HOUSTON Power forward Carlos Boozer firmly believes he deserves to go, and his case has ample supporting evidence.
Point guard Deron Williams, however, isn't nearly so sure about his own chances of being tapped for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game when reserve selections as picked by coaches from throughout the Western Conference are revealed Thursday.
"I don't know, man. I really don't. I know it's gonna be tough," said Williams, who is seeking to make his All-Star Game appearance. "There are just so many guards in the West that are playing great basketball. So, I just hope I'm one. You never know."
Williams' low-key campaign to play in the Feb. 17 game at New Orleans no iPod-like devices being mailed to coaches by the organization, like Portland has done for guard Brandon Roy; no phone solicitations to colleagues from head coach Jerry Sloan; but a bid nonetheless heartily endorsed, to no great surprise, by teammate Boozer received a bit of a boost when fan balloting results were announced last Thursday.
Denver Nuggets guard Allen Iverson used a late push to pass Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady for the West's second starting guard spot alongside Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
McGrady, who is expected to play when the Jazz face Houston tonight, has missed 14 games due to injury this season, and it seems unlikely he'll be chosen as a reserve opening a spot on the West's bench that might otherwise have gone to Iverson.
Still, the competition is stacked for Williams who is averaging 19.2 points and 9.3 assists with 20 double-doubles in his third season for the 25-18 Jazz.
Seven subs are chosen by the conference coaches, who received their ballots Friday and must submit them by Tuesday.
In theory, two forwards, two guards, one center and two wildcards are selected though in reality "position" is liberally interpreted to mean at whatever spot they can help the All-Star team best.
Playing along, though, reigning NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas is widely regarded as a favorite for one of the forward spots. The other could very well go to Boozer, who is averaging a team-high 22.8 points and team-leading 10.8 rebounds with 30 double-doubles.
"(Nowitzki will) be a unanimous choice for West coaches," ESPN.com's Marc Stein wrote after starters were named. "As for Boozer? A double-double monster who will likely be unanimous, too."
That's fine by Boozer, who was selected to make a first-time appearance in last season's game but ultimately could not play because of a fractured fibula head in his left knee.
"Hopefully everything works out," said Boozer, who on Friday suggested coaches will be making a mistake if he is not chosen. "I look forward to playing in it."
Favorites for the two guard spots include two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of Phoenix and Chris Paul of All-Star Game host New Orleans, with Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire or Denver's Marcus Camby considered top candidates contending for the center position.
That leaves Williams perhaps facing a field of wild candidates that includes not only Roy and guards Baron Davis of Golden State and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of San Antonio, but also forwards Shawn Marion of Phoenix, Josh Howard of Dallas and Stephen Jackson of Golden State.
"I hope he makes it, man," Boozer said of Williams, who in fan balloting didn't even rank among the West's top-10 guards. "I really do. People aren't talking about him enough, and Deron deserves to be in the All-Star Game. You guys know that."
Williams laughed off the snub by fans, suggesting though it's not actually true that even if everyone in the state of Utah voted for him he still wouldn't have finished ahead of West starters Bryant and Iverson.
"I'm just in a small market, I guess," Williams said when asked why he thought he was shown so little love.
"We're gonna have less votes here," he added. "Utah, there is less population. There are less Jazz fans around the country, too, I think, than a lot of teams."
But certainly coaches, a more-optimistic-than-Williams Boozer suggested, will not be so foolhardy as to follow the lead of fans.
"You know how important he is to our team," Boozer who finished fourth among the West's forwards in fan balloting, one million-plus behind starters Carmelo Anthony of Denver and Tim Duncan of San Antonio said of Williams."We know how important he is and we know he's an All-Star," Boozer added. "So, I hope the coaches agree with that. They have to deal with him every night, too."
E-mail: [email protected]