Sunday , Feb , 19 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

NBA All-Star Game Outlook

***** NBA All-Star Game Outlook *****

(Sports Network) – The brightest stars of the NBA will be out for all to
see, as the Eastern Conference battles the Western Conference in the 55th
annual All-Star Game at the Toyota Center.

The annual event returns to Houston for the first time since 1989, when the
West defeated the East, 143-134, at the Astrodome. Utah’s Karl Malone was
named MVP of the game, as he finished with a team-best 28 points and nine
rebounds.

In last season’s contest, Allen Iverson finished with 15 points, 10 assists
and five steals as the East collected a 125-115 victory over the West in the
54th NBA All-Star Game at the Pepsi Center. Iverson took home his second-
career Most Valuable Player Trophy for the event, as he also won the award in
2001. In the 2001 Game, which was played in Washington, Iverson netted 25
and handed out five assists in the East’s 111-110 win over the West .

The starters for the contest were determined by the fans’ votes, while the
30 head coaches in the NBA voted for the reserves in their respective
conferences after the starting players for each squad were finalized.

The Eastern Conference, which has won five of the last nine All-Star Games,
has a well-balanced roster. The starting lineup consists of Miami’s Shaquille
O’Neal at center, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal at
forward and Philadelphia’s Iverson and Dwyane Wade of the Heat at guard.
However, Jermaine O’Neal is sidelined with a groin injury and will not play in
the game.

Twenty-seven-year-old Jermaine O’Neal was a starter in the 2003 and 2004 All-
Star Games and was a reserve in 2002 and 2005 for the East. He has averaged
12 points and 7.8 boards in his four All-Star appearances.

Shaquille O’Neal is a 13-time NBA All-Star and has been selected to the All-
Star Game 11 times by the fans (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000,
2001, 2002, 2005, 2006). However, this will be just the 10th game that he
has played in. He did not play in the contest in 1997, 2001 or 2002. In his
nine All-Star Games, Shaq has averaged 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds.

The 21-year-old James will be playing in his second NBA All-Star Game. The
2003-04 NBA Rookie of the Year, James scored 13 points, grabbed eight boards
and dished out six assists in last year’s contest.

Wade and Iverson give the East a dynamic backcourt. Like James, Wade will also
be playing in his second NBA All-Star Game. The Marquette product netted 14 in
the 2005 contest.

Iverson was voted to the starting lineup for the seventh straight season. In
his six previous All-Star Games, the Georgetown product has averaged 18.2
points and 7.5 assists.

Coming off the bench for the East will be Paul Pierce of the Celtics,
Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace,
New Jersey’s Vince Carter Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Washington’s Gilbert
Arenas, who was selected by NBA Commissioner David Stern to replace the
injured Jermaine O’Neal .

Billups, Bosh and Hamilton are all making their All-Star debuts, while
Pierce will play in his fifth contest, Ben Wallace his fourth, Rasheed
Wallace his third and Arenas in his second.

Detroit’s Flip Saunders is the head coach for the Eastern Conference All-
Stars. Saunders, who is in his first season at the helm in Detroit, will be
coaching in his second All-Star Game. When he was the general of Minnesota,
Saunders guided the West to a 136-132 victory in the 2004 game at the Staples
Center.

The Western Conference will try to get back on the winning track. The starting
frontcourt for the West consists of Houston center Yao Ming and forwards Tim
Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Tracy McGrady of the Rockets. Reigning
league MVP Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers makeup a very impressive
backcourt.

Duncan is making his eighth All-Star appearance, while Yao will start in his
fourth straight All-Star Game and McGrady will take the court for his sixth
All-Star contest, fifth as a starter. Playing in just his fourth year in the
NBA, Yao has averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in his three All-Star
Game appearances. Duncan has posted five double-doubles and has registered
14.6 points and 12.9 boards in his seven All-Star Games.

Bryant, who won the MVP of the 2002 contest, is making his eighth straight
All-Star appearance, all as a starter. In his previous seven All-Star
Games, the Lakers’ guard has averaged 22.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.4
assists.

The 32-year-old Nash will be playing in his fourth All-Star Game. He has
averaged just 4.0 points and 6.0 assists in his previous three outings.
However, this could be the year that Nash puts his unbelievable playmaking
skills on display for all to watch.

The bench for the Western Conference is very athletic. The frontcourt has
Elton Brand of the Clippers, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion of the
Suns, Memphis’ Pau Gasol and Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, who will play in his
ninth All-Star Game and was the MVP in the 2003 contest in Atlanta.

Six-time All-Star Ray Allen of Seattle and Tony Parker of the Spurs will be
the backups for Bryant and Nash. Allen, who made the East squad three
times as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, is playing in his third consecutive
All-Star Game as a member of the Sonics.

Gasol and Parker will be appearing in their first All-Star Games, while
Nowitzki will play in his fifth, Brand his second and Marion in his third.

The West will be led by Dallas’ Avery Johnson, who makes his All-Star coaching
debut. Johnson is in his first full season as the general of the Mavericks. He
guided the Mavericks to the Western Conference semifinals during the
2005 postseason.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

James will not have the butterflies that he may have experienced in last
year’s game, which was his first All-Star contest. There is not doubt that he
belongs on the court with the elite in the NBA, and he may be on a mission to
showoff his unbelievable talents in a game that caters to his skills.

Nash will look up and see Bryant on one side and McGrady on the other. Duncan
and Yao will be great targets in the low post, while the rest of the roster
will also benefit from the unbelievable passing abilities of the Phoenix
guard. The crafty veteran will be able to hand out assists like they are going
out of style and is ready to shine in this year’s game.

NOTABLE

This year’s Pistons join the Celtics (1952-53, 1961-62 and 1974-75), Lakers
(1961-62 and 1997-98) and Sixers (1982-83) as the only squads in All-Star Game
history to have four players selected to participate in a single All-Star
Game.

For the first time in NBA All-Star Game history the coaches have selected four
teammates as reserves for the contest.

Rasheed Wallace will be playing in his first All-Star Game as a member of the
Eastern Conference. When he was with the Portland Trail Blazers, Rasheed
played in the contest as a reserve for the West in 2000 and 2001.

Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Gasol (Spain), Nash (Canada), Nowitzki (Germany)
and Parker (France), and Yao (China) gives this year’s game a record-tying
six international players in one year. The 2003, 2004 and 2005 NBA All-Star
Games all had six international players on the respective rosters.