Updated: Feb. 5, 2007, 4:53 PM ET

SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION Filling out the All-Star rosters

Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this around-the-league notebook edition of the Daily Dime.

This is our annual opportunity to pretend we're all coaches.

This is the breakdown every coach in the league will be looking at this weekend now that they know who's been selected by the fans to start in the Feb. 18 All-Star Game.

Coaches in both conferences received a memo from the league office Friday with voting instructions on All-Star reserves, with their secret ballots due back to the league office Tuesday and the seven-man East and West benches to be publicly revealed Thursday.

ALL-STAR STARTERS
EASTERN CONFERENCE
G
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards
G
Dwyane Wade, Heat
C
Shaquille O'Neal, Heat
F
LeBron James, Cavs
F
Chris Bosh, Raptors
WESTERN CONFERENCE
G
Kobe Bryant, Lakers
G
Tracy McGrady, Rockets
C
Yao Ming, Rockets
F
Kevin Garnett, Wolves
F
Tim Duncan, Spurs

Yet you had to know that we weren't going to wait another week to dig into the meatiest part of the All-Star debate. These are the benches as selected at Stein Line HQ, based on the same guidelines that the coaches are required to follow.

Those guidelines require the selection of two forwards, two guards, one center and two wild cards … but the coaches cannot vote for their own players and are not locked into voting for players based on the positions at which they're listed on the All-Star ballot. The exact wording from the league: "If the head coach feels a player can play more than one position, he should vote for that player at the position that he thinks is most advantageous for the All-Star team, not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season."

Is this how your subs would look?

EAST RESERVES

Forwards

Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana
Caron Butler, Washington

Easy calls here. O'Neal is playing better defense than we've ever seen from him and Butler has displayed a new all-around level of dependability that must have the Lakers wishing they never surrendered him in the Kwame Brown deal. I don't even see another forward in the East who can come close to these two.

Guards

Jason Kidd, New Jersey
Michael Redd, Milwaukee

Two more gimmes. Kidd is still the best point guard in the game not named Steve Nash. And Redd was arguably the best player in the East -- granted, there weren't a lot of folks besides me making the argument -- before he got hurt and had only missed nine of Milwaukee's 42 games as of Friday morning. Our favorite lefty is expected to heal in time for the Vegas party, so he has to be there.

Center

Dwight Howard, Orlando
Easiest call of them all. He should be the starter, obviously, with Shaq having only played in five games because of injury. Then again, there's no shame in Howard going as a reserve and spending the weekend as Shaq's understudy. The real losers here are New York's Eddy Curry and Charlotte's Emeka Okafor, who have been the East's best centers after Howard with Shaq out, but face almost certain exclusion.

Wild cards

Rip Hamilton, Detroit
Ben Gordon, Chicago

The Pistons and Bulls have to have at least one All-Star based on our devotion to team success, so we go with their best players to date: Hamilton and Gordon. Yet no team in the East has played consistently well enough to load up on All-Stars like the Pistons did in February 2006, which is why I can't make room for Chauncey Billups and Rip, Luol Deng and Gordon, Vince Carter and Kidd or Antawn Jamison and Butler.

Atlanta's Joe Johnson, like Okafor and Curry, loses out because he sports big numbers on a bad team. Boston's Paul Pierce, meanwhile, will have missed more than half the season for a dreadful team by the time we head to Sin City, ruling him out in spite of his gaudy production even if he's ready to play by mid-February.

WEST RESERVES

Forwards

Carlos Boozer, Utah
Josh Howard, Dallas

The Jazz have tailed off, but Boozer hasn't. He's the first name on the list after the Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash no-brainers. And Josh Howard wouldn't be far behind him if I were a West coach. The Mavs -- and Howard -- have been too good to have only one All-Star, especially after winning 58 and 60 games in the previous two seasons with only one All-Star selection. That finally must change this February, with the Mavs and Suns having separated themselves from the rest of the league.

Guards

Steve Nash, Phoenix
Allen Iverson, Denver

Nash, as we all know, should be starting ahead of Tracy McGrady, but T-Mac has easily earned his reserve spot, so it's all good. As for Iverson, I realize he just got to Denver … but he's a lot like Shaq. You just can't have an All-Star Game without him. Apologies, then, to San Antonio's Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Utah's Deron Williams, Golden State's Baron Davis, New Orleans' still-sidelined Chris Paul and Seattle's Ray Allen.

Center

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
The coaches, as explained above, aren't obligated to pick someone who's listed as a center on the ballot. And putting Nowitzki here opens an extra roster spot where the West coaches need it most … at forward. And he's going to start in place of Yao if my hunch (Box 3) is right. It's the natural compromise.

