Preview: East All-Stars at West All-Stars

Preview: East All-Stars at West All-Stars

Preview: East All-Stars at West All-Stars
Sat, Feb 17, 2007
By Associated Press

With the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas serving as a backdrop, perhaps no previous NBA All-Star game has been as hyped as this Sunday's talent showcase between the East and the West.

Oddsmakers have the Western Conference listed as 3 1/2-point favorites. The total is set at 256.

But though ticket prices are soaring and attention is high, the game will be lacking some pizazz with the absence of several injured players for both conferences.

Still, that likely won't dampen the enthusiasm surrounding the first All-Star game to be played in a city without a franchise. Las Vegas has spent the weekend trying to prove to the NBA and its owners that the city would be a good fit for a team, and the amount of money - ticket prices are reportedly going as high as $27,000 - and attention being paid to the game has provided a good start.

"As far as the expectations for this weekend, it outdoes any championship fight that I've experienced here," said Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, the man leading the movement to bring an NBA team. "And I've lived here since 1964 and I've seen the Alis and the Listons and the Foremans and the Fosters and the Tysons.

"The buzz here is extraordinary. The parties that are being arranged at this point in time are extraordinary. It's just going to be a weekend and a couple of days of nonstop excitement and electricity and neon and glitz and glamour, and it's going to be everything that Las Vegas is all about."

Even without the injured stars, the game figures to be an exciting affair. Four players are out for the West, including Houston's Yao Ming, the starting center, and Phoenix's Steve Nash, the two-time reigning league MVP. The East will be without New Jersey's Jason Kidd.

While those players would have added to the game, there's nothing lacking with the remaining cast. The West All-Stars boast Kobe Bryant, one of the favorites for MVP this season, and San Antonio's Tim Duncan, a three-time NBA Finals MVP.

The East All-Stars have last year's All-Star MVP LeBron James and Miami's Dwyane Wade, who has taken his game to another level after leading the Heat to a championship last season.

"I think it's a good match," Bryant said of playing the All-Star game in Las Vegas. "Basketball is the greatest show in the world. Everybody loves watching, and what better place to have a great show than Las Vegas?"

Having the All-Star break in Las Vegas is something players from both conferences have been looking forward to all season, and most don't figure to get much sleep with all the parties and appearances they'll be attending.

"You get the opportunity to gamble a little bit, have a little fun," said James, who, at 21 last year was the youngest MVP in the history of the All-Star game. "The lights are always on here. You never know what time it is until you go outside."

Both rosters are stocked with talent, but the conference that emerges as the winner may be the one that can muster the most energy on Sunday night.

"There ain't going to be no sleep, I'll tell you that," Wade said. "There's going to be a lot going on."

Wade and Washington's Gilbert Arenas will start in the backcourt for the East, joined up front by James, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Miami's Shaquille O'Neal, making his 14th All-Star appearance - second-most in history - despite appearing in only 13 games this season.

For the West, Bryant and Houston's Tracy McGrady will start at guard, joined by Duncan, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, who replaces Yao in the lineup.

James scored 29 points to help the East rally from a 21-point deficit and win last year's game 122-120 in Houston. The East has won the last two All-Star games after the West captured three in a row.

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