Kobe leads All Star voting, Bynum second among W.C. centers

This afternoon the NBA released the early All-Star ballot returns, and at least one result qualifies as less than shocking:

Kobe Bryant, by a considerable margin over Dwight Howard and LeBron James, leads all vote getters for an automatic spot in February 20th's festivities at Staples Center. I chalk this up to his quality play, and the fact he's Kobe Bryant- five time champ, 12-time All-Star, extremely popular in this country and glowing godlike overseas like a roundball C-3PO among Ewoks.

Among other Lakers, Pau Gasol is running second, behind Kevin Durant but ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki, in a wildly competitive group of Western Conference forwards. Lamar Odom, certainly playing All-Star caliber ball, is seventh. Generally speaking, it's hard to complain too much about who the fans have voted for in the early going. If by chance, though, you need evidence fan voting is more popularity contest than well-reasoned judgment of first half excellence- and I don't know why you would- I point to the center position in the Western Conference.

Yao Ming leads with nearly 431,000 votes. He's played all of five games, and news of a less-than-encouraging MRI puts him on the shelf indefinitely. In second? Andrew Bynum, with all of two games and about 35 minutes under his belt.

C'mon, people, let's do a little more for the good name of quasi-democracy than this. I realize the crop of pivots on the ballot in the W.C. isn't terribly sexy- from a pure merit standpoint, more justice is done by including Gasol and Tim Duncan as centers, allowing two more slots for deserving guards or forwards- but the list is the list.

Can you blame Nene (15.7 ppg/7.1 rpg, 63.3 FG%) for wondering what he needs to do to get a little love?