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Original Issue

Inside The NBA

All-Star Exit Poll
Stephon Marbury and Sam Cassell didn't make the team--and many
coaches wonder why

The coaches voted on seven All-Star reserves in each conference
last week, yet they were shaking their heads when the results
were released. Western Conference coaches said they couldn't
believe that Suns forward Cliff Robinson didn't make the cut,
while the most discussed omissions in the Eastern Conference
were point guards Stephon Marbury of the Nets and Sam Cassell of
the Bucks. "I wish they'd just make our [individual] choices
public," says Pistons coach Alvin Gentry. "Then coaches would
stop lying about who they voted for."

"Why the secrecy?" adds another coach. "Players say to me, 'How
come so-and-so didn't make it?' I tell them, 'Beats me. We all
voted for the kid.'"

SI polled 11 of the 15 coaches in the East, and 10 said they
voted for Marbury. The 11th, the Heat's Pat Riley, wouldn't
disclose his choices but said, "Right now, Stephon Marbury is
the best point guard in our conference."

There is no point guard on the East roster; the closest is 76ers
starter Allen Iverson, and he has played off the ball all
season. The reason Marbury didn't make the cut is that coaches
are required to rank their choices one through seven, and most
had Marbury sixth or seventh.

Who cares? Marbury, for one. Sources close to the guard confirm
reports that he was already upset with his agent, David Falk,
for not landing him any major endorsements and was considering
firing Falk late last week. Those same sources say Falk laid the
groundwork to hire Marbury a media consultant but couldn't
finish the arrangement because Marbury wouldn't talk to him
about it.

All-Star berths have always mattered to players, which is why
some of them might be disconcerted to hear Magic coach Doc
Rivers confess, "I'm so busy concentrating on my own team, I
just rattled names off the top of my head." Pacers coach Larry
Bird was far more scientific: He separated players by position,
then painstakingly made his choices based on their stats and
their teams' won-lost records.

In the end, playing on a successful team was a candidate's most
important asset. "That's why I looked at the Pacers and said,
'They've got to have at least two guys,' even though those were
difficult to identify," says Bucks coach George Karl.
"[All-Stars Dale] Davis and [Reggie] Miller made sense, but I
know I looked at Jalen Rose a good long time."

Gentry, conversely, chose no Indiana players but voted for
also-rans like Marbury, Knicks forward Marcus Camby and Hornets
forward Derrick Coleman. "When I think All-Star, I look at guys
who are integral parts of their teams," says Gentry. "They have
to be major factors to get my vote."

While some speculate that Latrell Sprewell was left off because
of his attack on then Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo two years
ago, Sprewell did garner at least three of the 11 coaches'
votes. "I judged guys totally on what they've done this year,
not their past," says the Cavaliers' Randy Wittman. "Sprewell
got a second chance in New York, and he's done well with it." He
failed to make it, though, when too many coaches deemed him less
worthy than teammate Allan Houston.

Raptors coach Butch Carter was shocked that Cassell, who also
got the nod from Rivers and Charlotte coach Paul Silas, didn't
make the cut. "Take him off the Bucks," says Carter, who ranked
Cassell second, "and they're dead."

The most appreciative All-Star was Pistons guard Jerry
Stackhouse, who was ecstatic with his new status. In his first
four seasons Stackhouse was branded as streaky and selfish, but
now, says Silas, "I see a toughness in him I hadn't seen in the
past. He knows he can score on anybody. Before, you could rough
him up a little bit, and he wouldn't go back at you."

That's typical of the way perceptions of Stackhouse have
changed. "Let's be honest," Gentry says. "Two years ago, they
wouldn't have voted Jerry on even if he was averaging 40 a night."

Portland's Balancing Act
More Stars, Fewer Minutes

Was it just last month that the Lakers seemed invincible? The
team generating the most buzz heading into the All-Star break
was the Trail Blazers, who were 36-11 at week's end. One
question, though: If you were point guard Damon Stoudamire and
you needed a hoop in the final seconds of the game, to whom
would you throw the ball?

"I don't know," Stoudamire says after a lengthy pause. "We're
kind of living and dying by whatever works at the time. It would
be nice to know who to go to, but I'm not sure it's necessary."

Of Portland's top 10 players, only one, reserve point guard Greg
Anthony, was shooting under 44% through Sunday's games. Yet only
one--big man Rasheed Wallace--will be in Oakland as an All-Star.
Stoudamire says he's surprised that Scottie Pippen wasn't
chosen: "No offense to David Robinson or John Stockton, who are
great ballplayers, but why does reputation mean something in
their cases and not in Scottie's?"

Stoudamire, once a budding All-Star for the Raptors, is a role
player on a team loaded with talent. Last year he voiced his
displeasure over not getting more minutes in the fourth quarter.
This season: Mum's the word. "I have to take a backseat for a
while, but I'm not mad, because of who I'm taking a backseat
to," says Stoudamire, who was averaging 30.2 minutes, fourth
best on the team. "You look at Scottie and Steve Smith, and I
can't believe we have them. I want to make the most of this,
because this team won't be together too long."

Stoudamire admits he's still "not in a great comfort zone" with
the Blazers, but he wants a ring and is willing to make
sacrifices. "I'm not going to feel sorry for myself--there's no
time for that," says Stoudamire. "It's like I told them: I can
bring [my game] out anytime. Just let me know when."

Line of the Week
Miller Time

Cavaliers point guard Andre Miller, Feb. 5, versus the Hawks: 47
minutes, 10-of-24 FG, 8-of-8 FT, 28 points, 12 assists, 10
rebounds. Too bad for the rookie that his first triple double
came on a night when his coach, Randy Wittman, and his teammate
Shawn Kemp couldn't see it. They were tossed in the 102-94 loss.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH The absence of Cassell (10), who was rated the second-best reserve by one coach, leaves the East point-less.

Around The Rim

Hornets point guard David Wesley, who at week's end was expected
to be cited for racing and reckless driving in connection with
the automobile accident that claimed the life of his friend and
teammate Bobby Phills, continues to struggle with guilt over his
role in the tragedy. In an attempt to take some of the pressure
off him, coach Paul Silas is playing Wesley and rookie guard
Baron Davis together more and more, with Davis handling the
point. Asked about rumors that Charlotte was considering dealing
Wesley to give him a change of scenery, Silas says, "We want
David here. We're going to help him, and he's going to be here a
long time."...

League sources say the Raptors and the Pacers looked into a
three-way deal that would have sent Indiana point guard Mark
Jackson to Toronto, the Raptors' Tracy McGrady to the Magic and
one of Orlando's three first-round choices in 2000 to Indiana.
The Magic declined, sources say, because it feels it can get
McGrady on its own when he becomes a free agent. If Orlando
doesn't, it has insurance in swingman Ron Mercer, whom it
obtained in a trade with the Nuggets last week. Mercer will
stick around if the price is right....

The Bulls want to re-sign Toni Kukoc--and not merely because he
made them competitive since returning from back spasms. Chicago
believes Kukoc would help ease the adjustment of fellow Croatian
Dragan Tarlac, a 6'9" power forward taken in the second round of
the '95 draft. Tarlac is expected to join Chicago next year.

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