Updated: January 28, 2010, 12:53 PM ET

1. Legler's Western Conference All-Stars

By Tim Legler

The fans have spoken, and it turns out they know what they're talking about.

The Western Conference All-Star starters, as determined by fan voting, are the five players most deserving of the honor. In fact, there is only one debatable selection in the top five.

With the West roster to be completed Thursday with the naming of the reserves, here is a breakdown of the starters and my personal choices to grab the seven remaining roster spots.

First, let's look at the starters.

Kobe Bryant is not exactly a shocking selection. He has put up his usual numbers (per-game averages of 28.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists) while leading the Lakers to the league's best record for most of the first half of the season. Even more impressive is the fact that he has played with a broken finger on his shooting hand for the past six weeks. As Bryant closes in on the all-time Lakers scoring record, it is fitting that he makes his 12th straight All-Star start.

Bryant's running mate will be Steve Nash. A late voting surge moved Nash ahead of Tracy McGrady and let the West avoid the awkward position the East finds itself in with the selection of Allen Iverson. Nash's numbers (18.5 points, 11.0 assists) are eerily similar to his nightly numbers during his two MVP seasons. He also is shooting the basketball at a ridiculous rate from all over the floor. His 53 percent field goal shooting, 43 percent 3-point shooting and 94 percent foul shooting marks all are better than his career averages in those categories. He has put to rest all questions about whether he is still at the top of his game.

The center position goes to Amare Stoudemire, although he is really a power forward playing the 5 in the Suns' version of the spread offense. In a league devoid of prolific center production, Stoudemire's 20.6 points and 8.4 boards per game put him on a different level than the rest of the West's centers. The Clippers' Chris Kaman is closing ground , but Stoudemire still gets the nod based on his superior athleticism and explosiveness.

One forward spot will be manned by Carmelo Anthony. He has led the league in scoring for most of the season (29.7 points per game), and has shown a greater commitment to conditioning, defense and rebounding. He defines the term "pure scorer" with his arsenal of post-ups, first-step blow-bys, pull-up 3-pointers and put-backs. Now that he has cemented himself as an unstoppable scoring machine, Melo has his sights set on a Finals appearance and possible MVP consideration.

The other forward position is the only debatable spot in the starting five. It's a matter of six in one hand and a half-dozen in the other. Tim Duncan got the fan votes, and he is my choice as a starter. Dirk Nowitzki (25.2 points per game) has had an amazing season so far, but Duncan (19.8 points, 10.4 rebounds) simply affects the game in more ways than Nowitzki. His rebounding, shot blocking and low-post defense still are formidable enough to deserve the recognition.

As for the reserves, it is a testament to the parity in the West that my choices for the seven available spots go to players from seven teams. In fact, only the Phoenix Suns, with two starters, should have more than one player in the game.

The first sub should be Nowitzki, the ceremonial sixth man. He has developed into one of the best clutch players in the game. He is a matchup nightmare for any frontcourt player, and has shown an increased propensity for drawing tough fouls and closing out teams at the line when the game is in the balance. Dallas has been one of the most consistent teams in the NBA, and Nowitzki is the guy who pulls the sled every night.

Another forward spot has to go to Zach Randolph. Who would have thought Z-Bo could go to a young Grizzlies team and be a positive influence? Prior to his arrival in Memphis, Randolph carried more baggage than a five-star resort bellhop. No one has ever questioned his productivity, and he is filling it up again this season to the tune of 20.9 points and 11.5 rebounds. The surprising Grizz are one of the best stories in the league, and Randolph is the biggest reason.

Another young team making waves out West is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have a nice young nucleus, an underrated coach in Scott Brooks, a fanatical fan base and a ridiculously talented superstar to build it all around. Kevin Durant (29.3 points, 7.3 rebounds) has put himself on a very short MVP list by showing a greater commitment to rebounding at his position, making the game easier for his teammates and taking on tougher defensive responsibilities.

The reserve guards are anchored by Brandon Roy. He is easily the most unheralded star player in the NBA right now. He combines great maturity with a complete skill set to get it done every night. The only thing he is missing is a defining moment or series in the postseason that will put his name on the lips of every NBA fan when the game's great players are mentioned.

Although the Hornets have been a mild disappointment, you certainly can't blame Chris Paul (20.5 points, 11.1 assists). It is simply amazing to watch a player his size completely control the game whenever he is on the floor. The window might be closing on this particular group of Hornets, but Paul hasn't reached his prime yet.

I usually place the utmost importance on winning when considering players for the All-Star Game, but there are times when a player is producing at a rate that cannot be ignored. Monta Ellis (26.4 points, 5.5 rebounds) has torched enough defenses this season that his team's issues need to be placed to the side. Ellis is as explosive as any scorer in the league. There isn't a single defender capable of keeping him from getting his numbers.

Finally, the last spot should go to Deron Williams. The Jazz, due to their ineptitude on the road, are not serious contenders in the West, and might be pushed out of the playoffs altogether with the emergence of the Thunder and Grizzlies. Williams does all he can to see that it doesn't go down like that. Quite simply, he is the best point guard in the league. The combination of size, strength, scoring ability, vision and toughness make him a no-brainer to represent the West on Valentine's Day.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

Dimes past: Jan. 8-9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15-16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 22-23 | 24 | 25 | 26

2. Sources: Team USA To Train In NYC

By Chris Sheridan

NEW YORK -- Team USA is in negotiations to hold training camp in New York City instead of Las Vegas in August, and to play at least one exhibition game at Madison Square Garden, ESPN.com learned Wednesday.

No agreements have been finalized, but sources said the U.S. federation is wholeheartedly committed to the idea of placing the team in the nation's largest media market prior to its departure for the World Championship in Turkey Aug. 26-Sept. 12.

Team USA still plans to conduct a mini-camp in Las Vegas in mid-July, but there is a strong possibility that several key members of the team who will be unrestricted free agents this summer (including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) will be excused from the Las Vegas portion of camp.

Wade has publicly hedged on his commitment to playing and USA Basketball insiders also have concerns regarding how many members of their eight-man core (James, Wade, Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard) that won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics might back off the verbal commitments they gave to team director Jerry Colangelo last February.

To read the entire story, click here.

3. Haunted Hotel?

By Nick Friedell

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Taj Gibson was still trying to wrap his mind around what he had seen as the old elevator at the Skirvin Hotel gingerly opened its doors Wednesday morning. The rookie from USC had heard the stories about the old hotel being haunted, and now he had one of his own that surely would add to the myth.

"At one point, at around 12:15 at night, my bathroom just slammed completely shut," he said. "I don't know what it was, but it just completely slammed. It took me a minute to kind of figure out what [it] was."

Derrick Rose heard the ghost tales from all the locals, as well.

"If everybody in the town is saying it, then it's got to be true." Rose said after Wednesday's shootaround."I don't care whatever somebody said on this team, I believe in stuff like that. It was scary [Tuesday] night."

To read the entire Friedell column, click here.

4. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Wednesday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.


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