Wild cards

Carmelo Anthony, Denver
Shawn Marion, Phoenix

I arrived at my final twosome by banking on David Stern to select Amare Stoudemire as Yao's injury replacement. (Don't you love, incidentally, how all the Amare doubters disappeared without a peep?) I'm also probably letting emotion sway me some by going for Melo (a personal favorite) after the MSG brawl and picking another fave in Marion, even though that would give Phoenix three participants if Amare is indeed the commissioner's pick over Denver's Marcus Camby.

I expect the coaches to make the same choices irrespective of my biases, with Melo leading the league in scoring in spite of his 15-game suspension and Marion (UNLV's Matrix, don't forget) not far off his usual 20-and-10 excellence. The toughest omissions are Camby (have to make room for Iverson and Melo first), Portland's Zach Randolph (team wasn't good enough) and a Stein Line all-timer in Elton Brand (ditto).

• Talk back to … Marc Stein | The Daily Dime gang

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Room For Two?
Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Will these Nuggets make the All-Star cut? Melo's case is a bit fuzzy, while AI's new digs might be a problem. Still, that's not the biggest question concerning Denver's duo. (Read below.)


Western Conference

It's everyone's Question of the Week: Why now?

Why did the Wolves fire Dwane Casey with the team holding the eighth seed in the West?

The theory here is backed up by multiple Wolves insiders: Firing the coach was the only way Minnesota could shake things up this season. All of management's efforts to make a shake-up trade that would solidify the Wolves' playoff status have been foiled, so they used a four-game losing streak to justify a coaching change and generate some new urgency in their desperation to get Kevin Garnett to the postseason for the first time in three seasons.

Make no mistake: Casey was close to getting axed after last season. Reviews of his first season were less than favorable. But these Wolves have overachieved by any reasonable measure. No one expected them to contend for a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the West except for owner Glen Taylor and a hopeful (delusional?) Kevin McHale.

A 10-3 spurt that began just before Christmas and included four overtime victories took the Wolves' record to 20-16 and appeared to ease the pressure on Casey. Yet it looks now as though he probably needed Minnesota to win the Allen Iverson Sweepstakes to save his job. The Wolves, at one time, did think they were close to AI. The Sixers love Randy Foye so much that, according to NBA front office sources, Minnesota quietly believed it was leading the chase before Denver improved its offer suddenly on Dec. 19 to deny Garnett his dream tag-team partner.

The difference, sources say, is that Denver had those two late first-round picks in the deep June draft to package with Andre Miller. The Wolves had no first-round picks this decade to offer and were thus trying to manufacture a first-rounder by sending Ricky Davis to the Bobcats, with Davis' career having started in Charlotte with the Hornets. But Minnesota ran out of time.

All of which brings us back to the two Kevins, like always.

I'm hardly alone in saying that the Wolves need to trade Garnett for their own good -- irrespective of KG's determination to retire in 'Sota -- because (A) they just don't have the cap flexibility or trade assets to put a contending team around him any time soon and (B) they'll have a lot less leverage a year from now with Garnett holding the right to become a free agent after the 2007-08 season. (Not that I expect the Wolves to even consider this until the offseason, with Garnett adamant about wanting to stay and since they're still in the playoff race.)

As for McHale, as covered here in November, Minnesota still plans to transfer control of the front office at season's end to Fred Hoiberg, one of KG's all-time favorite teammates. It's conceivable that McHale could elect to stay on for one more season, given how much Taylor loves him, but you can safely assume that's one switch Garnett is more than ready for.

In a related story, remember, Minnesota's first-round pick in June goes to the Clippers as part of the disastrous Sam Cassell-for-Marko Jaric trade, unless that pick falls between No. 1 and No. 10 in June.


I'll concede that it might actually make more sense lineup-wise for Suns coach Mike D'Antoni to move Steve Nash into the West's first five for the All-Star Game in place of injured center Yao Ming. That would give the West a starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Yet I still say D'Antoni will choose Dirk Nowitzki as the fifth starter, since the 7-foot German is a more natural choice to replace Yao.

Knowing Nash, I'm guessing he'll even suggest to D'Antoni that Nowitzki move into the starting lineup. It's also generally easier for coaches to pick a player from a different team in these situations; I remember then-Mavs coach Don Nelson starting then-King Chris Webber over Nowitzki in the 2002 game when fans choice Shaquille O'Neal (then of the Lakers) had to withdraw because of injury.

My disclaimer: If the Suns' record is distinctly better than Dallas' by the time we all get to Las Vegas, there might be a clamor -- inside D'Antoni's own locker room, even -- to start a Sun.


