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Old 02-19-07, 07:16 AM
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NBA All-Star Game: Two-game skid ends as roster comes up big

NBA All-Star Game: Two-game skid ends as roster comes up big

Web Posted: 02/19/2007 12:22 AM CST

Mike Monroe

LAS VEGAS — As an NBA general manager, David Stern makes a fine commissioner.
When injuries forced four Western Conference players out of Sunday's All-Star Game at the Thomas & Mack Center, the job of replacing them fell to Stern.


The arrangement eliminated a potential problem for the head coach: picking a replacement whose selection was certain to anger another player. It also eliminated the coach's ability to replace size with size and skill with skill.

That is the only way to explain how Western point guards Steve Nash and Allen Iverson were replaced by a center, Mehmet Okur, and a shooting guard, Ray Allen.

"We are kind of big and heavy," West coach Mike D'Antoni said before his team's 153-132 victory. "He could have given me a little guy when Allen (Iverson) went out. But who's griping, right?"

Indeed, nobody on the West squad was griping after Stern's big, heavy replacements proved nearly as adept at running D'Antoni's fast-paced offense as the little guys he prefers. After losing the 2005 and '06 All-Star Games, the West scored a dominating victory in the 56th edition of the event, the first played in a non-NBA city.

Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire was selected by the coaches. He is big, but hardly heavy, and fully ingrained in D'Antoni's super-fast offense. Capping a comeback from knee injuries that cost him most of the 2005-06 season, Stoudemire scored 29 points on 14-for-22 shooting and had nine rebounds.

Stoudemire seemed on his way to being named Most Valuable Player of the game before the Lakers' Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the honor.

Perhaps Bryant's motivation was to win an MVP Award without getting booed. When he scored 31 points and was named MVP of the 2002 All-Star Game in Philadelphia, he was roundly booed by the fans in his hometown.

This time, the Las Vegas fans were chanting "M-V-P" each time Bryant touched the ball late in the game.

Asked to compare his two All-Star MVP experiences, Bryant was diplomatic.

"Philly was great," he said, selectively forgetting the boos from fans whose 76ers Bryant helped to defeat in the 2001 NBA Finals. "As players we always want to feel like we're appreciated for what we do. To have the type of reaction here in this All-Star Game is very humbling. I just feel very blessed and very fortunate to be able to come out tonight and put on a really good show."

The showtime may have been enjoyable for the spectators, but the game lacked any shred of drama. The West led by 20 at halftime and by as many as 33 in the second half.

D'Antoni credited his players' unselfishness for the easy victory, saying he was most proud that his team set an All-Star Game record for assists, with 50.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker, making his second-straight All-Star appearance, had 10 assists in just under 24 minutes, despite missing on three lob passes. His first lob attempt was so high even Bryant was unable to elevate enough to catch it.

"I felt a lot more comfortable this year, the second time," Parker said. "Everybody is more familiar with everybody, so it's natural to feel more comfortable."

Parker had a plausible explanation for not connecting on the lobs, which usually produce crowd-pleasing dunks that are so much a part of every All-Star Game.

"The last time I threw a lob was to Boris Diaw on the (French) junior national team," he said. "We don't throw a lot of lobs in San Antonio. It took me a while.

"Finally, at the end of the game, I got a good one to Stoudemire. The first one I threw to God. I got a good one to Carmelo in the first half, too, but it took me a while."

With Yao Ming out of the game, most of Spurs forward Tim Duncan's court time was spent at center, matched up against Miami's Shaquille O'Neal. Duncan muscled up nicely against the NBA's most powerful player, blocking one dunk attempt and helping to limit O'Neal to 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

"He got serious for a little while and really started banging in there, making some tough moves," Duncan said. "But it was fun enough."

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"We would have two less championships here if it wasn't for Manu Ginobili," Popovich said. "In my book, Manu Ginobili is the stud of the world.
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Old 02-20-07, 05:19 AM
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Parker should take his "lobbing" experience from the all star game and use it as a Spur. If only Finley & Barry could get up there!
"Please. No way. The best defender I've ever played is Bruce Bowen. It's not even close." - Kobe Bryant
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