The Western Conference is loaded this season, as has been the case for a while now, with in upwards of probably 20 players or so putting together All-Star worthy seasons, not including a pair of players in Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook ranking as All-Star level talents whose bodies betrayed them. That’s cold comfort to those in the midst of career years in 2013-14 that were left off the Western Conference All-Star team, because outside of the injured Bryant’s inclusion as a voted-in starter, there really aren’t any selections on the Western roster worth arguing over. Everyone deserved it, even if many All-Star types were left off.
One of those All-Star types is Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, who is having a fantastic season for a very good Phoenix Suns team that was expected to fight Utah for the worst record in the West this year. Dragic, who was recently named the West’s Player of the Week, is averaging 20 points and six assists for the West’s sixth-best team, working up those fine numbers in spite of having to share the ball for over half the season with the similarly-minded (and talented, and someday All-Star worthy) Eric Bledsoe.
Dragic missed both the fans’, and coaches’ cut, as his only hope to make the team is as an injury replacement for Bryant, or Chris Paul should the Los Angeles Clippers guard fail to make it back in time from a right shoulder injury. Dragic’s younger brother Zoran, who is currently contributing fine work in the Spanish League with Unicaja Málaga, has a rather odd reason why his older bro didn’t make team.
“We knew it was going to be tough because he is not Chinese. He is from Slovenia, a country of only 2 million people”, Zoran said to SpanishHoops. “He still has a chance to go to the All-Star because there are some injured players. We’ll see. Anyway, he is playing the best basketball of his career, so if he’s not called now, he will have time to be an All-Star in the future.”
That seems a bit … off.
If Dragic is directly referring to Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, then his hypothesis can be dismissed. There was some worry that Lin, a very good guard that is not of an All-Star caliber, would be routinely voted into All-Star games as a starter because of his scores of international fans. This hasn’t happened in his two years on the ballot, though.
Lin finished fourth amongst guards in votes in the West, over 360,000 votes shy of the second-place Kobe Bryant. And I doubt very much that Dragic’s Slovenian heritage had anything to do with him being left off the reserve team by NBA head and assistant coaches.
If the younger Dragic is pointing to China as a country that only votes for stars, ahead of more rewarding players, and that the disparity in size between that country’s population and Slovenia is the reason why someone like Bryant got in despite his injury-plagued campaign … well, he’s still a little off.
For one, Bryant wasn’t exactly the guy who was keeping Dragic from starting. Chris Paul isn’t even starting this All-Star game, if we’re going to go down that road, and it’s debatable as to whether or not Goran is ahead of Damian Lillard or Tony Parker this year in terms of impact and play. It really is a coin flip between those three.
On top of that, this stuff has been going on for years. Well before the idea of millions of Chinese voters thrashing about came into play.
Undeserving or injured stars have made NBA All-Star starting teams for years, dating back to Anfernee Hardaway, Vince Carter, Grant Hill, and, yes, Yao Ming once international online voting started to take hold. B.J. Armstrong started in the 1994 All-Star Game. These things happen. If we only counted votes from the country of Slovenia, Goran Dragic would probably be starting – but they also would have probably voted in Kobe Bryant, as well. Stars, and fair weather fans, rule here.
Now, there could be something lost in translation here, with Dragic, and Zoran really is sticking up for his big brother – a deserved All-Star stuck in a loaded conference. Still, the last line of this movie isn’t really the reason Goran Dragic wasn’t voted into the All-Star team:
Don’t blame China, don’t blame Slovenia. Blame the fact that the Western Conference is so damn good. And Goran Dragic is a big reason why it’s so damn good.
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