- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

LAS VEGAS — Unfortunately for Gilbert Arenas, the highlight of his third NBA All-Star Game came with his team getting routed, during a television timeout and with most of the fans already having departed Thomas & Mack Center for “The Strip.”

During a performance by an acrobatic dunk group, Arenas ran off the bench, received a pass and jumped off a trampoline to make a two-handed slam.

“Shaq [O’Neal] said he would make a deposit to my charity if I did it, so I was like, ‘OK, I just hope I don’t get in trouble,’ ” Arenas said. “But it was worth it. It was for a good cause.”

Arenas and fellow Washington Wizards teammate Caron Butler were unable to help the East cause last night, combining for only 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting as the West All-Stars routed the East 153-132.

The East, coached by the Wizards’ Eddie Jordan, fell behind by as many as 33 points and led only once.

“We thought we would have to win with some tempo, and we didn’t quite do that,” Jordan said. “We would turn the ball over and not get back on defense.”

Arenas, making his first All-Star start, took the game’s first shot (a miss that barely nicked the rim) and scored eight points on 3-for-7 shooting. Butler played 15 minutes and made only one of his seven shots.

Kobe Bryant was named MVP after scoring 31 points to go with six assists and six steals. He was the only West starter to score in double figures, but Amare Stoudemire (29 points), Carmelo Anthony (20) and Shawn Marion (18) were unstoppable off the bench.

“We took a lot from talking about losing two straight times to the East, and we wanted to come out tonight and have a pretty big victory,” Bryant said.

LeBron James led the East with 28 points.

Wearing his traditional No. 0 jersey with his last name (not “Agent” as he speculated throughout the weekend) and playing before a star-studded front row, Arenas passed up a couple open looks but did have four assists.

“We tried to outrun them like we did last year, but they got way too many easy baskets,” Arenas said.

Butler, who made his first appearance three minutes into the second quarter, got into the scorebook late in the game.

“Late in the game, [Jordan] told me to go back in and get on the board,” Butler said.

Ultimately, the game was a bore.

Leading by eight to start the second quarter, the West went on a 12-4 run on consecutive 3-pointers by Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, McGrady again and Dirk Nowitzki. They led by 20 at halftime and by 33 points in the third quarter.

The entertainment featured nondescript performances by Wayne Newton, Toni Braxton and Christina Aguilera. Sitting in the front row were A-list celebrities Jay-Z, Beyonce, Diddy, Dave Chappelle, Steve Carrell, Adam Sandler, Eva Longoria and Jeremy Piven and those who think they’re on the A-list like Newton, David Hasselhoff, Paris Hilton and Carrot Top.

Butler spent the first part of the game checking out the courtside seats.

“It felt great to be here,” he said. “It was unbelievable just stepping on the court and hearing my name announced.”

Butler, who was voted onto the squad by the Eastern Conference coaches, is having a breakthrough season. Through 50 games, he is averaging career highs in minutes (40.6), points (20.4), rebounds (7.7), assists (3.9) and steals (2.2).

Arenas’ 28.8 points a game is tied for second-best in the NBA with Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, trailing only Carmelo Anthony.

“I’m a fortunate coach to have a guy like Gilbert,” Jordan said before the game. “For the first part of the year, he struggled early in November, and he was terrific in December. The defense sort of loaded up on him in January, and Caron got better and Antawn [Jamison] got better.”

Arenas, Butler and Jordan now return to the Wizards for tomorrow night’s game against Minnesota at Verizon Center. The Wizards, 29-21 but only 2-4 without Antawn Jamison, lead the Southeast Division by 3 games over Orlando and four games over Miami.

“We’ve been playing great basketball,” Arenas said earlier in the weekend. “It’s our time to capitalize. We’re at a stage where we can make some noise and make an impact on this league. That’s what we’re going to try and do in the second half of the season.”

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