PRE-DONUT DONUT!: Later today, I'll release the full video of my press-row visit with Mavs radio voice Chuck Cooperstein ... and the interesting technique he uses to shove all those factoids into his big brain.
But for now ... a sampling ... Mavs Play-by-Play Ace Chuck Cooperstein's Little Blue Book!
Again, more Coop coming up later for Premium readers (check out the details here) ... now back to All-Star business!
First, you can't discuss the NBA All-Star Game voting process without a mention of Yao Ming, the injured international icon who has played all of five games this season for the Rockets and will nevertheless garner a skillion votes from fans in the popularity-contest portion of the voting.
But this is no mockery. This is the system, everybody getting a vote (or in the case of fans, lots of votes). That means I get one, too.
So who gets the first five nods in the West and the first five nods in the East from me? Now lets go to the Fish ballot, where performance matters more than position, where logic gets the nod over fandom, and where winning – yes, even in an exhibition game – is the only thing!
Who Deserves the Nods in the West?
So what he hasn't been able to do on the court supports his candidacy – not only for the All-Star Game, but also for the MVP.
And what he does do on the court? The UberMan was shooting a career-best 54.5 percent before sustained a knee sprain on Dec. 27. As Dallas coach Rick Carlisle points out, he is the NBA's plus/minus King with a 27-points plus.
Now, once the game in LA commences, he won't do much on the court. He'll be deferential to the fellas. But you know what? The UberMan's respect for his peers … the way he almost acts like he doesn't quite belong … is one of the reasons he's so deserving.
DONUT 2: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz – He's experiencing a career year, taking so much on his shoulders while Utah tries to stay above the Great Salt Lake water due to the weight of injuries.
It could be argued, I suppose, that he's not doing enough, given Utah's problems against quality teams.
As Deron himself said, "Obviously we're struggling (against winning clubs). We're not beating the caliber of teams that we're going to be playing in the playoffs -- if we get to the playoffs."
That once seemed like an unthinkable "think.'' It's a possibility now … but it doesn't preclude The Colony's own D-Will from earning this honor.
DONUT 3: Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets – He's coming back from injury. He's enduring alterations in the front office. He's calming fears that he wants to leave the Big Easy. And he's doing it all in All-Star style.
New Orleans has faded from true contention since its stellar 8-0 start to the season, and eventually, CP3 might retreat to his previous position: That he needs more help in New Orleans or needs to be freed to go elsewhere. But this season he's been a good soldier – and a great performer.
DONUT 4: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – His "bone-on-bone'' knee problem doesn't seem to be holding him back too much. So I'm not going to hold him back, either.
His drawing power … the fact that this year's game is being played in LA … Kobe's history of showmanship … those are somebody else's reasons for voting for him. Me? He wins games for the Lakers. And he's a great bet to win the game for the West, too.
I don't have to like voting for The Drama Queen. But I have to vote for him.
DONUT 5: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan makes sacrifices. Tony Parker controls the pace. And then Ginobili makes the game-winning play … often on both ends of the floor. It's a set formula for a Spurs team that has changed in so many ways – a faster pace, reliant on low-profile guys, some questions about their size and their defense – but still has going for it a concept that fits star players into team-first roles.
How does he get so open at game's end like that? (Besides all his traveling, I mean.)
Seriously, Ginobili best epitomizes why San Antonio is the West's best team.
Who Deserves the Nods in the East?
DONUT 6: Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks – If Dirk's not the MVP, then maybe Stoudemire is.
He has almost single-handedly altered the outlook and maybe the culture of the Knicks, a traditional have-not that now makes national TV appearances largely because of the show he leads.
The numbers are there – 26 points, nine rebounds, 2.6 assists per game – but it's more than that. Some players seem to wilt under the NY spotlight. Amare seems to have not only embraced it (complete with naked magazine covers) but even thrived due to it, and maybe matured due to it.
Listen to Amare talk about his mates while suggesting that maybe the Knicks don't even need to trade for Carmelo Anthony:
Right now, in New York we have a solid team," Stoudemire says. "We don't really need much. We're playing well. We feel like the team we have can be very successful if we keep improving individually and as a team on the defensive end."
Maturity in the spotlight. That's Amare.
DONUT 7: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls -- Rose is a member of an exclusive club as he ranks in the NBA's top 10 in scoring and in assists. That's All-Star stuff … and maybe more than that.
Rose is averaging 23.8 points and 8.3 assists per game. Once upon a time, a criticism of his game was a lack of a terrific outside shot. You don't hear that criticism of Rose much anymore. In fact, you don't hear any criticism of Rose much anymore.
DONUT 8: LeBron James, Miami Heat – The fun-loving arrogance is off-putting to some. The latest chapter in that book? LeBron's all-points-bulletin to MVP voters to be very aware of how he and Dwyane Wade's excellence might cancel each other out. LeBron wanted it known that the two stars joined forces knowinf that loomed as a possibility, and by announcing it, made a selfish declaration about unselfishness.
But LeBron, if that's the way you feel? That there can only be plaudits for one of you?
Fine. It's you. Wade gets to be an Honorable Mention.
I'm sure – what with the Heat's apparently unprecedented level of unselfishness – y'all are fine with that.
DONUT 9: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic – He is the centerpiece of everything Orlando does (including trade shuffling in attempts to give him more support) and he is the centerpiece of every opponents' gameplan – almost singularly so. Howard is as dominant an interior two-way player as there is in the NBA.
You just saw Howard come through Dallas and let me tell you, whatever successes the Mavs had individually against Superman were the result of a very intense gameplan that was complete Howard-centric.
DONUT 10: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics – As with Ginobili above, Rondo's presence here is both an individual honor and a symbolic gesture to represent the Celtics' quality and depth. Something has to give with all those top-of-the-line Celts … so the something that has to give is Rondo.
I'm an admirer of Jason Kidd's game, and Rondo plays like Kidd's torso (and maybe even his mentality) has been melded onto Carl Lewis' legs.
DONUT 11: Want the almosts?
My East Runners-Up: Paul Pierce, Celtics; Dwyane Wade, Heat; Andrew Bogut, Bucks; Al Horford, Hawks.
My West Runners-Up: Kevin Durant, Thunder; Russell Westbrook, Thunder; Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets; Blake Griffin, Clippers. … and then maybe one more guy, who isn't even on the official ballot … but who is both deserving and capable of filling a West need: Is there a better center in the West than Dallas' Tyson Chandler?
DONUT 12: A quick thanks to you for reading DallasBasketball.com and for considering us at the DB.com Mavs Premium coverage level , or however you wish to support and enjoy the site … and a quick thanks to friends and sponsors like iDealGolfer.com Esparza's ... and McKinneyDentist.com ... Thanks, y'all!
More Mavs stuff coming throughout the day ... which began with D-Lord's breakdown of Harrington and Harris as possible Mavs targets in the Melodrama ... and including a full Mavs practice report from DallasBasketball.com!