Despite playing in just six games, fans have Tracy McGrady on pace to start in the All-Star game.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
The Rockets told Tracy McGrady on Saturday morning he would not play over the weekend and encouraged a separation by giving him permission to leave the team while awaiting a decision on what happens next -- which will most likely occur Tuesday when the team returns home and at least temporarily addresses the Houston problem.
Still to be resolved is the brewing conference-wide predicament in All-Star voting. The player with just six games and 46 total minutes on his 2009-10 log is in contention to finish in the top two in voting for the West backcourt for the Feb. 14 All-Star game, which would put him in the starting lineup. This would be great for the large block of fans who obviously want him in Dallas (especially fans in China, who in their zeal to support injured Rockets center Yao Ming, have adopted the Rockets as the de facto national team), but it would eliminate one spot for a deserving honoree. Making the West roster is tough enough as it is -- Deron Williams has yet to make the showcase game once.
McGrady trailed only Kobe Bryant in balloting when the initial set of returns were announced and was third behind Bryant and Steve Nash when the latest update came Thursday -- though just 4,874 votes behind Nash. By comparison, fourth-place Chris Paul was 19,722 behind T-Mac. A surge in the next release and McGrady is back in position for a starting job.
Maybe he delicately declines, expressing the proper level of appreciation so it doesn't look like he is snubbing the fans while nobly, and rightly, saying the invitation should go to someone who has -- you know -- played. Maybe he gets hurt again. Maybe he stays out of the top two and the discussion is moot. Or maybe it's none of the above. McGrady gets voted in, McGrady shows and someone has to pay. (The East could face a similar situation if Allen Iverson joins Dwyane Wade in the backcourt.)
Bryant is the leading vote-getter, in both conferences, with a cushion of 834,319 votes over second-place Nash. Paul is likewise an automatic. Nash, too.
Based on recent All-Star history, that leaves two additional openings for guards -- or one opening if McGrady starts. The potential elbow room is Suns power forward Amar'e Stoudemire staying on the current path and winning the fan vote at center, creating an opportunity for West coaches to use a forward spot that would have gone to Stoudemire for an extra man in the backcourt.
Williams, at 19.9 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, should not miss again. Then again, he missed last season en route to 19.4 and 10.7, respectively, though being sidelined 13 games by a sprained ankle in October and November hurt his candidacy. And he missed the game the season before, finishing with 18.8 points, 10.5 assists and 50.7 shooting that year.
Deron Williams: arguably the second-best point guard in the league behind Paul, second-team All-NBA in 2008, Olympian in 2008, Team USA in 2010 if he wants it ... and zero-time All-Star.
Denver's Chauncey Billups, shooting 39.2 percent to go with 17.1 points and 5.7 assists, shouldn't make it again. But he didn't have sparkling numbers -- 18.8 points, 6.5 assists -- when he was named to the 2009 game and was bound for 41.8 shooting. Coaches love to reward leadership, and it's not out of line for the Nuggets to have two representatives as a possible division leader, with Carmelo Anthony headed toward a worthy starting role.
Brandon Roy is at 22.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds as the stabilizing factor in Portland, which could have the second- or third-best record in the West despite all those injuries. Try overlooking all that.
Jason Kidd could be in the top five in the league in assists and will get attention, especially if the Mavericks continue their positive direction. The Monta Ellis bid will be halted by Golden State's poor record. Tyreke Evans may get votes, but any real push probably ends there with the Kings at 13-16 -- great for them but a hit to any candidacy. Besides, the coaches who will vote on the All-Star reserves know he will make the rookie game that is played the day before, an out they know still allows Evans recognition for an impactful first half.
That's a lot of uncertainty about who joins Bryant, Paul and Nash, pretty typical for this kind of conversation. McGrady's popularity adds to it.
Unless T-Mac is given permission to stay away from the All-Star team, too.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
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NEW YORK -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Dec. 21, through Sunday, Dec. 27.
James led the Eastern Conference in scoring (28.8 ppg), was second in assists (7.3 apg) and added 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals as Cleveland went 4-0 on the week, including three wins on the road. On Dec. 23, James recorded his second triple-double of the season with 34 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a 117-104 overtime win at Sacramento. James' 29 points on Dec. 21 helped the Cavaliers snap Phoenix's 19-game home win streak. This is James' second Player of the Week nod this season.
Bryant paced the league in scoring (37.7 ppg) and added 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.7 steals (first in the Western Conference), leading the Lakers to a 2-1 week. Bryant led the Lakers in scoring in all three contests, and on Dec. 22 scored 40 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in a 111-108 win over Oklahoma City. This is Bryant's third Player of the Week nod this season and second consecutive.
Here is a recap of the week for James and Bryant:
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dec. 21 @ Phoenix: Posted 29 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in a 109-91 win over the Suns.
Dec. 23 @ Sacramento: Scored 34 points to go along with 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a 117-104 win over the Kings.
Dec. 25 @ L.A. Lakers: Tallied 26 points, four rebounds, nine assists and two steals in a 102-87 win over the Lakers.
Dec. 27 vs. Houston: Recorded 29 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals in a 108-83 win over the Rockets.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Dec. 22 vs. Oklahoma City: Poured in 40 points and added eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in a 111-108 win over the Thunder.
Dec. 25 vs. Cleveland: Recorded 35 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a 102-87 loss to the Cavaliers.
Dec. 26 @ Sacramento: Posted 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 112-103 win over the Kings.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta's Al Horford, Cleveland's Mo Williams, Dallas' Erick Dampier, Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Kaman, Memphis' Zach Randolph, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Portland's Brandon Roy.