Fans' ‘popularity picks' lead to calls for adjustments in voting

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Unwanted by their teams, Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady are still adored by their fans.

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Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady  AP / File
AP / File
Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady

The Memphis Grizzlies quickly parted ways with Iverson. The Houston Rockets are trying to trade McGrady.

Maybe they can swap stories of their rocky roads while covering each other at the All-Star game.

Despite having little to no impact this season, both went into the final hours of voting in position to start, thanks to loyal fans who still consider them stars even though their stats say otherwise.

And with fans showing signs of getting it so wrong, Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen thinks it's time to limit their influence. The nine-time All-Star said the fan voting has made the game "watered down" and calls for a change in the process.

"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 this week.

Allen said fans should have 50 percent of the vote, with the other 50 percent being divided evenly between the media and the players. He said players know who is playing the best, and believes with his idea, "you'd look at five guys starting the All-Star team regardless of hype or highlight."

"We look at it as a great way to engage the fans," NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said. "We think it's a good system."

The NBA went to fan voting for the starters in the mid-70s and this season made it even more available to its fans by allowing them to vote by text messaging. Paper balloting has already closed, but votes can be cast until 11:59 p.m. tonight on nba.com or by texting a player's last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (MYNBA). Starters will be announced Thursday night.

McGrady has a good chance of being passed, as his lead over Steve Nash for the second guard spot in the Western Conference was only 2,375 votes when the most recent update was released on Jan. 7. He hasn't been able to strengthen his case since then, since he'd already been granted a leave from the Rockets while they try to find a trade.

He's played sparingly in only six games this season since coming back from knee surgery.

"Tracy, if he played, I'm sure he'd play well enough to be an All-Star player because he's done that his career," Allen said. "But again, that's 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."

Iverson had a better shot of holding on to his No. 2 spot in the East, leading Vince Carter by more than 185,000 votes. He's listed with West players on the paper ballot after starting the season in Memphis, but his votes count in the East since he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers.

He hasn't played at an All-Star level, but fans may be looking at what he's done in the past.

"A lot of times voting reflects career achievement as well as yearly achievements," McIntyre said.

Allen also mentioned getting the coaches, who pick the reserves, involved in selecting the starters. Even that may not guarantee the most deserving 10 players, since coaches could have their own opinions about who belongs in the All-Star game.

During Shaquille O'Neal's unproductive, injury-plagued final season in Miami in 2008, former Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said he planned to vote him as a reserve anyway, recalling when he played that respected older players such as Julius Erving still made All-Star teams late in their careers.

That's why Charlotte coach Larry Brown supports Iverson's election.

"I've seen Willie Mays and those older guys start based on what they've done in their career in baseball and we've had that happen in basketball for years, guys that have made a contribution," Brown said. "That's why the fans are involved and I think it's kind of neat that they are involved. They support the league, they vote for their favorite players."

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