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Friday, 25 January 2008 19:11
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 Allen Iverson's selection as a starter helped, but Western Conference coaches still have plenty of work to do before Tuesday afternoon.
That's when their votes for All-Star reserves are due back in the league office. That doesn't give them much time to sort through a list of guards that includes Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Brandon Roy, Tony Parker, Deron Williams and Manu Ginobili.
Iverson would have been on that list, too, but he rallied to pass Tracy McGrady and earn a starting spot for the Feb. 17 game in New Orleans.
hout a doubt.''
It won't be as tough for Byron Scott. The New Orleans coach said Nash and Paul are the obvious choices, though he can't vote for Paul because the point guard plays on his team.
But he will remind other coaches that they should.
``I've got to,'' Scott said. ``First of all, I think I'm just stating the obvious when I call a coach or send him a note about how Chris is playing and why deserves to be on that All-Star team.
``You've got to look at their record, look at their performance and then make your choice,'' Scott added earlier this month. ``Look at our team. We're probably 11 games better this year right now than we were at this point last year. I think he's the only point guard in the (West) averaging a double-double besides Steve Nash. So he has some numbers that definitely warrant him being on the All-Star team.''
So do plenty of other West guards, but coaches can only choose four: two as guards and two wild-card picks.
Davis and Williams have the best numbers among the remaining choices. Roy has been the best player on a Portland team that is among the league's biggest surprises. Parker or Ginobili would give the defending champion Spurs a second player alongside starting forward Tim Duncan.
But Popovich won't lobby for either player. And it sounds as if Scott shouldn't bother pestering him about Paul.
``I've never campaigned for anybody. ... I just always felt it was - whenever I got sheets of paper or little you know begging and all that kind of thing to pick people, it usually makes me go the other way,'' Popovich said. ``I just think everybody's grown and everybody has a brain and everybody picks who they think is the best without politicking for it and sending everybody cookies and cake and candies and all that.''
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WILL SHAQ BE BACK?: Injuries have kept him from playing much, and he hasn't been very effective when he has been on the court.
So is Shaquille O'Neal's All-Star streak over?
O'Neal's numbers would say yes. He is averaging a career-low 14.2 points for a Miami team that has the worst record in the Eastern Conference, and he had already missed nine games going into the weekend.
``(O'Neal will) admit that he has not played well enough to be an All-Star,'' Charles Barkley said Thursday night on TNT.
But that's up to the East coaches, who may look beyond Shaq's stats.
O'Neal has been selected to 14 straight games, tying the record shared by Jerry West and Karl Malone, and is a favorite of players, fans and the media. O'Neal has provided some of All-Star weekend's most entertaining moments, such as his breakdancing performance with Dwight Howard and LeBron James during last year's East practice.
``In any other industry, there are lifetime achievement awards and stuff like that, that show the respect and the gratitude for what that player has done for the game,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``Because Shaquille has been hurt most of the year, that's up to the head coaches who will elect whether or not he's going to be a participant.''
He's already got one vote. New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said he needed no campaigning, that he was ``on the record'' that he was voting for O'Neal. With the center spot in the East such a weak position, O'Neal may not have trouble getting more support.
One way or another, though, O'Neal is All-Star bound.
The former LSU star, who has kept close ties in Louisiana since his college days and was active in many charitable ways after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, will host a fundraiser over All-Star weekend with New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush.
``I'll be there,'' O'Neal said, ``no matter what.''
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ALL-STARS, NOT SUPERSTARS: Doc Rivers is headed to New Orleans to coach in the All-Star game, and he knows the kind of player he'd like to see on his roster.
they never get their due.''
Oakley did make one All-Star game, as a member of the New York Knicks in 1994. Rivers, a teammate on that Knicks squad, would like more recognition for players who contribute to winning teams without being scorers.
``I think one vote a year should be put aside and the league should maybe vote. I've always felt that,'' he said. ``Eleven stars and one guy a year. It would help all coaches, too, to get our guys to all be that one guy. That would be terrific.''
Rivers will coach the Eastern Conference on Feb. 17, and he'll have at least one of his Celtics players with him. Kevin Garnett was voted in as a starter, and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will get strong consideration as reserves.
But Rivers doesn't get caught up in that, recalling his lone All-Star appearance while playing for Atlanta in 1988.
``I don't give that thought because that's more of an individual thing,'' he said. ``As a player I made it once, I wanted to make it, I thought it was a big deal. Then when I got there and I realized that me and Dominique (Wilkins) were the only two standing there, it was a nice honor but my whole thought was, 'Where are my teammates? I want my teammates.' And I think it is a great honor for the players, whoever makes it, but I don't give that a lot of thought.''
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SLAM PLANS: Rudy Gay promised to deliver something in the slam dunk contest that hadn't been seen before. That's no longer true, because Gay will be doing a dunk that was created by someone else.
The Memphis forward announced a promotion this week in which fans can submit a dunk, which Gay will replicate on All-Star Saturday night.
Fans can upload a demonstration of their best dunk at www.youtube.com/rudygay22slamdunk through Feb. 12. Gay will choose one of the submissions, then attempt to pull it off in New Orleans.
``I am really excited about this unique opportunity to engage the basketball community and create some additional excitement for the Slam Dunk competition,'' Gay said in a statement. ``I am looking forward to seeing what dunks are submitted and will be selecting one that is creative and will excite the crowd during the competition.''
Orlando center Dwight Howard, defending champion Gerald Green of Minnesota, and Toronto's Jamario Moon round out the field. Howard is back for a second try after failing to advance to the finals last year,
``Rudy Gay is going to be in it, Gerald Green, those are some high flyers,'' Howard said. ``Being the tallest, I've got to do something real spectacular to win.''
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L.A. STORY: Not only have the Los Angeles Clippers lost their way on the court, they can't even keep track of a story off it.
A frustrating season in Los Angeles may have reached its low point this week when coach Mike Dunleavy and Donald Sterling feuded through the media, then patched things up over the phone.
Scratch that. Apparently, they didn't.
Dunleavy told local reporters that they didn't speak at all. He said he left a message for Sterling, and team president Andy Roeser called him back and instructed him to tell the media that he and Sterling had talked, because they felt the same way.
``(Roeser) said that you can say you talked to (Sterling) because you got the message and he got the message you were relaying,'' Dunleavy told the Orange County Register.
Earlier in the week in a story in the Los Angeles Times, Sterling had threatened to make changes. Dunleavy fired back that he would be making a mistake. The frustrations are natural in a season in which the Clippers have struggled with injuries while falling into last place in the Pacific Division.
``It's tough times,'' guard Cuttino Mobley said. ``If you've got myself injured, Sam (Cassell) injured, Tim (Thomas) injured, Brevin (Knight), Elton Brand, Shaun Livingston ... you tell me what team can play on a consistent level every single day when your guys are injured? You lose your chemistry, you lose the vibe for each other, things like that. We all get frustrated. It's a human thing.''
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AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans, Tim Reynolds in Miami, Elizabeth White in San Antonio, and AP freelance writer Joe Resnick in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
 

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