The NBA changed the All-Star voting process two years ago, in part to prevent Zaza Pachulia being elected a starter.
Instead, it might keep Dwyane Wade from being one — again. Luka Doncic and Derrick Rose, too.
Entering the last full week of balloting, Wade would be in a good position for a farewell All-Star start under the old system, which was solely dependent on fan votes. He’s running second among Eastern Conference guards, with a sizeable gap to No. 3 Kemba Walker after the second set of returns were released last week.
Doncic is second among West forwards in a bid to start as a rookie, and Rose is ahead of MVP James Harden in the second spot in the West backcourt.
But fan vote is now just 50 percent of the process, a change that was made after Pachulia was undeservedly nearly elected a starter through a huge overseas push in 2016. The players’ vote and a media panel each account for 25 percent, and in its first year it did stop Pachulia, who would have been elected to start by fans in 2017. So would have Wade, who was a perennial starter in the previous system.
The revamped process might keep him home again. And it might delay a Doncic selection that seems inevitable, but may have to wait.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was reminded Sunday that he said Doncic should be an All-Star — though even with his performance as a rookie it’s hard to think he should be ahead of players such as Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.
“I do have a vote for reserves. I think what I meant to say is he sure looks like an All-Star,” Kerr said. “Whether he makes it or not, he’s an All-Star. Certain guys just stand out. You see what they do, you see what they mean to the game. If he doesn’t make it this year, he’s going to make it soon enough.”
Voting continues through the end of the day on Jan. 21.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, ACROSS THE POND
The New York Knicks were just across the country and now they’re going across the pond.
They are leaving Monday for London, where they will play the Washington Wizards on Thursday in the NBA’s annual trip to The O2 Arena.
It’s a grueling stretch of the schedule for the Knicks, who just returned home from six-game trip, mostly to the Western Conference, that had them on the road for 15 days. Their game Friday against Indiana was their first at Madison Square Garden since losing to Milwaukee on Christmas and they were a little worn out from their travel, with Enes Kanter missing it because of an illness and Tim Hardaway Jr. leaving early after cramping.
That game, followed by their matinee Sunday against Philadelphia, was during their stretch of only five days at home before heading across the Atlantic. But coach David Fizdale said he liked the crammed schedule for his young team.
“I just see it as all experience. Everything is experience for this group,” Fizdale said.
“So I just like the idea of they can’t relax mentally and it’s always a challenge for them,” he added, “and it’s constantly making them uncomfortable and just pushing them to a place where they have to adapt.”
Kanter won’t make the trip , saying he believes he could be assassinated for his opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
Charlotte at San Antonio, Monday. Tony Parker should receive a much warmer welcome than Kawhi Leonard did in his return.
Minnesota at Philadelphia, Tuesday. First meeting between the teams since the Timberwolves dealt Jimmy Butler to the 76ers.
Golden State at Denver, Tuesday. The top two teams in the West meet, with Golden State having dropped its last two in Denver.
Golden State at L.A. Clippers, Friday. Potentially the season debut of DeMarcus Cousins.
Toronto and Milwaukee have the two best records in the NBA, and have each had their time atop the Eastern Conference.
So, who is better?
Lloyd Pierce didn’t have the answer to that question, but was in a good position to evaluate the teams after his Atlanta Hawks lost to both over a recent five-day span.
“Their main guys are a little different,” he said, referring to Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Obviously, Kawhi is such a grounded player. You can’t speed Kawhi up, you can’t rush him. You’re not going to get him emotionally charged. He’s just always under control and they can play slower and they can play poised basketball, and they can put him in an iso situation.
“Giannis is in your face. Everything about his game is in your face and now the way they’re playing is, he’s in your face and they’re spacing the floor, and pick your poison. He’s either getting to the rim and you’re seeing him dominate that way, or he’s getting downhill and someone has to help and they’ve got shooters all over the floor.”
Milwaukee crushed Atlanta 144-112 on Jan. 4, but the Raptors beat the Bucks 123-116 the next night and have regained the East lead. Toronto then went home and edged Atlanta 104-101 last Tuesday.
“I think they play differently,” Pierce said of the teams. “I think it’s a different style, so I don’t know. It remains to be seen who’s the better team right now.”
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