Antawn Jamison did not sound cocky when he said it. Instead, he seemed genuinely hurt.
"In my eyes, I should be a two-time or three-time all-star already," said Jamison, the stellar Washington Wizards forward, when asked if this is the year he finally will break through and be named to play in the NBA all-star game. "But it's not about how you feel. It's about how your peers feel."
It's not that Jamison's peers have not noticed his talents. The 28-year-old, 6-foot-9 scoring threat was a player to be reckoned with during his five seasons with the Golden State Warriors and his one season with the Dallas Mavericks before he was traded to the Wizards last summer.
But Jamison assuredly will be named to the Eastern all-star team today when the reserves are announced. If he isn't, there should be an investigation.
In terms of his all-star status, Jamison definitely has benefitted from his change of conferences. Despite averaging 24.9 points in 2000-01 with the Warriors and 22.2 points in 2002-03 with the Warriors, as well as winning the NBA's sixth-man-of-the-year award in 2003-04 with the Mavericks, he couldn't crack the all-star code in the West.
"The West has a lot of great forwards and the East has a lot of great guards," said Jamison, who is averaging 20.4 points per game this season for the Wizards, who have been slumping lately but still are one of the most pleasant surprises in the league. "The West was tough, but that's just how it is.
"It would be good if it happens," added Jamison, trying to mask his understandable and passionate desire to be an all-star. "If not, I just have to continue to work hard and do what I can to help my team."
Fans vote for the all-star starters, and they selected Allen Iverson (Philadelphia), Grant Hill (Orlando), Vince Carter (New Jersey), LeBron James (Cleveland) and Shaquille O'Neal (Miami) in the East, and Yao Ming (Houston), Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Kevin Garnett (Minnesota), Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers) and Tracy McGrady (Houston) in the West.
Coaches for the respective conferences determine the seven reserves per squad (they can't vote for players on their own teams), and the results will be announced today.
There has been a lot of talk about Raptors second-year forward Chris Bosh possibly getting selected, and while he's quite deserving in a lot of ways, it might be a year too soon for him. And the Raptors' lousy record does not help his cause at all.
Here are the names you should be hearing today:
East: Jamison (Washington), Ben Wallace (Detroit), Jermaine O'Neal (Indiana), Paul Pierce (Boston), Dwyane Wade (Miami), Steve Francis (Orlando), Gilbert Arenas (Washington).
Thought process: Since the Pistons are the defending champions you just have to have one of them on this team, so Big Ben gets the nod on reputation.
West: Steve Nash (Phoenix), Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas), Ray Allen (Seattle), Chris Webber (Sacramento), Pao Gasol (Memphis), Manu Ginobili (San Antonio).
Thought process: We can't see there being three Suns on this team and only one Spur (Duncan), so Ginobili sneaks past Shawn Marion of Phoenix.
Nash and Nowitzki are all-star locks, so the former Dallas teammates will get to play with each other again. Nowitzki is looking forward to it.
"He's playing great and I'm really proud of him," said Nowitzki of Nash, who signed with Phoenix as a free agent last summer. "It'll be a blast (in Denver).
"Of course we miss him. He made a lot of stuff happen for me and my teammates. And he was a great locker-room guy. But we have to move on. We can't cry about Steve anymore.
"We stay in touch. We were best friends. This is going to be a friendship for the rest of our lives, for sure."
Predictably, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was less emotional and more businesslike when asked about Nash's jaw-dropping play this season.
"Steve is a great guy and I wish him nothing but the best off the court," Cuban said. "But on the court he plays for another team, so I don't pay that much attention."
- The NBA has continued its policy of limiting the all-star slam-dunk contest to players with three years experience or less. It's a face-saving move, so the league won't have to deal with all the rejections it would receive from its older marquee players. At least Raptors fans will be spared the pain of seeing Vince Carter compete in the dunk contest while representing his new club, the New Jersey Nets. Carter won the dunk contest as a Raptor in 2000 but has not competed since, mostly because of injuries, both real and imagined. "Before, the attitude for me was it was something I wanted to do my whole life," Carter told New Jersey reporters recently. "But I don't want to do it anymore. You can't dunk all your life. Trust me, it comes and goes.
SUIT UP, GEORGE
- New Denver Nuggets coach George Karl on how much of a difference he can make: "I think a good coach in this league is like a starter. Not a one, two or three starter (in terms of ranked value). But I think a good coach is as valuable as a fourth or fifth starter. I don't think I'm close to that yet, but hopefully I will be by the end of the year."
- Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been re-living his younger days, and not in a good way. With the T-Wolves sputtering, the reigning MVP has been seeing a lot of double- and even triple-teams. After a recent game in which he had been swamped by the opposing defence with great frequency, a frustrated Garnett said, "It felt like high school."