You can scratch the reunion of Delonte West and Jameer Nelson during All-Star Weekend. The two ex-Saint Joseph's teammates were thought to be locks for the sophomore team in the annual rookie-sophomore game Feb. 17 in Houston. Nelson, who plays for Orlando, will be there. West will not.
The Celtics' best hope for a spot in the game -- Gerald Green, Orien Greene, and Ryan Gomes were their rookie candidates -- was not one of the nine players selected by NBA assistant coaches. The sophomore team is supposed to be second-year players, but somehow Milwaukee's T.J. Ford, in his third season, made the team. Ford did miss a year because of injury -- ''a redshirt year," West said -- so that apparently was why he was eligible. But, as Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, ''He's getting paid in his third year."
(The sophomore team actually had 10 names, but Emeka Okafor is out because of an ankle injury.)
So, why not West? He's a starter. He's one of the top shooters in the league. But it wasn't enough and, frankly, West didn't look all that crestfallen about the snub.
''It's really not that big of a deal," West said, adding he'd probably find a way to Houston for the festivities. ''It's an accomplishment I would have liked, but I'm pushing for that real All-Star Game." Asked if he'd really rather have the weekend off and relax, West said, ''Not at all. This is an all-year sport and the most I need is a day off. You can only watch so many cartoons." (He says he prefers Looney Tunes.)
Paul Pierce, who played in the rookie game in 2000 (there was no All-Star Game during his actual rookie season of 1998-99), scanned the list of selected players and noted that Devin Harris, selected for the sophomore team, does not start for the Mavericks. ''How'd that happen?" Pierce asked no one in particular. Pierce was stunned to see Luther Head named to the rookie team. As for West, Pierce said, ''I thought, no question, he'd make it."
Said Rivers, ''I thought he should have been on. But he's not. But he has had a hell of a year."
The other two Celtics first-round picks from West's class, Tony Allen and Al Jefferson, were participants in the rookie game last year. Jefferson may have garnered some support, but Allen has been out much of the season following knee surgery.
His big nightBrian Scalabrine
drew his first start of the season in last night's 102-94 loss to Phoenix, a situational thing owing to the Suns' lack of big guys. ''I got the nod and I was excited," Scalabrine said. ''Of our four bigs, I'm probably the quickest defender." Scalabrine played 22 minutes and had 5 points and three rebounds . . . Wally Szczerbiak
looked like one tired pup. In fact, he was. ''Normally, when I shoot 1 for 9, I can't sleep," he said. ''I guarantee I will sleep tonight. The best thing for me right now is to get some sleep. I haven't had too much of it lately." Szczerbiak had 5 points, but also hauled in 10 rebounds and had six assists in 44 minutes. Afterward, Rivers said the Celtics must work at finding Szczerbiak where he is comfortable and can get off a shot. ''We've got to let our guys know how to get Wally more involved," Rivers said. It has been a whirlwind for Szczerbiak since last Thursday's trade. He played Friday, Sunday, and Monday, witnessed the birth of his second child, and has gotten in one practice. Rivers scheduled a later-than-usual practice today (1 p.m.) to give Szczerbiak more downtime . . . Greene acquitted himself quite well in 18-plus minutes, which featured his second 3-pointer of the season . . . Phoenix's Raja Bell
had a career-high six steals . . . Michael Olowokandi
was the only Celtic not to play, as Ryan Gomes
was inserted for a 32-second cameo . . . Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire
was out shooting before the game, but he still is a ways away from returning to action. He had left knee surgery Oct. 11 and was expected to miss four months. He is due for an MRI tomorrow and, if all goes well, he can take the next step in his rehab process. Despite not having Stoudemire all season, and having parted with Quentin Richardson
and Joe Johnson
via trades, the Suns were only six games off their pace of last year, when they won an NBA-best 62 games. Asked if that meant he wasn't easily giving up his Coach of the Year trophy, Suns mentor Mike D'Antoni
quipped, ''It means I'm not giving up Steve Nash
." Indeed, Nash may be having an even better season than last year, when he was named the league's Most Valuable Player. ''Nash, to me, is as much the MVP this year as he was last year," Rivers said. He said the same thing about D'Antoni . . . Allen continues to struggle, lacking his trademark explosiveness and playing just 15 minutes. Rivers said Allen has just been cleared to lift weights and is still nowhere near the player he was last year because of his slower-than-expected recovery from knee surgery. ''Obviously, it has been a setback for him and us, but there's nothing you can do about it," Rivers said. ''He's healthy now. He just has no strength." . . . You can now have that Celtics license plate you've always wanted. Information is available on the team's website and all proceeds from the sale of the plates will go to Children's Hospital in Boston.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.