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Western Conference Starters

February 15, 2004|Lonnie White

If you take away his poor free-throw shooting (56.8%), you can make a good argument that Duncan is having his best NBA season. He has developed more wrinkles to his post game and his ball-handling skills have improved tremendously.

*--* TIM DUNCAN, SAN ANTONIO Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast F 7-0 260 23.1 12.8 3.2

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*--* KEVIN GARNETT, MINNESOTA Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast F 6-11 240 24.8 14.0 5.0

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Garnett has played with plenty of attitude this season, leading the Timberwolves into first place in the Midwest Division. Garnett's all-out aggressive play stands out in All-Star games. He'll embarrass you if given the chance.

*--* KOBE BRYANT, LAKERS Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast G 6-6 220 21.5 4.7 4.3

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Despite his injuries and off-the-court matters, Bryant has put up decent numbers. After his latest rest, expect Bryant to be near full throttle today. If his perimeter shot is working, it can be a long night for any defender.

*--* STEVE FRANCIS, HOUSTON Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast G 6-3 200 16.9 5.5 5.9

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Francis is one of the most physically gifted athletes in the NBA. In an open-court environment like an All-Star game, he is the type of player worth watching. Turn your head for a moment and you might miss Francis dunk on someone.

*--* YAO MING, HOUSTON Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast C 7-6 310 16.5 9.0 1.5

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Yao's overall skills have improved and his ability to make high-percentage shots is always a plus in a league that can't shoot straight. As long as he gets plenty of touches early, he could be a factor in today's game.

*--* WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES

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*--* RAY ALLEN, SEATTLE Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast G 6-5 205 22.8 5.0 5.2

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After opening the season on the injured list, Allen has been a little inconsistent with his shooting. He is making 43.2% of his shots, his lowest figure since his second NBA season. Still, he is always a threat to go on a scoring spree.

*--* SAM CASSELL, MINNESOTA Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast G 6-3 185 21.1 3.2 7.8

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Cassell has done a great job playing with Garnett and Latrell Sprewell, and has accepted the challenge of being a team leader with the Timberwolves. He's shooting a career-best 49.5% from the field and can score in bunches.

*--* ANDREI KIRILENKO, UTAH Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast F 6-9 225 16.3 7.9 3.3

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Kirilenko has become the top player for the Jazz and his versatility makes him a difficult matchup. He can shoot from outside (38.1% from three-point range) and can drive to the basket. Could have an impact if he gets the time today.

*--* BRAD MILLER, SACRAMENTO Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast C 7-0 261 15.0 10.8 4.7

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Miller has been a rebounding and defensive force for the Kings. But he's also averaging almost 15 points and five assists. He may not stand out in an All-Star game, but Miller's willingness to do the little things will be a plus for the West.

*--* DIRK NOWITZKI, DALLAS Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast F 7-0 245 21.5 8.8 2.8

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He's one of the NBA's elite scorers. After a slow start, Nowitzki has been on a roll lately with his outside shot. Always a tough matchup because of his ability to post up smaller players and drive around bigger ones.

*--* SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, LAKERS Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast C 7-1 340 20.8 10.9 3.1

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Playing at Staples might make O'Neal look to score more, but he normally doesn't try to dominate All-Star games. But if the West guards decide to get him the ball, he has a chance to be the difference maker today.

*--* PEJA STOJAKOVIC, SACRAMENTO Pos Ht Wt Pts Reb Ast G 6-10 229 25.4 6.2 2.1

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In a game that doesn't feature much defense, Stojakovic is capable of putting up big numbers. In his most productive season in the NBA, Stojakovic is shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.1% from behind the arc.

-- Lonnie White

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