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Pregame buzz: Will Dirk finally get the fan vote?

DALLAS -- The NBA released the 2012 All-Star ballot Wednesday and just as he has for 10 years in a row, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki will play for the Western Conference.

Only this season, mark it down, Nowitzki will finally get the fans' vote as a starting forward in the Feb. 26 game in Orlando for the first time in his career (notwithstanding his one start at Cowboys Stadium in 2010 as an injury replacement for Kobe Bryant). As the slogan went for the Mavs' championship run, "The Time is Now."

The other day Lamar Odom asked out loud how he could possibly be selected for the U.S. Olympic team, yet never make an NBA All-Star team. Well, Dirk might wonder, but he'd never say so out loud, how a league MVP and now an NBA Finals MVP can't get the fan vote to start an All-Star game at least once in the past decade.

"He’s got a shot," coach Rick Carlisle said. "When you become the MVP of the Finals and your team wins, globally there’s a much greater awareness, but we’ll see. The greatest thing about Dirk is he doesn’t care about that, he really doesn’t. It’s not even a thing."

The point isn't whether Dirk cares or not, because he will say 100 times out of 100 that he doesn't. Dirk's the guy who always cracks on himself as being the big, slow stiff that no one wants to watch shoot jumpers on All-Star Sunday.

This is about fan intelligence and recognition.

Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan have dominated fan voting for the two West starting forward spots in the past. Last year, Kevin Durant overtook Duncan and the Thunder's star will start a ton more All-Star games, this one included, during his career. With Anthony in the Eastern Conference and Duncan in decline, nothing should keep fans from voting in Nowitzki.

"He deserves it. It’d be nice," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. "It’s the only thing really that he hasn’t accomplished, which is kind of crazy when you think about it -- Finals MVP, league MVP, never been voted a starter."

Exactly.

Adding to his credentials, Nowitzki last week became just the fourth active player (Kevin Garnett, Bryant and Duncan) and 31st in NBA history to notch 8,000 field goals. Tonight against the Phoenix Suns he'll play in his 1,000th NBA game, becoming the 11th active player to reach the milestone and 98th overall.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry called Nowitzki the toughest player to guard in the league. And if more than a few believe Dirk and his re-tooled Mavs don't stand a chance to defend the franchise's first title and reach a third Finals in seven seasons, Gentry isn't one of them.

"Hey, they got Dirk. As long as they got Dirk they got a chance," Gentry said. "When you look at him and what he’s done and where his game is, he’s an amazing player. He’s arguably the toughest matchup of any player in the NBA because of his size and his shooting ability. And, when he added the post-up game to his game it makes it virtually impossible. You play a big guy on him, he takes him outside. You play a smaller guy he posts him.

"He’s a good guy to have around."

And come Feb. 26, hopefully the voting fans will have done their job.