A divine rewind for Shaq, Kobe

The Baltimore Sun

Shaq danced, Kobe dazzled.

And just like old times, they won again.

Bryant led all scorers with 27 points, O'Neal partied his way back onto the All-Star stage with 17 in just 11 minutes, and the Western Conference beat the East, 146-119, last night in Phoenix.

Back on the same team for the first time in nearly five years, the three-time champions shared the game Most Valuable Player award. They helped the West get untracked after an awful start, then teamed up for a few buckets that helped blow open the game in the third quarter.

And they did it in the ways that made them so different - Bryant with his cold-as-ice stare and focus, O'Neal as the oversized clown who made fans and foes alike laugh.

It was their first time on the floor as teammates since the 2004 NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers. O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat that summer, breaking apart a duo that produced three straight titles but was perhaps better known for its frequent feuding that made the split inevitable.

"It felt like flashbacks," O'Neal said during an interview on TNT. "It felt like '99 to '02."

Bryant and O'Neal shared a slight hug after being announced as MVPs, then playfully fought over the trophy commissioner David Stern handed to them.

Amare Stoudemire scored 19 for the West, which bounced back from its loss last year in New Orleans, in which Bryant was limited to just a few minutes of action while resting a dislocated pinkie finger.

LeBron James led the East with 20 points. Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade each scored 18.

O'Neal missed the All-Star Game last year after 14 straight selections, and he brought back his unmatched entertaining abilities. Players were introduced on a stage behind the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop dance group. O'Neal, the last reserve to come out, was wearing one of their masks and boogied along with them before taking his spot on the court.

"That was freestyle," O'Neal said.

He later jazzed up a comedy skit in which players sang love songs for a fake Valentine's Day CD with an energetic rendition of Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen."

The East started quickly, while the West missed nine of its first 11 shots and trailed 20-10 when West coach Phil Jackson called timeout and inserted O'Neal with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. The West scored the next 11 points with O'Neal and Bryant on the floor, part of a 19-0 run that made it 27-20.

O'Neal, enjoying a resurgence this season after an injury-marred 2007-08, had three baskets and set up an additional one during the run. There was little interaction between he and Bryant, who insist they've patched things up, aside from normal basketball plays.

Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker all finished with 14 points for the West.

Off the court

Suns: : Coach Terry Porter will be fired today and replaced by assistant Alvin Gentry, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press.

Porter was four months into his first season on the three-year, $6 million contract he got to replace Mike D'Antoni, who left after four highly successful seasons to coach the New York Knicks. The Suns are 28-23.

Gentry is the only holdover from D'Antoni's staff in Phoenix. He has been a coach in the NBA for 20 years.

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