- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

This year, in the case of Gilbert Arenas, the fans have spoken.

The Washington Wizards guard was originally left off last year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team. But commissioner David Stern stepped in and put Arenas on the roster as a reserve when another player became injured.

This season, Arenas’ sky-rocketing popularity and stellar play have him ranked third among Eastern Conference guards with 788,249 votes. Arenas trails only Miami’s Dwyane Wade (1,371,850) and New Jersey’s Vince Carter (1,002,707).

Paper balloting ends Monday. Online voting concludes Jan. 21.

The only mystery involving Arenas now is whether he will hear his name when starters are announced Jan. 25. But there are some potentially interesting scenarios involving coach Eddie Jordan and forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.

Jordan’s status hinges on the Wizards’ standing in the Eastern Conference.

Heading into last night, the Wizards (20-14) trailed Cleveland (22-12) for the best record in the conference by just two games. The Wizards are tied with Chicago for the fourth-best record in the conference behind the Cavaliers, Orlando and Detroit.

Pistons coach Flip Saunders coached the East last season and is ineligible to coach the team this year. So Jordan is in a four-way race with Cleveland’s Mike Brown, Orlando’s Brian Hill and Chicago’s Scott Skiles to coach the East. The coach whose team has the best record Feb. 4 will coach the All-Star team.

“Eddie’s done a fantastic job with that team,” Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said last month.

Washington has had three different coaches for the All-Star Game: Gene Shue (1969), K.C. Jones (1975) and Dick Motta (1979).

While the process to determine the teams’ coaches is simple and bereft of politics, the naming of the reserves is not, as Arenas learned last season.

The reserves will be named after the starters and will be voted on by each conference’s coaches. The coaches will be asked to vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two other players.

Butler, who has little chance of being voted in by the fans, seems as worthy of a trip to Las Vegas as perhaps any forward in the Eastern Conference. He’s averaging career highs in points (21.2), rebounds (8.1), assists (3.9), steals (1.9) and minutes a game (40.0).

Jamison, who averages 19.4 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds a game, made his lone All-Star appearance alongside Arenas in Denver two years ago. Like Butler, he isn’t generating many votes.

Reigning defensive player of the year Ben Wallace of Chicago believes Butler belongs.

Story Continues →