By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Jan 22 2010 2:04PM
We know the 10 players who will be on the floor as the 59th All-Star Game tips off in Dallas on Feb. 14 (8 p.m. ET, TNT). Now it's time to consider who the seven reserves should be for each conference. That's exactly what the Eastern and Western Conference coaches will be doing over the next couple of days, with their votes determining the 14 remaining All-Stars to be announced Jan. 28 during Inside the NBA on TNT.
Two forwards separated by 210 miles and 10 years should unite next month before the largest basketball gathering in history. One is an All-Star fixture who narrowly missed out of starting with an All-Star Game in his own backyard. The other should be part of the NBA's showcase for at least the next decade.
Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks and the Thunder's Kevin Durant headline this list of potential All-Star reserves in the Western Conference, but they're not the only two that deserve VIP access to Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 14.
Nowitzki has made eight All-Star teams, but has never been voted a starter by fans. (He did start in Las Vegas in 2007 as an injury replacement.) The 2006 MVP seemed to be in position to break through this year, trailing only Carmelo Anthony among West forwards in each of the voting returns. But in the end, Nowitzki was nipped by longtime rival Tim Duncan.
Starting point guard Steve Nash is looking forward to the Texas reunion with Nowitzki.
"He's one of the top players in the game, so he'll be there," Nash said of his old running buddy with the Mavs. "It will be fun to play with him again back in Dallas on the same team. It will be strange, but also a lot of fun."
Nowitzki is seventh in the league in scoring, though he's not the highest scorer awaiting a reserve nomination. Checking in at third is Durant, the 21-year-old third-year pro who's yet to suit up with the West's best. That should change in a week.
"That's one thing I try not to think about," Durant said. "If I'm blessed enough to be named an All-Star, of course I'm going to thank God first and all the people that are important to me and my teammates. But that's the last thing I'm trying to think about. A lot of people talk to me about it, but I try to do my hardest to shy away from it because that takes away from my team."
As for the rest of the Western Conference squad, we humbly offer these suggestions to fill out the roster:
Chris Paul, New Orleans (22-19)
19.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 11.2 APG
The Hornets have slipped in the standings and Steve Nash is back after an "off" year, but CP3 hasn't taken a back seat to any point guard. Paul leads the league in assists and efficiency rating, and the 6-foot playmaker is also the Hornets' top scorer. If New Orleans doesn't reach the playoffs in the ultra-tight West, it won't be because of fifth-year pro who hasn't hit his prime yet. That's scary.
Brandon Roy, Portland (26-17)
23.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.0 APG
Where would the injury-riddled Blazers be without Roy? Certainly not contending in the Northwest Division and for a top-four seed in the West. At 6-foot-6 and a solid 211 points, Roy stands as the classic shooting guard. He's also much more. B-Roy easily slips into the role of distributor when Portland needs a basket, setting up his teammates with a point guard's eye. Even when the Blazers are healthy, Roy is the franchise.
Three Hardest Snubs:
Tragic Shaft: Aaron Brooks (HOU)
Maybe Next Year: Tyreke Evans (SAC)
Team Record Hurt Him: Monta Ellis (GS)
The Next Three Out: O.J. Mayo (MEM), Baron Davis (LAC), Chauncey Billups (DEN)
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas (28-14)
25.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG
Nowitzki has been an All-Star fixture for nearly a decade and this year figures to be no different. The Southwest Division-leading Mavs have spent most of the season second to only the Lakers in the conference. Consistency has been an issue at times for Dallas this season, but not with the Big German. Nowitzki remains the sweetest-shooting 7-footer around, a nightly nightmare matchup for the same coaches that will reserve his All-Star spot next month.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (24-18)
29.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.0 APG
Can't hold age and the Thunder's record against Durant anymore. KD has come of age, leading a college-like collection into playoff contention one season after winning just 23 games. Durant is putting on a clinic every time his suits up in Thunder blue, yellow, orange and red. He's scored at least 30 in 13 of the last 16 games, and gone double-double in three of the last four. He's not just a future All-Star. Think MVP.
Three Hardest Snubs:
Tragic Shaft: Pau Gasol (LAL)
Maybe Next Year: Rudy Gay (MEM)
Team Record Hurt Him: Al Jefferson (MIN)
The Next Three Out: Carlos Boozer (UTAH), LaMarcus Aldridge (POR), David West (NO)
Chris Kaman, L.A. Clippers (18-22)
20.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG
So who were the wise guys that left Kaman off the ballot? In their defense, Kaman hasn't exactly been healthy the last few seasons and no one expected a breakout year seven years into his career. The 7-footer has provided stability in the middle for a Clippers team that is showing considerable progress. They probably won't reach the playoffs, but Kaman is doing his part.
Three Hardest Snubs
Tragic Shaft: Andrew Bynum (LAL)
Maybe Next Year: Marc Gasol (MEM)
Team Record Hurt Him: Marcus Camby (LAC)
The Next Two Out: Nene (DEN), Emeka Okafor (NO)
Zach Randolph, Memphis (22-19)
20.6 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.0 APG
Got to give it up to Z-Bo. He's been traded twice after teams were awarded the No. 1 pick, and did anyone think it would work out with the Grizzlies? Boy, has it ever. Randolph has been a machine for a young, energetic squad that needed an stabilizing presence. Yes, stable. The NBA's fourth-leading rebounder is even better on the offensive end, gobbling up league-high 4.5 per game. Talk about second chances.
Deron Williams, Utah (24-18)
19.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 9.6 APG
Coaches love the luxury of having a quality third point guard on any team. Can't do any better than Deron Williams behind Nash and Paul. Williams, fourth in the league in assists and Utah's top scorer, has battled through nagging injuries to put together another stellar campaign. D-Will is the consummate quarterback, Jason Kidd with a jump shot.
Blake Griffin almost loses the ball, but recovers and finishes with a nice finger roll.
|Harden to Howard|
James Harden lobs a long distance alley-oop to Dwight Howard for the slam.
|Not So Fast|
Dwight Howard tracks down Austin Rivers and swats away his shot at the rim.
|Big Air Blake|
Blake Griffin finds an open lane and takes off for the huge slam.
|DeAndre Denies Dwight|
DeAndre Jordan soars in to deny Dwight Howard early in the first quarter.