Randolph deserves an All-Star nod


Will Zach Randolph be an All-Star this season, or won't he?

The world finds out today when reserves are named to the 12-man rosters for the Western and Eastern squads that will participate in the NBA All-Star Game Feb. 15 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

It is a tough call for the third-year Trail Blazer, who is absolutely deserving of the honor but might become a victim of numbers. There are simply too many good forwards in the West to call Randolph a shoo-in, and that is taking injured stars Chris Webber of Sacramento and Karl Malone of the Lakers out of the equation.

The West's starting forwards, as chosen by fan balloting, are San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett. No quarrel there. The seven reserves, as selected by a vote of the coaches in each conference, must include two forwards, two guards and a center, plus two at any position. That means a maximum of six forwards will make each team.

In the West, that is a problem. Among the competitors for the four reserve spots are Randolph, Sacramento's Peja Stojakovic, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker, Utah's Andrei Kirilenko, Phoenix's Shawn Marion, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and the Clippers' Elton Brand.

It is a difficult decision for coaches, even if they choose the maximum four forwards. Eliminating first Walker and then Anthony, here are the players who would be my selections:

Stojakovic: A no-brainer. The best player on the league's best team. One coach, Golden State's Eric Musselman, nominates the native Yugoslav for MVP of the first half.

Kirilenko: There is so much to like about this 22-year-old Russian's game. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is tough on youngsters, but even he admits he would be lost without Kirilenko's presence.

Randolph: His offensive impact, despite his weaknesses at the other end, is simply too great to overlook.

Nowitzki: By a nose over Marion. Nowitzki remains a tremendous force on a good team. Marion's all-around game is terrific, but he toils for the worst team in the West. Brand's numbers are impressive, but he missed 13 games due to injury, and he is also on a bad team.

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