When the reserves for the NBA All-Star Game were announced this week, there was a clear message sent by coaches to players: Having an impact on winning carries more weight than individual statistics.
Thus, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Anthony Mason, Glenn Robinson, Mark Jackson, Kevin Garnett, Jayson Williams and Chris Gatling -- all of whom have played at an all-star level -- will not be in Cleveland for the Feb. 9 game. With the exception of Mason, all six players are on teams that were at or below .500 on Monday when the coaches voted.
Webber deserves to be an all-star. His statistics almost across the board are better than those of Christian Laettner. But the Bullets have hovered around .500 for much of the season, while Atlanta (29-13) has been one of the biggest surprises in the East.
"Those are .500 teams," Laettner said, when asked about Webber and Mason being left off the team. "I think that's the difference."
Mason didn't get on the team because there was no way the coaches were going to name two Charlotte players (Glen Rice made it). The same holds true with Robinson in Milwaukee (Vin Baker made his third All-Star team). Webber was the only member of the Washington Bullets under serious consideration for the team. Perhaps his being snubbed is an indication of some lingering backlash from his problems with Don Nelson at Golden State.
"I don't know, I don't know," Webber said, when asked about the Nelson connection. "I'm not going to say anything negative right now. I really don't know."
In the West, nine of the 12 players come from the top four teams in the conference: Houston, Utah, Seattle and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets have a league-best three players on the team with Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
Surprises? Dikembe Mutombo is among the league leaders in rebounds and blocks, but who watches an All-Star Game to see a player rebound and block shots? He can thank Lenny Wilkens for his spot.
On the Western team, Eddie Jones is a mild surprise. But he can thank the fact that, if the season ended today, the West would have three teams with losing records in the playoffs.
As for the players getting snubbed? They can make their biggest statements by posting those same numbers in the second half of the season -- while at the same time helping their teams win.
Around the League
Weird injury of the week goes to Miami Heat forward Kurt Thomas, who said he suffered a compression fracture of his right ankle when he tried to avoid a waitress at a New York restaurant on Friday. "New York restaurants are crazy," Thomas said. "They're too damn small."
Speaking of the Heat, Magic Johnson showed up at practice on Tuesday wearing a Miami uniform, working out with the team. "Now, don't start any rumors," Johnson said. "It's just a workout, that's all."
The Cleveland Cavaliers on March 1 will retire the jersey of former center Brad Daugherty.
Detroit has held 42 of 43 opponents this season under 100 points, and the Pistons' current streak of 23 games is the second longest in NBA history. The longest is 28 games, set by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1954-55 season.
Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal won't start an All-Star Game for the first time in his career, but he says he doesn't mind playing behind Olajuwon. "Now, if Gheorghe Muresan started before me, I'd be [mad]," O'Neal said.
Interesting stat of the week: Orlando guard Nick Anderson goes into tonight's game shooting 39.7 percent from the field, 34.3 percent from three-point range, and 36.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Quote of the week
From Michael Jordan, when told that Dennis Rodman will donate some of his paychecks to charity when he returns from his suspension: "He should be playing for free anyway. When I go out there and step on the basketball court, I don't think about the $100 million I'm making."
Jerry Bembry can be reached on the Internet at Jeryol.com
Pub Date: 1/31/97