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Yao Ming again voted an All-Star starter, cue outrage

Jan 27, 2011, 8:06 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

In Yao Ming’s election as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, there’s no heart-warming consolation to be had; Yao Ming’s season is gone, and his inclusion in this event — which will give him the eighth All-Star berth of his career — is really just a reminder of why using a popular vote as the sole mechanism to decide the All-Star starters is just a bit wonky.

I’ll save the cries of injustice for another writer, though. Regardless of the problems with the All-Star system as a whole, this is what N.B.A. fans are stuck with at present. Yao will add another minor accolade to his N.B.A. résumé, and we can all give him a golf clap when his name is announced at the big game.

It’s time to star talking replacements though, and luckily, Tom Ziller has the league protocol for the replacement for an All-Star starter outlined for a post on SB Nation:

NBA head coaches (or their designated PR flacks) will now vote on seven reserve spots in each conference. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players, and must include at least one center, two forwards and two guards on their ballots. Once the reserves are named, [David] Stern will announce a replacement for Yao and any other players who pull out of the game. Gregg Popovich, who will coach the West All-Stars, will select one of his reserves to take Yao’s starting spot. Gasol, who played center during Andrew Bynum’s injury, would be a likely choice, as would Pop’s own big man Tim Duncan.

So replacing Yao is actually a bit of a tag-team; David Stern tabs the player who will take Yao’s place on the playoff roster, while Gregg Popovich hand-picks the player from the full roster who will step into the starting lineup. As Ziller mentioned, Gasol and Duncan are the obvious candidates, and it seems unlikely that Pop would step out of the box here. He may not have much respect for the event at large, but choosing an unlikely candidate to replace Yao only leads to more bothersome interviews and questions, while going with the expected will get him through the weekend with minimal conversation on the topic. When Gasol or Duncan are picked as anticipated, that will be that. Just conjecturing here, but I’d think Pop would find some solace in that, especially in an event that will otherwise shower him with required media events around the clock.

  1. kindasporty - Jan 27, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Personally I think if the fans want to see someone in the All Star Game then it doesn’t matter if other people thinks he “deserves” it or not. If the voters think he does then he does. The problem isn’t with the voters, the problem is with people who use how many All Star Games a player started as a measuring stick for their career success. All that means was the player was popular. I think that if the majority of the fans want to vote Yao Ming then by all means vote for him and don’t worry about if he’s the best player or not.

  2. mpleafan - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    i tells ya that by the end of this decade, all all star games will b like nhls.

  3. fouldwimmerlaik - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    The premise of this exercise is to find out who they want to play in the All-Star Game, right?

    The thing is, Yao has already been out for the season EVEN BEFORE THE VOTING STARTED.

    Given that, Yao shouldn’t be one of the options to choose from in the first place. Just a waste of vote since everyone knew from the start that he won’t be able to play. The slot could have been given to someone deserving AND available.

    Now, if he was injured during the process of voting, then it would just have been unfortunate for Yao and his fans.

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM

      The ballot for the All-Stars is put together before the season starts. That always leads to problems. You would think in a digital age they could do it later, but that’s not the case. Before the season started it was thought Yao would be back (and he was for five games). The flaw is the timing of when the ballots are chosen.

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Jan 28, 2011 at 1:52 AM

        Thanks for the clarification, Kurt.

        Still, it all boils down on the process of choosing the candidates in the ballot. As you succinctly put it, it is the timing of when the ballots are chosen.

  4. celebritybodyguards - Jan 28, 2011 at 3:01 AM

    If there were a simple “minimum number of games played out of the first 40 games in a season” rule that would automatically include or eliminate ANY active roster NBA player from the ballot, it would then be as simple as a webmaster just removing a guy’s name such as Yao from the choices on the website after he is mathematically eliminated from reaching the minimum. Sort of like baseball has a “magic number” to determine IF a team has a chance to make the playoffs by calculating simple things such as games remaining and wins by them vs losses by other teams chasing them in the standings.

    If there is one thing the Chinese voters understand, it’s MATH. However, the US based NBA and it’s website counts on the “hits” and traffic flowing in from China to bolster it’s own rankings among top sites around the world for advertising dollars just the way that Facebook makes billions while not charging it’s users to be members but charging advertisers who pay for space on the site based on traffic and users that see their products. So, if you eliminate Yao Ming from the online ballot, then, you eliminate China and the millions of multiple ballot stuffing citizens that use robots to flood the online voting system on the NBA’s website for the All-Star game ballot.

    It’s not about the “fans” of the NBA here in America that actually ATTEND the games in person and watch these games here on USA television that the NBA caters to. It’s the global market for merchandising and sales of NBA related items online worldwide.

    So, perhaps the could just have the default “winner” be the 2nd place vote getter in the category for starting center that automatically wins. Which would be even easier to count. In this case, it would go to Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum depending on whom was listed as a “center” on the ballot.

    No other Western conference center would be popular among the general fan base of the NBA as a Laker I’m quite sure.

    By the way, both Blake Griffin AND Kevin Love should be on the team ahead of Carmelo Anthony based on statistics this season and their impact on the game, their team, and the positive buzz they both have generated. Griffin is very charismatic and will be an All-Star for many years to come in this league. Love is having an amazing season and does incredible things for a guy his size with a lack of quickness or leaping ability.

    Any other suggestions on how to “fix” the voting for this game?

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