MIAMI (AP) -Someone told Shaquille O'Neal a few days ago that he wasn't selected for the All-Star Game, an erroneous statement at the time only because the coaches' votes still hadn't been counted.
Those votes are now in. And O'Neal is indeed out.
Ending his record-tying streak of 14 straight All-Star selections, the Miami Heat center was not on the list of Eastern Conference reserves released Thursday for the Feb. 17 game in New Orleans. O'Neal will still be going to the All-Star festivities, but only to host a couple of parties and appear at other events that weekend.
``I think he's still an All-Star,'' Heat forward Ricky Davis said.
The coaches who select the reserves didn't agree, nor did the fans who voted Orlando's Dwight Howard in as the East's starting center.
For his part, O'Neal said he thought Howard's starting nod was well-deserved and that he wouldn't lobby the coaches for support on their ballots. And even if he was voted onto the team, O'Neal - who's averaging a career-low 14.2 points, still the second-best in the East among true centers behind Howard - may not have been able to play anyway because of a hip injury that currently has him out of the Heat lineup.
O'Neal, who wasn't available Thursday, said last week that he wouldn't be ``extra sad'' if he didn't earn a spot on this year's team. Dwyane Wade will be Miami's only All-Star.
``Shaq sort of is the All-Star game, sort of what the All-Star game is all about,'' said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, O'Neal's former coach in Miami. ``It's celebrity and the people the fans want to see and everything else. You know, we had Magic Johnson in the All-Star game when he wasn't even playing, so it'd be hard for anybody to argue if Shaq were in there.''
Toronto's Chris Bosh, Washington's Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, Boston's Paul Pierce, Detroit's Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, and Atlanta's Joe Johnson were the East reserve selections.
They'll join Wade, Howard, New Jersey's Jason Kidd, Cleveland's LeBron James and Boston's Kevin Garnett, the East starters.
Van Gundy - who wouldn't reveal if he voted for O'Neal - added that an All-Star nod is still a major deal for players, and an especially tough decision for coaches since there's only 12 players tabbed for each roster.
``This isn't baseball where there's a lot of spots,'' Van Gundy said. ``There's only 12 spots for 15 teams and a lot of deserving people are going to get left off.''
O'Neal, Jerry West and Karl Malone are the only players selected to 14 straight All-Star games.
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