- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The All-Star starters were announced Thursday night -- and, no, we didn't actually punch a ballot. We never do.
The belief here at Stein Line HQ has always been that the ballots belong to the fans to vote for whomever they wish, for whatever reasons.
We know you want to know how we would have voted. So here's our mythical, bias-free ballot:
Stein's selections: Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki
Comment: KG can't do more than he's doing, leading the Wolves in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Problem is, Minnesota is woefully underachieving and Dallas is overachieving. Team success gives Nowitzki the edge, especially given how good he's been without longtime security blanket Steve Nash. As for Duncan ... no need to explain the obvious.
Fan selection: Yao Ming
Stein's selection: Yao Ming
Comment: With Amare Stoudemire and Duncan insisting on being listed as forwards, Yao has no reasonable opposition. It doesn't hurt that Yao, in spite of all the bashing this season, is still averaging a productive 18 and 8.
Stein's selections: Nash and Ray Allen
Comment: T-Mac's Rockets have rallied from a poor start and Kobe's Lakers are better than most everyone expected. Phoenix and Seattle, mind you, are the biggest surprises in the whole league, and the trigger men responsible can't be ignored. Not in this cyberspace, anyway.
Comment: Nonpartisan voters will be rooting for O'Neal to pass Carter or Hill in the final tally that will be announced Feb. 3, since he's widely recognized as the best forward on the ballot and since Carter wouldn't even make the East squad if the coaches voted on all 12 spots. The case for Hill as a reserve is compelling, and touching given his years of health torment, but I'd still rank two others ahead of him besides O'Neal: Jamison and, yes, rookie Emeka Okafor.
Fan selection: Shaquille O'Neal
Stein's selection: Shaquille O'Neal.
Comment: You need a justification?
Stein's selections: James and Dwyane Wade
Comment: It's not easy bumping Iverson, because he has made the transition to point guard admirably. But if we're being consistent, team success nudges Wade ahead of The Answer. Barely.
8hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne
7hESPN Stats & Information