WASHINGTON - If Celtics guard Ray Allen could, he would change the NBA All-Star balloting rules to ensure that some of the league's elite players, such as teammate Kevin Garnett, get their due.
In the first All-Star tabulation released yesterday, Cleveland's LeBron James led all Eastern Conference forwards with 643,786 votes, while Garnett followed with 495,514 and New Jersey's Yi Jianlian was third with 356,556.
The top two vote-getters in each conference at the guard and forward spots and the leader at center will start in the All-Star Game in Phoenix Feb. 15.
While Yi's statistics pale in comparison to those of Garnett and James, the native of China has been aided strongly by votes from his homeland. Garnett was the overall vote leader last season, but Orlando center Dwight Howard led yesterday with 775,933.
"Too much is put into the fan vote as starters," Allen said. "We know there are a lot of great, talented players in the NBA. If you look at the baseball model, I think one year Sammy Sosa was MVP and the next year he wasn't good enough to make the All-Star Game. Based on our model, on popularity you'll make it. You'll start.
"It should be a percentage of the [fans'] votes to guarantee who the starters are. You guys, the media, watch more basketball than anybody. [The media] should have a big say-so. From [the media] to the fan voting and then maybe you throw the GMs in there. That to me would give an accurate representation of who the five starters should be."
With the league's top record, the Celtics have a legitimate chance to get four All-Stars: Garnett, forward Paul Pierce, and guards Allen and Rajon Rondo.
Pierce was fifth among East forwards with 153,512 votes. Allen was fourth among guards with 174,155. The vote total for Rondo, who has never been an All-Star but is expected to be considered, was not listed by the NBA because he didn't rank among the top 11 guards.
Garnett overheard that Yi was on his heels from a conversation Pierce was having. "It's not about skill so I'm not worried about it," said the 11-time All-Star. "If that's who the fans want to see . . . I've served my time and had my fun at All-Star. If they want to see Yi or whoever the competition is, Paul told me it was Yi or somebody, it's what it is. I'm enjoying this 21-2 [record]. It ain't about skill. I ain't hating. It's all good."
Told Rondo wasn't getting a lot of votes, Garnett said, "He got his own campaign going the way he's playing. He doesn't need any extra boost. Rondo needs to just continue to be Rondo."
Voting will continue through Jan. 11 for paper balloting and Jan. 19 for NBA.com and wireless balloting. Starters for both conferences will be announced Jan. 22. Reserves, determined by the head coaches in each conference, will be announced Jan. 29.
A plug for MilesCoach Doc Rivers said he recently recommended free agent forward Darius Miles to Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy. The Clippers recently worked out Miles, who was with the Celtics in the preseason before being waived Oct. 20. Miles is trying to come back after missing two seasons because of knee problems.
"That would be phenomenal. I would be very happy for him," said Rivers. "I did talk to Mike. I'm not going to say what I said to [Dunleavy], but I'd be very happy if [Miles] made it."