Sunday , Feb , 20 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA’s brightest stars set to shine in Denver

Denver, CO (Sports Network) – The stars of the NBA are ready to shine, as
the Eastern Conference battles the Western Conference in the 54th annual All-
Star Game at the Pepsi Center.


NBA's brightest stars set to shine in Denver

The All-Star Game returns to Denver for the first time since 1984, when the
East defeated the West, 154-145, in overtime. Detroit’s Isiah Thomas, who is
currently the president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks, was
named MVP of the game, as he finished with 21 points and a team-high 15
assists.

In last season’s contest, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan scored the go-ahead points
with just 26.1 seconds remaining and finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and
five assists to lead the West over the East, 136-132, in the 53rd All-Star
Game at the Staples Center. But it was former Laker Shaquille O’Neal who
walked off the court with the Most Valuable Player Trophy. O’Neal, who shared
the award in 2000 with Duncan, tallied a game-high 24 points and 11 boards.

Even though O’Neal, who is now a member of the Miami Heat, resides in the
Eastern Conference, the Western Conference, which has won three straight and
four of the last five 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 Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves and
Duncan. This is the third year in a row that this trio makes up the starting
frontcourt for the West.

Duncan is making his seventh All-Star appearance, while Yao will play in his
third All-Star Game and Garnett will take the court for his eighth All-Star
contest, seventh as a starter. Playing in just his third year in the NBA, Yao
has averaged nine points and three rebounds in his two All-Star Game
appearances, while Duncan has posted five double-doubles and has registered
14.5 points and 13.5 boards in his six games. The reigning league MVP Garnett,
who was the MVP in the 2003 All-Star Game in Atlanta, has averages of 17
points and 7.9 rebounds in his seven contests.

The starting backcourt for the West is made up of Houston’s Tracy McGrady and
the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who won the MVP of the 2002 contest. A nine-year NBA
veteran, Bryant is making his seventh straight All-Star appearance, all as a
starter. In his previous six All-Star Games, the Lakers’ guard has averaged
20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

McGrady, who was traded by Orlando to Houston in a blockbuster deal during
last offseason, will be playing in his fifth All-Star Game and first for the
Western Conference. His best performance in this event came in the 2003
contest, when he played 36 minutes for the East and finished with 29 points,
five rebounds and two assists.

The bench for Western Conference is made up of shooters and is also very
athletic. The frontcourt has Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Amare
Stoudemire of the Suns and Seattle’s Rashard Lewis on the bench. Lewis and
Stoudemire will be making their All-Star Game debuts, while Nowitzki will be
appearing in his fourth contest and Marion in his second. San Antonio’s Manu
Ginobili, who is a first-time NBA All-Star, can play either forward or guard
for the West.

Five-time All-Star Ray Allen of Seattle and Steve Nash of Phoenix will be the
primary backups for Bryant and McGrady. Allen, who made the East squad three
times as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, is playing in his second consecutive
All-Star Game as a member of the Sonics. The 29-year-old Allen scored 16
points in last year’s affair.

The 31-year-old Nash, who signed with Phoenix as a free agent in July after
six productive years in Dallas, has been unbelievable for the Suns this
season. He leads the league in assists and has been the glue that has kept
Phoenix together. Nash, who is a serious candidate to win this year’s NBA MVP,
will be playing in his third All-Star Game.

San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, who is in his ninth season as head coach of the
Spurs, will coach his first All-Star Game for the West. Popovich is the
first Spur named coach of an NBA All-Star squad. He has guided San
Antonio to a pair (1999, 2003) of NBA Championships during his time in San
Antonio.

The Eastern Conference will be led by the dominant center of the Heat, as
Shaq will start in the middle for the East and will be joined up front by
Orlando’s Grant Hill and New Jersey’s Vince Carter. The starting backcourt
consists of Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson and LeBron James of the Cleveland
Cavaliers.

O’Neal, who is a 12-time NBA All-Star, has been selected to the All-Star Game
10 times by the fans (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002,
2005). However this will be just the ninth game that he has played in. Shaq
did not play in the contest in 1997, 2001 or 2002. He appeared for the second
time as a reserve in last year’s contest. In his eight All-Star Games, Shaq
has averaged 18.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.

