NBA’s brightest to shine in Las Vegas
(Sports Network) – The NBA’s best take center stage on Sunday, as the
Western Conference and Eastern Conference clash in the 56th annual All-Star
Game at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
In the 2006 annual event, Dwyane Wade’s follow shot in the lane with 16.6
seconds remaining rallied the East past the West, 122-120, at the Toyota
Center. LeBron James had 29 points and six rebounds for the East and at 21-
years-old was named the youngest MVP in the history of the contest. Wade ended
with 20 points for the East, which rallied from a 21-point third-quarter
deficit to win the contest for a second straight year.
The East has won six of the last 10 All-Star contests overall.
Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal, Cleveland’s James and Toronto’s Chris Bosh
makeup the starting frontcourt for the Eastern Conference, while Wade of the
Heat and Washington’s Gilbert Arenas combine to give the East a strong
Shaq is a 14-time NBA All-Star and has been selected to the All-
Star Game 12 times by the fans (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000,
2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007). However, this will be just the 11th game
that he has played in. The monstrous center did not play in the contest in
1997, 2001 or 2002.
James, who was the 2003-04 NBA Rookie of the Year, will be playing in his
third NBA All-Star Game, while Bosh is participating in his second. Wade, who
was the MVP of the 2006 NBA Finals, and Arenas are both appearing in their
third contest. Arenas and Bosh are both in the starting lineup for the first
time in their careers.
The bench for the Eastern Conference is filled with plenty of talent.
Detroit’s dynamic backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton headline
the reserves for the East. The Pistons All-Star duo has earned their way into
the contest for the second time in their careers in as many years. They are
joined by Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Caron Butler of
the Wizards, New Jersey’s Vince Carter and Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal, who was
voted in as a starter for last year’s contest but did not play because of a
Butler, Howard and Johnson are all making their All-Star debuts, while Carter
has been selected to his eighth All-Star team and Jermaine O’Neal has earned
his way on to his sixth squad, including 2006.
New Jersey guard Jason Kidd was originally named as a reserve to the East
squad, However, Kidd is sidelined with a back injury and will not play in the
contest. He would have played in his eighth All-Star Game (1996, 1998,
2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007), The versatile Kidd has been voted
as a starter three times (1996, 2000, 2001) and as a reserve five times.
Washington’s Eddie Jordan is the head coach for the Eastern Conference All-
Stars. Jordan is in his fourth season with Washington. He has guided
the Wizards to two straight playoff appearances.
The Western Conference is feeling the injury bug for this year’s contest, and
will try to halt a two-game losing streak. The starting frontcourt for the
West was supposed to consist of Houston center Yao Ming and forwards Tim
Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota
Timberwolves. Tracy McGrady of the Rockets and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who
won the MVP of this contest in 2002 at Philadelphia, makeup a very athletic
Yao, who leads the Rockets in scoring (25.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg),
suffered a non displaced fracture in a bone under his right knee during a
98-93 loss on December 23rd to the Los Angeles Clippers. The 7-6 Yao, who had
been in the starting lineup four straight years for the West, is expected to
be sidelined at least until early March and will not participate in the mid-
Duncan, who shared MVP honors with Shaq in the 2000 contest in Oakland, is
making his ninth All-Star appearance, while Garnett will play in his 10th
All-Star Game and was the MVP in the 2003 contest in Atlanta. McGrady
will take the court for his seventh All-Star contest, sixth as a starter,
and Bryant, who won the MVP of the 2002 contest, is making his ninth
straight All-Star appearance, all as a starter.
Two-time reigning NBA MVP Steve Nash of the Suns, Denver’s Allen Iverson and
Carlos Boozer of the Jazz were all supposed to be reserves for the West.
However, the three All-Stars are all dealing with injuries. Nash has right
shoulder inflammation, Iverson is hampered by a sprained right ankle and
Boozer, who would have made his All-Star debut, has a hairline fracture in
Boozer is averaging team-highs in points (22.1 ppg) and rebounds (11.8 rpg)
for the Jazz, while Nash, who would have played in his fifth All-Star contest,
leads the league in assists (11.8 apg) and Iverson, who was acquired by Denver
from Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal on December 19th, is averaging 28.7
points and 7.6 assists in 35 games for Sixers and Nuggets. Iverson has won the
MVP twice (2001, 2005) for this event and had played the previous seven All-
Star contests for the East, all as a starter.
The healthy bodies on the bench for the Western Conference are very
versatile and athletic. The frontcourt has Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Josh
Howard, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire of the Suns, and Utah’s Mehmet
Seven-time All-Star Ray Allen of Seattle and Tony Parker of the Spurs are
the backups for Bryant and McGrady. Allen, who made the East squad
three times as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, is playing in his fourth
consecutive All-Star Game as a member of the Sonics, while Parker is
playing in his second-career mid-season classic in as many years.
Anthony, who served a 15-game suspension earlier this season for his
participation in the infamous brawl with the New York Knicks on December 16th
at Madison Square Garden. Josh Howard and Okur will both be appearing in
their first All-Star Game, while Nowitzki will play in his sixth, Marion his
fourth and Stoudemire in his second.
Phoenix’ Mike D’Antoni, who makes his All-Star coaching debut, will be calling
the shots from the West bench. D’Antoni has led the Suns to back-to-back
Pacific Division titles and two straight appearances in the Western
Conference finals. He was named the 2004-05 NBA Coach of the Year.
The starters for tonight’s 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
Head coaches for the East and West All-Star teams are based on teams with the
best winning-percentage in each conference following the games on February
4th. Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson and Detroit Pistons head coach
Flip Saunders were not eligible to coach in this seasons contest because they
coached in last year’s game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This could be Wade’s year to grab MVP honors. Wade can do it all and has
proved many times that he is capable of taking over a game single-handidly.
The defending world champions All-Star guard showed what he is capable of
against Dallas in the 2006 NBA Finals and will be ready to showcase his
talents on a different stage.
Stoudemire is definitely back and looks like the dominant force he used to
be. The 6-10 Stoudemire, who averaged 26.0 points and 8.9 rebounds during
his first All-Star season in the 2004-05 campaign, played just three
games last season because of a serious knee injury. He underwent
successful left knee microfracture surgery in October 2005 and had a tough
road back to the court. The Suns star forward wants his peers and all of
the NBA fans to see first hand how he can dominate against anyone who gets in
This is the first time the mid-season classic will be played in Las Vegas.
Anthony, Bosh, James and Wade are all members of the 2003 NBA Draft Class.
James was selected first by Cleveland, Anthony third by Denver, Bosh went No.
4 to Toronto and the Heat grabbed Wade with the fifth overall pick.
Allen, Anthony, Josh Howard and Okur were the four replacements for Boozer,
Iverson, Nash and Yao on the Western Conference roster.
Johnson replaced the injured Kidd on the East squad.
Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Nowitzki (Germany), Okur (Turkey), and
Parker (France) are the four international players who will participate in
this year’s contest. The 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 NBA All-Star Games all had
a record-tying six international players on the respective rosters.