The other big Question of the Week: Will it work?

Can Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony coexist over the long term in Denver?

For starters, that probably depends on what you mean by "work."

If it means winning a championship this season, then no.

If it means evolving into a team no one wants to see in the playoffs, while management continues to tweak the cast around them, it's already working.

Yup. We're already seeing evidence to support Denver's belief that, in George Karl's up-tempo offense, there will be plenty of shots available for both of them because there are more possessions in your average Nuggets game than most teams generate.

To wit: Melo took 25 and 26 shots in the first two games alongside Iverson, coming off a 36-day suspension layoff. Those are legitimately historic shot totals, given that only three other Iverson teammates in AI's 11-season career have taken 25 shots in a non-overtime game in which Iverson played: Chris Webber five times in 2005, Derrick Coleman once in 1998 and Mark Davis once in 1997.



Rank Comments
Sow

It's one of the readers' favorites and we do it every week: Trot out five (or so) responses to the latest edition of my NBA Power Rankings to make sure you have your say.

Straight from the rankings mailbag:

Sandy (Toronto): Given your past comments, I'm pretty sure you're aware that Pape Sow played this week for the first time since breaking his neck in a summer-league game. As a season-ticket holder, I've been through many highs and lows with the Raptors over the last six years. But let me tell you, as one of the fans who was part of the standing ovation, Pape entering Monday's game ranks as one of the most memorable moments I have ever seen at the Air Canada Centre.

Committee's counter: You made our week with this one, Sandy. Wish we were there to soak it all in with our beloved Pape, whose comeback well ahead of schedule pretty much tells you what Cal State Fullerton Titans are made of.

Read the full Marc Stein blog Insider




Guarded Optimism
Michael Redd
Chris Birck/Getty Images
A lefty fist pump is well in order as we reward Michael Redd for his East MVP-like play before he missed time due to injury.


Eastern Conference

The Pistons remain eager to move out a forward in the wake of Chris Webber's arrival but are serious when they say they'll only consider parting with Nazr Mohammed or Dale Davis. Antonio McDyess and especially Jason Maxiell have been deemed off limits as the backups to Webber and Rasheed Wallace.

Trading Mohammed instead of Davis, furthermore, is the Pistons' obvious preference. But Detroit's talks with Minnesota on a Mohammed-for-Marko Jaric swap have ceased, according to NBA front office sources.

The Wolves balked initially because they wanted to void the contract of troubled forward Eddie Griffin before committing to the trade, but sources indicate that the Pistons are no longer interested in the swap no matter what happens with Griffin.


Even for Shaquille O'Neal, who has been known to joke that he doesn't start taking the season seriously until his birthday on March 6, this was a long injury absence.

The longest of his career, actually.

Before his reactivation Wednesday, Shaq missed 35 consecutive games after tearing cartilage in his left knee on Nov. 12. That's seven games more than the previous longest inactive stretch of O'Neal's career.

The five longest injury absences in Shaq's 15 NBA seasons:

Streak Season Dates
33 2006-07 Nov. 14-Jan. 13
28 1996-97 Feb. 13-Apr. 9
22 1995-96 Nov. 3-Dec. 13
20 1997-98 Nov. 23-Dec. 30
18 2005-06 Nov. 5-Dec. 9


The exact numbers on Webber's buyout from the 76ers, as obtained by ESPN.com, show Webber surrendering nearly $6.5 million for the right to become a free agent and sign with Detroit.

Webber's salary this season and next season have thus been adjusted for leaguewide bookkeeping purposes to $17.6 million and $19 million, down from $20.7 million and $22.3 million.

The buyout enabled Philadelphia to go $822,818 below the luxury-tax line for this season.






One-On-One ... To Five
Maggette

Five questions with Clippers forward Corey Maggette:

Q: Because we're in the internet age with so many more media outlets, I think you're going to set a trade rumor record this season. Are you numb to it by now?

A: You're probably the hundredth reporter to ask me about it [this season]. But I don't even think about it. If I'm going to get traded, I'm going to get traded, simple as that. Nothing you can really do about it, right?

Q: But do you want to stay with the Clippers?

A: It's up to them, man. It's up to them. Until I'm told to get my running shoes on, I'm dedicated to this team I'm here with.

Q: It's not a distraction to have your future speculated about it in the media almost every day?

A: I don't even think about it. I don't read the papers. Until my agent calls me and tells me it's a definite situation where I'm going to be traded, it's no focus of mine.

Q: Clippers owner Donald Sterling doesn't want to trade you and by all accounts you're one of his favorite players. Is that something he's actually told you?

