The NBA will release fan voting tallies Thursday when starters are named for the Feb. 14 All-Star Game in Dallas. While health care was a concern in one vote, the health of All-Star balloting is involved in another.
Despite being unworthy of being All-Stars when it comes to statistics and playing time, Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson and Houston guard Tracy McGrady are in line to be named starters. If either or both get the nod, some potential All-Stars figure to be moaning.
"You end up having guys that are in that position that are taking away from some deserving guys,'' Denver guard Chauncey Billups said in an interview with FanHouse about the possibility of Iverson getting elected in the East or McGrady in the West.
Billups could be one of those guys. If McGrady holds off Phoenix's Steve Nash to finish second in West balloting at guard, to quote the Woody Allen character Fielding Mellish in Bananas, it would be "a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.''
"You probably want to give the fans some kind of something to do with it, but I just think that's way too much,'' said Billups, the latest player to be critical of Iverson and McGrady being in position to start. "I would rather it be something like the players vote (for the starters). Everybody knows who should be there or who is playing good enough as far as your peers go. ... The fans probably should affect something. But I think that's a bit too much.''
Balloting closed Monday. In the latest returns, announced Jan. 7, Iverson was in second place at guard in the East, after Miami's Dwyane Wade, with 930,713 votes to 745,581 for Orlando's Vince Carter.
Iverson is a good bet to hold on to that advantage. For the second starter at West guard, McGrady led Nash by the very narrow margin of 746,625 votes to 744,250. If sanity prevailed during the final two weeks of voting, Nash will have overtaken him.
Iverson, who started the season with Memphis before being waived after squabbling about not starting and then joining the 76ers, is averaging 15.1 points in 15 games. Those numbers look Wilt Chamberlain-like compared to McGrady averaging 3.2 points in 7.7 minutes over six games.
McGrady missed the first 1 ½ months of the season recovering from knee surgery. After balking about his limited role upon his return, the Rockets have sent him away and are looking to possibly deal him by the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
"I think the commissioner (David Stern) should make a statement and probably talk about it and give it the guys who deserve to be there,'' said Nuggets coach George Karl, referring primarily to the possibility of McGrady being voted a starter. "I don't think it should be a popularity contest. I have no problem with someone being a popular guy who plays. A.I.'s playing. McGrady would be kind of sad.''
While Karl said he's not advocating taking the vote away from fans, he suggested a rule about a player being replaced if he hasn't logged a certain number of minutes.
Karl is hoping his Nuggets, who have the West's third-best record at 26-14, will get a second All-Star after Carmelo Anthony, a certain starter at forward. But Billups, who has made four straight All-Star appearances, said the competition at guard in the West is "crazy'' and he doesn't know if he'll make it.
"I think getting hurt hurt me,'' Billups said of missing eight full games recently due to a groin strain and large portions of two others, with Denver going 4-6 in those games. "I think if I was playing we would have won more games and now our record's better. ... The honors I have gotten have come with winning.''
Speaking of winning, or the lack of it, Philadelphia has the East's second-worst record. Still, Iverson is in position to take away an All-Star spot from one of the following group of top guards: Carter, Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo of Boston, Chicago's Derrick Rose and Cleveland's Mo Williams.
Williams was an All-Star last season, and Cavaliers coach Mike Brown believes he should again be one. It would be more difficult if Iverson takes up an All-Star spot.
Brown said voting now being done globally has added an interesting dynamic. It's widely believed McGrady, who has been named to seven All-Star Games, is getting plenty of votes in China due to being the teammate of Rockets injured center Yao Ming. And Iverson, who has been named to 10 straight All-Star Games, nine as a starter, is also a global icon.
"If Yi's agents put a marketing campaign together for him in China, he'll probably make it as a starter,'' said Brown, referring to Chinese forward Yi Jianlian of New Jersey, who actually isn't on this season's ballot but was third in East balloting last year. 'That's just how people vote. It's the way it is.''
At least the NBA doesn't have to worry about one thing during this guard-gate controversy. Suspended Washington guard Gilbert Arenas is not in line to be a starter.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson