All-Star Game: Must see ‘BG’
NEW YORK–Blake Griffin is going to his first All-Star game, and Kevin Garnett matched an NBA record Thursday with his 14th straight selection as one of a record-tying four Boston Celtics headed for the midseason event.
Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will accompany Garnett, who equaled Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone for the most consecutive selections. The Celtics joined the 2006 Detroit Pistons as the only teams to have four players picked as reserves by the coaches.
Griffin, the Rookie of the Year favorite of the Clippers, will become the first rookie All-Star since Yao Ming in 2003. Joining Griffin on the Western Conference team for the Feb. 20 game at Staples Center were Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili of the NBA-leading Spurs; forwards Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas and Pau Gasol of the Lakers; and guards Deron Williams of Utah and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, who joins Griffin as the lone first-time selections.
Chris Bosh will go to Los Angeles with Miami teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were elected as starters. The other East reserves picked were Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and Al Horford.
The reserves were selected in voting by the head coaches in each conference, who had to vote for two forwards, two guards, a center and two players regardless of position.
They went for the winning teams in the East, whose reserves are represented by just three teams.
The voting was much more difficult in the West, where coaches bypassed the likes of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph and Lamar Odom at the forward spot.
“There hasn’t been too many times where you’ve had this kind of competition at the top of the Eastern Conference with such good teams,”Wade said.”So looking at the All-Star team, you understand that most guys are going to be from a few teams. That’s how it should be in the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference is a different argument.”
Tony Parker missed out despite being the second-leading scorer on the Spurs, who entered play Thursday with a 40-8 record. Veteran Steve Nash of the Suns and the Warriors’Monta Ellis, the league’s sixth-leading scorer, also fell short.
“I think every year it’s hard for point guards to make it, because there are so many great point guards in this league, especially in the West,”Williams said.”There are always young guys that are coming into the league and it’s going to continue to be a fight every year. That’s another reason I feel so honored.”
The starters were chosen by fan voting and announced last week. Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire are the other East starters, while the Lakers’Kobe Bryant, Hornets guard Chris Paul, forwards Carmelo Anthony of Denver and Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, and Houston center Yao were the winners from the West.
Yao is injured and Commissioner David Stern will choose a replacement. That gives another chance to Love, who is averaging 21.4 points and a league-best 15.5 rebounds, and shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range. He has 34 straight double-doubles, but was undoubtedly hurt by his Minnesota Timberwolves’11-37 record.
But the coaches couldn’t overlook Griffin, even though the Clippers are also below .500. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft has been spectacular after sitting out last season following knee surgery, averaging 23 points and 12.7 rebounds while compiling a half season of highlights with his array of dunks.
The East will be coached by the Celtics’Doc Rivers, who said earlier Thursday that he hoped his four players would be rewarded and said he would play them all together.
“That way we can run offense in the All-Star game,”Rivers said.”That’d be a first.”
The Celtics(1953,’62 and’75); Lakers(’62 and’98)and 76ers(’83)also had four All-Stars. But only the Pistons, with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, had four reserves selected by the coaches.
The Heat’s own Big Three was recognized when Bosh was selected to his sixth All-Star game, even though his numbers have dropped significantly in his first year since leaving Toronto.
“Chris is definitely one of the top 24 guys that we have in this league, definitely one of the top 12 guys that we have in the Eastern Conference.
So I don’t think it’s much of a debate,”James said.”Happy for him, absolutely. To be able to take three guys off one team, just compliments this team, first of all, and then our individual talents put together that we’re able to represent the Miami Heat that weekend.”
Duncan earned his 13th straight selection despite career-low numbers as the Spurs monitor his minutes. His coach, Gregg Popovich, will guide the West.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Orlando, Fla., and freelance writer Mike Petraglia in Waltham, Mass., contributed to this report.