Assist leader passed over as All-Star

ON THE NBA

Pro Basketball

February 03, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

Andre Miller should be miffed.

Miller, who might be the NBA's best point guard, was left off the Eastern Conference All-Star roster, first by fans, who voted Philadelphia's Allen Iverson and Washington's Michael Jordan as starters for next Sunday's game, then by the conference's coaches, who selected New Jersey's Jason Kidd, Orlando's Tracy McGrady, Boston's Paul Pierce and Milwaukee's Ray Allen.

Miller, a third-year guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers whose 10.3 assists a game lead the NBA and who is as unassuming off the floor as can be imagined, told the Akron Beacon-Journal he would use the time off next weekend to "sleep."

His coach, John Lucas, was more exercised than Miller, who played college ball at Utah.

"I felt like I let Andre down," said Lucas, who called seven Eastern coaches to lobby for his guard. "I believe a lot in Andre Miller. I'm always teasing him about being my oldest son. I wanted him to see the reward. He's having his best year ever. Three or four more wins probably puts him in."

For a change, there aren't that many All-Star snubs worthy of mention. Besides Miller, the other Eastern omission is Charlotte's Baron Davis, who is in the top 10 in seven categories, including assists, three-pointers and minutes. It's hard to believe, even allowing for balance between guards and forwards, that Davis and Miller should have gotten bounced for, say, Atlanta's Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who has posted decent numbers, albeit in an abbreviated, injury-marred season.

Out West, one could have made a more convincing argument for the addition of Clippers forward Elton Brand, who leads the NBA in offensive rebounding, over Utah fossil Karl Malone, who will only spend All-Star Weekend griping about how young players don't give him respect.

And former Maryland star Steve Francis, now with Houston, seemed a bit defensive the other day during a conference call when asked if a player, like himself, who missed 19 games because of injury, should get an All-Star nod.

"It's not for me to say," said Francis, who was voted in as a Western starter and will participate in the slam dunk competition. "The coaches decide. These are the coaches that are watching film on these guys night in and night out, and they see who are the All-Star-caliber players, so sometimes the decisions are really accurate."

Quick quiz

Detroit's 88-71 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday was the 2,000th in franchise history and made the Pistons the sixth NBA team to reach that milestone.

Name the other five, and give yourself a bonus if you know how many and which of the six are still in the same city they started play in.

One man's vote

Everyone has an opinion about who should be the league's Most Valuable Player, and Lucas' vote, if he had one, would go to Jordan.

"People counted him out," Lucas said. "They were looking for the Michael of old. What we're seeing now is [Texas Tech coach] Bob Knight playing basketball. He's doing it with smarts. He's not doing it with the same talent that he had before. He's doing it with smarts, positioning and angles.

"I've always been a fan of his, but this one, what he's doing this year, is off the charts. I know our league is watered down, but these are still the best 300-some odd basketball players in the world, and some people can make the case that the best one is 39 [on Feb. 17]."

It should be noted that those comments came before Jordan hit the game-winning shot Thursday night to nudge the Wizards past the Cavaliers, then talked trash to Lucas.

Steady paycheck

Besides the NBA owners, who will get a hefty payout from the new television contract that starts next season, three other big winners from the new deal are Ozzie and Danny Silna and Don Schupak.

Never heard of them? No one outside of St. Louis likely knows who they are, but they stand to live large from the six-year, $4.6 billion deal with AOL Time Warner and Disney.

The Silnas and Schupak are former owners of the Spirits of St. Louis franchise in the late, lamented American Basketball Association. When the ABA folded in 1976, NBA owners welcomed four teams - the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and New York (now New Jersey) Nets - and discarded the Kentucky Colonels, Utah Stars and Spirits.

The NBA reached relatively quick settlements with the Stars and Colonels, but the Spirits owners took a flier, electing to take $2.2 million then and one-seventh of annual television money from each of the four ABA teams that survived, in perpetuity.

That means that Schupak and the Silnas will receive an average annual check from the NBA for about $15 million over the life of the new deal - 26 years after their league went out of business.

Quiz answer

The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks are the other five teams to reach 2,000 wins. Only the Celtics and Knicks are where they started. Golden State started play Friday needing only two more wins to get to 2,000, and the Warriors began play in Philadelphia.

Quote of the week

"I don't know what else I'd be doing right now. You can only hunt so much, fish so much, drop the kids off so much at school. So I choose to work, and it pays pretty decent, too." - Utah's Karl Malone, after scoring the 34,000th point of his NBA career.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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