Hill has been selected to the All-Star Game seven times, but will be playing
in his sixth contest and his first since 2000, when he was a member of the
Detroit Pistons. The 32-year-old Hill had been plagued by injuries since the
2000-01 season and leading up to the 2004-05 campaign had played in only
43 games in the previous four seasons. He has made a miraculous comeback
and is one of the great stories of the NBA this season. This will be Hill’s
sixth start in an All-Star Game.

The 28-year-old Carter, who was traded by the Toronto Raptors to the Nets in
exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and two first
round draft picks on December 17, 2004, will be playing in his fifth All-Star
Game and fourth as a starter. He has averaged 12 points in his four previous
contests and should be able to flourish in this style of game. Carter has been
selected to six All-Star Games during his career.

Iverson was voted to the starting lineup for the sixth straight season. In his
five previous All-Star Games, the Georgetown product has averaged 18.8 points
and seven assists. He was the MVP of the 2001 Game, which was played in
Washington, as he netted 25 and handed out five helpers in East’s 111-110 win
over the West .

The phenom James will be making his NBA All-Star debut. He was the 2003-04 NBA
Rookie of the Year last season, as he averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and
5.9 assists in 79 games for Cleveland.

Coming off the bench for the East will be Boston’s Paul Pierce, Cleveland
center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace of the defending world champion
Pistons, Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal, Dwyane Wade of the Heat and
Washington’s Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.

Arenas, Jamison and Wade are all making their All-Star debuts, while
Ilgauskas will play in his second contest, Wallace his third and Jermaine
O’Neal and Pierce in their fourth.

Washington has two representatives in the All-Star Game for the first time
since 1987 when center Moses Malone and guard Jeff Malone represented the
then-Washington Bullets. Arenas and Jamison, who was acquired by the Wizards
in a blockbuster deal with the Mavericks in June 2004, are the two biggest
reasons that Washington has a chance to qualify for the postseason for the
first time since the 1996-97 season.

Wade has teamed with Shaq to make Miami one of the favorites to win the
Eastern Conference and possibly the NBA title. He leads the Heat in scoring
and assists. The 23-year-old Marquette product has shined in his second year
in the league and has shown that he is one of the NBA’s brightest stars.

Ilgauskas did not score in four minutes of action in the 2003 All-Star
Game, while Wallace has averaged 6.5 rebounds per game in his two
contests and Pierce has registered 11.7 points per game in his three All-Star
appearances.

Twenty-six-year-old Jermaine O’Neal was a starter in the 2003 and 2004 All-
Star Games and was a reserve in 2002 for the East. He has averaged 11 points
and 8.7 boards in his three All-Star appearances.

Miami’s Stan Van Gundy will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Van Gundy,
who is in his second season at the helm in Miami, also represents the first
Heat general to lead an NBA All-Star team. Van Gundy guided the Heat to the
second round of the 2004 playoffs, as Miami fell in six games to the Pacers in
the Eastern Conference semifinals.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Popovich may try and play Marion, Nash and Stoudemire a lot together, as the
three Suns play an up-tempo style in every regular-season contest, which is
perfect for the All-Star Game. The Western Conference coach should try and
find two other players on his roster that will fit right in with Phoenix’
three All-Stars. Don’t be shocked if one of the Suns walk away with the MVP
honors.

James should shine in his first All-Star Game for the Eastern
Conference. Everything he does brings the fans out of their seats. Cleveland’s
phenom will look to put down some thunderous dunks and will fit right in
this fast-paced contest. James will show once again that it is worth the price
of admission to come and watch him showoff his unbelievable skills.

NOTABLE

Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Ilgauskas (Lithuania), Ginobili (Argentina),
Nash (Canada), Nowitzki (Germany) and Yao (China) gives this year’s All-Star
Game six international players, tying the 2003 and 2004 All-Star Game
record for most international All-Stars in one year.

There are seven players (Arenas, Ginobili, James, Jamison, Lewis, Stoudemire
Wade) making their NBA All-Star debuts.

Shaq last played for the Eastern Conference in an All-Star Game in 1996.
O’Neal, who was a member of the Magic, finished with 25 points and 10
rebounds, as the East defeated the West, 129-118, at San Antonio.

The Cavaliers have more than one player (James and Ilgauskas) in an All-Star
Game for the first time since 1993 when Cleveland was represented by
center Brad Daugherty, forward Larry Nance and guard Mark Price in the
contest.

The Western Conference has never won four straight All-Star Games.

The last time the Eastern Conference won the All-Star Game in a Western
Conference city was in 1996 when the contest was played in San Antonio.

EAST WEST