Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen is most certainly a fan favorite. His jersey consistently ranks in the top 20 according to sales at NBAstore.com. He has starred on both coasts and shoots the crowd-pleasing three better than just about anybody. Fans love him, but the feeling isn't always mutual.
Allen made waves last week, speaking out against the fans' role in determining All-Star starters. Allen believes that fans wield too much power, awarding popular players the honor despite sub-par performances in a given season.
"I like the fact that the fans get the opportunity to vote and pick who they'd like to see in the All-Star Game, but I don't think it should be 100 percent," Allen said. He went on to suggest that fans, players, and media members split up the vote, guaranteeing less-popular players having breakout seasons a fair shot at getting into the game.
Allen's comments were brought on by the latest returns in fan balloting that have guards Tracy McGrady (HOU) and Allen Iverson (PHI) in position to start the All-Star Game in Dallas. The January 7 update is the last before the starting squads are announced on Thursday, January 21 prior to a TNT double-header.
McGrady's lead over Steve Nash (PHO) for the number two spot in the West was very slim, a mere 2,375 votes.
Iverson was ahead of Vince Carter (ORL) by 185,000 votes for the number two guard spot in the East despite averaging career lows in points, assists, rebounds, and minutes. Carter, ironically, is also having one of the worst years of his career. Allen was in fourth, trailing Iverson by 420,000 votes.
At first glance, one might assume Allen is bitter that he will not be starting his 10th All-Star game but such an assumption couldn't be farther from the truth. A past recipient of the NBA Sportsmanship Award, Allen is as selfless as any player in the league.
After joining the Boston Celtics in 2007, Allen and teammates Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were interviewed together. The three stars were asked to simultaneously answer a tough question: who takes the shot with the game on the line? Pierce and Garnett answered "Ray Allen" in unison. Allen must not have seen the memo, because he went off script, responding, "The open man."
To think Allen is jealous of a guy like Allen Iverson is ridiculous. Ray-Ray sacrificed minutes, shot attempts, and nine points off his previous season average to help the Celtics win their first championship in 22 years.
Allen, like many hardcore fans, believes All-Star honors should be reserved for stand out players this season, not this decade. In reference to McGrady playing in only six games this season, Allen stated that including him in the game would be "taking away from another player in the Western Conference that's having a great year, that's been playing, that deserves to be in there."
While Iverson and Carter rack up undeserved votes from uneducated fans, a number of Eastern Conference players have put together stellar, All-Star caliber seasons. Among them:
Joe Johnson (ATL) has quietly averaged 21 PPG on 45 percent shooting, adding five assists and five rebounds per game for the division leading Hawks.
Rajon Rondo (BOS) is nearly averaging a double-double, posting career highs in points (14.0) and assists (9.6). Rondo also leads the league in steals (2.5) and is fourth in the East amongst all guards in rebounds (4.0) for the Atlantic leading Celtics.
Andre Iguodala (PHI) isn't even the most popular AI in his own city despite another solid season. Iguodala is averaging career highs in assists (5.9) and rebounds (6.9) to go along with 17.8 PPG. His rebound average is more than a full board better than any other guard in the league and he is averaging 39.9 MPG, good for third in the league.
Now let's take a look at the Western Conference, where McGrady's election threatens to negate the myriad stand-out candidates. They include, but are certainly not limited to:
Monta Ellis (GSW) has emerged as a legitimate superstar this season despite the Warriors' struggles. Ellis leads the league in minutes (42.0), ranks sixth in scoring (26.1), and third in steals (2.24).
Brandon Roy (POR) continues to improve, upping his scoring average (23.4, sixth in West) and FG percentage (.483) to career highs. He is averaging 5.1 APG and 4.6 RPG and has emerged as the leader of a young Blazers team who will contend in the postseason.
Chris Paul (UTH) missed eight games with an ankle sprain, but has dazzled since returning to action on Dec 4. Paul has put together two separate seven-game double-double streaks and recorded a triple-double at Houston on Dec 29. The Hornets are 14-7 since his return and Paul has played at least 39 minutes in 18 of those 21 contests.
There are certainly other worthy candidates in both conferences that I failed to mention, but you get the idea. If Iverson and/or McGrady starts in Dallas on Feb 14 it will be a travesty. So do me, Ray Allen, and the rest of the enlightened NBA community a favor and cast your ballot for a player who deserves the honor.