Another year, another barely coherent all-star selection process. Here are the usual uneducated choices. The first category denotes players who currently head fan voting lists, whether they deserve to or not. But that's who the game is for, so quit whining.
The second category is for players who deserve to be in the game this season. The third is for those who will be left off the teams, in many cases unfairly, until the league wises up and expands rosters to 15 players. Eastern Guards
By the will of the people: Michael Jordan, Chicago; Isiah Thomas, Detroit.
Who else should go: Ricky Pierce, Milwaukee; Alvin Robertson, Milwaukee; Reggie Miller, Indiana.
Pierce is more than a sixth man; he's the heart of the Bucks. Robertson should get the same chance to showcase his defensive skills that Dennis Rodman got last season. Miller is averaging 22.6 points and shooting .514 from the floor. Considering he tries so many three-pointers, that's not bad at all. And he also gets to the foul line about eight times a game.
With apologies: Sherman Douglas, Miami; Brian Shaw, Boston; Joe Dumars, Detroit. All good, but a cut below the other three. Eastern Forwards
By the will of the people: Larry Bird, Boston; Charles Barkley, Philadelphia.
Who else should go: Bernard King, Washington; Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta; Kevin McHale, Boston.
If King doesn't get in, what's the point? There is no more compelling story in basketball this season. He deserves a chance to tell it in front of the country. Wilkins has rounded his game and the Hawks have soared with his leadership. McHale has been the biggest beneficiary of Boston's new look. He's rejuvenated and is playing like he's 25.
With apologies: Scottie Pippen, Chicago; Dennis Rodman, Detroit; Larry Nance, Cleveland.
Pippen (17 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 6.5 apg) is a prime example of a player who would be a fine all-star, but gets caught by the numbers. Ditto for Nance (20.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 98 blocks). Dennis, we know you're the best defensive player in the league. And we know you're scoring more. But the others are a shade better. And Robertson is the designated defender on the roster. Eastern Centers
By the will of the people: Pat Ewing, New York.
Who else should go: Brad Daugherty, Cleveland. Having a career season (21.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg) on a depleted team.
With apologies: Robert Parish, Boston. Western Guards
By the will of the people: Magic Johnson, Lakers; Clyde Drexler, Portland.
Who else should go: Tim Hardaway, Golden State; John Stockton, Utah; Mitch Richmond, Golden State; Kevin Johnson, Phoenix.
We know that's six guards. But we're only taking one center -- David Robinson -- now that Akeem Olajuwon is hurt and out of the festivities. The league probably will insist that two centers go, which means someone ridiculous such as Benoit Benjamin might set foot in Charlotte Coliseum.
Hardaway has been electric (23.2 ppg, 9.8 apg, 103 steals) for the Warriors. Stockton is about to lead the league in assists for the fourth straight year, which is something no one has done since Bob Cousy did it for eight straight (1952-60). Kevin Johnson (22.4 ppg, 9.9 apg, 91 steals) is the consummate point guard. Richmond (24.9 ppg, 51 percent from the floor, six rebounds) is the hammer of Golden State's three-headed scoring machine.
With apologies: Terry Porter, Portland; Jeff Malone, Utah; Rod Strickland, San Antonio.
Porter said last week: "Make me a forward in the West; a guard in the East. Anything but a guard in the West. But I've got that record going for me." He's right. He's averaging 17.6 points and 8.5 assists, with 62 three-pointers. His team is 34-7. That's an all-star.
Malone is shooting .524 from the floor, averaging nearly 20 points a game, and still can't crack the first five -- uh, make that six. Western Forwards
By the will of the people: Karl Malone, Utah; Chris Mullin, Golden State.
Who else should go: James Worthy, Lakers; Tom Chambers, Phoenix; Charles Smith, Clippers.
Worthy has provided the usual excellence at his position; even more impressive considering his off-court problems. Smith (21.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is the one commodity you never hear Los Angeles is dangling. The difference between Chambers (21.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and teammate Xavier McDaniel (20 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is almost negligible. Almost.
With apologies: McDaniel, Phoenix; Shawn Kemp, Seattle, Otis Thorpe, Houston. Kemp (scoring 18 per game since starting last month) is 20. He will be an all-star someday. Really. You'll see him win the dunk contest this year, anyway. Thorpe (16.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is a perennial just-below-the-all-star-level player. Western Centers
By the will of the people: Robinson, San Antonio.
Who else should go: No one. Benjamin's numbers are more than solid (15.2 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 70 blocks). Is he an all-star? We think not, at least not if it means keeping Richmond or K. J. out of the game. Kevin Duckworth (15.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is a good center, maybe a very good center, but not good enough.
Participants in the three-point shooting contest and the slam-dunk competition will be named today. Word on the street is that Jordan will take a pass on the dunking. Starters for the Feb. 10 all-star game will be announced Thursday, with reserves being announced next week.