Wade, Ginobili among first-time All-Stars
Six first-timers were among the selections Tuesday, when the NBA announced the reserves for the Feb. 20 game in Denver.
The league's 30 coaches chose the reserves, rewarding several young players whose teams have exceeded expectations. The Phoenix Suns will be sending Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and Seattle SuperSonics are sending two players apiece.
"I'm thrilled, I'm excited, I'm very happy that in my second year I'm an All-Star," said Wade, the Miami Heat guard having a breakout season playing alongside the game's most dominant big man, Shaquille O'Neal.
"To Shaq, who said when he got here that I'd be an All-Star, what can I say but 'Thanks, big fella. I love you.' "
Emotions were strong elsewhere, too, more so for those who did make it than those who didn't.
Washington owner Abe Pollin stopped practice by wheeling a giant cake onto the court so the Wizards could celebrate the selections of Arenas and Antawn Jamison, the first time in nearly two decades the franchise has two All-Stars.
Guard Ray Allen of Seattle and forward Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas rounded out the Western Conference selections. The East's other reserves are centers Zydrunas Ilgauskas of Cleveland and Ben Wallace of Detroit, forward Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana, and guard Paul Pierce of Boston. O'Neal was picked despite missing 15 games when he was suspended for his role in a brawl with fans at a Nov. 19 game at the Pistons.
"This is yet another sign of him not only being a great basketball player, but a guy who persevered with dignity and class," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "Those are things that play into the coaches' votes."
Among those left off were New Jersey's Kidd, who had played in every All-Star Game since 1998, and Orlando's Francis, a three-time All-Star.
"I'm glad for Vince [Carter] and the guys who were selected, they've all had good seasons," said Kidd, who plans to spend the All-Star break vacationing with his family in Mexico. "It's just time for me to regroup and make a push for the playoffs."
Sacramento center Brad Miller apparently was hurt by Western Conference coaches' filling in Stoudemire -- who starts at power forward for Phoenix -- as a center. Coaches were required to select two guards, two forwards, one center and two other players regardless of position. They could not vote for their own players.
"I'm sure Bibby and Webber deserved consideration, and Brad Miller's playing unbelievable. "They've got a lot of guys to pick from, but they don't have that ONE guy," said Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, who found fault with the fans' balloting choices. "I don't want to offend anyone, but some starters shouldn't be on there."
"I was hopeful that all our guys would make it, but reality is that it doesn't work that way," Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "There's no one going that doesn't deserve it -- Wade and Arenas are phenomenal players having tremendous seasons."
Bryant hasn't played since spraining his right ankle Jan. 13. If he is unable to play in the All-Star Game, NBA commissioner David Stern will select his replacement.
The coaches are Gregg Popovich of the Spurs for the West and Stan Van Gundy of the Heat for the East.
The selections of Ilgauskas (Lithuania), Ginobili (Argentina), Nash (Canada), Nowitzki (Germany), Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Yao (China) gives the 2005 All-Star Game six international players, the same as in 2003 and 2004.
Ginobili, a member of the Argentine national team that won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics, is averaging 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting nearly 50 percent for the Spurs, who have the league's best record (38-10).
Wade leads the Heat in scoring, averaging 23.5 points along with 7.2 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
Garnett, 28, is making his eighth All-Star appearance, the most of any Western Conference player. Shaquille O'Neal will be making his 12th appearance, the most of anyone in this year's game. Bryant, Duncan and Hill are All-Stars for the seventh time each, and Carter and Iverson are now six-time All-Stars.
It'll be a reunion for Nash and Nowitzki, teammates with Dallas until Nash left in the offseason as a free agent. Nash has led the Suns to a 38-11 record by averaging an NBA-high 11.1 assists, while Nowitzki ranks third in the league in scoring for the 31-15 Mavericks.
"Hopefully we'll be on the court together quite some time and it'll be a fun game," Nowitzki said. "It'll be nice to be on the same team as him again. He makes the game so much easier for everybody else."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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