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The starters: Howard racks up votes, lobbies for teammates

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.

EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
King James and the Cavs are undefeated at home and running away with the Central Division. LeBron (27.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.8 apg) is working on another season for the ages.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
KG and the Boston Three Party have rebounded nicely from their early-January hiccup. Garnett (16.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg) continues to deliver whatever it takes to win.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Superman never looked this good. The double-double factory is racking up stats (20.2 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg) while Orlando piles up the wins.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons
No longer a one-man show or half of a dynamic duo, AI (17.9 ppg, 5.4 apg) is blending his considerable skills into an ensemble cast that's used to winning big.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
D-Wade is healthy and hungry and refocused. He's back among the league leaders in scoring (28.8 ppg) and Miami is back in the East playoff hunt.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

"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
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
In Houston's first half of uncertainty, Yao (19.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg) has been a 7-foot-6 rock. Where would the Rockets be without him?
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
Anyway you spell it, he's back. Phoenix's leading scorer (21.3 ppg) is bound to give the hometown fans a special treat come February.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
If efficient is boring, winning must be too. San Antonio's anchor is putting together another stellar campaign (20.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) without much fanfare.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
His team is cruising in the West and Kobe (26.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.2 apg) is doing the same. Could No. 24 be headed to a second straight MVP?
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
CP3 will have something to say in the MVP votes. The do-it-all quarterback leads the league in assists (11.0) and steals (2.7), while scoring 21.2 ppg.
 WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

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.

Top 10 single-season All-Star vote-getters
Rank Player (Team) Year Votes
1. Dwight Howard (Magic) 2009 3,150,181
2. LeBron James (Cavaliers) 2009 2,940,823
3. Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 2009 2,805,397
4. Dwyane Wade (Heat) 2009 2,741,413
5. Tim Duncan (Spurs) 2009 2,578,168
6. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2005 2,558,278
7. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2009 2,532,958
8. LeBron James (Cavaliers) 2007 2,516,049
9. Yao Ming (Rockets) 2007 2,451,718
10. Michael Jordan (Bulls) 1997 2,451,136

"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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