Hill & Co. give big show new cast 1995 NBA ALL-STAR GAME

Michael Jordan never did it. Neither did Magic Johnson nor Larry Bird or Shaquille O'Neal. And that left Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill perplexed as he became the first rookie in history to lead all players in NBA All-Star Game fan balloting.

"I've thought about it, and maybe some of it has to do with going to Duke and the successes we had there," Hill said recently. "You like to think they vote for you because of pure talent, but I know that's not true."


With fans voting for the All-Star starters, it's not just about talent -- it's about a player's ability to put on a show. And this weekend, some of the league's showstoppers will gather in Phoenix for the 45th NBA All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Hill is one of five players, all from the Eastern Conference, making their All-Star debuts. Second-year guard Anfernee Hardaway, the top vote-getter among guards, joins Hill in the starting lineup. The other newcomers are Vin Baker of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dana Barros of the Philadelphia 76ers and Tyrone Hill of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The last two names didn't even appear on the All-Star ballot.


A couple of veterans who have had spots in the All-Star Game for much of their careers won't be in Phoenix.

Eight-time All-Star Dominique Wilkins has struggled with the Boston Celtics. Clyde Drexler's string of seven straight All-Star appearances ended. The Portland Trail Blazers guard was voted a starter the past two years despite being hurt. This year, he's the victim of the talent-rich Western Conference.

"I thought we were good enough to have some representation," said Drexler, whose Blazers were shut out on the All-Star roster. "I've got some golf games [in Phoenix] and no obligations."

In last year's game, won by the East, Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen scored 29 points and was MVP. Those were happier times for Pippen, who emerged from Jordan's shadow with that performance.

Pippen, who will return for this year's game, is seeking a trade from Chicago, and he has said that he has been putting himself on display in a recent tear when he's averaged 29.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists in five straight road games before last night.

"I'm looking for a different place, a different team, a different perspective on my career," Pippen said this week. "All I can do for now is go out there every day, play hard, do a little showcasing and continue to hope that something happens."

The game also will be a showcase for Charlotte Hornets forward Larry Johnson, who returns to the All-Star Game one season after his career was threatened by a serious back injury. A starter in the 1993 game, Johnson was picked as a reserve this year.

"I think it's better that the coaches picked him," said Charlotte coach Allan Bristow. "It should mean more to him. Because of the injury, he didn't want this to be a popularity contest. There's no question he earned this."


Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo should receive a Tonya Harding Award for the way he got onto the All-Star team.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Cedric Ceballos was named a reserve and was looking forward to playing in Phoenix -- where he played for four seasons.

But last Friday, Mutombo accidentally whacked Ceballos, who tore a ligament in his right thumb and will miss six weeks. And so Mutombo has replaced Ceballos on the West squad.

Other injuries also will play a role on the Western Conference team.

Ankle injuries have made Utah's Karl Malone and San Antonio's David Robinson questionable for Sunday. But Phoenix's Charles Barkley -- second in West fan voting behind Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon -- expects to play despite getting whacked in the eye by Utah's Tom Chambers on Wednesday night.

"I had double vision . . . but I'm all right," said Barkley, who returned after halftime in street clothes with an ice bag over his eye. "I just hope I can see one of the golf balls tomorrow."