- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

Gilbert Arenas is down to the long-shot hope of NBA commissioner David Stern after being omitted from the All-Star reserves by a vote of the Eastern Conference coaches.

Arenas made his way to the practice court at MCI Center at 6 a.m. yesterday following a restless night of sleep brought on by the initial but unconfirmed news that he probably would not be among the chosen few.

“Well, if I’m not going, I might as well work on my game to make sure I get good enough,” said Arenas, who is averaging 28.2 points and 5.9 assists this season.

Instead of Arenas, the Eastern Conference coaches selected three reserve guards yesterday. Detroit’s Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton and New Jersey’s Vince Carter will play in the Feb. 19 All-Star Game in Houston.

The rest of the reserves are Detroit’s Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Boston’s Paul Pierce.

The Eastern Conference starters are Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and Jermaine O’Neal.

Arenas, an All-Star selection last season, can still be selelcted by commissioner David Stern, who will have to pick a replacement for injured starter Jermaine O’Neal of the Indiana Pacers.

Arenas and teammate Antawn Jamison, who leads the Eastern Conference with 19 games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, are among a group of players — including New Jersey’s Jason Kidd, Milwaukee’s Michael Redd and Orlando’s Dwight Howard — from whom Stern will have to select. That call may come in the next 48 hours.

While Arenas said he was “disappointed, but it happens,” Jamison said the coaches made a huge mistake in leaving Arenas off the team.

“In my situation, it is definitely understandable,” said Jamison, who is averaging 19.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. “But I just think there is no explanation whatsoever for Gilbert not to be participating.

“I know there is an opportunity for Jermaine O’Neal’s spot, but to be honest I don’t understand the coaches’ point of view to not vote for a guy who is the fourth leading scorer in the league. And the team is over .500.

“There is no reason to try to understand it. It’s just a situation where you know it’s not right.”

While there is an argument for both players to be All-Stars, Arenas’ case is the stronger of the two.

Only twice in league history has a player averaging more than 28.0 points a game not made the All-Star team — Dick Barnett in 1965-66 and World B. Free in 1978-79.

Since the 1969-70 season, only 10 players have been in the top five in scoring by the break and failed to make the team.

But none of those players averaged as many assists (5.9) as Arenas.

While both players beamed about their selection to the game last season — it marked the first time Washington was represented by two players since Moses Malone and Jeff Malone participated as Bullets in 1987 — both were able to recollect famous All-Star Game snubs yesterday.

Jamison smiled knowingly when asked about the 2000-01 season, his third, when he averaged 24.9 points and 8.7 rebounds and did not make the team.

More recently, Arenas talked about Cleveland’s James, a starter this season who was snubbed as a rookie despite joining Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as just one of three rookies in league history to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

“Someone was going to be disappointed this year, and it’s me,” Arenas said. “But I’ve still got a team to play for and I’ve still got the rest of my season to worry about.”

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