By Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
February 3, 2006
A year ago, during a discussion about the NBA All-Star game, Jeff Van Gundy told me he believes only players from winning teams should be invited to play in the midseason event. It's a radical idea perhaps, but it's one that isn't without merit.
Winning is what basketball is all about, and the best players aren't the ones who score the most points – they're the ones who help their teams win. How ironic then that, in a season of misery for Van Gundy's Houston Rockets, two of his players would be named to the Western Conference All-Stars' starting lineup.
Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady will take the floor in Houston on Feb. 19, but if it were up to their coach, neither would be there. However, that is the way the All-Star game works.
The fans cast the votes, and both Yao and T-Mac are wildly popular. Even though neither has had an All-Star season, they'll be in the starting lineup at the Toyota Center. Of course, with the two frequently injured Rockets taking up two spots on the roster, two deserving players in the West will be left out.
With that in mind, I give you my All-Star reserves for both the West and East squads, along with a list of those who should be there but probably won't.
Fans' starting lineup
Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming.
Guard: Tony Parker – He's always been unbelievably fast. Now he's become very efficient offensively, and with Duncan slowing down a bit, he has carried the San Antonio Spurs.
Guard: Carmelo Anthony – I know, he's not a guard. But he's had a monster season and his Denver Nuggets are in first place. So he can play wherever he wants on my team.
Forward: Dirk Nowitzki – Nate McMillan calls the Dallas Mavericks star "the toughest matchup in the NBA."
Forward: Elton Brand – He has made the Los Angeles Clippers into one of the top teams in the NBA. That alone should make him a Hall of Famer, let alone an All-Star.
Center: Pau Gasol – He has elevated his game to the point where defenses have to game plan to stop him. Gasol is the key to a very good Memphis Grizzlies squad.
Wild card: Shawn Marion – There isn't a more versatile player defensively in the NBA, and the Phoenix Suns forward's rebounding is off the charts.
Wild card: Kevin Garnett – He's still one of the best players in the league, even if his Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled.
Mike Bibby – The Sacramento Kings guard has become the Susan Lucci of NBA players. He's always just missing the cut for an All-Star berth.
Sam Cassell – He's given the Clips a swagger.
Marcus Camby – If the vote had been held a month ago, he would have made it. Injuries took the Denver Nuggets center out of the running.
Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis – Both are having great seasons, but the Seattle SuperSonics' struggles can't be overlooked.
Chris Paul – Not yet, young fella.
Jason Terry – He's the second-best player on a very good Mavericks team. But there are too many players in front of him.
Fans' starting lineup
Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal.
David Stern will announce a replacement for the injured O'Neal, but since this is my column, I'll pick my own – Rasheed Wallace. His post defense is even better than that of his teammate and namesake, Ben Wallace, and his shooting range opens up the entire floor for the Detroit Pistons. The numbers (15 points and over six rebounds a game) aren't phenomenal, but Rasheed is one of the biggest reasons the Pistons are so good.
Guard: Chauncey Billups – He's fearless, he hits big shots and his teammates have tremendous confidence in him.
Guard: Richard Hamilton – Relentless at moving without the ball, Hamilton is a lethal scorer.
Forward: Chris Bosh – I know, his Toronto Raptors stink, but Bosh is too good to keep off this team. And he's what the league should be about: hard-working, respectful and talented.
Forward: Michael Redd – The Milwaukee Bucks are in playoff contention, thanks in large part to their best player, Redd. He's a terrific long-range shooter.
Center: Ben Wallace – He's the heart and soul of the best team in basketball.
Wild card: Gilbert Arenas – He's a one-man show for the Washington Wizards, and that's a problem at times. But there's no denying he's one of the most gifted players in the league.
Wild card: Vince Carter – He's had a phenomenal season and led the New Jersey Nets to first place in the Atlantic Division. Vince is back.
Paul Pierce – He's a victim of the Boston Celtics' struggles.
Chris Webber – It's nice to see him playing well again, but the Philadelphia 76ers forward is not quite an All-Star.
Jason Kidd – I had trouble with this one. He's a joy to watch, his Nets are in first place and he's having a great season. But Kidd gets caught in the numbers game.
Tayshaun Prince – He's an excellent defender and all-around player, but his four Pistons teammates all overshadow him.
Richard Jefferson – He's had another excellent season, but he's playing third fiddle to Carter and Kidd.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – The Cleveland Cavaliers center might be the best shooting center in the game.
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Saturday, Feb 4, 2006 7:30 pm, EST
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