The NBA All-Star Game is a showcase for the league's stars, both established and new. One of this year's breakout stars has been Utah's Paul Millsap(notes), who has been terrorizing opponents off the bench for several years now. This season, with the opportunity to start, he's become one of the West's best forwards, averaging 21.5 ppg on 58.2 percent shooting, 9.5 rpg and 2.9 apg. On top of that, he has a signature moment, scoring 11 points in 28 seconds to complete the comeback against the Heat last week.
It's easy to imagine him playing a big role at All-Star weekend this February. Except, for some reason, he's been left off this year's All-Star ballot, released Thursday by the NBA.
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How did this happen? As noted by NBA.com's Art Garcia, the ballot is selected by a blue-ribbon panel of some of the nation's best NBA writers, including Yahoo!'s own Marc Spears. Garcia has an apology for Millsap along with a bit of an explanation:
I listened and interjected where I could, trying to convince the group to give Millsap [his] rightful place on the ballot. I suggested placing his Utah teammate Al Jefferson(notes) at center, allowing Millsap space to swim in the forward pool.
I will be perfectly frank: This decision makes no sense. Even if Okur were to return before the break, he almost certainly wouldn't contribute enough to have his first half of the season rank with the other best centers in the West. It's not as if he'd be losing votes he richly deserved by being left off, and Jefferson would have actually been the Utah centers for most of the season to that point.
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To his credit, Millsap is taking this snub in stride. From Tim Buckley of Deseret News:
"It would matter a little bit, you know," said Millsap, who's made a career out of being overlooked and under-appreciated. "But my main thing is winning."
Good attitude, Paul, especially because being left off the ballot isn't the biggest deal in the world. All-Star starters are typically stars in their prime -- or well past it, like Vince Carter(notes) -- and Millsap doesn't have enough of a profile to win the votes of casual fans. So his only realistic path to All-Star recognition will come via coach-voted reserves, which remains a real possibility, ballot snub or no ballot snub.
The only loss here is that many fans won't get hip to Millsap's excellence until the All-Star game itself, should he be selected. If that happens, this ballot situation will be forgotten quite easily.
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