By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Jan 28 2010 9:47PM
Deron Williams has earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad. He's led the Jazz to the playoffs the last three years. He's even locked down a spot on an All-NBA team.
Williams has enjoyed a decorated career for someone just 25. Now he can add another piece to the résumé. He's an All-Star for the first time.
"It'll be great to get my first All-Star appearance, especially in Dallas," Williams said.
Williams, Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph are the three newcomers in the group of seven Western Conference reserves. The four multiple-time All-Stars: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Chris Paul (Hornets), Pau Gasol (Lakers) and Brandon Roy (Blazers).
The reserves join starters Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan and Amar'e Stoudemire. The All-Star Game is being held Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, before a stadium audience that should break all previous attendence records for a basketball game.
The All-Star Game is also a homecoming for Williams, who grew up and starred in high school in the Dallas area. And he's not the only one. Nowitzki gets to suit up before his hometown fans, while Durant played collegiately a few hours down the highway at the University of Texas.
"To have my first All-Star Game kind of in the middle of my two second homes, so to speak, Austin and Oklahoma City, would be very special," Durant said. "Some fans from Oklahoma City could come down to watch, my teammates could come to the game, and to walk out onto that court and see 80 or 90,000 people in the stands would be amazing."
The league's third-leading scorer said he didn't deserve All-Star consideration last year because Oklahoma City wasn't winning. Those sentiments struck a chord with Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
"That's powerful for a young player to say those types of things and really mean it," Brooks said. "He meant it."
Nowitzki, an All-Star for the ninth consecutive time, narrowly missed a starting berth when Duncan surged ahead in the final days. Though it's old hat, Nowitzki doesn't take his place in the league's showcase and within the Mavericks organization for granted.
"It is an honor to represent this franchise in the All-Star Game," he said. "We hope to put on a good show for our fans."
The selections by the West coaches went pretty much as projected, but a couple of picks deserve a second glance. Gasol was selected for the third time as the backup center despite not being the everyday center for the Lakers (Andrew Bynum is). Gasol missed 17 games and has had a slight dropoff in scoring.
Clippers center Chris Kaman was effectively snubbed for the second time. He also was initially left off the ballot by the writers committee. too. Kaman (20.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game) is arguably having the best season of any traditional center in the West and the Clippers, despite being 20-25, are hanging on in the playoff hunt.
Randolph's selection is also notable. The league's fourth-leading rebounder is certainly deserving, and the Grizzlies are one of the West's surprise stories, but some thought Z-Bo's less-than-stellar reputation might cost him support within the coaching fraternity.
"It's changing," Randolph said of his image. "Because no matter what, you've got to get people to know that ... is definitely changing here in Memphis."
Other notable omissions include Chauncey Billups (Nuggets), Aaron Brooks (Rockets) and Rudy Gay (Grizzlies). Choosing among the guards had to be the toughest chore for West coaches. Among those backcourt standouts chosen, Paul is making his fourth All-Star team and Roy his third.
"He's had a better year this year than he's had any season," Portland coach Nate McMillan said of Roy. "He's averaging 23 [points per game]. With so many of our guys being injured and with guys around the league knowing he's an All-Star, he has still been able to put up the numbers, both scoring as well as winning in the West. He's had to shoulder a lot of load for the team."
The same can be said for Williams. Whoever the West coach is will be blessed with a stacked collection of point guards in starter Nash, Paul and Williams. The latter was just waiting to join the party after being left out the last few seasons.
"We've got a lot of great point guards in the West every year," Williams said. "It's been disappointing, but at the same time, go down the list. We have Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Chauncey Billups. There are a lot of good point guards out there."
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