Rondo, Garnett miss Star starts
Rose, Stoudemire the choice of fans
PORTLAND, Ore. — A pair of potential MVP candidates pushed past Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett in fan voting to earn starting spots for the Eastern Conference for the All-Star Game Feb. 20 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Derrick Rose of the Bulls got the nod over Rondo to fill out the backcourt with the Heat’s Dwyane Wade. The Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire joins LeBron James of the Heat at forward, and the Magic’s Dwight Howard is the center.
Playing in front of the home crowd, Laker Kobe Bryant, the leading vote-getter league-wide, will start for the Western Conference with guard Chris Paul (New Orleans), forwards Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver), and a center of commissioner David Stern’s choosing to replace Houston’s injured Yao Ming.
Rose has burst into the MVP conversation by averaging more than 26 points per game this month, leading the Bulls to a 13-game lead in the Central Division. It will be Rose’s second All-Star appearance and first start.
“It’s great for him,’’ said Rondo. “It’s not a disappointment. He definitely deserves to start with the season he’s having. All of them, all five of [the East starters] deserve it.’’
Since joining the Knicks as a free agent last summer, Stoudemire has helped breathe life into a dormant franchise. They ran off eight straight wins starting in late November, with Stoudemire scoring 30-plus points in each.
Rondo, who made his first All-Star team a year ago, is averaging a league-high 12.9 assists, but injuries (plantar fasciitis, hamstring, ankle) hurt him in fan voting. Garnett, a 13-time All-Star, was a front-runner in the balloting for a stretch, until straining his right calf in December.
“Obviously, starting would be great, but I got a lot of response from the fans,’’ Rondo said. The fans showed me a lot of love this year, voting. I didn’t get it, but that wasn’t really the goal. The goal was to try to be the best team before the break.’’
The coach of the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference as of Feb. 6 will coach the All-Stars, and the Celtics entered last night with a three-game lead over the Heat. Doc Rivers, who had the honor in New Orleans in 2008, said he’d rather have the time off to spend with his family in Orlando, Fla., but he’d accept it.
“It’s fun,’’ he said. “You don’t do much as a coach. It’s the players’ weekend. Unfortunately for me, the New Orleans one, I got sick the whole time. So I don’t even remember the weekend. I don’t even remember the game. I heard I drew up some good plays. That’s what LeBron and those guys said after the game. But it’s really a players’ game.’’
Shaq back tonight Shaquille O’Neal flew here with the team, but sat out last night’s game against the Trail Blazers. He is expected to play tonight against the Suns.
O’Neal left last Friday’s win over the Jazz after six minutes, telling Rivers his right hip was bothering him.
O’Neal has missed 12 games this season with various injuries.
Tough stretch When the league gave teams a chance to give the master schedule a look before the season, Rivers zoomed in on this four-game stretch and broke out the red pen.
“This is the one trip we actually really tried to get changed,’’ he said.
Rivers had no luck. After visiting Phoenix tonight, the Celtics play the Lakers Sunday. They finish the trip Tuesday in Sacramento.
“The only thing I don’t like about this trip is the travel and games so quickly,’’ said Rivers. “Traveling to Portland and playing a game the next day is brutal. And then you fly backwards to Phoenix, where you lose an hour. That’s a lot of games.’’
Daniels returns Marquis Daniels returned after sitting out Tuesday’s win over the Cavaliers to attend to a personal matter.