The fans mostly got it right. Devin Harris or Joe Johnson or Vince Carter would have been better than Allen Iverson at guard for the Eastern Conference, but All-Star balloting has always been more popularity contest than deserving contest and let there be no doubt that AI is popular while leading the Pistons' charge to mediocrity.
The public polling that determined the 10 starters for the Feb. 15 show-off festival in Phoenix is a very credible list, though. Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul in the West, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Iverson in the East. Iverson is the only guy who would have missed the game if not for the fans.
The coaches take it from here and pick the reserves, choosing two more guards, two forwards, one center and two at any position. They finish the rosters for their respective conference and cannot select a player from their own team. The results will be announced Thursday.
No one could have foreseen that the best of the debates will be at Western Conference center. As in: Hey, coaches! You want the old guy or someone from a terrible team that doesn't deserve representation?
There's always answer C. None of the above. The electorate could go off the board and pick Pau Gasol, a power forward but the center as the Lakers charged through the second half last season and into the Finals. A lot of this is one big shell game anyway. The Spurs lobbied to get Tim Duncan among the forwards a year ago, aware he would probably lose out to Yao at center, and no one complained. It's the All-Star Game -- whatever.
But if the West coaches are going to pick a center, an actual center, there's nothing but serious point-counterpoint for every candidate.
*Andris Biedrins, Warriors.
For: 13.7 points, 12 rebounds, 55.6 percent from the field.
Against: The Warriors are 13-30.
*Marcus Camby, Clippers.
For: 12.3 points, 13.8 rebounds (second in the league), 2.60 blocks (second in the league), 50.6 percent.
Against: The Clippers are 9-32.
*Al Jefferson, Timberwolves.
For: 22.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.62 blocks. Top 15 in each category.
Against: The Timberwolves are 13-27.
*Shaquille O'Neal, Suns.
For: 17.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 59 percent (second in the league). Plus, and a big plus, the Suns are 23-17.
Against: He's the only candidate not averaging a double-double. The numbers are a very encouraging early sign for Phoenix, but mostly trail the others.
Coaches will have a very hard time rewarding anyone on a team 20 or 25 games under .500, and that's Golden State, L.A. and Minnesota. But O'Neal isn't in the top 15 in points, rebounds blocks. Answer C looks more realistic all the time.