Almost Perfect
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SECAUCUS, NJ, Feb. 2, 2007 -- Thirteen of 14. And I maintain that Josh Howard should be going instead of Tony Parker.

But I'll take my 13 of the 14 All-Star reserves that I picked being selected by the coaches, and I'm confident that Howard will receive one of the Commissioner's invitations in the coming days. Of course, that second invitation will be quite interesting, as, on paper, Carmelo Anthony is the likely choice. After all, he's the league's leading scorer.

Off paper, Anthony was at the center of controversy when he participated in the Dec. 16 fight at Madison Square Garden and was subsequently suspended for 15 games. Obviously, enough coaches thought that 'Melo didn't merit a trip to Las Vegas because of his actions (or perhaps the 15 games he missed). If you read last week's Reality Check, you know that I agree with the coaches. Now, the important question is: Does David Stern agree? Stay tuned.

There was a lot of talk on last night's TNT broadcast about certain teams deserving or not deserving multiple spots. I take issue with any thoughts that you can just assign a number of spots based on a team's record.

Teams are constructed in different ways. Some, like the Cavs, have one superstar and several role players. Others, like the Nets, have two stars and (if you downgrade Richard Jefferson and erase Nenad Krstic because of their injuries) a lot of role players. And then you have the Bulls: just a bunch of very good players.

But does the fact that Chicago and Cleveland are four games ahead of New Jersey in the Eastern Conference standings mean that Ben Gordon (the Bulls' top candidate) deserves to be an All-Star more than Jason Kidd or that Larry Hughes (Cleveland's second-best player) deserves a spot over Vince Carter? Of course not. Gordon vs. Carter is a better argument.

So, while I agree that Josh Howard should be there, I also agree that both Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire are better choices than Howard. In essence, I would (like the coaches did) select three Suns before I took a second Mav, even though Dallas is currently a half game ahead of Phoenix for the No. 1 seed out West.

Now, that doesn't mean that I would take Zach Randolph over Howard. Team success certainly counts, but it's also about the amount a player contributes to that success.

But you can't really compare East to West, because there are twice as many teams over .600 in the West as there are over .500 in the East. And you can't exactly replace Carter with Howard.

Anyway, if the two replacement selections in the West were up to me, I have to stick with last week's picks and take Howard and Deron Williams. I would keep Anthony off because of the fight, but I can understand the argument for selecting him and it wouldn't surprise me if the Commissioner did. Other candidates that Mr. Stern has to consider are Elton Brand, Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur and Randolph.

And like I wrote last week, if I'm Mike D'Antoni, I choose to replace Yao in the starting lineup with Steve Nash, moving T-Mac to the three and Tim Duncan to the five. Of course, the politically correct thing to do would be to start the other MVP candidate on his bench, Dirk Nowitzki. That latter option would also allow for more Kidd-Nash action, which of course, is a good thing.

The Mail

Reality Check got a good amount of response to last week's picks, of which the below is a sampling. Of course, I could just respond to all of these with "13 of 14", but I'll try to expound a little further.
You said "He (Amare) could start in place of Yao, or as I would do, Mike D'Antoni could start Nash, move T-Mac to the three and Fundamental to the five." I strongly disagree with that statement. In particular the part about what Mike D' could do. Both Amare and Nash are worthy of starting positions, but those voted in are entitled to it and Mike D. has no place taking that away from them. Out of Kobe, Tracy, Kevin, Tim, and Yao, who are you willing to rob of their rightful starting role? Amare and Nash will get voted in and will play. They don't need to start. -- Seth - Camarillo, Cal.

I probably should have explained that better, Seth. It is highly likely that Yao is not going to participate due to the broken bone in his knee. The Commissioner will choose a replacement for Yao (and Carlos Boozer, also out with a knee injury), and then D'Antoni will choose a new fifth starter from the eight healthy guys he has on the bench. Last year, Jermaine O'Neal was injured and Flip Saunders selected Vince Carter to start. If Yao was healthy, he's the starter, no questions asked.

I can't believe you didn't even mention Ray Allen! The guy's putting up some of the best numbers of his career (26.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.9 apg). Not to mention how dominant he's been the last couple weeks! Now I know you will be quick to mention that you didn't pick him because he plays for a losing team. But Rashard Lewis has been out for quite a while, meaning that teams can now key on Allen and . . . stop him? I guess not. He torched Utah and Denver and has been making his teammates better. I think he deserves the nod. -- Scott - Seattle, Wash.

With all of the good players on the teams above .500 in the West, Scott, it's really tough for me to consider the fourth worst team in the NBA. Ray is terrific, and I hope he's in the three-point contest again, because I love to watch the guy shoot. Sitting a few feet behind him as he shot from the first few racks last year was a religious experience for me. But I feel that there are a few other more qualified candidates for the Sunday game.

Almost everything is okay with your selections except for one thing which is crucial: Mehmet Okur. Yao probably will not play in the all-star game and there must be two centers in Las Vegas. One is clear, Amare Stoudamire and the other is either Mehmet or Marcus Camby, not both Marion and Howard. Otherwise, we would see a lot of forwards there,which is absurd! -- Engin - Izmir, Turkey

I think once you add Amare as the second center, Engin, you just need to take the best players for the wildcards. Duncan, Garnett and Nowitzki can all play the five in an All-Star game. Even with Yao out, I'm not stressing about getting another true center in there. Not that Memo doesn't deserve some love for how he's played this season.

First things first, how can you have the audacity not to have one of the top five forwards in the league as a lock. Of course I'm talking about Carmelo. Every year it's something. He should've been on the team at least the last two years. I don't know what the prejudice is against him, but at last looks, he would also be the league leading scorer, USA Player of the Year, and he should have been Co-Rookie of the Year with LeBron. He served his suspension admirably, and returned without missing a beat. I'm sorry to disagree with you, Mr.Schuhmann but I doubt the coaches will feel the same way you do, Boozer, Marion over Carmelo. I don't think so, not this year, now that's reality. -- Tony - Newark, N.J.

I've got nothing against 'Melo personally, Tony. If I remember correctly, I liked him over LeBron for ROY, I thought he should have been an All-Star last season (not necessarily the year before) and I know how impressed I was with his play this summer. I just feel he made a huge mistake and it's not easy to forget it when considering reserve selections. And it's more than just the fight, it's also that he missed 15 games, which is 36 percent of the 42 his team has played so far. Obviously, enough of the coaches agreed with me to keep him off the West squad. But, it won't affect my thinking next year.

Questions or comments? Get at me.

And if you think the coaches made a mistake, let us know here.