Celtics hope to have four All-Stars

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / January 28, 2009
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WALTHAM - With all the competition they have for the seven remaining spots on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, it's not quite Phoenix or bust for Celtics Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo.

It's more like Phoenix or Mexico for Allen, and Phoenix or Puerto Rico or Grand Cayman for Rondo.

Coach Doc Rivers is hoping four Celtics will be named to the team and strongly believes there will be three. Forward Kevin Garnett was voted a starter, and forward Paul Pierce is expected to be a shoo-in. Allen and Rondo have tentative vacation plans, just in case. The NBA will announce the reserves tomorrow at 7 p.m. on TNT. The All-Star Game is Feb. 15.

"Every year during the All-Star break, I make contingency plans for the All-Star Game or going on vacation," said Allen, who will have his wife and children with him. "Our travel agency has us scheduled to go where we need to go. Vacation-wise, we pick a couple spots and we go from there. Right now we're thinking somewhere in Mexico because we will be finishing up in Dallas [the Celtics' last game before the break].

"We either go to Phoenix or somewhere in Mexico. Either way, it's going to be about the same amount of time flight-wise. But I don't want to be stuck out there without a plan."

Said Rondo, "I kind of have other plans already. I'm either going to Puerto Rico or Grand Cayman. The travel agent is on deck."

Rivers could make a sound argument why the Celtics merit four All-Stars. The defending champions have the most wins (37) in the NBA and have won eight straight. Pierce is averaging a team-best 19.1 points. The sharpshooting Allen is averaging 18.1 points on 50.4 percent shooting, 41.6 percent from 3-point range, and is hitting 93.6 percent of his free throws. Rondo is playing a solid all-around game, averaging 10.9 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2.2 steals.

There have been four All-Stars from one team on seven occasions, the last by the Pistons in 2006. The Celtics had four in 1953, 1962, and 1975, but in each case, the fourth player was an injury replacement.

"I'm hoping I get three," Rivers said. "But you never know in our league. If we don't get three, then that will be a shame. And I think we should get four. But if we don't get three, then I will be shocked."

Of the four candidates, Rondo acknowledged he is probably the least likely to be selected.

"I would be shocked," Rondo said. "I'd be excited, but I would be shocked. I'm No. 4, definitely. Hopefully, we get those three guys in. They deserve it."

Allen pointed out it's not a given the Celtics will get three. Although Garnett, Pierce, and Allen were All-Stars last season, Allen was an injury replacement. Allen, however, is playing better now than he did last season, when he was hampered by two surgically repaired ankles. "They didn't give us three last year," Allen said. "I was considered after the fact due to injury. It wasn't a given then. You don't know now."

Likely reserve candidates at forward include Toronto's Chris Bosh, Indiana's Danny Granger, New Jersey's Vince Carter, and Orlando's Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Likely guard candidates include Atlanta's Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson, Cleveland's Mo Williams, Orlando's Jameer Nelson, New Jersey's Devin Harris, and Toronto's Jose Calderon. Aside from Orlando starter Dwight Howard, the center position lacks star power. It's possible another forward could be selected instead of a backup center.

"It's really tough to figure out the reserves for the All-Star Game for the simple fact that there are three teams with pretty good records in terms of ourselves, Orlando, and Boston," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "When you look at our team, it's not just LeBron James by himself. When you look at Boston, it's not just Kevin Garnett by himself. When you look at Orlando, it's not just Dwight Howard playing by himself. They have to have other people around them for it to work, especially for the type of teams that have the records that the three of us have."

New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank, however, believes each candidate should be considered on an individual basis and not just record.

"I've been on the part of [winning and losing teams]," said Frank, whose Nets are 20-25. "The argument I make for Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and Danny Granger is how would their teams be without them? You have the argument that All-Stars should be part of winning teams. But you don't devalue a player on a losing team because what would his team be without him? I look at it on an individual basis, but the tie goes to the [player from a winning team]."

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