Dallas Mavericks

NBA All-Star Starters Announced Tonight. Yao = In? Dirk = Out?

This is the price we pay for David Stern's mission to make the NBA a global game. Because, after further review, yes, a million Chinese can be wrong.

When the NBA announces its 2011 All-Star Game starters during tonight's double-header on TNT, the Western Conference's center will be ...

Yao Ming.

The Houston Rockets' center played five games and scored just 51 points before yet another season-ending injury, yet will be voted in by his Chinese fans. In the latest fan voting, Yao had almost a million votes.

Stern will pick the replacement for Yao, and it should be the Lakers' Pau Gasol. Even with some fancy maneuvering, selecting the rest of the West will be tough.

A look at my All-Star teams ...


Derrick Rose/ Dwyane Wade/ LeBron James/ Amare Stoudemire/ Dwight Howard


Kobe Bryant/ Manu Ginobli/ Kevin Durant/ Tim Duncan/  Pau Gasol

I know Gasol isn't technically a center and my West squad doesn't have a true point guard, but those are the 10 best players in the league this year. It's who I think deserves to start the February 20 game in Los Angeles' Staples Center.

As for the rest of the West, watch out.

League coaches will select the reserves next Thursday. At forward -- with Durant and Carmelo Anthony leading the voting -- their chore will be to take two, maybe three, of the following candidates: Dirk Nowitzki, Duncan, Gasol (if Stern doesn't choose him or Duncan), LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.

I'm a devoted Dirk homer, but I also know what I know. And that is that, before his injury, the Mavs were the best team in the NBA and he was a legit MVP candidate. No?

He was averaging 24.1 points on 55-percent shooting and the Mavs were 24-5 with wins at Miami and San Antonio and at home over the Celtics. Nowitzki goes down and Dallas spirals to a 2-7 stretch.

To me, that's pretty dang valuable. And All-Starish.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt