All-Star Reserves: Part I
Surprise, surprise. Allen Iverson rallies from behind to shake up the Western Conference.
The All-Star starters were announced yesterday and the results were the practically the same as they had always been - with the Eastern Conference roster featuring Kevin Garnett and LeBron James at the forwards, Dwight Howard at center and Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd at the guards. The West will send forwards Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony (the Baltimore native earns his first start), center Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant at guard. But Iverson - whose shift to the West last December opened the door for Gilbert Arenas to get his first all-star start last year - snuck up on Tracy McGrady in the final round of votes to be Bryant's backcourt mate.
Iverson's popularity has never been questioned - although the coaches added him to the West roster last season, he still finished with the sixth highest vote total in fan balloting. But the real shocker is that he somehow overcame the fans, mostly from China, who have made sure that Yao's Houston teammate at guard got the nod for the past five years (Steve Francis benefited for two years and never made it again after he was traded to Orlando).
At 32, Iverson hasn't lost a step. I still think he needs to take a step back and let Anthony take over for Denver to really be a serious threat in the West. But I cannot deny 27 points, 7 assists and 2 steals. Iverson switches conferences, makes powder blue look pretty cool and still gets love. He will probably get to play this time, since he missed the game last season with a sprained right ankle.
McGrady has already hinted that he won't play because of his sore left knee, so there is no need to put someone on the team who doesn't want to be there, especially someone who doesn't want to be there who doesn't even belong. McGrady is an all-star talent, but this isn't the year. His team is sputtering. He's hurt.
Now that McGrady's out of the picture (in all likelihood), the coaches out West can get some new blood in there - and slight one fewer deserving backcourt player.
The coaches have to select two forwards, one center, two guards and two wild cards to fill out the rosters. That is no simple task, since the West has a plethora of deserving guards (Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Baron Davis, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili), while the East has considerable depth at the forward position (Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Hedo Turkoglu, Richard Jefferson).
Remember a few years ago, when Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Jamison were in the forward-rich West and McGrady, Iverson and Baron Davis were in the guard-loaded East? Things have changed, but somehow the balance of power between East and West hasn't. Go figure.
The reserves will be announced next Thursday. Here are my choices in the Western Conference:
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, and Carlos Boozer, Jazz
Picking the reigning MVP is a no-brainer. Boozer was an equally easy choice, since he's the only player in the NBA who ranks in the top 10 in scoring (No. 9, 22.5 points) and rebounding (No. 7, 10.8 rebounds). The Jazz wouldn't be a playoff team if the season ended today, but Boozer has the team rallying back this month. And, as evidence of the logjam that is the West, Utah is just 1 Â½ games behind Denver for first place in the Northwest Division - and the fourth seed.
Amare Stoudemire, Suns
I broke him down on Wednesday. He should've been the starter, but he'll settle for the backup role. Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler have been much more effective defenders and rebounders - but who wants defense in an all-star game?
Chris Paul, Hornets, and Steve Nash, Suns
Paul is about to become the first player to average 20 points and 10 assists since Tim "Killer Crossover" Hardaway did in 1992-93. The two-time MVP Nash turns 34 in a few weeks, but like Iverson, he doesn't age, either. Believe it or not, Nash is handing out more assists than ever - a career-high 12.1 per game.
Baron Davis, Warriors and Brandon Roy, Blazers
I went with Baron Davis because he literally is the Golden State Warriors. They were nothing without him, didn't become anything until he came. I'd also like to see what kind of response he'd get in New Orleans - the city he bailed on and left with some sour memories to become The Bearded Bay Area Hero. That would make for an awesome story.
I was about to say that Roy might not make it because he's so young, until I realized that he is almost five months older than LeBron James. Isn't that crazy? I just think that somebody from the Blazers needs to be rewarded for how they've emerged as one of the best teams in the league without Greg Oden. They have gone 20-5 in their last 25 games and spent a few days atop the Northwest Division. Portland has gotten help from all over, but the players all point to Roy as the reason for their success.
I Really Hated To Leave Off
Camby, Nuggets. Chandler, Hornets. David West, Hornets. Deron Williams, Jazz. Manu Ginobili, Spurs.
Camby is second in rebounding and first in blocks, but the Nuggets already have two all-stars and there is too much talent in the conference for them to get three. Chandler is fourth in rebounding and first in offensive rebounding, but West has quietly carried the Hornets offensively on many nights this season. Williams would've had a spot secured if Utah hadn't been so putrid in December. Ginobili is one of the most entertaining, innovative players in the league. I love watching him play. Ugh. It would be nice if the all-star team was expanded to 15. It would make this job a lot easier.
I'll be back with the East in a few hours.
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