Are you an NBA All-Star?

Victor Corona

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Last week, as the starters for the NBA All-Star game were announced, it became more apparent that the game has become a popularity contest.

After having players like Bruce Bowen of the Spurs and Yi Jianlian of the Nets almost selected by the fans to start, it’s clear that the whole process needs some tweaking. Bowen and Jianlian, who are reserves on their teams, could have cost some deserving players a chance to make the squad.

However, thanks to a late push for Amare Stoudemire of the Suns and Kevin Garnet of the Celtics, a disaster was avoided. Still, this and other issues concerning the All-Star weekend need to be addressed by the NBA.

No. 1 is the coaching situation. The coach whose team has the best record in each conference gets to coach his respective conference’s team. What happened to rewarding the coach for taking his team to the Finals (something the MLB does)? Or how about simply rewarding the coach that does the best job, like Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Stan Van Gundy of the Magic? Popovich lost two of his stars for 20 games and somehow managed to have his team atop the Southwest Division while Van Gundy has turned a young Orlando team into a true contender whose pushing the likes of the Cavaliers and Celtics for the top spot in the East.

No. 2 is having the top players participate in the dunk contest. Last year’s dunk contest was exciting. Why? Because you had a young superstar like Dwight Howard as part of it. The last time the dunk contest was as exciting was when Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis all participated. What the NBA should do is put up a substantial money prize for the winner of the contest. Tell me, what superstar is going to resist a chance to make an extra million?

The final thing is the uniforms. Can we decide on one or simply have the players wear their own team uniforms with the conference of the host city wearing the home jerseys? Personally, I like the blue and white’s from the early 90’s. Stick to those.

Although a disaster was avoided thanks to a late rally from the fans, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that Allen Iverson of the Pistons and Stoudemire are starting. That could cost a player who deserves to make the team as a reserve.

Now ‘the question’ rather than ‘the Answer’ as Iverson has become as of late in his career, the guard has managed to deteriorate another team. Since being traded to the Pistons, Iverson has caused the team to lose the great chemistry Detroit was known for. Chauncey Billups, the player he was traded for, is the total opposite. He has led the Nuggets to the division lead in the Northwest.

Stoudemire, a 6-foot-10 power forward, did not deserve to start because he was selected as a small forward, a position he doesn’t play. Plus his stats and team’s record doesn’t compare to those of Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks and Pau Gasol of the Lakers respectively.

Here are the players who deserve to make the squad as reserves Thursday. According to NBA rules, coaches must select two forwards, two guards, one center and two wildcards to fill the rest of each conference team’s roster.’ ‘ ‘

In the West, at the forward positions, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol should go in. Nowitzki is putting up better numbers this season than during his MVP campaign of two years ago, averaging 25.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. Gasol’s numbers are not as great (17.5 points and nine rebounds a game), but what gets him is that he is the second best player on the team that’s No. 1 by a great margin in the conference.

The two guards should be Billups and Brandon Roy of Portland. Billups has led the Nuggets to a 28-13 record since being traded from Detroit. Averaging 18.7 points while dishing out 6.7 assist per game, Billups’ leadership at the point has made Denver a top team in the West. On the other hand, Roy is the unquestionable leader of a young Blazer team that currently holds the sixth spot. Besides providing leadership day in and day out, Roy leads the team in scoring and assists.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

The center should be the one and only Shaquille O’Neal of the Suns. Every All-Star game, O’Neal was responsible for making the game fun. It is only fitting that now, in perhaps his last season and playing for the host city, he is rewarded with making the team. More than anything he deserves to make it because he’s had a solid season. Besides Yao Ming, not one Western center has had a better season than Shaq.

The two wildcards should be Tony Parker of the Spurs and Paul Millsap of the Jazz. Parker makes it because his team is second in the conference and because he is posting career-highs in points and assists. Millsap deserves it for helping Utah stay in playoff contention while stars Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were out with injuries. As a starter this season, Millsap has averaged 18.2 points and 11.4 rebounds a game.

In the East at the forward position, the players that should make it are Paul Pierce of the Celtics and Danny Granger of the Pacers. Pierce is the leading scorer for the defending champs and the go-to guy down the stretch. Granger on his part has been this year’s NBA breakout player. He is fourth in the league in scoring, only behind LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant.

The guards should be Devin Harris of the Nets and Joe Johnson of the Hawks. Harris leads the Nets in four categories: points, assists, steals and minutes played. Right about now, Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban must be regretting having traded him for Jason Kidd. Then we have Johnson, the heart and soul of a young Atlanta team that last season took the eventual champions to seven games in its playoff series. This season, Johnson leads the team in points and assists as a shooting guard.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

At center, it should be Chris Bosh, who is perhaps the best power forward in the east. Bosh is forced to play center in Toronto because the organization hasn’t been able to find someone to play alongside him.

The two wildcards should be Jameer Nelson of the Magic and Andre Iguodala of the Sixers. Nelson has helped Orlando to its best record since the Shaq-and-Penny-Hardaway days. He has become the point guard the Magic has been missing for the last few years, posting career highs in points and assists. Iguodala, like his team, started off slow as he tried to bring Elton Brand along, but, after the team changed coaches, the Sixers went to more of an up-tempo style. Iguodala has flourished since, averaging 17.6 points and 5.3 assists.