There is more debate this year than usual about who should be on the All-Star team, in large part because of the phenomenal play of youngsters Chris Paul and Chris Bosh as well as the tremendous start of the Detroit Pistons.
Reaching for the stars
The starters were announced last week. Now let's attempt to answer some of the main questions before the All-Star reserves are announced this Thursday.
1. Should Chris Paul be on the West All-Star team?
Yes. He is definitely deserving.
That said, it's OK if he doesn't make it, for two reasons -- his case is not overwhelming, and he's so young that he'll have lots more chances to make it.
But this guy is unquestionably the Rookie of the Year. And just today, he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week, with averages of 20 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and two steals, with 63 percent shooting.
Last year, the Hornets won 18 games all year. This season, they have 24 wins, which is as many as the Lakers, and more than Minnesota, Utah, Seattle, Golden State, Sacramento and Houston.
Credit goes largely to Paul for this improvement. And the way he plays makes him a treat to watch.
The guy deserves it.
2. Should Chris Bosh be on the East All-Star team?
I love Bosh. He is an All-Star-caliber player.
So I don't put the blame on him, but the Toronto Raptors just haven't played well enough for Bosh to be an All-Star this year. It's a team game, and the name of the game is winning. NBA players are in the business of winning basketball games.
It's not entirely fair -- in fact, most of the blame goes to Toronto's management. But you want to give a little bit more credit to the guys who are on winning teams. After all, it's easier to pile up big numbers on a losing team.
As great as he's been, there are other guys who deserve it a little more.
3. What about Dwight Howard?
4. What should the fans consider when choosing the All-Star starters?
Voting for All-Stars is about popularity, not productivity, and that's the way it should be. It's the only time the fans get the say.
The game, first and foremost, is about who the fans want to see. Any talk about who "should" be starting is irrelevant.
5. What should the coaches consider when selecting the All-Star reserves?
Once you get beyond the starters, we get down to who is the most deserving. Now we're talking about the impact a player has, especially the impact on winning games.
It's not just stats. It's also about the players who are creating the most team success.
Also, a player's tenure can be a tiebreaker. Some guys build their All-Star cases over a period of years, and deserve to go based on what they've done in their careers.
6. Since winning is a major factor, should all five Detroit Pistons go to the All-Star Game?
No. While I can see four Pistons in the game, I don't think it's fair to put all five in the game at the expense of a more deserving player.
That said, they are a unique team, in that they have no superstars, but rather five guys who could probably have better individual numbers if they played with other teams.
But I can't see putting Tayshaun Prince on the All-Star team at this point ahead of some other guys in the conference.
For instance, what about Michael Redd? The Bucks are winning, too, and Michael Redd is the main reason. It's not only about winning the most games -- sometimes it's about winning more than expected, and taking your team to another level. Redd does that, and lately Gilbert Arenas is doing the same thing with Washington.
7. Should the Grizzlies finally have their first All-Star?
Yes. Pau Gasol is an All-Star in my book.
8. Should Carmelo Anthony make his first All-Star Game?
Yes again. I would put him on the team. He's raised the level of his game, even with all the injuries they've had, and he has Denver in first place -- that's the mark of an All-Star.
9. Any surprises on your All-Star roster?
I think Kevin Garnett should stay home for the first time in this millenium. Nothing against KG -- his numbers are solid. But I expect more from Garnett. Among the game's elite players, he's probably the only guy who hasn't scored 35 in a game this year. His team is just 22-25, and out of the playoffs right now. That's not good enough.
10. All right, who are your All-Star reserves?
In the East, I have Arenas, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce, who is not on a winning team but is having such a monster year that he has to be on the team. To replace the injured Jermaine O'Neal, I'd pick Redd. And I have four Pistons -- Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace.
ESPN NBA studio host Greg Anthony played for six NBA teams in 11 seasons.
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
Hornets guard Chris Paul, who bruised his tailbone here in the fourth quarter, returned to action. Paul handed out 13 assists but shot 2-for-12 and was held to 6 points, 11 below his average. Meanwhile, the Nets' Jason Kidd finished with 14 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. Nets won, 98-91, for their 11th straight home win.
Nic (Mt. Pleasant): Does any team think they can make Darko Milicic into an NBA player and if so what do you think the pistons can get for him?
John Hollinger: You'd be surprised how many teams still think highly of him. The Pistons could get a decent player or a fairly high draft pick for him even now.
John Hollinger: Well, the vending machine would be more mobile. As far as Francis goes, I think Orlando would like to trade him but doesn't want to make the mistake they did with McGrady and take back less value.
Dwyane Wade's 34 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists led the way in the Heat's 114-98 win over the Celtics.
David Sherman/Getty Images
Cavs forward Anderson Varejao gets a hand from teammate Donyell Marshall after taking a late charge on Bucks star Michael Redd. "Tonight was all Andy," LeBron James said. "He had nine points, five rebounds ... 25 charges. He was excellent, awesome."
Kyle Korver, Sixers forward: Fireballer Bob Gibson played ball at Creighton, like Korver. But after K2 missed all six shots in 13 minutes of a 87-81 loss to the Rockets, we would like to give the 70-year-old Gibby, with Harlem Globetrotters membership on his resume, a chance to hoist the shots.
Quote of the Day
"'I feel like the Seattle Seahawks. It's remarkable. There's like five games this year where we've not gotten a call in the last 30 seconds. After awhile, you realize you don't get those games back, and it's tough to take."
-- Suns guard Steve Nash, chafing at a no-call on a borderline goaltending by Kevin Garnett at the end of the Timberwolves' 103-101 win in Phoenix.
-- Andrew Ayres
For the longest time, conventional wisdom on building a team said to get two superstars, preferably a guard and a big, and then fill the rest of the lineup with role players.
Detroit's building principle: Find totally unselfish players who put winning ahead of personal accomplishments. Pistons president Joe Dumars values chemistry over star power. Loyalty to team over marketability.
His team is the exact opposite of that of former teammate Isiah Thomas. The Knicks are trying to build a team on offensive firepower, potential and pizzazz. Instead of looking for bargains, Isiah tries to make a big splash with nearly every acquisition, no matter what the cost. He has double the payroll and half the wins, and almost none of the respect that Dumars has garned throughout the league. Dumars is the smartest man in basketball, and he is commissioner David Stern's greatest hope to reclaim all that is right and good about basketball -- given Stern's stated desire to have teams built on the foundation of good management and teamwork.
And Dumars' rules for rebuilding have made many GMs rethink their strategies for success in the NBA.
Brand Expects All-Star Nod
I'm a non-bandwagon Pistons fan who enjoyed playing the disrespect card. But do you think the Pistons are getting so much attention because Larry Brown can't take credit anymore? I know they're 39-7, but if LB was there their success would be attributed to him more than the players. Like McHale from Minnesota said, "Flip was handed the keys to a Mercedes," McHale said of Saunders' new job with the Pistons. "He should be the happiest man in basketball."
-- Tierra (Birmingham)
I agree with Greg Anthony's take on Cleveland's point guard situation. But I think he didn't give Eric Snow enough credit when he said we're not getting anything from the point. Snow's a tough defender who's been taking better shots and making them this year. No, he's not the starter we need, but don't trash him.