Tuesday , Jan , 22 , 2008 Christopher Sells

The All-Star Game and Its Unwilling Participants

The All-Star Game and Its Unwilling Participants

With the All-Star Game less than a month away, we can finally start thinking about the players who actually deserve to be there. Hopefully you haven’t given in to the NBA and their posting of the ballot before the season’s first month is over. You probably have, though. Of course, that’s neither here nor there. Just a personal rant.

Anyway, All-Star Weekend is designed for the fans to see their favorite players participate in activities that are less competitive and more lighthearted than those played in the regular season. You get contests on Saturday and games without defense on Friday and Sunday. I still watch in the hope that I’ll see something unforgettable.  I’m usually disappointed. Of course, that’s neither here nor there. Just a personal rant.

The real subject I’m after is All-Star participation. While 10% of the league gathers in various cities (New Orleans this year) to do their equivalent of work, the other 90% gets to do whatever they please. Which isn’t to say that the players who are involved aren’t grateful that they’ve been chosen, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that their feelings would be hurt if they were relieved of their obligations.

Every year, someone starts talking about how they don’t know if they’re going to participate. This happened more often before Stern started cracking down on players, but now people usually come up with injuries that they don’t want to aggravate while entertaining the masses. Shaq is a perpetual offender; other players skip out on media day, knowing that they’ll face a fine. Other players (this is where Shaq lived) would get phantom injuries right before ASW, like muscle pulls and the ever-popular tendonitis. Karl Malone would show up and play two minutes and then sit down on the bench and contemplate hunting little Mexican girls and Rogaine for the rest of the game.

Already this year, Tracy McGrady has mentioned that he may have to sit out the ASG because of the injury he is making his way back from. As a Houston Rocket fan, I am totally OK with this because I know that he can get hurt at any moment. It’s valid reasoning, though. Players who are truly injured should give up their spots to players who otherwise might not get to shine on a national level.

Then, there’s Rasheed Wallace. He won’t be elected by the fans to participate (Dwight Howard will earn than distinction) but with Shaq playing like Shawn Bradley and the lack of quality bigs in the Eastern Conference, he knows it’s very probable that the coaches will select him as an All-Star reserve. And he’s campaigning against it already.

"That’s what I look forward to, those four days," Wallace said recently, referring to the break that most players get during ASW. "I’m not trying to go down there. I want to rest those four days."

And I completely understand his response. Anyone with a job knows how valuable those long weekends and paid vacations are. Now imagine your boss telling you that you’d have to go on a trip during your vacation that would be work-related but would not be actual work, at least not in the sense that it would matter in the scheme of what you do every day. There would probably be cursing involved; perhaps you’d even quit.

Sheed’s coach, Flip Saunders, gave his opinion on the subject. "They can say all that they want, but all our players get paid a lot of money to play this game. You have an obligation. And the reason you get paid is people want to see you." Touché.

So who’s right and who’s wrong? Talk about it in the comments section below.