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Vince Thomas

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Amar'e Stoudemire is an All-Star, whether you think he deserves it or not.
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Getting with the fans to pick a worthy All-Star team


Posted Jan 26 2010 2:08PM

After Allen Iverson was voted to start for the Eastern Conference in next month's All-Star game and Tracy McGrady nearly edged dudes like Steve Nash and Chris Paul in the West, the yearly dissatisfaction with all star voting reached toxic levels. Some bozos want the fans taken out of the equation altogether. Great idea, guys. A game for the fans -- only, the fans have no say.

I do agree, however, that something has to change. I've never had a problem with what I like to call the Legacy Clause. It allowed guys like Dr. Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to play in All-Star games well past their deserving stages. So, A.I. in Dallas doesn't rub me too wrong. In fact, I want Shaq there, too.

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It does rub me the wrong way, however, that Amar'e Stoudemire is starting. Pick any All-Star caliber big man -- Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan -- and I'd argue they're more deserving than Stoudemire.

Whatever way you look at this process, one thing is very clear: Starting in All-Star games is a very special and weighty honor for players. They put a lot of stock in it. So I have what I think is the best solution. Dig it ...

The fans still set it all off by voting for the first five players on each side, the same way they do now -- one center, two forwards, two guards. Next the coaches vote for the final seven the same way they do now -- one center, two forwards, two guards, two wildcards. But here's the new, genius wrinkle. Once the 12 are set, the players select the starters. That pretty much solves everything, right?

So, now that I've taken care of that, let me get to my picks ...

Eastern Conference

STARTERS

Forwards: LeBron James, Cleveland; Kevin Garnett, Boston

No explanation needed for LeBron, who is now, clearly, the best basketball player on the planet. Not the greatest or most accomplished, but nobody plays the game at a better more impactful level than Bronski. KG will be on my All-Star team for as long as he plays. Know that. Legacy Clause in full effect. Should he be starting this season? Not with Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and, arguably, Josh Smith having better years. But nothing egregious here.

Center: Dwight Howard, Orlando

Howard's production is down from last season. Some blame him, some blame the team/coach. If a player is truly great (like we all want Howard to be), then he doesn't allow his team to so conspicuously impact his production. I need for Howard to be far more assertive than he is. This is his fifth season. The kid act has to stop. And based on some of his recent comments about the team only going as far as he'll take them and his growing sense of irritation, I'm hoping we see Grown Man Howard for the season's stretch run. It's in him. At least I hope it is.

Guards: Dwyane Wade, Miami; Allen Iverson, Philadelphia

The three most indespensable players in the league: Bron, D-Wade and Chris Paul. A.I. is definitely not in that group, but I knew this was going to happen. Folks (especially my media brethren) fail to realize that A.I. is still, in many ways, the People's Champ. And when we (the media) tasted blood and piled on A.I. while he was without a team, it only emboldened his fans to throw even more support his way. Anyone banging the "A.I. should give up his spot" drum need to go kick rocks. This is what the fans want. And for the Legacy Clause record, in my book, A.I. can play in every All-Star game until he retires.

RESERVES

Forwards: Paul Pierce, Boston; Josh Smith, Atlanta

Pierce isn't what he used to be, but he's still the Cs most valuable player, and one of the five or six best big-game/big-shot players in the league. Josh doesn't get enough love. One aspect of his game that I just really started to key-in on this season is his court vision. You may or may not know, but Josh is a gifted passer. At this past Friday's game against the Bobcats, my guy and Turner colleague Sekou Smith (who covered the Hawks for about five seasons) said Josh is the Hawks' best passer -- better than Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, all of 'em. He's right. Add that to Josh's improved shot selection, game-changing weakside defense, momentum-swinging dunks and psuedo-omnipresent impact and I'd argue that he's the Hawks' MVP.

Center: Chris Bosh, Toronto

Yes, he's a power forward, but you're allowed to vote for reserves at the position "most advantageous for the All-Star team" and "not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season." So Bosh, the league's most efficient and productive power forward is a no-brainer choice at center.

Guards: Rajon Rondo, Boston; Joe Johnson, Atlanta

Rondo would be my starter in an ideal world. There's Chris Paul and everyone else. Of the "everyone else" there's an elite group that includes Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups and Rajon Rondo. All the other dope point guards (Baron Davis, Derrick Rose, etc.) are one level down. Rondo is now the Celtics' best player. Joe Johnson is the best player on the division leading Hawks. Easy choices.

