NEW YORK — The Cavaliers began Thursday night with the best record in the NBA at 35-8, but that didn’t help them get more than one All-Star Game selection.
Point guard Mo Williams was not among the seven reserves selected by Eastern Conference coaches, meaning starter LeBron James will be Cleveland’s only representative in the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown entered Thursday needing just one victory — or an Orlando loss in games through Sunday — to secure the Eastern Conference coaching berth for him and his staff.
Orlando, which hosted Cleveland Thursday, had two reserves named — Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson — in addition to starter Dwight Howard, while Boston’s Paul Pierce joined teammate Kevin Garnett on the squad.
“I was just anxious to find out,” Nelson said. “I honestly don’t get that way. But me hearing everywhere, ‘You’re an
All-Star, you should be an All-Star, you’re having an All-Star year.’ So you just want to see if people will give you the respect that other people think you deserve.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Phoenix center Shaquille O’Neal received his 15th All-Star selection. O’Neal and Suns teammate Amare Stoudemire gives the host team two Western Conference All-Stars.
New Orleans, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers also had multiple players on the West roster, which will be coached by the Lakers’ Phil Jackson.
Traded to the Suns at last season’s deadline, O’Neal endured the worst season of his career and had his record-tying streak of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances end. Now he’s back in the showcase game, and trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 19 for most appearances.
Abdul-Jabbar, a Lakers assistant, will help coach the West team.
The 36-year-old O’Neal was averaging 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds entering Thursday night’s showdown against the Spurs. He needs five more points to catch Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh on the NBA’s career scoring list.
O’Neal isn’t the only veteran on a West roster flush with experience. The Spurs’ Tim Duncan and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant are each making their 11th appearances, while Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki was picked for the eighth time and Houston center Yao Ming for the seventh time.
Carmelo Anthony, who’s missed the last 10 games with a broken bone in his right hand, was left off the roster even though he’s been cleared to play Friday night at Charlotte. That leaves point guard Chauncey Billups the lone selection from the division-leading Nuggets.
Acquired in a trade with the Pistons on Nov. 3, Billups has given Denver a steady backcourt presence. The four-time All-Star is averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists.
If the West team plans to rely on experience, the East might turn to youthful exuberance.
Making their first All-Star teams are Nelson, New Jersey guard Devin Harris and Indiana forward Danny Granger, who was snubbed last season but whose play for the injury-depleted Pacers has been extraordinary.
Granger is fourth in the league in scoring at 25.8 points per game.
Stoudemire, Yao, Bryant, Duncan and Chris Paul of the Hornets were voted by fans to start for the West. The East starters are Garnett, Howard, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson of the Pistons and James.
Coaches were then required to vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two at-large reserves. The other picks for the West were Pau Gasol of the Lakers, Tony Parker of the Spurs, Brandon Roy of the Trail Blazers and David West of the Hornets. Filling out the East roster are Raptors forward Chris Bosh and Hawks guard Joe Johnson.
Boston’s Ray Allen was passed over despite averaging 18.0 points and helping Boston to a 38-9 record. The eight-time All-Star was skipped over last year, too, but was later added by commissioner David Stern as an injury replacement for Caron Butler.
Deron Williams and Paul Millsap of the Jazz also were left off the rosters. So were the Suns’ Steve Nash, a six-time All-Star, Antawn Jamison of the Wizards and Al Jefferson of the Timberwolves.