By Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY | Photo By Kyle Terada, US Presswire
The NBA averted an embarrassing situation Thursday when starters for the All-Star Game were released and the Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash passed the Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady in fan voting for one of the guard spots in the Western Conference.
McGrady has played in just six games after returning from knee surgery and hasn't played since Dec. 23, when the Rockets granted him a leave of absence. McGrady had 2,475 more votes than Nash in the last tally Jan. 7.
Unresolved is whether Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson will take his starting spot for the Eastern Conference after playing in just 16 games because of an arthritic knee.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James passed Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for most votes (2,549,693) to become the first with at least 2.5 million three times.
The East's starting lineup: James, Iverson, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Joining Nash and Bryant in the West: Suns forward Amare Stoudemire (although voted in as a center), Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan.
The All-Star Game is Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and if Dallas fans want to see Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki play, it will be up to the West coaches. Duncan passed him in the final two weeks.
Coaches vote for seven reserves on each team (two guards, two forwards, one center, two regardless of position) from their conference. Reserves will be announced next Thursday. To be considered: Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman and Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis, having good seasons but playing for losing teams.
The coaches have plenty of forwards from which to choose in the Western Conference: Nowitzki, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Memphis' Zach Randolph, Houston's Carl Landry and the Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol.
Same with forwards in the East: Washington's Antawn Jamison, Charlotte's Gerald Wallace, Toronto's Chris Bosh, Boston's Paul Pierce and New York Knicks' Al Harrington.
There will also be deserving guards left out in the both conferences.
Possible reserve guards in the East: Boston's Rajon Rondo, Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, Chicago's Derrick Rose, Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala and Charlotte's Stephen Jackson.
In the West: Ellis, Portland's Brandon Roy, New Orleans' Chris Paul, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, Houston's Aaron Brooks, Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Utah's Deron Williams and Denver's Chauncey Billups.
Iverson, a two-time All-Star MVP, is having a mediocre season for a 13-28 team but his inclusion is not a surprise. It's the 10th time the fan favorite has been voted as a starter.
"It's a credit to his popularity throughout the world," 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski said. "We're happy for him. When we got him here, the guy is as close to a rock star as you're going to get."
TNT analyst Charles Barkley said Iverson should decline to play in the game.
"The Sixers are not playing well, and he has not played well," Barkley said.