Though the NBA started its season only two months ago, All-Star festivities will continue as originally planned this weekend.
In Orlando this year, the league’s 61st annual All-Star game features a mix of young and old players. And, as always, the selections have stirred controversy.
Of the 24 players selected, six are first-time all-stars — Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bynum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Three players continued their all-star selections into the double digits. This Sunday, Kobe Bryant will play in his 14th All-Star game; Dirk Nowitzki in his 11th and Paul Pierce in his 10th.
[pullquote]”I think there’s a lot of great young talent in this league that deserves to go.” — Dirk Nowitzki[/pullquote]
Some selections, of course, have been debated. Nowitzki argued one nomination: his own.
“I mean, averaging whatever, 15, 16 points, I don’t think you should be an All-Star,” Nowitzki said shortly after the selections were announced. “But we’ll just have to wait and see. I think there’s a lot of great young talent in this league that deserves to go.”
Nowitzki has picked up his play since then, averaging 23.8 PPG and 8.0 RPG for the month of February, removing any doubt of his place in this weekend’s festivities.
Certain players were surprisingly absent from this year’s original All-Star rosters — namely the Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, the Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith and the Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo. Rondo, however, is reportedly replacing the Hawks’ Joe Johnson, who opted out because of tendonitis in his right knee.
Fans and coaches gave precedence to players on successful teams. Of the 24 All-Star nods, only two, the New Jersey Nets’ Deron Williams and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, play for teams with losing records. This seems to be a trend, as last year’s rosters had only two players from below-500 teams.
This year’s All-Star Game starts Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Game coverage starts 6:00 p.m. ET on TNT.