By A.Sherrod Blakely
PORTLAND, Ore.When the starters in next month's All-Star game are introduced, you won't find a Boston Celtic in the bunch.
Not to worry.
It's hard to imagine that the Celtics' Big Four - Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo - will not all be voted in as reserves.
The NBA announced the starters on Thursday.
In the Eastern Conference, fans voted Amar'e Stoudemire of New York and LeBron James of Miami as the starting forwards. At center, Orlando's Dwight Howard was a runaway winner. And the starting backcourt consisted of Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Chicago's Derrick Rose, arguably the best guard in the NBA this season.
Rondo came closer than any other Celtic to being a starter, with Rose beating him out by less than 400,000 votes.
"It's great for him," Rondo said of Rose being a starter. "It's not a disappointment not starting. He definitely deserves it, the season he's having. All of them, all five of them deserve it."
Doc Rivers, who is on track to be the head coach of the East squad, would have liked to have seen at least one of his players selected as a starter, considering they have the best record (34-10) in the East.
"You look at our record and to have no starters is surprising, but not really, because we're such a team," Rivers said. "We're not a team where individuals stand out, but because of the record they should stand out. Hopefully all four are on. I think they should be."
In 2006, the Detroit Pistons had four players chosen for the All-Star game - all as reserves.
Pierce, in line for a ninth All-Star appearance, anticipates he will be selected by the coaches, along with Allen, Garnett and Rondo.
"I look at the top of the Eastern Conference, position by position, I think between me Ray, Kevin, Rondo, we're right up there," Pierce said.
For Pierce, whether it's getting chosen by the fans or opposing coaches, he has no preference.
"In my career, I've earned each and every one of them," Pierce said. "That's all I can take from it. The guys that start, they earned it, too. You become popular with your play. I'm happy with the way I've gone in."
Rondo, chosen by the coaches last season as an All-Star, echoed similar sentiments.
"I don't know which one would be better; obviously starting would be great," Rondo said. "I got a lot of response from the fans. If the coaches you're playing against every night choose you, that's great as well. Either way, you can't lose. It's a great situation."