In Yao Ming’s election as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, there’s no heart-warming consolation to be had; Yao Ming’s season is gone, and his inclusion in this event — which will give him the eighth All-Star berth of his career — is really just a reminder of why using a popular vote as the sole mechanism to decide the All-Star starters is just a bit wonky.
I’ll save the cries of injustice for another writer, though. Regardless of the problems with the All-Star system as a whole, this is what N.B.A. fans are stuck with at present. Yao will add another minor accolade to his N.B.A. résumé, and we can all give him a golf clap when his name is announced at the big game.
It’s time to star talking replacements though, and luckily, Tom Ziller has the league protocol for the replacement for an All-Star starter outlined for a post on SB Nation:
NBA head coaches (or their designated PR flacks) will now vote on seven reserve spots in each conference. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players, and must include at least one center, two forwards and two guards on their ballots. Once the reserves are named, [David] Stern will announce a replacement for Yao and any other players who pull out of the game. Gregg Popovich, who will coach the West All-Stars, will select one of his reserves to take Yao’s starting spot. Gasol, who played center during Andrew Bynum’s injury, would be a likely choice, as would Pop’s own big man Tim Duncan.
So replacing Yao is actually a bit of a tag-team; David Stern tabs the player who will take Yao’s place on the playoff roster, while Gregg Popovich hand-picks the player from the full roster who will step into the starting lineup. As Ziller mentioned, Gasol and Duncan are the obvious candidates, and it seems unlikely that Pop would step out of the box here. He may not have much respect for the event at large, but choosing an unlikely candidate to replace Yao only leads to more bothersome interviews and questions, while going with the expected will get him through the weekend with minimal conversation on the topic. When Gasol or Duncan are picked as anticipated, that will be that. Just conjecturing here, but I’d think Pop would find some solace in that, especially in an event that will otherwise shower him with required media events around the clock.