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Lakers on the All-Star ballot: Odds, ends and strategies

November 10, 2009 | 11:55 pm

Converse_all-stars The All-Star ballots were released today, along with a new avenue for voting.  Texting!!!  It's what the kids enjoy, as is my understanding of kids these days and their hobbies.   As for the purple and gold players officially eligible for a nod, we're looking at Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.  Since everyone gets excited at the thought of an All-Star game chock full of Lakers, I offer a few alphabetically arranged thoughts on their individual prospects for a gig over the break.

While his stats have climbed up of late, I'm guessing Artest's overall numbers- particularly points- will be too low for him to emerge a serious contender.  And since defense plays into the process just barely more than the non-existent essay contest, Artest looks even more like a dark horse candidate who'd need an ace in the hole to get over the hump. 

Enter Twitter.

The All-Star format is nothing if not interactive with the unwashed masses, who tend to regard Artest as something of a Twitter deity.  He's handing out milkshakes.  Taking folks to Sparks games.  Hell, he even tweeted his cellie digits for anyone that wanted to give him a ring.  Dude basically owns cyberspace.  You don't think he could use Twitter to drum up a little "Vote Early, Vote Often" action?  If anyone can use the latest social networking craze to tip the scales in his favor, it's Artest.  I think he and his brother Daniel account for roughly 37% of the world's Tweets by themselves.

Obviously, Kobe's set in stone as a starting guard.  It would be less shocking for me to make the All-Star team than the above mentioned outcome not to happen.  For me, what's most interesting with Kobe is the possibility of Kobe leading all players with votes.  Last season, he trailed just Dwight Howard, and was just nudged out by KG and LeBron in 2008.  But between the recent title, his red hot start, and the oodles of Chinese voters who already consider Kobe a God and need someone to push hard with Yao and Yi out (and Yue really out), I'd handicap Kobe with pretty strong odds. 

Plus, today's youth is navigating the Internet at a shockingly early age, meaning a recent sing-a-along participation could push Kobe over the top.  Unless, of course, he's penalized for his actual singing.

(By the way, I realize Sesame Street has turned "doing stuff kids won't understand to entertain their parents" into an art form, but even by that standard, this is quite the crew of celebs the average five-year won't recognize, beyond Kobe.  Christina Applegate? An Access Hollywood personality that even I had to Google? Jake Gyllenhaal? "Mommy, mommy!  Jake from 'Donnie Darko,' 'Brokeback Mountain,' and 'Jarhead' is singing! I can't wait to see him in 'Brothers!'" The guy's a Andrew Bynum dunks the ball good actor, but seriously, if your Kindergartner is even aware of Gyllenhaal's existence, you may very well be something of a slack ass parent. I'm just saying.)

During the preseason, I heard a few fans and media members wonder if the Rockets would omit a  not-likely-to-play Yao Ming from the ballot, preventing an "it's all one big popularity contest" snafu for Drew.   Well, Houston did, which obviously plays well into the kid's quest for All-Star glory. 

He will, however have to compete with the high profile name that is Amare Stoudemire, and lest we forget, when it comes to starting, this is all one big popularity contest.  The Artist formerly known as STAT's stats aren't quite at Drew's level thus far, but at the same time, they're still pretty good and Amare's been to the party four times.  But whether as a starter or a reserve, Drew's on a pretty solid track, his only real competition beyond Stoudemire coming from the Clippers' Chris Kaman, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week who's seriously balling with Blake Griffin grounded.  Should three centers get named, I'd say Drew's an absolute lock.

Before the season began, Gasol was absolutely rolling towards his third bid.  A "soft" shedding playoffs and Finals run.  Euro ball championship.  Entrance into the "NBA's best power forward" discussion.  Then came a hammy injury with an indefinite time table for healing.  One figures the more games missed, the more his odds of being named decrease.  Granted, there are always exceptions.  T-Mac is typically a vote magnet and I don't remember the last time he wasn't dealing with an ailment of sorts.  But unless Pau gets enough votes to start, he runs a serious risk of getting shined in a Western Conference loaded with quality forwards.

Lamar and Khloe OK! Odom's quest is the most uphill.  He's not a scorer by nature.  He's still seen by some "underachiever."  It's tough for a sixth man- even one as critical as Lamar- to make the All-Star team, and those not paying attention will still consider him a sub even while he's currently acting as a starter.  None of these factors scream "no break in February," particularly when he's only a borderline candidate to begin with. 

But like I said, this is in fact one big popularity contest.  Lamar Odom is now a celebrity beyond the court, married to a lady with an eponymous reality TV show.  Said eponymous-ness likely affords Khloe a certain degree of creative control over plotlines (not that reality TV is in any way scripted or inorganic, of course).  Seems to me that a series of episodes centering around her hubby's desire to make the All-Star squad could be stretched out over several weeks until the chosen ones are revealed in January.  

Just picture the drama as Lamar pours over this laptop, announcing to Khloe where he's currently ranked!  As is my understanding, this is a popular TV show.  That's a lot of viewers emotionally invested in LO making the cut.  If people vote in droves over something as stupid as "American Idol," which is nothing more than glorified karaoke, "Keeping up with the Kardashians" must be compelling enough to influence the All-Star vote.  You could even split the difference and have "special guest" Kelly Clarkson appear on KUWTK, complaining about writer's block suffered while fretting LO's All-Star fate.  LO makes the cut, then celebrates an artistically recharged Clarkson to his Rich Soil label.   It's the stuff Sweeps Weeks are made of, baby!!!