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The NBA announced its All-Star Game starters Thursday, and by this Thursday the reserves who will round out the Eastern and Western Conference squads will be announced.

Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett will start for the East. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire and Tim Duncan will start for the West.

But who else deserves the honor? For the West, many of the leftover candidates are no-brainers. The Lakers' Pau Gasol (17.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki (25.8 ppg) at forward. Portland's Brandon Roy (22.6 ppg) and San Antonio's Tony Parker (20.3 ppg) at guard. Then there's Denver's Chauncey Billups, who with averages of 18.7 points and 6.7 assists has fueled the Nuggets' revival. And there's Utah's Paul Millsap, whose 15.6 ppg and 9.7 rpg have kept his team afloat without Carlos Boozer. Phoenix's Shaquille O'Neal (18.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili (14.7 ppg), the 2008 sixth man of the year, have played well this season. Despite his team's poor record, Minnesota's Al Jefferson (22.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg) deserves consideration.

Billups is hard to deny. And if it comes down to centers, Shaq has the name and plays on a team with the winning record, but Jefferson's production is better. So which should be taken into account for a tiebreaker? Team performance or individual?

Washington's Caron Butler wondered the same Monday in Phoenix when he was asked after his team fell to a league-worst 9-35 whether he considered himself All-Star worthy.

"I know it's only a couple of guys from an individual standpoint that have done what I've done," said Butler, who this season is averaging 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists. "I know that team winning percentage is important. But if you're going to reward an individual, I should be on that team. If you're going to reward from a team standpoint, I'll fall back and watch it on television from Disney World or something. I know I'm an All-Star. I did it back-to-back. Hopefully it happens again. If not, take it on the chin and watch out next year."

Butler and teammate Antawn Jamison (21.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg) are both long shots. They have to contend with Toronto's Chris Bosh (23.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and Orlando's Rashard Lewis (19.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Indiana's Danny Granger (26.1 ppg) and Boston's Paul Pierce (19.1 ppg)

Bosh, Pierce and Lewis have made strong cases for themselves. Granger's offensive game is impressive, but that's about it. So how will it all shake out?

Everyone will find out Thursday night.


Celtics (37-9)

Make that eight straight wins for the defending champs after routs of Orlando and Phoenix.

L.A. Lakers (35-8)

After a big win against the Spurs and now totally healthy, the Lakers seem even more imposing.

Cavaliers (34-8)

The Cavaliers rebound from a loss to the Lakers last week with three straight road wins.

Spurs (29-14)

San Antonio will be tested because 10 of its next 11 games are on the road.

Magic (33-10)

The Magic suffer consecutive losses for the first time since the first week of the season.

Nuggets (29-15)

Denver leads division without 'Melo, but for how much longer with 10 of the next 12 on the road?

Rockets (28-18)

Even with a steady stream of injuries, the Rockets have posted a record well over the .500 mark.

Hornets (27-14)

Though banged up, the Hornets went 2-1 on the week.


Oden seems to be figuring things out rather than hitting the wall for the Blazers.

Heat (24-19)

From 9-34 at this point last season to a playoff contender, D-Wade and Co. continue to roll.


3: More steals Chris Paul needed in Monday's victory over the 76ers to post the first quadruple-double since Spurs center David Robinson in 1994. CP3 had 27 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds to go with seven steals. It was his fifth triple-double of the season.



Coaching changes are supposed to produce results, right? Maybe not right away but eventually. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who dismissed P.J. Carlesimo in November, finally appear to be turning things around.

The Thunder - with a roster filled with young, underdeveloped talent - went 2-13 in December. But since the New Year, Kevin Durant and Co. have gone 6-6. With a 94-85 victory against visiting New Jersey on Monday and a Washington loss to Phoenix the same night, the Thunder improved to 10-35 and moved out of last place in the NBA.



The Washington Wizards and the Oklahoma City Thunder traded places in the running for the top lottery spot. While the Thunder appear to be making progress, things worsened for the Wizards. Washington is down to 10 healthy players and just one true center on the active roster since Andray Blatche is out for two to four weeks. Before it's all said and done, Sacramento could wind up in the bottom spot. OKC has youth as its excuse, and Washington has injury to blame. But what's Sacramento's excus

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 28, 2009


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