Doc Rivers is going to New Orleans, although, as he noted yesterday, he hasn't spent "one ounce of time" thinking about what he'll do as coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Kevin Garnett has been the leading vote-getter all along and will be named one of the five East starters tonight, unless Barack Obama's New Hampshire pollsters have been counting the votes.
That leaves two Celtics still out there for the consideration of the coaches. Paul Pierce, who leads the Celtics in scoring, assists, and minutes, is generally deemed a no-brainer. But will Ray Allen also get the nod from the coaches, despite having an uncharacteristically bad shooting season while also going up against some decent guards and swingmen?
Well, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell thinks Allen can make plans for New Orleans Feb. 17.
"All three of them should go," Mitchell said. "Look at their record. They can all go out and get 25 points, and if Paul and KG are rolling, then Ray does other things. But the last time I checked, the most important things are wins and losses."
The reserves will be announced a week from tonight. Coaches can vote for five players by position and add two regardless of position. If the fan voting totals hold up, Garnett will be joined in the starting five by LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, and Jason Kidd. (Allen was third in the voting for guards.)
There are, or should be, a handful of locks for the reserves: Chris Bosh, Pierce, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. That would leave one spot available, with Allen in the mix along with Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Charlotte's Gerald Wallace, the Nets' Richard Jefferson, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace, and, as a long shot, Toronto's Jose Calderon. Yes, that's right. Shaquille O'Neal's streak of 14 straight All-Star selections is coming to an end. (He missed the 1997 game with an injury.)
"All-Star Games are great, but I've played in a lot of All-Star Games and been home in April," Allen said last night. "Sometimes it's the temperature of the league that allows you to make it instead of individual accolades."
Allen has been in seven All-Star Games, including the last four with Seattle, and in only one of those seasons did the Sonics make the playoffs. Coaches historically tend to reward the player on the good team if there's a close call or, in the case of 2006 when four Pistons were named as reserves, reward both good play and accord recognition for getting snubbed in the past. The Celtics' stunning record should help Allen's case for having three Celtics in the Big Easy.
"Our play speaks for itself," said Garnett. "The three of us have had a big impact on the league this [season], and it needs to be recognized."
In the 1980s, the Celtics routinely sent three players to the All-Star Game. From 1984-91, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale were selected. In most of those years, Robert Parish joined them, with some exceptions, such as Dennis Johnson (1985) and Danny Ainge (1988, his only All-Star appearance). Three Celtics teams, the 1952-53, 1961-62, and 1974-75 editions, placed four players in the game. Of that group, only the 1961-62 team won the NBA championship.
Six of Allen's All-Star appearances have come via the coaches' selection process; last year he was a commissioner's replacement for the injured Steve Nash. He recalled last night an occasion with the Bucks when he and Glenn Robinson were chosen but Sam Cassell was not. "He was having a good year," Allen said. "Potentially, he should have made it. It was a tough situation.
"You're basically at the mercy of the coaches and the teams you play against. I'm always grateful to be picked, but every year, anyone can have a great year. I always take my hat off to everyone who gets chosen. If I didn't get picked, I wouldn't assume it was because anything was wrong with me, or something bad happened, or I wasn't helping the team out. That's the mentality of guys who feel they got snubbed. Sometimes you just have to take your hats off to the guy who gets picked."
Allen, Pierce, and Garnett have been joined at the hip since the day of The Trade, whether posing for magazine covers, media guides, or cutting a humorous spot for ESPN. Garnett has made the biggest impact, Pierce has been playing as well as ever, but Allen has the distinction of having hit two game-winners, all the while having had to make the biggest adjustment of any of the newcomers.
"Even when he doesn't score, people miss the value that he has for us just by spacing the floor," Rivers said. "So I don't get caught up in whether he makes the shot or misses the shot. He has such a value for this team, it's amazing."
Peter May can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.