Shaq back in All-Star game for 15th timePosted: Updated:
NEW YORK -- Shaq is back in the All-Star game.
After being left out of the NBA's midseason gala for first time in his career last season, Shaquille O'Neal received his 15th All-Star selection Thursday night when the reserves were announced for the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix.
"It feels good. It's not bad for somebody who can't shoot," said O'Neal, a career 52.7 percent free-throw shooter who is making more than 62 percent from the line this season.
O'Neal and Suns teammate Amare Stoudemire give the host team two Western Conference All-Stars.
"It helps to have the best power forward (Stoudemire), the best point guard (Steve Nash) and guys like (Grant) Hill playing with me. They've been looking out for me all season. They've been taking care of me. I've been trying to produce," O'Neal said before the Suns hosted San Antonio.
New Orleans, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers also had multiple players on the West roster, which will be coached by the Lakers' Phil Jackson.
The Orlando Magic made out best in the East, with Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis picked as reserves by the conference's coaches alongside starter Dwight Howard. It's the first time Orlando has had three All-Stars.
"I was just anxious to find out," Nelson said. "I honestly don't get that way. But me hearing everywhere, 'You're an All-Star, you should be an All-Star, you're having an All-Star year.' So you just want to see if people will give you the respect that other people think you deserve."
But for the second year in a row, only two of the Boston Celtics' Big Three made the initial roster: Paul Pierce was voted in with starter Kevin Garnett, while Ray Allen was left out.
Traded to the Suns at last season's deadline, O'Neal endured the worst season of his career and had his record-tying streak of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances end. Now he's back in the showcase game, and trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 19 for most appearances.
Abdul-Jabbar, a Lakers assistant, will help coach the West team.
The 36-year-old O'Neal was averaging 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds entering Thursday night's showdown against the Spurs. He needed five more points to catch Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh on the NBA's career scoring list.
O'Neal isn't the only veteran on a West roster flush with experience. The Spurs' Tim Duncan and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant are each making their 11th appearances, while Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki was picked for the eighth time and Houston center Yao Ming for the seventh time.
Carmelo Anthony, who's missed the last 10 games with a broken bone in his right hand, was left off the roster even though he's been cleared to play Friday night at Charlotte. That leaves point guard Chauncey Billups the lone selection from the division-leading Nuggets.
"I was definitely excited. My next question right directly after that was, 'Did Melo make it?' Of course I'm disappointed in that," Billups said. "The only reason why is because of the injury. It's just an unfortunate situation."
Acquired in a trade with the Pistons on Nov. 3, Billups has given Denver a steady backcourt presence. The four-time All-Star is averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists.
If the West team plans to rely on experience, the East might turn to youthful exuberance.
Making their first All-Star teams are Nelson, New Jersey guard Devin Harris and Indiana forward Danny Granger, who was snubbed last season but whose play for the injury-depleted Pacers has been extraordinary.
Granger is fourth in the league in scoring at 25.8 points per game.
"He's really dedicated himself as a basketball player," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "Danny really stormed onto the scene and improved at a level that was astounding."
Stoudemire, Yao, Bryant, Duncan and Chris Paul of the Hornets were voted by fans to start for the West. The East starters are Garnett, Howard, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson of the Pistons and LeBron James of the Cavaliers.
Coaches were then required to vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two at-large reserves. The other picks for the West were Pau Gasol of the Lakers, Tony Parker of the Spurs, Brandon Roy of the Trail Blazers and David West of the Hornets. Filling out the East roster are Raptors forward Chris Bosh and Hawks guard Joe Johnson.
There was little controversy in fan voting - besides Stoudemire beating out Spurs reserve Bruce Bowen by just 68,000 votes - but the ballots turned in by the league's coaches left a bunch of deserving players with a gripe.
Allen was passed over despite averaging 18.0 points and helping Boston to a 38-9 record. The eight-time All-Star was skipped over last year, too, but was later added by commissioner David Stern as an injury replacement for Caron Butler.
Deron Williams and Paul Millsap of the Jazz also were left off the rosters. So were the Suns' Steve Nash, a six-time All-Star, Mo Williams of the East-leading Cavaliers, Antawn Jamison of the Wizards and Al Jefferson of the Timberwolves.
AP Sports Writers Mark Long in Orlando, Fla., Pat Graham in Denver and Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)