By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007; E01
Two seasons ago, Gilbert Arenas says he filled out NBA all-star ballots by hand in an unsuccessful effort to earn himself a starting spot. Last season, on the night when the league announced the All-Star Game reserves, Arenas knew his name wouldn't be called so he watched a "Bambi II" DVD instead.
This season, a combination of spectacular performances, the Wizards' success and a late surge in votes made Arenas the second-leading vote-getter at the guard position in the East and landed him his first all-star start.
Arenas was informed by the league yesterday morning that he had edged out New Jersey's Vince Carter for one of two starting guard positions. He'll join Miami center Shaquille O'Neal, Toronto forward Chris Bosh, Cleveland forward LeBron James and Miami guard Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup on Feb. 18 in Las Vegas.
Reserves for both conferences will be announced next Thursday.
"A few years ago I was taking ballots from stores and filling them out myself," said Arenas, who is on pace to average a career-high 29.7 points per game. "I probably filled out 50,000 of them and I had like 52,000 votes that year. So to be voted in by the fans is just unbelievable. I have fans now and that's what it is. It means there are some Agent Zero lovers out there. It's just cool to see things now that I used to see happen for other players."
Arenas will be the sixth Washington player to start an all-star game since 1976. Arenas trailed Carter and Wade throughout the voting process and was behind Carter by 214,460 votes in the fourth set of returns, which were released by the NBA on Jan. 11. He ended up beating Carter by 3,010 votes.
He helped his own cause with recent game-winning three-pointers against the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz and picked up national attention by scoring a career-high 60 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 17 and by scoring 54 in a nationally televised win over the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 22.
As a sign of his appreciation for the fans who pushed him ahead of Carter, Arenas said he's "planning something special for the fans during All-Star Weekend." Arenas also said he wanted to thank Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Billy King because it was King's decision to trade Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets that moved Wade, Carter and Arenas up one spot on the ballot.
Iverson, whose votes carried over to Western Conference balloting, was the leading vote-getter among East guards in the initial returns, which were released Dec. 14.
Arenas made the all-star team as a reserve in 2005 and was added by NBA Commissioner David Stern as an injury replacement for Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal in 2006 after being passed over by the Eastern Conference coaches.
He could be joined in this year's event by other Wizards, including Coach Eddie Jordan and forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards (24-17) will enter tonight's game at Detroit with the second-best record in the East, behind the Pistons (24-16) and ahead of Cleveland (24-18).
Should the Wizards have the best record in the conference or rank behind only Detroit through Feb. 4, Jordan would be the East's coach. Detroit Coach Flip Saunders would not be eligible to coach the East all-stars two seasons in a row.
Butler is posting career numbers in several categories, including scoring (21.1 points per game), rebounding (8.0 rpg), assists (4.0 apg) and shooting percentage (48.2 percent) and appears to be a near lock to be selected by the conference coaches.
Jamison, who was selected as a reserve in 2005, is averaging 18.9 points and 8.1 rebounds and could pick up votes because the field has been watered down because of the Iverson trade and injuries to Milwaukee guard Michael Redd and Boston forward Paul Pierce.
"I've run through the numbers myself a million times and you can't tell me there are that many forwards in this conference playing better than Caron and Antawn," Arenas said. "They deserve to be there. We're winning games and that's the key to all of this."
TNT analyst Charles Barkley recently took a few playful jabs at Arenas for spending huge money on his own birthday party, but Arenas said he wasn't concerned with what Barkley had to say during last night's telecast.
"As long as I see my name on that screen as a starter, anyone can say anything they want," Arenas said. "My spot is guaranteed."
Wizards Note: Phoenix Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni recently joked that he couldn't wait to see Arenas play Duke, a reference to Arenas's anger over his treatment by Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski while playing for Team USA last summer. Well, Arenas pondered what he'd do with such a matchup in his latest blog entry for http://www.nba.com/.
"I'd probably score 84 or 85," he wrote. "I wouldn't pass the ball. I wouldn't even think about passing it. It would be like an NBA Live or an NBA 2K7 game, you just shoot with one person."