Should Shaq, Nash join Amare in Phoenix?

Shaq hopes to push his way past Jefferson for an All-Star spot. (AP/Paul Connors)

Shaq hopes to push his way past Jefferson for an All-Star spot. (AP/Paul Connors)

I’ll be the first to admit my poll is far from scientific, but it certainly says something when 88.4 percent of my 155 voters don’t believe Amare Stoudemire should start the All-Star Game.

Granted, the stats, national analysts and basically anyone who follows the NBA favors Dirk Nowitzki for that spot, but usually polls on team-specific blogs are ridiculously biased toward that team.

I can only wonder what the results would be if this were a national sports site.

Such is life when fans make the selections, and I’m sure the same case can be made against Allen Iverson nabbing a starting spot in the East.

Agree with it or not, Amare will be introduced as a starter on Feb. 15 at US Airways Center, and although he’s technically the team’s small forward I really hope Phil Jackson doesn’t start him out on LeBron.

Anyway, now all that’s left to figure out is whether he will be Phoenix’s only representative on the West All-Stars, a decision by the coaches to be announced on Thursday.

One of the most interesting races will be for the backup center spot between Phoenix’s Shaquille O’Neal and Minnesota’s Al Jefferson.

Strictly looking at the numbers, Jefferson figures to have the advantage, averaging 22.6 and 10.6 to Shaq’s 18.2 and 9.1. However, Shaq’s PER of 23.04 is a shade ahead of Jefferson’s 22.78.

John Hollinger makes a case for Jefferson based on the fact that Shaq has played seven fewer games than Jefferson because he’s often rested on one end of a back-to-back, and he plays about six fewer minutes per game even when he suits up.

Shaq hasn’t even logged enough time to qualify among the league leaders, whereas Jefferson is the heart and soul of his team.

Of course, that game in Phoenix a couple weeks ago notwithstanding, Shaq gets the edge in team competitiveness with the Suns a likely playoff team and Minnesota 6-25 to start the year before a 10-2 January boosted his candidacy.

If this were a popularity contest, Shaq would win by a landslide unless those Chinese voters for some reason favored Jefferson, as Shaq earned the most votes of any player not voted into the game with over 1.85 million. Jefferson, meanwhile, earned just a modest 310,643, seventh among West centers.

Marc Stein points out that Shaq’s revival has been a main storyline of the season, and who doesn’t want to see Shaq, Kobe and Phil all back in the same locker room together, this time in Shaq’s new house?

Shaq is an entertainer. He starred in an impromptu dance contest a couple years ago at the All-Star Game, and you know he’s going to be throwing the biggest parties in the Valley even if he’s not selected.

The All-Star Game is about fun, and so is Shaq.

Al Jefferson is putting up All-Star-worthy numbers, but nobody will miss him if he’s snubbed.

Shaq would be painfully missed, especially with the kind of season he’s having.

Hey coaches, vote pick me! (AP/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Hey coaches, pick me! (AP/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

The trickier Phoenix selection involves Suns hero Steve Nash.

It just wouldn’t feel right to play an All-Star Game in Phoenix and not have Nash be the master of ceremonies so to speak. For everything he’s meant to basketball in Phoenix over the last four-plus years, he needs to be playing in this game.

Stein notes exactly that before tabbing Tony Parker and Carmelo Anthony for the final spots. Hollinger makes no mention of Nash and selects Paul Millsap for his final spot.

Nash’s numbers have certifiably slipped across the board from his four-year run of greatness under Mike D’Antoni, but his January assist barrage (11.6 pg) brings his season totals to a very solid 13.9 ppg and 9.4 apg.

Based strictly on numbers, Nash doesn’t have a great shot, but think about this: if you’re about to play an All-Star Game, is there any player you’d rather have running the show to throw all those pretty lobs?

Add in the fact that Phoenix fans are absolutely infatuated with the guy. He practically single-handedly brought a revolutionary style to the Suns, and he will always be adored in the Valley for doing so.

This would almost be more of a lifetime achievement pick, but aside from the player who would be snubbed for the extra spot, how is it a bad thing if Nash gets the call?

Sure, the Suns probably don’t deserve three All-Stars for an inconsistent first half that has them sitting squarely in seventh place in the West, just 1 1/2 games away from being out of a playoff spot.

But after all the bad luck that’s befallen Phoenix the past four years from the Robert Horry Hip Check Aftermath on down, would it be so wrong for the Suns to have three All-Stars in their city’s showcase game?

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Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

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