EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With a wry smile, Brook Lopez wondered if he should be flashier. Maybe he could incorporate jazz hands into his on-the-court stylings, or spirit fingers. There might be something to adopting an evil alter ego, he said. People wouldn’t like him all that much, he reasoned, but they definitely would notice him.
It’s all a joke, obviously, but not too far off the mark. If this year’s All-Star fan voting is any indication, your typical NBA center has to do a whole lot just to get on the radar.
Of the six frontcourt players voted in by the fans this year, not one played center, with Zaza Pachulia and Pau Gasol just shy of the last spot. Neither of them was voted in by the coaches as a reserve, either. Those spots went to centers Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins, stronger players in every respect.
And in the Eastern Conference, neither Gasol nor Drummond led his position in scoring. That honor goes to Lopez, who, by the way, didn’t even rank in the top 15 of frontcourt vote-getters in the East.
“Centers should be selected,” Nets coach Tony Brown said. “I’m not a fan of the new voting system.”
In 2013, in a change to the system, instead of picking two forwards and a center, fans were tasked with picking three frontcourt players. Forwards tend to dominate the proceedings, and even players as obviously talented as Cousins get to sit on the outskirts. It got to the point that earlier this month, Cousins said the process was “disrespectful” to big men.
That’s not to say Lopez’s absence isn’t understandable — Brown and Lopez acknowledged that it’s difficult to get an All-Star nod when a team is struggling the way the Nets are — but Lopez’s stats certainly should’ve earned him a spot in the conversation. His 19.6 points per game are second to Cousins among centers in the league, and he happens to be doing it for the third-worst offense in the NBA. His 1.87 blocks per game are third in the East and fourth overall (Gasol is ahead of him at 2.14).
And though Lopez has been known to fade late in games, part of that could stem from the big load he’s carrying. The injury- plagued Nets rely heavily on Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young and Lopez to carry the scoring. His average of 33.3 minutes per game is among the leaders at his position.
“It was interesting how the biggest guy was like LeBron, I guess,” Lopez said. “It would be LeBron versus Kawhi at center or something. It’s the way the fan vote went. You’re going to have fans vote in three frontcourt players, it’s kind of obviously going to go the way they dictate.”
Lopez, who was an All-Star in 2013, is typically mellow, and was equally easygoing about the voting process. Sure, it’s always an honor to get picked, he said, and he would’ve loved to have gone, but he said he also understands why things worked out the way they did.
“It takes team achievement as well,” he said of his Nets (12-34). “Maybe I need an alter ego. Maybe just something [the fans] would hate, so they would at least know about it.”
All joking aside, he does acknowledge that sometimes this format isn’t all that fair to him and those of his kind.
“I think it can get out of hand at times, absolutely. But again, that’s what happens when it’s opened up to the fan vote,” he said. “You want their input, you’re going to get it.”