2011 NBA All-Star Starters Revealed, What About the Reserves?
Denver coach George Karl likes to say each All-Star squad should have 15 players, rather than 12.
It's a great idea for the West this season, with there about to be some serious snubs. As for the East, 10 seems a better number this season in a conference that after the top teams has as much depth as the local park's kiddie pool.
Perhaps the East should concede two spots to the West. Throw in that Houston's Yao Ming, named the West starting center, will miss the Feb. 20 Game in Los Angeles, and that would give the West 15 players with All-Star recognition.
The starters were announced Thursday night, and there wasn't anything to complain about other than how ridiculous it was that fans (hello, China) continued to vote for Yao in bunches even after it was announced Dec. 17 he was out for the season with a foot injury. Even before then, he was averaging 10.2 points in a meager five games.
The East starters will be Orlando's Dwight Howard at center, Miami's LeBron James and New York's Amar'e Stoudemire at forward and Miami's Dwyane Wade and Chicago's Derrick Rose at guard. Other than Yao, West starters named were Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Denver's Carmelo Anthony at forward and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and New Orleans' Chris Paul at guard.
Now, on to the reserves. After the coaches cast their ballots, here's who should be announced next Thursday as well as which players might be ticked off:
Al Horford, Atlanta. Horford might not want the Hawks one day to trade for a true center. Although undersized for the position at 6-foot-10, he's looking at another free trip to the All-Star Game due to the East having few quality centers behind Howard. (Chicago's Joakim Noah would be a candidate for this spot, as well, but he's still sidelined following thumb surgery.) Horford was an All-Star last season when he averaged a modest 14.2 points, and he's up to 16.3 this season.
Kevin Garnett, Boston. Life's certainties are death, taxes, Dick Clark being propped up on New Year's Eve and Garnett being booked in late February. It will be the 14th consecutive All-Star plane ticket issued for "The Big Ticket.''
Paul Pierce, Boston. This guy is showing no signs of slowing down at 33. He's averaging 19.1 points and shooting 51.4 percent, the first time he's been over 47.2 in his 13-year career.
Chris Bosh, Miami. James calls the Miami the "Heatles.'' Although nobody is sure who on the team is Ringo Starr, Bosh definitely is George Harrison. He's quiet but quite effective.
Ray Allen, Boston. Allen, who twice has been named an injury replacement and made the team in 2003-04 even after missing 25 early-season games, has a way of slipping into All-Star Games just like he gets open for jumpers. Allen, vying for his 10th appearance, is averaging 17.3 points and shooting 50.5 percent. Like Pierce, Allen is on pace to shoot 50 percent for the first time in his career, and he's a 15-year man.
Rajon Rondo, Boston. They're trying to paint Los Angeles green. Rondo would make four Celtics in the All-Star Game, which would tie in an NBA record. But Boston does have the East's best mark at 34-10. The four can try to have a more pleasant time at the Staples Center next month than they did in their Game 7 NBA Finals loss last June.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta. About a month ago, Johnson seemingly had little chance at a fifth straight All-Star appearance. All he's done in January is average 25.2 points on 50.0 percent shooting to raise his seasonal averages to 19.6 on 43.5 marksmanship. And the Hawks have gone 8-3 in January.
Snubs (if anybody in East really can be called one):
Raymond Felton, New York guard. Felton can blame Johnson for taking his spot with his recent play. Not long ago, Felton looked a good bet to make his first All-Star team. But the Knicks have dropped six of their past seven games. Since their 16-9 start, New York (23-21) is just 7-12. Felton's numbers of 17.5 points and 8.9 assists are solid, but not good enough for a point guard to make an All-Star team off a team barely above .500.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago. It doesn't help Boozer that he's missed 18 games due to injury. Then again, Lakers big man Pau Gasol missed 17 early last season and was an All-Star and there was Allen's mystifying selection in 2003-04, when he didn't play in his first game until Dec. 23. Perhaps Boozer, a guy who's often injured, can end up being an injury replacement if the East needs one.
Pau Gasol, Lakers. This should be an easy pick. West coaches will slide Gasol over, even though he's now starting at power forward. But Gasol did start the first 31 games at center when Andrew Bynum was out and then later working his way back from a knee injury.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas. The Mavericks are 27-8 when he plays this season and 2-7 when he doesn't. Enough said.
Blake Griffin, Clippers. Yes, it's always said players off losing teams are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to being named an All-Star. But it's hard to ignore averages of 22.6 points and 12.8 rebounds, and the rookie's highlights being so prevalent these days they should be tracked by the Nielsen ratings. And the Clippers (17-28) are 12-7 since a 5-21 start.
Kevin Love, Minnesota. Now, this is a really bad team. But even though the Timberwolves are 10-35, how can you ignore that Love is averaging 15.7 boards (and 21.6 points), on pace to be the best rebounding season since Dennis Rodman pulled down 16.1 a game in 1996-97 while contributing no offense?
Deron Williams, Utah. It was hard to make that first All-Star Game, which Williams finally did last season in his fifth campaign. Pen him in for the next decade.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio. The Spurs are 39-7, and Ginobili is having one of his best seasons at 33. Ginobili, averaging 18.7 points, has played in every game after having missed at least five in each of his first eight seasons.
Tony Parker, San Antonio. Breaking up from Eva Longoria hasn't made Parker look desperate on the court. The calm Parker is averaging 17.5 points and 6.9 assists, which aren't incredible numbers. But he's shooting 52.3 percent, pretty impressive for a point guard and much higher than Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook's 43.6. That, the Spurs' record and that Westbrook is leading the NBA in turnovers, gives Parker the nod for the final guard spot in the closest vote since Florida 2000.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio forward. He doesn't like to be called a center. So hopefully David Stern won't make that mistake when tabbing him as an injury replacement for Yao. As detailed by FanHouse last month, if Duncan isn't named a reserve by the coaches, it would be ideal for Stern to name one of his favorite players to perhaps his final All-Star Game. Duncan's stats (13.6 points, 9.5 rebounds) won't blow anybody away but his minutes are down in order to save him for the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City guard. It's really tough to leave a guy off averaging 22.4 points and 8.4 assists for a first-place team. But he did tell FanHouse last week "it's not a big deal'' for him to make the All-Star Game and, "I don't really care.'' So we'll assume he won't be too torn up spending All-Star Weekend at a Caribbean island of his choosing.
Steve Nash, Phoenix guard. Here's another difficult omission. But Nash did sit home in 2009, and that game was in Phoenix. It sounds hypocritical to say Phoenix's 20-24 record will keep Nash out when one considers Griffin and Love have been included off worse teams. But Nash can't quite match the eye-popping stats of Griffin and Love. His numbers (17.3 points, 11.0 assists) are similar to what they were in seasons in which the Suns were winning.
Monta Ellis, Golden State guard. Sorry, Monta. There's just no room once again in the West. Ellis averaged 25.5 points last season and couldn't make the All-Star team. Now, he's at 25.8 and likely again to stay home. The Warriors have the NBA's longest drought, not having had an All-Star since 1997. They're used to getting no respect. Purvis Short averaged 28.0 points for Golden State in 1984-85 and couldn't get an All-Star sniff.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland forward. Aldridge told TNT last week he didn't believe he would be selected to the All-Star Game. So why fight it? Aldridge, on pace for career highs with his averages of 21.1 points and 8.8 rebounds, will get into an All-Star Game one of these days. Well, maybe. It's always tough to make it in West, where 15 spots sure would come in handy this season.