Sunday , Feb , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

NBA’s finest take center stage in LA

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – The NBA takes center stage,
as the Eastern Conference battles the Western Conference in the 53rd
annual All-Star Game at the Staples Center.

The All-Star Game returns to LA for the first time since 1983, when the
contest was played at the Great Western Forum.

In last season’s contest, the West defeated the East, 155-145, in double-
overtime at Philips Arena. Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett took home the MVP, as he
scored a game-high 37 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists.

The Western Conference, which has won two straight and three of the last four
All-Star Games, has big advantage down low over the East. The starting
frontcourt for the West consists of center Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets and
forwards Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Garnett. This is the second
straight year that this trio makes up the starting frontcourt for the West.

Duncan, who shared MVP honors with Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 game, has
averaged 17.8 points and 14.3 rebounds in the last four All-Star Games. Ming
will play in his second All-Star Game, while Garnett is making his seventh
All-Star appearance. sixth as a starter.

The starting backcourt for the West is made up of Houston’s Steve Francis and
the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who won the MVP of the 2002 contest. This is the
third straight All-Star Game that Francis and Bryant have started together in
the West’s backcourt.

A seven-year NBA veteran, Bryant is making his sixth straight All-Star
appearance, all as a starter. In his previous five All-Star Games, the Lakers’
guard has averaged 21 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Francis, who
scored 20 points in last season’s game, has averaged 11.5 points and six
assists in his two All-Star appearances.

The bench for Western Conference is very strong. O’Neal of the Lakers,
Sacramento’s Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Utah’s
Andrei Kirilenko are the frontcourt reserves, while Minnesota’s Sam Cassell
and Seattle’s Ray Allen will serve as the backups to Bryant and Francis.

O’Neal has been selected to the All-Star Game nine times by the fans (1993,
1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002). However this will be just the
eighth game that he has played in. Shaq did not play in the contest in 1997,
2001 or 2002. He appeared for the first time as a reserve in last year’s
contest, finishing with 19 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.

Kirilenko and Cassell will be playing in their first All-Star Games, while
Stojakovic and Nowitzki are making their third appearances. Miller, who played
for the East in last year’s game as a member of the Pacers, is a participant
in the contest for the second time of his career and Allen, who was a member
of the East squad from 2000-02 as a member of the Bucks, will make his All-
star debut for the Western Conference. Allen still made the squad despite
missing Seattle’s first 25 games with an ankle injury.

Minnesota’s Flip Saunders will coach his first All-Star Game for the West.
Saunders is in his eighth full season as head coach of the Timberwolves. He
has led the team to seven straight playoff berths and six consecutive .500-
plus seasons.

The Eastern Conference will start Detroit’s Ben Wallace at center, Vince
Carter of the Raptors and Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal at forwards and
Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson, who was the MVP of the 2001 game, and Tracy
McGrady of the Magic at guard.

This is the second straight season that the fans have voted this exact
starting lineup to represent the East. However, in last year’s game Carter
gave up his starting spot to Michael Jordan, who was playing in his final All-
Star Game.

Wallace will play in his second All-Star Game, Carter his fourth, Jermaine
O’Neal his third and McGrady his fourth.

The 28-year-old Iverson was voted to the starting lineup for the fifth
straight season. In his four previous All-Star Games, the Georgetown product
has averaged 22.8 points and six assists.

Coming off the bench for the East will be center Jamaal Magloire and guard
Baron Davis of the New Orleans Hornets, forward Ron Artest of the Pacers,
forward Kenyon Martin and guard Jason Kidd of the Nets, Boston guard/forward
Paul Pierce, and Milwaukee guard Michael Redd.

Artest, Magloire, Martin and Redd are all making their All-Star debuts, while
Davis will play in his second contest and Pierce in his third.

The 30-year-old Kidd makes his seventh All-Star Game appearance, third on the
Eastern Conference squad (2002, 2003, 2004). In 1996, as a member of the
Mavericks, and in 1998, 2000 and 2001 as a member of the Suns, Kidd played for
the West. In six games, Kidd has averaged seven points and eight assists. He
has scored 11 points, which is his career-high in an All-Star Game, on three
different occasions.

Indiana’s Rick Carlisle will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Carlisle
became the coach of the Pacers, who are an Eastern Conference best 39-14 at
the break, after being fired by Detroit after the 2002-03 season. In two
campaigns with the Pistons, Carlisle compiled a 100-64 record after guiding
the club to consecutive 50-win seasons. In 2002, he was named the NBA’s
Coach of the Year, as Detroit had an 18-game improvement from the previous


First-time All-Stars Redd and Kirilenko should be able to shine for their
respective conference in the wide-open style of the All-Star Game. Both
players play for teams that do not get a lot of attention from the media. Look
for Redd and Kirilenko to try and standout and showcase their talents to the


This is the first time in four years that a Western Conference city has hosted
this event. In 2003, Atlanta was the host, the 2002 game was played
in Philadelphia and the 2001 festivities were held in Washington. Oakland,
which is the home of the Golden State Warriors, was the host in 2000.

Kirilenko (Russia), Magloire (Canada), Nowitzki (Germany), Stojakovic (Serbia-
Montenegro), Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands and Yao (China), gives this year’s
All-star Game six international players, tying the 2003 All-Star Game record
for most international All-Stars in one year.