By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jan 28 2010 9:48PM
For the second straight year, Eastern Conference coaches have selected four first-timers as All-Star reserves.
Three of the four newcomers are 23 years old or younger: Hawks center Al Horford (23), Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (23) and Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (21). They represent the next generation of stars, who will garner many more All-Star selections in the next few years.
Rondo is the second All-Star from the Draft class of 2006, joining the Blazers' Brandon Roy, who earned his third All-Star selection this year. Horford joins the Thunder's Kevin Durant as the first All-Stars from the Draft class of 2007, and Rose is all alone as the first All-Star from the class of 2008.
Rose will have a busy weekend in Dallas. He and his fellow sophomores will take on the rookies in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Friday. And as the reigning Playstation Skills Challenge champion, he'll likely defend his title on Saturday.
Of course, neither of those nights will measure up to the big show on Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.
"I would love to play in that game," Rose told the Chicago Tribune last week. "It'd be a dream come true. I can't lie."
After his Rookie of the Year campaign and coming-out party in the first round of last year's playoffs, Rose had a disappointing start to his second season, dealing with an ankle injury. But he began to turn his season around in early December, and since Christmas, he has led the Bulls to a 12-5 record with numbers clearly worthy of an All-Star selection: 23.1 points, 6.5 assists and 50 percent shooting.
Rondo got the better of Rose in that epic, seven-game series last April and has continued his ascension to the top of the point guard ranks. With his veteran teammates battling injuries, Rondo has taken on more of a leadership role with the Celtics. And his numbers have jumped as well. He's averaging career highs in points (14.2), assists (9.7), steals (2.54) and field-goal percentage (.534).
Horford is averaging career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (9.8) and field-goal percentage (.575). His numbers haven't jumped as much as Rondo's, but he's a critical defensive presence on the Hawks, who've taken another step forward this season.
The other first-timer on the East is Charlotte's Gerald Wallace. With the Bobcats in position to make the first playoff appearance in franchise history, Wallace is their first All-Star. He's also the only original Bobcat left on the roster and the heart of the second best defense in the league.
With only six teams above .500 in the East, there are no non-selections that can be considered serious snubs. But several other potential first-timers made strong cases. Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut, Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, Charlotte's Stephen Jackson, New York's David Lee, and Atlanta's Josh Smith all should have been considered for selection.
Lee and Smith had the strongest arguments. But the Knicks' 18-26 record likely hurt Lee. Smith may have missed out because his teammate, Horford, qualified at center. The coaches had to vote for one center as a reserve, and Horford likely has less competition at center than Smith did at forward.
Filling out the East reserves instead are a trio of All-Star vets: Toronto's Chris Bosh (fifth selection), Atlanta's Joe Johnson (fourth selection), and Boston's Paul Pierce (eighth selection).
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