Wildcards: Shaquille O'Neal, Cleveland; Stephen Jackson, Charlotte

Legacy Clause in full effect. I don't want to think about All-Star weekend without Shaq. As long as he's in the league, I want to see Shaq playing on All-Star Sunday, trying to run a fast break, attempting a wack crossover or a running sky hook and jacking up at least one brick from three. The big fella needs to be in Dallas. Make it happen. And I'm only selecting one player from Charlotte. With that said, anyone that knows basketball can see that Jax is far more important and impactful than Gerald Wallace. I dig Wallace, love how he hits the boards with Marionesque tenacity; but Wallace is just out there balling. Jax is out there getting that rag-tag squad Ws. He takes and makes the big shots, he facilitates, he leads. When clutch-time arrives, Larry Brown and the Cats look to Jax. When the other team is making a run and someone on Charlotte needs to do something about it, Larry Brown and the Cats look to Jax. He's that squad's All-Star.

Snubs: Apologies to Wallace and David Lee -- both having commendable seasons.

Western Conference

STARTERS

Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Denver; Tim Duncan, San Antonio

Remember when Melo was always the odd man out for a few All-Star games? Bron and D-Wade started their All-Star string two seasons before Melo. Even 2003 Draftmate Bosh got started a year earlier than Melo. Sometimes it was due to the glut of worthy candidates in the West, other times it was some dumb demerit, like, uh, sucker-punches at Madison Square Garden. Stuff like that. These days Melo is the second-most popular forward in the league and an MVP candidate. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan is avergaing 20 ppg, 11 rpg and two bpg in just 32 mpg. No Legacy Clause, here ... at least not yet. As of right now, Duncan is all the way legit.

Center: Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix

Not a fan of the fan's pick, here.

Guards: Kobe Bryant, L.A.; Steve Nash, Phoenix

For Laker fans hoping Kobe might sit out the ASG, here's a quote from No. 24: "It's broken. I have a break in two places. It's not going to go anywhere if I sit out. I can still play and let it heal on its own. If I hit it, it's not going to break anymore. It's just going to be sore. The healing is still the same if I sit out." So there. Nash may not deserve to start, but he definitely rebounded from a lackluster 2008-2009 season.

RESERVES

Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

This will be Dirk's ninth ASG in a row. The small lot of nutcases that don't think he's a first ballot Hall of Famer need to chew on that. And here's a prediction: At the start of the 2010-2011 season, following, hopefully, some lessons learned in his first-ever playoff series, KD will take his place with Bron, Kobe, CP, D-Wade and Melo as one of the "elite of the elite."

Center: Pau Gasol, L.A.

You could make the argument that Gasol is the best big man in the game.

Guards: Chris Paul, New Orleans; Brandon Roy, Portland

I love Charles Barkley. I can't imagine what TNT Thursdays will become whenever he moves on. But I have never seen a more indefensible snub than Chuck picking Aaron freaking Brooks over the best point guard in the game. CP leads all All-Star caliber point guards in points, assists, assist/turnover ratio, rebounds and steals. Depending on the day, he jostles with Wade and Melo for the "third best player on the planet" tag. It's bad enough the fans voted in Nash as the starter over him. Chuck's snub was jaw-dropping. Brandon Roy, until KD officially supplants him, leads the pack of players right below the Bron-Kobe-CP-Wade-Melo top five.

Wildcards: Zach Randolph, Memphis; Chauncey Billups, Denver

Zach is having a well-behaved career-year for the surprise team of the season (well, a surprise to everyone but me, who tweeted they'd make the playoffs back in September). Billups is as valuable, if not more, than Melo. He's the Nuggets' dad. He's averaging a career-high 18.9 ppg for the team with the second-best record in the conference. Sorry D-Will, next year.

Snubs: Apologies to Rudy Gay, Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Aaron Brooks. And huge, super-huge, gargantuan, colossal, monstrous apologies to D-Will. He's as deserving as every West reserve not named Dirk, Kevin, Brandon or Chris; so if the coaches vote him in, I won't be mad.

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here or follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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