- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Steve Nash isn’t the first back-to-back MVP to not start the following All-Star Game.

Wilt Chamberlain came off the bench for Elvin Hayes in 1969 after winning three consecutive MVP awards, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t even make the team in 1978, thanks to Bill Walton, Artis Gilmore and Bob Lanier.

Of course, Nash is expected to be among the eight Western Conference reserves, including one to replace the injured Yao Ming, when they are announced Thursday.

Here’s what that list should look like:

Dirk Nowitzki never starts because of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, but he should.

Nowitzki is attempting to become just the sixth player to shoot 50 percent from 2-point range, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. Nash did it last season.

Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz and Zach Randolph of the Portland Trail Blazers are both averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Marcus Camby’s season — 12.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.92 blocks — has gone largely unnoticed. It’s basically what Ben Wallace used to do, except with capable offense.

The other guard spot goes to Baron Davis, who has improved his shot selection under Warriors coach Don Nelson.

Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers isn’t as good as he was last season, but he’s still All-Star worthy, and so is Shawn Marion of the Phoenix Suns.

Carmelo Anthony is the league’s best scorer, but he missed too many games for punching and backpedaling in New York.

The starters in the Eastern Conference — LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas — look more like a future star team than an All-Star team. Only veteran Shaquille O’Neal is older than 25.

But that’s where the conference is — most of its talent is young.

Centers Dwight Howard, 21, and Emeka Okafor, 24, should make the first of many All-Star teams.

Expect Caron Butler, the Wizards’ most consistent player, to make his first appearance, too.

Jermaine O’Neal (19.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and a league-leading 2.97 blocks) looks great after two injury-filled seasons.

The New Jersey Nets have struggled, but expect them to win the Atlantic Division behind the embattled Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.

The Pistons will go from four All-Stars to one this season, and Chauncey Billups gets the edge over Rip Hamilton.

Pistons coach Flip Saunders can’t coach the East because he did so last season. That means Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has three games — vs. the Pistons, at the Raptors and vs. the Lakers — to hold off Chicago’s Scott Skiles and Cleveland’s Mike Brown.

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