The NBA All-Star game voting process is over, and it's still a joke. The final update revealed fans voting Yao Ming as a starter outnumbered by at least 5 to 1 those who punched the ballot for Monta Ellis.
Not that Ellis should start. He shouldn't.
But having Yao atop the voting for Western Conference centers -- despite being out for the season after playing 91 minutes over five games -- illustrates the paucity of quality centers in the West, ridicules the balloting and, more to the point, mocks those who better deserve to play in the game.
And Ellis is infinitely more deserving of being in uniform Feb. 20 at Staples Center.
Monta's individual statistics provide a compelling case. The Warriors guard leads the league in minutes per game (41.2), ranks third in steals (2.25) and fourth in scoring (25.8). His three 40-point games lead the NBA. He's the only player in the league averaging 25 points, five assists and two steals per game.
The NBA and its All-Star game, however, are less about numbers than about images -- of players, of franchises and of the league as a whole.
This All-Star game, being in California, is an apt setting to reintroduce the Warriors to the league and its fans. It would give the NBA an opportunity to reshape the image of the franchise and the franchise a chance to distance itself from a clumsy and inept past.
As one of the league's most explosive young players, Ellis is the appropriate vehicle to accomplish this. He's the most dangerous guard in the West, non-Kobe division, with coaches and players raving about him.
At 25, Ellis has developed well enough that he has become to offense what future Hall of Famer Gary Payton -- a nine-time All-Star -- was to defense at the same age: a rock for his team, a nightly headache for opponents.
Ellis is "unstoppable on certain nights," according to Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
"Offensively, he's complete," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said, alluding to Monta's ability to get to the basket, drop the midrange jumper and hit the 3-pointer.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich conceded Ellis is "having an All-Star kind of year."
The Warriors have gone 13 All-Star games without a representative and only once -- in 2008, when Baron Davis was passed over -- did they have a legitimate candidate. The long absence from this showcase event is one of the legacies of the 16-year ownership of Chris Cohan, a well-meaning but horribly misguided soul who steered the franchise off the NBA map.
If the high point of Cohan's ownership was the team's upset of Dallas in the 2007 playoffs, the low point was seeing and hearing Cohan booed in Oakland during the 2000 All-Star game festivities.
That's the last snapshot of someone representing the Warriors at an All-Star game. Among the 20,000 witnesses that day was NBA commissioner David Stern, who had to be as mortified as he was displeased.
It's safe to assume Stern was, like Warriors fans, delighted to see the team sold last summer. From the NBA's viewpoint, new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber mattered less than the notion of a new start for the franchise.
Stern has no official influence over who plays in the All-Star game. Fans select the starters; the results will be announced Thursday. Head coaches determine the reserves, to be named Feb. 3. For Ellis, receiving praise from Jackson and Popovich is noteworthy because their teams are the best in the West, and Popovich will coach the All-Stars.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant will be on the team, and teammate Russell Westbrook should and will be considered. Clippers sensation Blake Griffin has soared into the conversation, and he's bringing teammate Eric Gordon. Then there's Kevin Love. All these players are in the West and none is over 25.
The next wave of NBA superstars -- image peddlers -- is here, and Ellis belongs. He compares to the Gilbert Arenas of five years ago, to the Allen Iverson of a decade ago.
As one of the six or eight most spectacular open-court players in the league, Ellis should be in the ultimate open-court game. As someone who would represent a franchise with new hope, the league should want him there.
"It would mean not only are our fans paying attention but so are others around the league," Warriors coach Keith Smart said. "It would let people know we're turning a corner "... moving away from how we've been perceived.
"He's playing at an All-Star level. He should get a nod. He should get a chance. He should be there. But we have to erase a lot of the perceptions."
The best way to do that, perhaps the only way, is by creating a new snapshot.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.
New Orleans (30-16) at Warriors (19-25), 7:30 p.m., CSNBA
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