By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Feb 5 2009 2:31PM
Upon learning about his selection as an All-Star Game starter, an appreciative Dwight Howard turned the attention back to his Orlando Magic brethren.
"I truly want to thank the fans for voting for me," said Howard, the first player in balloting history to crack 3 million votes. "It's an honor to take part in All-Star Weekend. I hope to share the experience with my teammates as well.
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"With the way we have played, Jameer Nelson [shown with Howard, above], Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu all deserve All-Star honors."
Let the lobbying begin.
The Superman cape-wearing Howard -- a second-time All-Star starter and the reigning slam dunk champ -- and the rest of the 2009 NBA All-Star Game starters were formally announced Thursday night on TNT. The Eastern and Western Conference starting fives were chosen from fans by voting at NBA arenas, NBA.com and on wireless devices.
The East squad consists of Howard at center, forwards LeBron James (Cavaliers) and Kevin Garnett (Celtics) and guards Dwyane Wade (Heat) and Allen Iverson (Pistons). Lakers guard Kobe Bryant headlines the West team that includes fellow guard Chris Paul (Hornets), forwards Tim Duncan (Spurs) and Amar'e Stoudemire (Suns) and center Yao Ming (Rockets).
Phoenix is hosting the 58th All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 15. The midseason classic is being broadcast by TNT, ESPN Radio and in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The All-Star Game is returning to the Valley of the Sun for the first time since 1995.
WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
For many of the starters, this is old hat. Garnett is an All-Star for the 12th time, while Bryant and Duncan are making their 11th trip each. Iverson is up to 10. Yao is a perfect seven for seven; seven years in the league and seven starting nods.
"Making the All-Star Team is a gift, a beautiful gift," said Garnett, who ranks second to Shaquille O'Neal's 14 selections among active players. "It is like riding a wave on a boogie board. You get a good wave and you just keep riding the enjoyment and fun as long as you can.
"It is also an honor to make the team as fans have recognized you for your hard work, team and individual play."
AI echoed those sentiments.
"It's always an honor to be named an All-Star and it's a blessing to be in this league," said Iverson, twice the Game's MVP. "Being named an All-Star makes it that much more special. The fact that the fans have voted me onto the team makes this a great honor and it's truly appreciated."
Among the young guard, two-time All-Star Game MVP James and Wade are up to five appearances each. Paul is on the team for the second time and first as a starter. The fourth berth is especially sweet for Stoudemire because it's coming in front of his hometown fans.
Everyone, though, appreciates the gift from the NBA's fans.
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"It's awesome to be a starter in the All-Star game," said James, the MVP in 2006 and '08. "A lot of fans respect the way I play the game of basketball and the way I approach the game every night. Much respect and much love for the fans out there who voted me again as a starter."
Howard has a week to find out if any of his teammates from the Southeast Division-leading Magic are also making the trip to Phoenix. The remaining spots on the two 12-man All-Star teams are chosen from a vote of conference coaches, with TNT announcing the reserves Jan. 29.
One coach already has been decided, with Lakers' skipper Phil Jackson earning the West nod. Coaches are based on teams with the best winning percentage as of Feb. 1. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could conceivably catch Jackson by the deadline, but the Zen Master wins a tiebreaker since Pop coached an All-Star Game most recently.
Stan Van Gundy (Magic) and Mike Brown (Cavs) are the leading candidates to coach the East. Last year's All-Star coaches -- Boston's Doc Rivers and New Orleans' Byron Scott -- are not eligible to coach this year.
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