If you think it's a rippin' shame Deron Williams won't be playing in this weekend's NBA All-Star Game and would like to file a complaint, get in line. He feels the same, though he's done a good job of keeping a low profile.

Still, it's hard to understand why someone that good isn't on the team. He's physical, smart, shifty, a good shooter, a decent defender, controls the tempo and leads his team. You can't ask for more than that.

Honestly, are there that many guards better than Williams?

Yes, maybe.

It's not his fault he's playing in a conference with great guards at every turn: Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Baron Davis, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Brandon Roy. Talk about congestion. This looks like the Harbor Freeway at 5 o'clock.

The situation is reminiscent of a remark by musician Paul Simon, who once said he and band-mate Art Garfunkel would write something they thought was pretty good, maybe even great, and then Stevie Wonder would show up and take home all the Grammys.

Things can be crowded at the top.

Thus, in his third season in the NBA, Williams has been snubbed again. The first year, he didn't play enough minutes for consideration. Last year he probably deserved a shot. This year, what does a guy have to do? He's going for double-doubles almost every night. He annihilated his chief competition, New Orleans' Chris Paul, head-to-head this year.

Commentators rave. Opponents shudder. New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas — himself a pretty fair guard, back in the day — said, "He's as special a player as we have in our league, and he's just going to keep getting better and better. He's a joy to watch, but he's hell to play against and coach against."

And still Williams can't make the A list.

The question being: Why not?

One explanation came nearly three weeks ago when it became obvious he wouldn't be voted onto the team. "I'm just in a small market, I guess," he told Jazz beat writer Tim Buckley. "We're gonna have less votes here. Utah, there is less population. There are less Jazz fans around the country, too. I think, than a lot of teams."

On the other hand, Karl Malone was on 14 All-Star teams, John Stockton 10.

They played in a small market, too.

If you're that much better than everyone else, you'll find your way.

Being in a small market is only a partial excuse. Tim Duncan is in a small market (San Antonio) and he's been on 10 All-Star teams. Dwight Howard (Orlando) plays in a small market, too, and at 22 is making his second All-Star appearance. Clyde Drexler made 10 All-Star teams, eight of them when he was playing in Portland.

If small markets are such a problem, how come anyone has ever heard of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre?

Chris Webber made three All-Star teams playing in a small market (Sacramento). Reggie Miller made five All-Star teams in Indiana. David Robinson made 10 All-Star teams in sleepy ol' San Antonio.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on six All-Star teams in Milwaukee.

That doesn't mean there aren't inequities. After the public picks the first five players — which in itself is fickle and sometimes stupid — the rest is up to the coaches. New Orleans/Western Conference coach Byron Scott immediately chose two of his own, David West and Paul. No surprise there. But one of the debatable choices is Portland's Roy (another small-market guy), appointed by the coaches to the Western Conference team. Roy's numbers are good (19.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals) but almost identical to Williams (19.1 points, 9.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals). Yet the Jazz are 5 1/2 games ahead of the Blazers in the standings.

Williams deserves to be in Sunday's game, but a case can be made for Golden State's Baron Davis, New Orleans' Tyson Chandler, Houston's McGrady and New Jersey's Vince Carter. As good as Williams is, which guard would you kick off the Western Conference team to make room?

Williams should just keep doing what he's doing, which is to say giving 'em hell, Isiah. People will notice, small market or not. Once he has separated himself from the rest — as did Stockton and Malone — the voters and coaches will know exactly where to find him.


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