The NBA still wants fans to have a say in which players start in the annual All-Star Game. It just wants you to have less of one.
The league announced Monday that two new constituencies will be included in All-Star balloting — NBA players themselves and “a panel of basketball media” — when voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans opens up on Christmas Day. From the league’s announcement:
Fans were first given the opportunity to vote for NBA All-Star starters during the 1974-75 season. This year, the league will extend the platform to include two other important constituents of the game – NBA players and NBA media. Fans will account for 50 percent of the vote, while all current players and a panel of basketball media will account for 25 percent each.
Players and media will be able to complete one full ballot, featuring three frontcourt players and two guards from both the Eastern and Western Conference. Players may vote for their teammates or themselves.
NBA fans may submit one full ballot each day through NBA.com, the NBA App (available on Android and iOS), Twitter, Facebook and Google Search, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China. All current NBA players will be available for selection.
About 75 media members will be named to the panel, according to Sam Amick of USA TODAY, and — in a development that’s sure to launch the determined shaping of scores of tinfoil hats — player and media votes “will not be disclosed.”
The move away from a 100 percent fan-selected starting five comes after years of voting returns marked by arguments about whether or not a player (or multiple players) coming off a brilliant start to the season has been unfairly elbowed out of a starting spot in the All-Star Game by another who might not have performed quite as well on the court, but who has a larger base of supporters able to stuff the ballot box and tilt the totals. After the most recent such voting irregularity — then-Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia nearly getting a starting spot this past February thanks to Wyclef Jean, a Vine celebrity and a strong showing from the Republic of Georgia — sparked widespread angst from former and current players alike, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pledged to take “a fresh look” at the All-Star voting system with an eye toward mitigating the “mildly disruptive” effect of social media on vote totals and starting spots.
Whether this particular “fresh look” constitutes an improvement depends on who you’re asking. Players — many of whom already don’t love that media members determine which players receive year-end awards — likely won’t be super stoked at the prospect of writers and broadcasters having an even larger official role in determining what kind of recognition they get. From Marc Stein of ESPN:
“I guess they’re trying to fix the deserving factor, maybe,” said Kyrie Irving, a three-time All-Star who was left off the team last year as the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry surged ahead of him in the final round of voting. “Leaving it up to the players, that’s good as well. Leaving it up to the fans, that’s good as well. But the other 25 percent I think they need to throw out.”
There might also be some push-back from the other side, too:
NBA says media will be involved in voting for All-Star Game. My take: Journalists should have no direct involvement in the beat they cover.
— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) December 19, 2016
Giving players and media members the opportunity to directly influence All-Star voting could have very real implications for players whose contracts include incentive clauses or other negotiated escalators tied to All-Star appearances. As you might remember, due to the provisions of the “Derrick Rose Rule” included in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the combination of getting bumped out of an All-Star start and an injury keeping him off an All-NBA team wound up costing New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis a cool $23 million of potential income from the five-year maximum contract extension he signed last summer. (The new CBA recently agreed to in principle by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association reportedly includes similar award-recognition levers that will govern the amount players can make on “designated veteran” contract extensions.)
Taking from fans half of the power to determine All-Star starting lineups might make it less likely that we see an “Allen Iverson over Derrick Rose and Joe Johnson in 2010,” “Yao Ming getting a starting spot despite playing five games in 2011,” or “Kobe Bryant over Draymond Green in 2016” kind of situation unfold, and could wind up providing a more accurate reflection of which players most deserve to be highlighted as one of the five best players (or, rather, three best “frontcourt” players and two best “backcourt” players) in their conference through the first half of the season. Whether giving the power to media members and players has other, farther-reaching consequences, though, remains to be seen.
Fans will be able to vote for their favorites via:
• The NBA app on Android and iOS;
• Twitter, by using the player’s first and last name or his Twitter handle, along with the hashtag #nbavote
• Facebook, by using the player’s first name and last name, along with the hashtag #nbavote; or by
• Google search, by searching for “NBA Vote All-Star” or “NBA Vote team name” (example: NBA Vote Warriors) and use the voting cards to select;
Voting will end on Jan. 16. The All-Star Game will be held on Feb. 19 in New Orleans.
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