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|Dirk Nowitzki has gotten the best of Tim Duncan in some of their on-court battles, but Duncan continues to rule the ballot box.|
“ Count votes from people who attend the games and vote in arenas twice as much as Internet votes. We should reward our customers for their commitment to the NBA. ” -- Mavericks owner Mark CubanCuban would like to see the voting rules revamped. He believes Internet voting can, and does, skew outcomes. That's clear in the case of McGrady, a fan favorite among an engaged and ever-growing bloc of Chinese voters a half a world away. Presumably, domestically cast Internet votes fueled Duncan's late takeover. Is Duncan, with those four rings, simply a convenient pick for Eastern Conference fans -- and really most fans outside of North Texas and San Antonio -- who are electronically casting multiple ballots as the deadline approaches? Would Duncan have zipped past Nowitzki if votes cast in NBA arenas counted more than Internet votes? Cuban said he would like to find out. "Count votes from people who attend the games and vote in arenas twice as much as Internet votes," Cuban said. "We should reward our customers for their commitment to the NBA." Tabulating votes is one issue. The traditional position-by-position voting is another. Positions are no longer as clear-cut as they used to be. Lines are blurred, especially at the center position, where the true center of a generation ago barely exists. In 2007, the committee that selects players to be included on the All-Star ballot listed Duncan as a center even though he had appeared as a forward in years past. The Spurs lobbied successfully to get Duncan -- whose low-post game mimics centers of old more than almost any player in the game today -- moved back to forward. The Spurs feared that Yao Ming's huge popularity in his homeland of China would end Duncan's streak of All-Star starts. In 2005, Yao accumulated the highest total of votes in history. Had Duncan been listed as a center this year, it's conceivable that he could have challenged Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire (1.8 million votes; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum was second, with fewer than 1 million) as the West's starting center, opening the possibility for Nowitzki to start at forward. To further illustrate the problem of using traditional positions in today's game, Stoudemire doesn't even play center. He starts at power forward. Channing Frye starts at center for the Suns. So Nowitzki will just have to be happy making his ninth All-Star appearance as a reserve once again. Of course, if the Mavs maintain their hold on the No. 2 seed through Jan. 31, Carlisle will coach the West team. You can bet he'll make Nowitzki his sixth man, ensuring Nowitzki gets his proper introduction in front of a heavily local crowd that will be part of an anticipated record attendance in excess of 80,000. "Whoever coaches," Carlisle said, "I'll be surprised if Dirk isn't the sixth man." As for ever starting in one of these things, it seems Nowitzki might just have to wait for Duncan to hang 'em up. Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.