- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Oh, yeah: Almost forgot Karl Malone, the grandfatherly mail-toter who doesn't even want to be on this list.
Sorry, pops. Have to include Malone just to slam-dunk delivery of the premise -- that there is no position deeper, in the most competitive Western Conference of all-time, than the forward spot. There are a whopping 11 teams still alive in the West playoff chase. There are a like number of threes and fours on the Wild Side who merit All-Star recognition.
Count 'em up yourself. A legitimate case can be made on behalf of every one of them. In the East, home to maybe four decent teams, 40 percent of the All-Star starting lineup belongs to Floridians (who else?) who were voted in months before they'll be healthy enough to play again. In the West, you could fill almost the entire 12-man All-Star roster with worthy frontcourt players.
Tuesday is when we find out who else officially goes to Washington, besides fan-elected starters like Webber and Duncan, and we can't wait to see which reserves are announced. Specifically, how many of the nine remaining names listed will actually be chosen by West coaches, who had only four spots -- at most -- to fill with forwards.
We've been doing some forward thinking of our own to help ease the logjam, but the best suggestion has already been ruled out. That scheme: Tab Duncan as Shaquille O'Neal's backup to open up one frontcourt spot, since Duncan is the most qualified Spur and would be a center on just about any other team. Alas, Duncan surged past Garnett in the last round of fan balloting to rule himself out as a backup and make this even more complicated. Assuming West coaches obeyed the rules, they picked two forwards, two guards and one center before using the final two selections without regard to position.
Which means San Antonio's David Robinson will wind up the other West center behind LA's O'Neal. Assuming Minnesota's Garnett and Portland's Wallace are the two mandatory forwards off the bench, much as assuming anything here is a bit of a leap, there would be just one or two spots left for seven unlucky souls.
We'd call it a conundrum, except that we'd rather not be known as the folks who quote Dick Versace. So let's just agree it's a nightmare and analyze the contenders and their chances.
McDyess has never been an All-Star and probably deserves it the most, having sparked the Nuggets to the league's most home victories. That said, McDyess was also a willing participant in the Dan Issel boycott. Decisive as that was in Denver's turnaround, joining a conspiracy to skip practice probably didn't win Dice much admiration from coaches in either conference.
"If they [consider] that ... I've never heard anything like that," said McDyess, admitting he'd be "very disappointed" if not elected, whatever the reason.
Nowitzki finished second in last spring's Most Improved Player balloting behind Indiana's Jalen Rose and improved again -- to the point that he's scoring point-for-point with Face O' The Franchise Michael Finley and nearly averaging a double-double. Then again, how can the Mavericks have two All-Stars if the Kings don't?
And Sacramento won't get two, in spite of Peja's progress. Stojakovic is undeniably in the mix with Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Baron Davis and Jermaine O'Neal for this spring's MIP trophy. He is also firmly in the shadow of Webber's MVP campaign.
Furthermore, Stojakovic is not alone in the category of Overshadowed. The others who have no chance of being honored for their fine half-seasons are the Suns' Marion (a 6-7 pogo stick who somehow grabs 11 rebounds per game), the Grizzlies' Abdur-Rahim (somehow a 20-10 guy even though everyone on his team hates each other, as explained further down) and the Warriors' Jamison (just the league's No. 8 scorer at 25.0 ppg who, more amazingly on his team, has avoided injury in spite of the heavy load and all the attention he gets because opponents have almost no one else to guard).
Oops. Almost omitted Malone again. Gotcha, Mail: He still hates All-Star Weekend, and still averages 22 and 9 no matter what you think of him.
So? Leave it up to us and Wallace goes in as a center, on the premise that he plays there when Arvydas Sabonis is hurt ... and that The Admiral is not an All-Star any more. That would open up reserve spots for at least McDyess and Nowitzki -- one or both of whom could well be left off in real life -- alongside Garnett.
"I know if Dice is not on the All-Star team," said Nuggets guard Nick Van Exel, "he'll be devastated."
Surrounded by unfulfilled forwards as well.
