Could Pau Gasol Get Passed Over for the All-Star Game?

LOS ANGELES CA - DECEMBER 25: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers posts up Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25 2010 in Los Angeles California. The Heat defeated the Lakers 96-80. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

The NBA released the latest results of fan balloting for the All-Star Game today. Aside from the disheartening news that Derek Fisher appears not to be making a darkhorse run at a starting slot in the West backcourt - come on, people, who else could give you seven points a game on sub-40% shooting? - what jumps out is that Pau Gasol is now third among Western Conference forwards. His vote total stands at about 703K, way behind category leader Kevin Durant and approximately 40K behind Carmelo Anthony. If this pecking order holds up, Pau's All-Star candidacy will fall to the mercies of the coaches, who vote for backups, and perhaps David Stern, who appoints injury replacements. Is there any chance that Pau doesn't make the cut?

What works against him are two factors. One is his recent stretch of poor play. After an MVP-caliber start to the season, Pau has struggled lately to be a consistent force at the offensive end of the floor. This has been a primary cause, maybe the primary cause, of Laker underperformance over the past six weeks.

Second, the forward position in the West is crowded. There's Durant and Melo, who have the inside track to get voted in (assuming Melo isn't traded to an Eastern Conference team between now and the ASG). Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki seem certain to make it as well because of their stature in the league and the splendid play by their respective teams. LaMarcus Aldridge is coming on strong. I'm sure Stern would love to raise the profiles of Kevin Love and Blake Griffin by featuring them on a nationally televised platform. And even our very own Lamar Odom has been playing himself into the conversation despite his removal from the Lakers' starting lineup.

That's a lot of guys jostling for a finite number of roster spots. Even so, Pau's berth is probably secure. For one reason, the game will take place in Los Angeles, and the league will want to showcase local stars as much as possible. It's very hard to picture an All-Star Game at Staples in which the second banana of the host team/back-to-back league champs doesn't participate.

For another, Pau still deserves the honor. On the whole he's had a good year, if not the amazing one we thought he might have cooking after his brilliant start. And if you believe, as I do, that the All-Star Game is for the league's true stars - guys who have established themselves over time as the elite of the elite - then you select the rosters without regard to short-term performance fluctuations. In other words, you don't punish someone for having a cold streak just when rosters happen to be coming together. You look at the entire body of a player's work and their stature within the game, and on that basis there's no doubt that Gasol is one of the top five or six forwards in the West. It would be nice, though, if he'd kick up his play a notch or two to remove all doubt.

Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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