As All-Star, Cassell not up to cartwheels

Ex-Dunbar star grateful for honor, but, in his eyes, he's always been worthy

Pro Basketball

February 04, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - If being named an All-Star was the biggest thing to happen in the basketball life of Sam Cassell, you could hardly tell by his reaction.

Cassell, the Minnesota Timberwolves' 6-foot-3 point guard, was as nonchalant as possible about his selection as a reserve on the Western Conference team for the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

"So be it. It's over. I've got a game to think of tonight," Cassell said before the Timberwolves played the Orlando Magic at the Target Center.

In truth, this is a moment that Cassell, the 1988-89 All-Metro Player of the Year at Dunbar, has been expecting for most of his 11-year career.

"It's an accomplishment, and I've been waiting for it," Cassell said. "I've been an All-Star in my mind and in other players' mind; I've just never been on the team. I'm thankful that I'm on the team. For a weekend, I'll definitely be one of the top 24 players in the game of basketball."

Cassell, 34, is not only the second-oldest player to make the All-Star Game for the first time, trailing former New York Knick Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton by five days, but he also is the first native Baltimorean to be named an All-Star since the late Reggie Lewis, who also attended Dunbar, was selected from the Boston Celtics in 1992.

Cassell, who was traded to Minnesota from Milwaukee in the offseason, is having perhaps his best overall season, standing 11th in the NBA in scoring and fifth in assists going into last night's game.

"He's played at such a high level, it's only fitting," said Minnesota coach Flip Saunders. "He has an opportunity, especially with the way he's played this year. It's a great reward for a lot of hard work that he's put in, starting in training camp."

Another Baltimorean, Denver Nuggets first-year forward Carmelo Anthony, was not among the seven Western reserves, though he could be named if one of the starters or a reserve is injured before the Feb. 15 game at Staples Center.

Anthony, who placed third among Western forwards in voting conducted by fans, was one of a number of notable missing Western players, including the Timberwolves' Latrell Sprewell, the Los Angeles Lakers' Gary Payton, the Portland Trail Blazers' Zach Randolph and the Dallas Mavericks' Steve Nash.

In a surprise, Seattle SuperSonics guard Ray Allen, who has played in only 21 games this season because of injury, was selected by Western Conference coaches who voted for reserves.

In the East, Cleveland Cavaliers rookie LeBron James was one of the most notable omissions, though he, like Anthony, will play in the Rookie Challenge game on Feb. 13.

NBA All-Stars

Eastern Conference

Starters: Vince Carter, F, Toronto; Allen Iverson, G, Philadelphia; Tracy McGrady, G-F, Orlando; Jermaine O'Neal, C-F, Indiana; Ben Wallace, C, Detroit. Reserves: Ron Artest, F, Indiana; Baron Davis, G, New Orleans; Jason Kidd, G, New Jersey; Jamaal Magloire, C, New Orleans; Kenyon Martin, F, New Jersey; Paul Pierce, G-F Boston; Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee.

Western Conference

Starters: Kobe Bryant, G, L.A. Lakers; Tim Duncan, F, San Antonio; Steve Francis, G, Houston; Kevin Garnett, F, Minnesota; Yao Ming, C, Houston. Reserves: Ray Allen, G, Seattle; Sam Cassell, G, Minnesota; Andrei Kirilenko, F, Utah; Brad Miller, C, Sacramento; Dirk Nowitzki, F-C, Dallas; Shaquille O'Neal, C, L.A. Lakers; Peja Stojakovic, G, Sacramento.

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