By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
A mixed message.
That's what was sent out by the league's coaches in the selection of the Western Conference reserves for the 2012 All-Star Game.
Game in and game out, from coast to coast, on every court in every arena, in every nook and cranny of the league, coaches preach that results matter, not reputations.
Then they mostly chose familiar big names over raw results when adding Dallas' Dirk Nowizki, Phoenix' Steve Nash and San Antonio's Tony Parker to the West roster. It will be Nowitzki's 11th consecutive All-Star appearance, the eighth of Nash's career and fourth for Parker.
Joining that gray-bearded, grizzled threesome with a combined 41 NBA seasons between them are LaMarcus Aldridge of the Trail Blazers, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, Russell Westbrook of the Thunder and Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies. Aldridge and Gasol will be making their All-Star debuts, while Westbrook and Love will play for the second time.
But experience counts. That seems to be the point hammered home by the coaches' selections that overlooked at least a handful of worthy candidates:
• Kyle Lowry, Houston -- He's the only player in the league averaging as much at 14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. But he is toiling for a Houston team that lacks overall star power.
• Monta Ellis, Golden State -- He ranks sixth in the league in scoring with an average of 22.6 points a game and carried the Warriors' offensive load when Stephen Curry was sidelined with an ankle injury. But he plays for a team with a losing record.
• Rudy Gay, Memphis -- He's the leading scorer for a Grizzlies team that has battled to keep their heads above water ever since big man Zach Randolph went down with torn knee ligaments. Despite the fact that he has lifted his level of play, Gay seems to have lost out to his teammate Gasol.
• Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, Utah -- The Jazz have hit a rough patch lately, but the pair of big men have performed strong and consistently all season in keeping coach Ty Corbin's team firmly in the Western Conference mix.
• Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, Denver -- Until dropping six of seven games over the past two weeks, the Nuggets were a huge success story holding down the No. 2 seed in the West. Gallinari's shooting percentage is down, but he's been all over the floor doing everything. Lawson was the one with his foot down on the accelerator of the offense over the first month. Yet the Nuggets were not recognized at all.
For Aldridge, the recognition comes a year after he first deserved a spot on the West roster. But that's when he learned about the politics of the voting and getting snubbed.
The only reason Love is a reserve and not a starter is because the fan voting rewarded the slam-bang flash and slam dunks of the Blake Griffin in the starting lineup.
Westbrook is a no-brainer, riding shotgun with Thunder teammate (and West starter) Kevin Durant, while ranking eighth in scoring a 22.3 points a game.
Marc Gasol has done yeoman work in the middle, averaging 15.2 points and 10 rebounds and rung up 14 double-doubles on the season. Coincidentally, that's the same number of double-doubles accumulated by his older brother Pau Gasol, who also was left off team.
On different levels, the selections of Parker, Nash and Nowitzki ran the gamut from surprising to downright shocking. That is especially so after Nowitzki said just recently that he didn't think he belonged on the team.
Though he has come on strong of late, Nowitzki's 17.6 scoring average is his lowest since the 1999-2000 season, his second in the league.
Nash, who turned 38 this week, seemed to join Nowitzki in getting a lifetime achievement award. He is averaging 15.1 points and leading the league with 10 assists per game, but plays for a worse team than Lowry's Rockets.
Parker had said he was disappointed that he didn't make the team a year ago in Los Angeles, because he'd wanted to join his San Antonio teammates Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich. The three-time former NBA champion likely surged to his spot on the team with his play of late. He's average 28.4 points over the Spurs' past five games and, with Ginobili out and Duncan's minutes being capped, he has carried the Spurs to the second-best record (18-9) in the West.
While it's hard to say that names such as Nowitzki, Nash and Parker don't conjure up All-Star images, in the end the coaches proved themselves no more resistible to names and reputations as the fans in delivering their mixed message.
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