Today is All-Star Theme Day for SBNation's NBA arm. Each NBA site is putting up a post about why a player or players should make the All-Star team, or at least why someday one of their developing players could be featured in the All-Star Game.
"Oh goody!" say you, "This is where Dave will convince the world that not having LaMarcus Aldridge make the team would be the biggest travesty since 'One Day at a Time' was canceled!"
As long-time readers know, I stopped believing in the importance/sanctity/advisability of the All-Star game in 1992. That was the year when Clyde Drexler, leading West scorers and on his way to being declared MVP, deferred to the returning/departing Earvin "Magic" Johnson who had shocked the world by retiring at the beginning of the season after having been diagnosed with HIV. Johnson deserved some mention or honor, but his West teammates force-feeding him the ball while the Eastern opponents refused to guard him, leaving him open for ridiculously easy shots, seemed excessive. It revealed once and for all that the game had a closer kinship to professional wrestling than NBA basketball. That it also cost Drexler (albeit willingly) his only shot at the All-Star MVP award was bitter icing spread thickly on the cake for this young-ish Blazers fan. Why bother?
Though I'm not bitter anymore, I still don't see the point of the All-Star game beyond a temporary thrill for those who watch. As entertainment, like going to see a movie, I can dig it. I'll watch when a Trail Blazer participates in one of the skill competitions to see how he does. But any seriousness attached to the actual play involved seems like a waste of time to me, as does any and all worrying about who actually makes the team and doesn't.
I'll be real with you. As I type the Blazers are in the midst of a 6-game losing streak and their team is light years away from where they want/need it to be. I don't care if LaMarcus Aldridge or Nicolas Batum make the All-Star squad. Neither appointment would change the team's situation.
After years of hearing Zach Randolph claim (whine?) that his goal for the season was to become an All-Star as his team was crumbling around him and his stats grew progressively more self-serving, I've become inured to public proclamations from players about the game as well. I can understand why Aldridge and Batum might be invested personally but I don't need to hear about it until this team makes the Finals, they're key producers on it, and they're still not getting named. Then I'll think an injustice is being done. All-Star appointments are going to be a priority for them, sure, but I want Batum worrying more about not getting backdoor cuts run against him when he turns his head and Aldridge worrying about how to lead his team out of the current slump. An exhibition game should be about the 300th priority on their list of things to concern themselves with right now and 3000th on the list of things they bring up publicly.
Over the years I've heard people offer counters to this stance. The two most common ones:
1. Being an All-Star will draw a guy more notice from the referees and thus more foul shots.
2. Having an All-Star will bring the Blazers more national prestige.
There's always been a de facto star system in the NBA. You'd have to be a fool not to notice it. But I don't believe a low-level All-Star appointment makes one bit of difference on that scale. I cover 82 games for the Blazers and watch hundreds more scouting opponents during the season. I'm loosely aware of who's at an All-Star level but I might not be able to tell you who filled the 10th-12th spots on each All-Star team in a particular year. I probably know a marginal guy has been an All-Star but whether it's once or twice, in 2010 or 2012, on a given day I don't recall without looking it up. Fans know and fans care, but when I'm analyzing a team I don't expect anything different from Zach Randolph or LaMarcus Aldridge whether or not they made the All-Star game in a particular year or not. I suspect referees, whose schedules are even more grueling and who have even more of an established professional position than I do, are far closer to the analyst than the fan. They'll give Randolph or Aldridge a call over Nolan Smith or Hasheem Thabeet. But at no point are they going to go, "It looks like somebody fouled the otherwise-talented Randolph but he's never made the All-Star game so I'm not blowing the whistle. If that were Aldridge getting hacked, though? Total foul. He made it in 2012!"
As far as prestige goes, there are All-Stars and All-Stars. If the Blazers got a guy like LeBron James or Dwight Howard then yes, they'd get prestige from his fame and that would include his performance the All-Star game. But those guys bring their fame with them. Sometimes, as eventually happened with Clyde Drexler, a homegrown guy will grow into that level of notice. But even then you see the difference between his prestige and that of the low-level All-Star reserves.
Aldridge could make the All-Star team 10 years straight and I guarantee you nobody nationally would think more highly of the team or him than they do right now. The play-by-play man covering the game would say, "This is Aldridge's tenth straight appearance for the West" and his color guy would reply, "He's just one of those guys who's quietly really good every year." Then the play-by-play man would shoot back with, "Playing in Portland doesn't help with that 'quiet' part." And that would be the end of it. 14-year-old fans in Milwaukee would not then be inspired to buy Aldridge jerseys and put Blazers posters on their wall, nor would any of the national media care beyond putting a bullet-point footnote in their write-up of the game...if that.
I'd believe that an All-Star game could be the first national exposure for an ultra-talented guy but I don't think an All-Star appointment will take him anywhere he wasn't going anyway.
The only argument that makes any sense to me involves dollars and cents. Some guys have a bonus clause in their contracts for making the All-Star team. Personally I don't think those should be allowed. Fans and coaches shouldn't be making decisions over hundreds of thousands of dollars with their votes. The game isn't serious enough and there's no guarantee that any of the voters take it seriously either. But if you sign a contract with that kind of provision, you know what you're getting into. Still, I empathize with guys wanting to get paid more and I do hope that if Aldridge or Batum have one of those clauses they make it and are happy with the money.
So there...having just rained on SBNation's entire All-Star Theme Day parade myself I invite you to chime in and tell me all the ways in which I'm wrong and how badly you want to see Blazers over All-Star weekend. Chime in below.