HANG TIME, Texas — In his first season as a starter and in the role of lead horse pulling the wagon, James Harden could expect to be chasing the marquee names of Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul for a starting berth on the Western Conference team in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.
But who thinks the league’s fourth-leading scorer should be trailing his Houston teammate Jeremy Lin by more than 200,000 votes?
Those casting ballots, of course.
To some it is the very essence of everything that is wrong with throwing the All-Star voting open to everyone with a computer, smart phone, Facebook or Twitter account. Linsanity, if you will.
Yet it is also testament to the constantly growing fan base of the NBA all around the world. It is the continuation of the Yao Ming Effect that took hold in the last decade when the 7-foot-6 Rockets center rode the national pride of China to a string of seven consecutive All-Star starting nods, in the early years beating out Shaquille O’Neal in his prime.
Now, though the U.S. born Lin is as American as apple pie, his families ties to Taipei and China, are causing a similar stuffing of the ballot box.
The latest round of balloting shows Bryant (977,444) taking a slim lead over LeBron James (970,314) in a race of superstars for the overall crown that will likely go down to the wire.
However, depending on how many votes are still to coming from overseas, it is not out of the question that Lin (496,133) could catch the Clippers’ Paul (542,564), while continuing to leave his teammate Harden (283,691) in the dust.
Harden is averaging 25.8 points per game. He has scored more than 25 points 15 times in 28 games and 30 or more on nine occasions.
Lin is averaging 11.9 points per game, connecting on just 28.6 percent of his 3-point attempts and has made half his shots in a game just nine times all season.
Call it the Annual All-Star Debate. Call it Linsanity.
Or just relax and figure the coaches will call Harden’s name and make it all right.