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Shaq gets an All-Star vote from Paul Pierce

January 19, 2009 | 12:54 pm

Shaqnew

Shaquille O'Neal turns 37 in March, but he's scoring 17.7 points a game this season for Phoenix, his best output since the 2005-06 season, plus getting 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and is shooting at a career best 62.8% from the free-throw line. (Shaq recently said he went back to shooting FTs like he did in his high school days.)

The Suns play the Celtics today in Boston, and Paul Pierce, Celtics team captain, said that Shaq deserves to be playing in the All-Star game Feb. 15 in Phoenix. "I think he's finally healthy," Pierce said. "The last couple years, he hasn't been healthy. He's playing at an All-Star level - -he's definitely a presence, a force, when he's on his game, and he's showing that right now, even at his age."

As for the Suns (23-15), they start the day with the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. But Celtics Coach Doc Rivers likes their retooled style of play: "They're good now, and I think when the playoffs come, they're going to be a very difficult team to knock out," Rivers said. Coach "Terry Porter has changed their philosophy of play and, in the long run, it's going to make them a better team ... to be a winner they have to focus more on defense."

--Barry Stavro

Photo: The Phoenix Suns' Shaquille O'Neal reacts after a play against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter of a Jan. 13, 2009, game in Phoenix. Credit: Rick Scuteri / Associated Press

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