A: Donald is the owner and I respect him totally. It's great that he's a fan of mine.

Q: What about the part about you being one of his favorite players?

A: I think everyone is his favorite player (laughing). He's the owner ... he kind of bought us. But it probably starts with me and EB [Elton Brand] because he signed us first.



Best In The West?
Marc Stein joins Galloway & Company on ESPN Radio in Dallas (103.3 FM) to dissect the wild race between the Mavericks and the Suns for Western Conference supremacy.

Listen to the podcast



Marc's Quote
Gasol

"From what I hear, I'm getting killed back home for saying that I want to win or for something that I didn't even say. It's pretty unfortunate that it's happening. I'm pretty sure it's not everyone [in Memphis], but a few mouths can hurt. I'm going to try to stay cool about it and not really talk about it."

Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol, responding to increasing trade speculation with his name attached … but sternly rejecting the notion that the Grizz haven't gotten his best lately.

Gasol also disputes the idea that he's alone in initiating the decision to put him on the trading block, adding: "The franchise, I think, wants to go in a different direction."



Question Marc
From the Stein Line e-mailbag:


Jonathan (Memphis): Loved your Grizz comment in the Power Rankings. Nothing has been or will be more damaging to this franchise than not trading for Allen Iverson when they could have knocked everyone else's offer out of the water. Why, why WHY didn't they do this?

Stein: I'm right there with you, Jonathan. I thought Memphis should have chased him harder than anyone.

After all ...

Eddie Jones has an expiring contract and a Philly connection after starring at Temple. With either Hakim Warrick or Rudy Gay, Memphis had a top young prospect to package with Jones' $15.7 million salary. Throw in a future first-round pick and you've got a package to rival (or even trump) Denver's.

If the Grizz could have sold Philly on Warrick -- and I think they could have because of the financial relief Jones' contract offered the Sixers -- that would have enabled them to build around a trio of Iverson, Pau Gasol and Gay. They would then have the option of moving Mike Miller, if necessary, to ease the luxury-tax burden of bringing Iverson in … or keeping Miller to add a quality shooter to the Iverson-Gasol-Gay trio.

However …

There were a couple of big obstacles, I'm told.

1. Iverson dissuaded Sacramento, Golden State and Charlotte from pursuing him because he didn't want to play in any of those places and might well have similarly discouraged Memphis.

2. Memphis definitely had financial reservations about keeping its payroll in the $60 million-plus range beyond this season by acquiring Iverson, especially since it has other long-term deals on its books (Stromile Swift, Damon Stoudamire and Brian Cardinal) that aren't easy to move. Grizz owner Michael Heisley, by all accounts, is flat-out done bleeding millions.

Big businessmen, remember, operate in a different world.

You or I could easily conclude that trading for a guy who could fill up Memphis' new building -- with or without the basketball perks listed above -- would make the franchise more attractive to bidders. That presumably would help Heisley in his quest to find new buyers now that the proposed sale to Brian Davis and Christian Laettner has collapsed, but experts keep telling me that Heisley will have a better chance of finding fresh interest if he keeps the payroll as low as possible, which convinced him to pass on Iverson.

I suppose it didn't help that the Grizz were in such a deep hole in the West standings, thanks to Gasol missing the first 22 games through injury, when Iverson became available. You have to concede that even adding Iverson in mid-December couldn't have rallied Memphis into the playoffs by April, not in this conference. That reality undoubtedly would have made this trade an even tougher sell ... to Heisley and Iverson.

I'm still inclined to say that the prospect of Iverson in Grizz colors, for my money, was too tasty to resist. Given the chronic attendance concerns in Memphis and the go-to guy pressure that would have been lifted from Gasol's shoulders, it made so much sense. And Pau himself didn't seem to mind the concept when I asked him about it Monday, as covered in that night's Daily Dime.

But it's not my money. I haven't been losing 20-something million dollars every season as Heisley reportedly has. I can't tell the man to keep carrying a $60 million-plus payroll when the overall financial picture in Memphis doesn't support it and when potential new buyers aren't exactly lining up.

P.S. -- As for Pau's future, Boston is the team I'm hearing strongest besides Chicago, whose interest in Gasol and long list of assets are well-chronicled. The Celts, though, also have a longstanding interest in the Spaniard and can package an inexpensive young player or two (like Al Jefferson) with future first-round picks in an offer that would also feature ailing center Theo Ratliff, whose contract expires next season while insurance pays most of this season's tab.

The issue for the Celts is to make a serious push for Gasol between now and the Feb. 22 trading deadline or focus on their Paul Pierce-less plummet into Greg Oden-Kevin Durant lottery territory.



 

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