MIAMI (AP) -The voting is complete, the ballots have been counted and Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal's record-tying streak of 14 straight All-Star selections has ended.
Right?
Well, maybe not.
At least, Heat coach Pat Riley isn't quite ready to concede that.
``It's not done yet,'' Riley said Friday. ``The final, final, final decision isn't done yet.''
Stopping short of saying he'll personally urge the NBA to add O'Neal to the Eastern Conference roster for the Feb. 17 game in New Orleans, Riley did say he believes commissioner David Stern should have the option of adding someone to the roster when the situation is warranted.
In Riley's mind, this would be one of those situations.
''
O'Neal is still headed to New Orleans. The former LSU center, who championed a number of charity efforts after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, is expected to host at least two parties and appear at several other events.
``He's going to be part of the All-Star festivities specifically to raise money,'' Riley said. ``So I would think the NBA should give him a role. A role. Just like they bring a lot of veteran players in that have retired, they're always around, I think he should have a major role in something.''
If an All-Star roster spot opens, through injury or trade, Stern could add O'Neal to the East lineup.
Unless that happens, though, O'Neal - one of only three players in history, joining Jerry West and Karl Malone, to be selected to 14 straight All-Star teams - will just be a very large onlooker.
``We're thrilled that Shaq plans to be in New Orleans and we look forward to having him participate in any and all of the 'NBA Cares' events that we are doing,'' NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
O'Neal is averaging 14.2 points this season, a career low, and is currently sidelined by a hip injury. In his last public comments on the issue last week, O'Neal said he didn't know if his hip would be healed in time for All-Star weekend anyway, something that may have had a role in the outcome of the coaches' vote.
Orlando's Dwight Howard won by a wide margin in the fan balloting for the East's starting center, and O'Neal said last week that he believed the fans made the right choice.
In the coaches' poll for the reserve spots, which the NBA revealed Thursday, there was no true backup center selected. Toronto's Chris Bosh, a forward, likely will wind up being the de facto backup center in the game that usually becomes a freewheeling offensive showcase anyway.
``It could have went a lot of different ways,'' said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who was voted in as a starter by the fans. ``I was actually surprised there were no centers selected at all, more so than Shaq not being selected.''
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