NBA: Eastern Conference All-Stars

Matthew Heineman

In two weeks, basketball fans will flock to Orlando, Florida for the annual NBA All-Star weekend. Fan favorites from the Eastern Conference will take on those from the West in the highlight of the weekend, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. Starting players for both teams were an­nounced earlier this week. Fans voted for the players they wanted to see represented and the most popular players for each of the five positions were named starters. The reserves for both squads are selected by the coaches and will be announced on Thursday, February 9.

With every All-Star Game there is con­troversy and heated debate over which players deserve to start the game and even deserve to make the team. With the re­serves not being announced until Thurs­day, we can hold off judgment on possible snubs for now and first look at whether or not the starters have legitimately earned their starting positions or even a spot on the team.

The starters for the Eastern Con­ference are as follows: Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls (1,514,723 votes), Dwyane Wade (1,334,223 votes) and LeBron James (1,360,680 votes) of the Miami Heat, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (1,041,290 votes) and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic (1,600,390 votes). Overall, it is pretty hard to disagree with this starting lineup. Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP and has led his Chicago Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference with a record of 21-6. He is averaging 22.7 points per game, 7.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, though they are battling injuries, are also putting up some ungodly numbers. LeBron (29.2 points, 6.8 assists, 8.5 rebounds) is lead­ing the Eastern Conference in scoring and is trailing only Kobe Bryant for the league lead in that category. Wade’s numbers are a little down this year, most likely due to the shortened season and sharing the court with LeBron, but he is still aver­aging all star numbers with 21.0 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per contest. Both teammates are proven All-Stars and have led the Heat to a 19-6 record, good for second place in the East.

Carmelo Anthony (22.3 points, 4.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds) has actually had a down year when compared to his stan­dards. His field goal percentage is at a mere 39.9 percent, down from his ca­reer average of 45.7 percent. He has been battling injuries all season to his ankle, wrist and thumb and is now expected to miss up to two weeks with a groin strain. It is possible he will not even participate in the game. Despite all that, he is still one of the top five scorers in the East and it is hard to find anyone else playing better at the forward position.

Magic center Dwight Howard’s num­bers (20.9 points, 2.0 assists, 15.1 re­bounds) speak for themselves. He is the three-time reigning defensive player of the year and his play this year has been All-Star quality again, despite deal­ing with trade distractions throughout the season.

Although the reserves have not yet been announced, let’s highlight a couple of players who might not be well-known but deserve to make the team. One player in particular who stands out is 22-year-old point guard Brandon Jennings. Jen­nings has had an All-Star caliber season averaging close to 20 points and six assists per game. His assists would definitely be higher if he was surrounded by better of­fensive threats. He is obviously hurt by a lack of notoriety, which is a direct result of playing for the lowly Bucks in Milwau­kee. Recently, however, he distinguished himself in a 105–97 comeback victory over the Miami Heat. He scored 31 points with 14 of them coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

Another player who deserves to make the team is Philadelphia 76ers guard Andre Iguodala. The Sixers have gotten off to a fast start at 18–7 and have upset a number of top teams this year includ­ing the Atlanta Hawks (twice), the Magic, Bulls and most recently the Los Angeles Lakers. They have a great head coach in Doug Collins and a well-balanced roster that has one of the better benches in the league; they deserve to have a representa­tive at the All-Star game. Though Iguo­dala’s numbers will not blow anyone away by any stretch of the imagination (12.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists), he is an incredibly versatile player who does so many things for his team. He leads the team in minutes played, assists and steals and is third on the team in scoring and rebounding. He is the leader and most valuable player on the Philadelphia 76ers, and he deserves a place on the All-Star roster accordingly.

In addition to Brandon Jennings and Andre Iguodala, Joe Johnson, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh and Roy Hibbert also deserve to make the roster. A team consisting of these reserves together with Rose, James, Wade, Anthony and Howard will allow the East to present a formidable challenge to the West in what will undoubtedly be an exciting matchup for fans.

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