NEW YORK (AP) - Shaq is back in the All-Star game.
After being left out of the NBA's midseason gala for first time
in his career last season, Shaquille O'Neal received his 15th
All-Star selection Thursday night when the reserves were announced
for the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix.
O'Neal and Suns teammate Amare Stoudemire give the host team two
Western Conference All-Stars.
New Orleans, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers also had
multiple players on the West roster, which will be coached by the
Lakers' Phil Jackson.
The Orlando Magic made out best in the East, with Jameer Nelson
and Rashard Lewis picked as reserves by the conference's coaches
alongside starter Dwight Howard. It's the first time Orlando has
had three All-Stars.
"I was just anxious to find out," Nelson said. "I honestly don't get that way. But me hearing everywhere, 'You're an All-Star, you should be an All-Star, you're having an All-Star year.' So you just want to see if people will give you the respect that other people think you deserve."
But for the second year in a row, only two of the Boston Celtics' Big Three made the initial roster: Paul Pierce was voted in with starter Kevin Garnett, while Ray Allen was left out.
Traded to the Suns at last season's deadline, O'Neal endured the worst season of his career and had his record-tying streak of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances end. Now he's back in the showcase game, and trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 19 for most appearances.
Abdul-Jabbar, a Lakers assistant, will help coach the West team.
The 36-year-old O'Neal was averaging 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds entering Thursday night's showdown against the Spurs. He needs five more points to catch Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh on the NBA's career scoring list.
O'Neal isn't the only veteran on a West roster flush with experience. The Spurs' Tim Duncan and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant are each making their 11th appearances, while Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki was picked for the eighth time and Houston center Yao Ming for the seventh time.
Carmelo Anthony, who's missed the last 10 games with a broken
bone in his right hand, was left off the roster even though he's
been cleared to play Friday night at Charlotte. That leaves point
guard Chauncey Billups the lone selection from the division-leading
Acquired in a trade with the Pistons on Nov. 3, Billups has given Denver a steady backcourt presence. The four-time All-Star is
averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists.
If the West team plans to rely on experience, the East might
turn to youthful exuberance.
Making their first All-Star teams are Nelson, New Jersey guard
Devin Harris and Indiana forward Danny Granger, who was snubbed
last season but whose play for the injury-depleted Pacers has been
Granger is fourth in the league in scoring at 25.8 points per
Stoudemire, Yao, Bryant, Duncan and Chris Paul of the Hornets
were voted by fans to start for the West. The East starters are
Garnett, Howard, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson of the Pistons and
LeBron James of the Cavaliers.
Coaches were then required to vote for two guards, two forwards,
a center and two at-large reserves. The other picks for the West
were Pau Gasol of the Lakers, Tony Parker of the Spurs, Brandon Roy
of the Trail Blazers and David West of the Hornets. Filling out the
East roster are Raptors forward Chris Bosh and Hawks guard Joe
There was little controversy in fan voting - besides Stoudemire
beating out Spurs reserve Bruce Bowen by just 68,000 votes - but
the ballots turned in by the league's coaches left a bunch of
deserving players with a gripe.
Allen was passed over despite averaging 18.0 points and helping
Boston to a 38-9 record. The eight-time All-Star was skipped over
last year, too, but was later added by commissioner David Stern as
an injury replacement for Caron Butler.
Deron Williams and Paul Millsap of the Jazz also were left off
the rosters. So were the Suns' Steve Nash, a six-time All-Star, Mo
Williams of the East-leading Cavaliers, Antawn Jamison of the
Wizards and Al Jefferson of the Timberwolves.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Orlando, Fla., contributed to this
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)