More Grisly Than Ever
In the wake of the Wizards' unfathomable four-game win streak -- one of the victories in the presence of Michael Jordan, no less -- the Bulls have new competition for League's Worst Team. Vancouver, barely two months removed from that 4-1 start, is 7-31 since.
Worse yet, the Grizz is counting on someone almost as beloved as Jerry Krause to get them out of it.
The aforementioned Mr. Versace, indeed.
Of all Michael Heisley's problems as the Grizzlies' rookie owner -- millions in the red, thousands of empty seats every night and no hope of reaching his 30-win guarantee -- the biggest obstacle might be the presence of Versace as president of basketball operations.
Heisley is the successful Chicago businessman who was officially awarded control of the franchise last April. Versace is the longtime Heisley buddy who doesn't have the background for his new job but got it anyway, when Heisley defied the adage about not doing business with friends.
Versace's NBA resume, pre-Vancouver, consisted of two assistant coaching stints (Detroit and Milwaukee) and a brief run as the Pacers' head coach. He spent as much time with TNT as he did with actual teams. Now you can read selections from his big vocabulary on a daily basis in the Vancouver papers, like last week when he publicly questioned why Sidney Lowe wasn't getting Abdur-Rahim more touches. Versace also suggested the Grizz might have a better record with a more experienced coach.
The obvious retort: If the Grizz had a more seasoned GM in their front office, perhaps they would have made a trade by now to clean up some of the most foul chemistry in history. It doesn't take Jerry West to see that this mix is way past not working -- it's not even trying any more. You also won't find many NBA personnel chiefs undermining the coach they hired -- a half-season into a four-year contract -- while the owner is constantly lamenting how much money he's losing. By the way, Dick, how's your first-ever draft pick doing? Stromile Something?
Abdur-Rahim wants out. Mike Bibby has been shopped for weeks. Othella Harrington tries to force a trade every minute of every day. There is disharmony at almost every level of the organization. Multiple trades are needed before the Feb. 22 deadline, but the Grizzlies' few remaining fans can't be brimming with optimism. If Versace finally consents to make a deal -- and the offers will keep flooding in -- does anyone believe it'll be the right one?
Around The League
What is it about Reunion Arena? First, in November, Gary Payton threatens to slap Paul Westphal during a game. Then, last week, the Vancouver bench nearly erupts for two in-game scraps. Abdur-Rahim and Harrington almost came to blows at one stage, and 'Reef also exchanged heated words with Bibby. In the sort of dialogue we'd expect to hear on the Lakers' bench, Abdur-Rahim and Bibby vowed not to pass each other the ball. Because this occurred during a humiliating 37-point loss to the Mavericks, and because these two aren't exactly Shaq and Kobe, the spat was that much more ridiculous.
On the subject of feuds, whatever happened to Allen vs. Larry? Thirteen straight road wins, all without Eric Snow, and suddenly that Reunion Arena hex doesn't look so strong. This was Mr. Iverson in Dallas, regarding Coach Brown, after away win No. 11: "Now my thing is, with all the turmoil we've had with each other, I want a chance to pour a whole bottle of champagne on his head."
Something is wrong when you go to Pete Newell's Big Man Camp and get worse. Word was that Austin Croshere looked so good in Hawaii, he could have been a footwork instructor on Newell's staff. Now? Halfway to the playoffs, Croshere still hasn't hiked his shooting percentage over the .400 mark (.385).
The signs were evident, as far back as the summer, that Rick Pitino had begun tuning himself out. According to one prominent Celtic, Pitino didn't keep tabs on his players and their offseason workouts as vigorously as he had in the past. Strange for someone who knew internal improvement was Boston's only hope this season, given its salary-cap constraints.
Raise your hand if, during high school, Slam Dunk Saturday Night was a bigger deal than the prom. Raise your hand if Pacers Legend, before Reggie Miller, meant Terence Stansbury. Raise your hand if you thought the 2001 dunk contest could have been one of the best ever ... before finding out that Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis are all unwilling to participate. Nothing against Darvin Ham and Desmond Mason, but this year's could have been an all-time dunkfest with the Fab Four.
Marc Stein, who covers the NBA for The Dallas Morning News, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
6dEthan Sherwood Strauss