With this crew, someone won't be happy
The Western Conference has so much talent at forward, the All-Star game can't include them all.
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.
"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.
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
Marc Stein, who covers the NBA for The Dallas Morning News, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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