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Iverson rallies to earn starting nod in NBA All-Star game

Thursday, January 24, 2008

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK -- With a late rally, Allen Iverson is an All-Star starter again.

Iverson surged from behind in the fan voting to earn a starting spot in next month's game when the vote totals were released Thursday night. Denver Nuggets teammate Carmelo Anthony will join him in New Orleans after earning his first starting nod.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant will team with Iverson in the Western Conference backcourt for his 10th All-Star appearance. Houston center Yao Ming was voted in by the fans for the sixth straight season at center, while San Antonio's Tim Duncan was chosen as the other forward. He has been selected to every All-Star game since entering the league in 1997.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, the MVP of the 2003 game, was the leading vote-getter with 2,399,148 votes. He will be joined in the East frontcourt by Cleveland forward LeBron James and Orlando center Dwight Howard, a first-time starter. Miami's Dwyane Wade and New Jersey guard Jason Kidd round out the starting lineup.

Iverson rallied to pass Houston's Tracy McGrady in the final weeks of voting to earn his first start since moving to the Western Conference early last season. He started seven straight All-Star games while playing for Philadelphia, but fell short last year after the 76ers dealt him to the Nuggets in December 2006.

The two-time MVP of the All-Star game beat McGrady by 10,410 votes for the second guard spot and will make his ninth appearance on Feb. 17 in New Orleans.

"It's a good feeling. I think it's a tribute to my teammates and coaching staff because without those guys none of that would be possible," Iverson said in a statement. "But most of all I just want to thank the fans for appreciating what I go out and do on the court night in and night out. It's just a great feeling and an honor, and I'm just looking forward to trying to play the best that I can play for the fans."

Denver hasn't had two starters on the squad since Alex English and Fat Lever were both named to the team in 1988. For Anthony, it's his second straight All-Star selection.

"It feels like I'm over the hump now and people are starting to realize the hard work that I put in to get here," he said. "It's all because of the fans. They're obviously liking what they've been seeing out of me and the production that I'm giving out there on the court this season. It's finally starting to pay off."

Garnett, another perennial starter, will experience the game from the other conference for the first time.

The Boston forward will appear in his 11th straight All-Star game, second among active players to Shaquille O'Neal's 14, and ninth start. The longtime Minnesota Timberwolves star is a leading MVP candidate at midseason for the impact he has made on the Celtics, who own the NBA's best record at 33-7 after winning only 24 games last season.

"It's appreciated," he said earlier Thursday of his expected selection. "Without these great teammates of mine, coaching staff, it wouldn't be possible. I'm fortunate to be in the position where I can say we're winning and that feels good and I'm happy to be part of that.

"At the end of the day, these individuals awards are what they are, individual, but without Ray (Allen), Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo, (Eddie) House, I wouldn't be where I am."

Iverson was more than 80,000 votes behind McGrady, who has struggled with injuries this season, when the final update was released two weeks ago. He ended up with 1,203,152 votes. McGrady finished with 1,192,742.

James, the MVP of the 2006 game and the leading vote-getter last season, was second overall with 2,108,831 votes. He said he never looks at getting selected as tiresome.

"It's always exciting because the fans vote you in. They vote me in as a starter every year," James said. "Without the fans there's no us. They dream about having all these guys out on the court at the same time. It's their opportunity to get that. It's always special."

The festivities in New Orleans give Wade, making his third consecutive start, a chance to escape what's been a miserable season in Miami. The Heat have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, just 1 1/2 years after winning the NBA title.

"It'll be the first enjoyment in a while," Wade said. "Being an All-Star, it's amazing to be there with the other great players around the league. It's a special weekend. Everyone makes you feel so special. It'll be great, and it totally takes your mind off your season."

Kidd is a nine-time All-Star, but this is the first time he was voted a starter by the fans since coming to New Jersey in 2001.

The coaches from each conference will choose the reserves, who will be announced next Thursday. They have to select two forwards, two guards, a center and two players regardless of position.

Boston's Doc Rivers has already clinched the right to coach the East. The West coach hasn't been determined.


AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Tim Reynolds in Miami and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.



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