Wednesday, February 4, 2004

O'Neal, Kidd among All-Star reserves

James not voted to team

By Chris Sheridan
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - LeBron James was not among the 14 reserves announced Tuesday for the All-Star game, the talented rookie getting outpolled in voting by Eastern Conference coaches who instead selected guards Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, Baron Davis and Jason Kidd.

"Not making it just tells me I've got to work harder," said James, one of only four players leaguewide averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. "I've been earning a lot of things this year - earning the respect of players, the respect of refs. That's another thing I've got to earn, to be a part of the elite group. "

Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers was among the Western Conference reserves for the league's showcase event Feb. 15 in Los Angeles.

Other West reserves are Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller of Sacramento, Sam Cassell of Minnesota, Andrei Kirilenko of Utah and Ray Allen of Seattle.

The other East reserves are Jamaal Magloire of New Orleans, Ron Artest of Indiana and Kenyon Martin of New Jersey.

"Not a bad thing to be on your resume, All-Star in front of your name," said Martin, one of six players who will make their first All-Star appearance.

Other players having strong seasons who did not make the All-Stars include Mike Bibby of Sacramento, Latrell Sprewell of Minnesota, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton of Detroit, Michael Finley of Dallas and Zach Randolph of Portland.

The selection of Allen was one of the most surprising after he missed the first 25 games of the season following ankle surgery.

"I would rather be in L.A. than any place in the country," said Allen, who had planned a getaway to Las Vegas with teammate Antonio Daniels. "It's a bragging right. ... I totally thought I had no chance."

James, the phenomenal 19-year-old rookie whose play has improved throughout the season, seemed to be the most glaring omission in the East - even in a conference stocked with talented guards.

Redd is averaging 22.1 points for the surprising Milwaukee Bucks, Pierce is the league's sixth-leading scorer (22.9) for Boston, Davis of New Orleans had the league's fifth-highest average (23.2), and Kidd has led New Jersey to first place in the Atlantic Division.

"He's been phenomenal for this league and for our sport," Pistons coach Larry Brown said of James. "He's done everything a young kid can do, but I think the fact that his team was down so far early probably hurt him. I don't think it was a backlash. There are just a lot of talented kids at that position."

Starters for the league's 53rd All-Star game, selected in fan balloting, are Vince Carter of Toronto, Tracy McGrady of Orlando, Ben Wallace of Detroit, Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana and Allen Iverson of Philadelphia for the East; Yao Ming of Houston, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, Kevin Garnett of Minnesota, Steve Francis of Houston and Tim Duncan of San Antonio for the West.

Minnesota's Flip Saunders will coach the West, and Rick Carlisle of the Pacers will coach the East.

James is averaging 20.8 points, 5.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose surge of six victories in eight games has moved them into contention for a playoff spot in the East.

He is 13th in the NBA in scoring and 12th in assists, averaging 24.1 points since Cleveland traded Ricky Davis to Boston in mid-December. James, Pierce, Allen and McGrady are the only players averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Coaches had to choose a center, two forwards, two guards and two others regardless of position. They could not vote for their own players.

"I can't understand the reason he didn't make it," Cleveland coach Paul Silas said. "Maybe it was because of our record. But he certainly put up the numbers comparable to any guard that got picked.

"I feel that everything happens for a reason and that this will turn out for the best. He's going to make a lot of All-Star games before he's done, and this will keep him humble," Silas said.

There will be six All-Stars with international roots - Kirilenko (Russia), Stojakovic (Serbia and Montenegro), Magloire (Canada) Nowitzki (Germany), Yao (China) and Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) - which ties the record set a year ago.

James will play alongside Carmelo Anthony of Denver in the Rookie Challenge on Friday night against a team of second-year players that includes Yao.

NBA commissioner David Stern will select a replacement if any of the All-Stars withdraws because of injury, but James is not interested.

"I wasn't part of the ones that they picked at first, so I wouldn't even like to be a part of the team if somebody didn't go," James said. "I'm an only child and I never want to be picked second. I don't come second."

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