Luol Deng will become the first British player to feature in the annual NBA All Star Game later this month after being selected to the Eastern Conference line-up.
The award, determined by the league’s coaches, comes amid a successful season for the Chicago Bulls forward in which he has factored large in his team’s 22-6 start to the campaign.
The showpiece, which will be aired live on ESPN, will be played on February 26 at the Amway Center in Orlando.
“It really is such a honour,” he said via Twitter. “To be apart of it, to say you are an All Star. I am excited to get to Orlando and soak up the atmosphere, it really is a huge honour.”
In 21 games this season, Deng has averaged 16.0 points, a career-high 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals in a team-high 38 minutes per game.
When a left wrist injury recently sidelined the Londoner for seven games, his absence was telling as the Bulls went 4-3.
And he has been praised by Chicago legend Scottie Pippen.
“Some players chase being an All-Star for years and never make it,” the former All Star told bulls.com. “It can be a huge obstacle that they never overcome. And in terms of the game itself, you still have to go out there and prove that you belong there with the best of the best.
“That’s something I have to think Lu wants to do. I’m sure he believes that he’s one of the best small forwards out there and becoming an All-Star would solidify that.”
Joining Deng as reserves on the East squad are Chris Bosh (Miami Heat), Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics), Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers), Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), and Deron Williams (New Jersey Nets).
Hibbert and Iguodala are also first-time All-Stars, while Williams earns his third trip, Johnson his sixth, and Bosh his seventh.
Nowitzki, whose 11 selections are consecutive, is joined on the West team by reserves LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs), and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).
For Aldridge and Gasol, this marks their first All-Star selection. It’s the second All-Star nod for both Love and Westbrook, while Parker goes for the fourth time, and Nash, at 38 the oldest player in this year’s game, is an All-Star for the eighth time.
Selected to start in the East — through the 2012 NBA All-Star Balloting– were Derrick Rose (Bulls), LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Heat), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), and Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic). Voted to start for the West were Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles Lakers), Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), and Kevin Durant (Thunder).
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