In East, others are more deserving than DeForge, Braxton

Updated: July 4, 2007, 10:50 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Last week, I was at the U.S. Women's Open, always a favorite event to cover -- and one with a history that goes back to 1946. I have reverence for something with so many decades of compelling stories and have been lucky enough to see the last dozen renditions of the Open in person.

Anna DeForge
Ron Hoskins/Getty ImagesFans voted Anna DeForge -- fifth on Indiana in scoring with 8.3 ppg -- as an All-Star starter.
At that tournament, I eagerly submerge in the world of birdies and bogeys and "par is your friend" to such a degree that for a few days, the rest of the sports world is just a little blurry. I might miss a few things and have to catch up on them the next week.

But Tuesday when the WNBA's Eastern Conference All-Star starters were revealed, I thought, "Good grief, did I miss a few things not just last week, but the last month and a half?"

No, I really didn't. The inclusion of Indiana's Anna DeForge and Detroit's Kara Braxton as two of the East's starters is, uh, very odd.

It's with some trepidation, though, that I address the issue -- for a couple of reasons. Look, they are both good players who contribute to their teams. Just having a roster spot in the WNBA means you're doing a lot right.

However, DeForge and Braxton are so out of place as All-Star starters this season that it pretty much begs comment. DeForge is averaging 8.3 points, which is fifth on her team, and 1.4 rebounds. Braxton is seventh on her team in scoring (6.3) and also averages 6.3 rebounds.

There's always the "sentimental" vote in all-star balloting in every sport, where veteran favorites get the nod even if their numbers are not what they used to be. Such is the case in the Western Conference, where Yolanda Griffith would be the first to say her Sacramento teammate Rebekkah Brunson deserved an All-Star start ahead of her.

But Griffith is a league legend, and I can understand why fans still want to see her starting. Brunson should still make the team as a reserve, along with other West standouts such as Houston's Tina Thompson (carrying a huge load for the Comets), Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Phoenix teammates Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor -- all of whom are having All-Star starter-type seasons. (Reserves, selected by the All-Star head coaches in each conferences, will be announced Monday.)

The other West starters -- Seattle's Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and San Antonio's Becky Hammon -- aren't going to cause arguments. Bird won't be able to play in the game, as she is having arthroscopic surgery then, but in general the West seemed to make sense.

So did three of the starters in the East: Indiana's Tamika Catchings and Detroit's Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan. But it's absurd that Chicago's Candice Dupree isn't starting, too. She's third in the league -- and first in the Eastern Conference -- in scoring (19.5) and fifth in rebounding (7.9). Yes, it's just her second year in the WNBA, but she should have been a lock for an All-Star start with what she has done so far this season.

My vote for the other starter would go to Washington's Alana Beard, although good cases can be made for Connecticut's Katie Douglas or perennial all-star Katie Smith of Detroit. Smith is still one of the league leaders in minutes at age 33. And, frankly, there are others, such as Connecticut's Asjha Jones, who would deserve a look, too.

Ultimately, it's the fans' choice to vote for whomever they want … it's just that it seems unlikely that the majority of the league's followers really think this East group of starters adds up.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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