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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose will be the first Chicago Bull since Michael Jordan to start an NBA All-Star Game.
Starters were announced Thursday for the Feb. 20 game to be played in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Rose joins fellow Chicago native Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat as the Eastern Conference's starting backcourt.
They will be joined in the East's starting lineup by forwards LeBron James of the Heat and Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks. The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, the leading vote-getter in the conference with nearly 2.1 million, will start at center.
"I'm feeling really loved right now, and I appreciate all the support that helped me earn a starting position in the All-Star Game," Rose said in a statement. "I want to thank all the fans that voted, especially the people from my hometown of Chicago. I also want to give thanks to the Bulls organization that did a great job promoting me, and most of all I want to thank my teammates and coaches for putting me in this position."
Rose averages 24.6 points and 8.1 assists a game for the Bulls, who lead the Central Division by 13 games going into Thursday's games. After working on his perimeter shooting and gaining valuable experience playing for Team USA last summer, Rose has developed into an MVP candidate.
"I'm absolutely thrilled for him. It is well-deserved," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "It was earned through hard work and determination. This was definitely an honor that was earned. You could see the determination and the work ethic every day in the summer. His shot improved so much. There's no magic pill for that. That was sweat, determination and hours and hours and hours in the gym."
With Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing a combined 39 games because of injuries, the Bulls are still the No. 3 seed in the East.
"Derrick Rose to me has been a tremendous leader," former NBA star and current television analyst Charles Barkley said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "He's missed his second and third best players the majority of the season, and they have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. That's pretty remarkable."
Jordan was the last Bull to start an All-Star Game when he was named MVP of the 1998 game at Madison Square Garden. Rose broke a drought of 11 Bulls seasons without an All-Star when he was added to the team as a reserve last season.
Rose understands that becoming an All-Star starter is the next step in his progression. He was the one who asked aloud on the Bulls' media day in September "Why can't I be MVP?"
"I think it was one of the goals to be a starter," Rose said. "But I think just having a winning record and getting MVP, I think that would mean definitely a lot. Of course a championship would be on the top of the list, but being a starter, it's kind of almost like being in the game."
Forman loved Rose's preseason MVP talk.
"I thought it was great because he's not saying that ... that's not being cocky," Forman said. "It's just being determined. He believed that. And he knows through his hard work that he'll continue to improve."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau hoped Rose would be awarded for his stellar first half of the season.
"I think it's recognition for the job he's done this year," Thibodeau said before the official announcement was made. "All-Star Games, those are great, and he's certainly earned it, but I'm concerned with what he's done for our team. And he's done a lot for the team. He's lifted this team up. We still have a long way to go the second half of the season, so the test continues after the midpoint. But I'm happy for him."
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant earned his 13th straight All-Star selection, one shy of the record held by Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone. The other West starters announced Thursday were Hornets guard Chris Paul, forwards Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Carmelo Anthony of Denver, and Houston center Yao Ming, who is injured and will be replaced on the roster by a player of Commissioner David Stern's choosing.Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. The Associated Press contributed to this report.