more argumentative about getting you on the ballot. I toed the company line, even though I knew I was wrong. I sat in on a conference call back on Oct. 19 and tried to state my case that you should be on the ballot.
Paul, I let you down.
I didn't stand up to the rest of the panel that selects the names that go on the ballot. But how am I expected to debate ESPN.com's J.A. Adande? The guy is on Around the Horn. Marc Spears? C'mon, those dudes at Yahoo! know everything.
The Toronto Star's highly respected Doug Smith? Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated? Helloooo.
I listened and interjected where I could, trying to convince the group to give Millsap has rightful place on the ballot. I suggested placing his Utah teammate Al Jefferson at center, allowing Millsap space to swim in the forward pool.
The belief from at least one of the esteemed panelists was that Mehmet Okur was on the verge of return and needed to be included among Western Conference centers.
No way, I thought. Okur, as far as I can tell, isn't close to coming back from a torn Achilles suffered in the playoffs. Utah officials are privately bracing for post-Christmas when it comes to seeing Okur in uniform.
Millsap was in for a big year. I just knew it. The Jazz let a 20-10 man (Carlos Boozer) walk to open up room for this four-year pro out of Louisiana Tech. Utah knows something about power forwards out of La. Tech. But since he's not Karl Malone, the overriding opinion was Millsap wasn't ready to be one of the West's 24 best forwards.
Well, he's averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He's racked up five double-doubles. He pulverized Miami for a career-high 46 points last week. His scoring rate checks in 19th in the league going into today.
Twenty-five of the top 26 scorers are on the ballot. Millsap is not.
Seventeen of the top 19 rebounders made our list. Millsap did not.
I made a feeble Millsap push, but at least I wasn't completely alone. "I went hard for Millsap," Adande recalled. "I had to give in to the crowd."
As for the rest of the ballot, I don't have many complaints. Picking the names is a handwringing process paring down some lists or coming up with enough names for others. Each team had to be represented at least three times, further complicating matters. Votes and re-votes were taken to come to a consensus on 24 guards and forwards, and 12 centers for each conference, for 120 players.
Mavericks guard Jason Terry, currently averaging 19.3 points, was a tough cut. Looking back, I'm not sure why we included Mario Chalmers, other than being a member of the Heat. A few nods were given more on reputation than actual chances of making the All-Star team. Grant Hill of the Suns comes to mind, as does Lakers guard Derek Fisher.
I hope our little group can go on despite the Millsap misstep. (TNT's Marv Albert participated in the selection process via email, so I'm leaving him off the hook.) In the end, though, I have only myself to blame. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, even if you're only 5-foot-9, and I've learned my lesson.
If I'm ever given the honor to take part in the ballot process again, I'm going to yell from the mountain top if I have to. Or at least from my cell phone. I owe it to you, Paul.
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