All-star reward sweet

TORONTO SUN STAFF

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Chris Bosh has been to one NBA all-star game, but it wasn't as a starter.

Yesterday, the Raptors' big man took that next step up.

While some will tell you that the five starters per conference -- as voted on by the fans and released last night -- is based more on popularity than talent, it's hard to deny that without a good dose of talent, there wouldn't be that level of popularity.

In any event, not even Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, who wants nothing to do with all-star games, will argue that Bosh is anything but deserving of the honour. The Raps' leading scorer and face of the franchise was named to the Eastern starting team along with Cleveland's LeBron James, Washington's Gilbert Arenas, and Miami's duo of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal.

The reserves, voted on by the coaches, will be announced Feb. 1. The game will be staged on Feb. 18 at Las Vegas.

It was fitting that the news came a night after Bosh was a one-man wrecking crew in a 90-88 win over the New Orleans Hornets.

His 35 points, a season high, helped mask a sloppy effort by the Raptors as a whole.

Heading into tonight's home game with the Boston Celtics, Bosh is a huge reason why the Raps have rebounded from a tough 2-8 start and now sit just a win away from reaching the .500 mark. Bosh leads the team in scoring (22.1 ppg), blocks (1.3), and rebounds (11).

Bosh, as cool off the court as he is charged-up when he is on it, took the news in the expected laid-back fashion. The 6-foot-10 Georgia Tech product had a healthy lead in the voting heading into the final day, so it's not as if the announcement came completely out of the blue.

One could look at the honour as Bosh finally joining the ranks of Wade, James and Carmelo Anthony (who may be named as a reserve) all of whom were high picks in the 2003 NBA draft.

Bosh, however, said that was not a big deal for him.

"I'm not really concerned with being a part of that (group)," Bosh said. "I'm just concerned with being a good basketball player. I knew if I worked on my game, believed in myself and made my team better as time went on, everything would take care of itself."

What Bosh sees in this honour is an acknowledgement of the efforts.

"The reward is sweet," he said. "I've been working so hard the past three, four, five years, even before that. To know all that work is paying off is a great feeling."

Bosh is not expected to be the only Raptor taking part in the all-star weekend festivities. Both Andrea Bargnani and Jorge Garbajosa are expected to receive invites to play in the Rookie Challenge which pits the NBA's best freshmen against the best sophomores.


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