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At least two and perhaps four

The All-Star starters were offically announced, and as we knew all along, none of the Pistons were voted into the Eastern Conference starting five. Was Detroit disrespected? Hardly. It's hard to argue with the star power of Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade, even if Chauncey Billups has been more efficient. Shaq will probably start every All-Star game until he retires, and LeBron James and Jermaine O'Neal are certainly qualified candidates.

And besides, don't look know, but the perpetual underdog Pistons might still end up sending four All-Stars to HoustonWell, five if you count Flip Saunders.. Billups and Ben Wallace are all but guaranteed reserve spots, and the consensus among the national media seems to be that Rip Hamilton will likely go over Michael Redd. And with Jermaine O'Neal's injury, commish David Stern very well might opt to include Rasheed Wallace, the Eastern Conference's third-leading vote-getter among forwards.

ESPN's Marc Stein weighs in:

Don't forget, though, that Commissioner Stern will be selecting a player to replace the injured Jermaine O'Neal after the reserves are chosen. East coach Flip Saunders will decide who actually starts in O'Neal's place, but Le Commish has the final say when it comes to filling out the roster.

So if the coaches go the veteran route and select, say, Pierce over Bosh as a reserve, don't be surprised if Stern goes for Bosh to ensure some Canadian interest. Don't be surprised, furthermore, if Stern ignores everyone else and nominates 'Sheed in a bow to Detroit's dominance.

In that event, how could any of us argue? I'm more comfortable with three Pistons, but if any team can justify four All-Stars, it's this Detroit team in this storybook half-season, leading its nearest East pursuers (Miami) by 11 games. Agreed?


UPDATE: Sports Illustrated's Marty Burns also makes a case for 'Sheed:

Meanwhile, Jermaine O'Neal will not play because of his groin injury. That means Stern will get to select a replacement, possibly Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace.

While 'Sheed has never been in good graces with the league office, he deserves the honor as much as anybody. He is a major part of the league's best team, a 6-foot-11 low-post force who also happens to be shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range. He's also the best defender on Duncan I've seen in years. To top it off, he's the third-leading vote-getter in the East at forward, so it's a natural step up.

Yao, Kobe, Shaq headline All-Star starters roster [AP]
Reserve candidates, superb resumes [ESPN]
Everyone's a critic []