LaMarcus Aldridge picked for NBA All-Star team

LaMarcus Aldridge picked for NBA All-Star team
Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, center, drives to the basket between Sacramento Kings' Tyreke Evans, left, and Jason Thompson during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

NEW YORK — Blazers fans have known LaMarcus Aldridge is an all-star caliber player. On Thursday the NBA Western Conference coaches recognized his outstanding play by naming him an NBA All-Star.

This will be Aldridge’s first All-Star game in six seasons with the Blazers.

"LaMarcus is a premier player in this league and I'm very happy to see him be recognized for his efforts as a player and a leader," said Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan . "He improves every season and this is validation for all the hard work he's put in to become an All-Star."

Aldridge ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring at 23.3 points per game. He also averages 8.5 rebounds and almost three assists a game.

"LaMarcus has distinguished himself as one of the top players in the NBA, and this is an honor well-deserved," said Blazers President Larry Miller. "I'll speak for the organization and our fans to say we are thrilled to have LaMarcus represent Portland at All-Star Weekend in Orlando and couldn't be prouder of what he's done for the team."

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Aldridge said felt he played well enough last season to be an All-Star, but he did not make the team. In fact, he thought he was playing better than he has this season.

"I might have better numbers this season, but I feel like last year down the stretch I was playing really well," he said. "I want to be dominant. I want to close games. I want to be one of the best power forwards in this league, and I think I'm getting there."

Aldridge was in New Orleans with the Trail Blazers on Thursday for a game against the Hornets on Friday night.

Video of Aldridge getting the news:

Aldridge, who played at Texas, was the second overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Chicago Bulls and was traded to the Blazers on draft day.

He emerged last season, when three-time Blazers All-Star Brandon Roy was hobbled by knee problems, taking over a leadership role both on the court and in the locker room. He finished the season with a career-high 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting exactly 50 percent from the field.

He is the 15th All-Star in franchise history. Roy, who retired before the start of the season because of his knees, was the last Trail Blazer to make the team when he was selected for the third time in 2010.

Elsewhere in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce overcame slow starts to return to the All-Star game, but the lengthy runs of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are over.

Nowitzki was chosen Thursday to his 11th straight All-Star game, despite his lowest scoring average since his second NBA season. Pierce has come on after a slow start caused by a foot injury and was picked for the 10th time.

But Garnett wasn't chosen after 14 consecutive selections, and Duncan was left out after 13 in a row. Other All-Star regulars such as Ray Allen and Amare Stoudemire will be home, giving way to five first-timers: LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Andre Iguodala, Roy Hibbert, and Luol Deng.

The starting five in the Western Conference, decided by fan balloting, consists of Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Andrew Bynum (L.A. Lakers), Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers) and Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers). Rounding out the West reserves from the coaches' vote are Kevin Love (Minnesota), Nowitzki (Dallas), Gasol (Memphis), Steve Nash (Phoenix), Tony Parker (San Antonio) and Westbrook (Oklahoma City).