Four Pistons are All-Stars; 'Melo, Arenas snubbed
NEW YORK -- Detroit was rewarded Thursday night for one of the best starts in NBA history when four Pistons made the All-Star team as reserves.
Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace all were picked for the Eastern Conference team that will be led by Detroit coach Flip Saunders. Tayshaun Prince was the lone Pistons starter not chosen in voting by East head coaches.
"I would just like to thank the coaches in the league for recognizing our players," Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars told The Associated Press on Thursday night. "What the coaches are saying by voting our guys on is that they appreciate unselfishness, great attitudes and team basketball."
The Pistons (40-8) became the first team with four players in an All-Star game since the Los Angeles Lakers sent Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel to the 1998 game in New York.
"I wish Tayshaun would be there," Hamilton said. "If that would have happened, that would have been incredible because it hasn't happened before. But it will be incredible to be there with those guys and if Flip plays us all at the same time that will be even more exciting."
The Western Conference reserves are guards Ray Allen of Seattle and Tony Parker of San Antonio, and forwards Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, the Clippers' Elton Brand, Memphis' Pau Gasol, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and the Suns' Shawn Marion.
Billups, the 2004 NBA Finals MVP, and Hamilton are among the five first-time selections, joining Bosh, Parker and Gasol.
"That is something that you play for, to be recognized as one of the best," Billups said. "I've felt like I've played like that for a couple of years now and it's nice to finally get that validation."
Despite playing in the NBA Finals the last two years, recognition had come slowly for the Pistons during the season in recent years. Ben Wallace was Detroit's only All-Star in each of the last three years, and the Pistons haven't had multiple selections since Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse in 2000.
"What they have done the first half of the year, I wouldn't have disagreed with five," said Mavericks coach Avery Johnson, who will coach the West.
The only other teams with four All-Stars were the Celtics (1953, '62 and '75); Lakers ('62) and 76ers ('83). This is the first time four players from one team have been picked as reserves by the coaches.
The starters were voted on by fans and were announced last Thursday. Miami's Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade were chosen in the East along with forwards LeBron James from Cleveland and Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson was the other guard.
Houston's Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady were voted in, along with guards Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Steve Nash of Phoenix, and San Antonio forward Tim Duncan. The Mavericks' Avery Johnson is the West coach.
Jermaine O'Neal is injured and his replacement will be chosen by NBA commissioner David Stern. Though Saunders gets to choose who will start in O'Neal's place, he doesn't think it will be one of his players.
"I haven't really thought about that yet, but it probably won't be one of our guys," he said. "The first time they step on the floor, we will have them step on the floor together."
The toughest omissions in the East seemed to be guards Gilbert Arenas of Washington, the league's No. 4 scorer at 28.2 points per game, and Milwaukee's Michael Redd. Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Hornets rookie Chris Paul were among those left out in the West.
"I wish they would take more people, but they can't," Johnson said. "You have that every year. Every year you've got guys that's deserving. Guys that get out there every night, lay it on the line."
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.
There were six All-Stars born outside the 50 states for the fourth straight year: Yao (China), Nowitzki (Germany), Gasol (Spain), Parker (France), Nash (Canada) and Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands).
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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