NBA is wrong to leave Melo off All-Star team

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The NBA picked a fine time to turn its All-Star game into a referendum on good behavior, what with the extravaganza being held in Sin City.

Carmelo Anthony's name was nowhere to be found when the All-Star reserves were announced, and one can only imagine why.

It can't be because of his stats. He leads the league in scoring with 31.3 points a game, almost two points ahead of Gilbert Arenas.

It can't be because nobody likes him. His jersey is one of the NBA's best-sellers, and he trailed only Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan among Western Conference forwards on the All-Star ballot.

It can't be because he's a bad teammate. USA Basketball named him male athlete of the year, and Allen Iverson has nothing but love for the guy.

Which can only mean that Anthony is being snubbed for his role in the December brawl at Madison Square Garden.

Now, no one's excusing Anthony's behavior there. If this were a nomination for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, it'd be a different story. But this is the All-Star game, supposedly the showcase of the best the NBA has to offer on the court. By that definition, the league's leading scorer - before and after the brawl - deserves to make the cut.

"He's young, he made a mistake," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in January. "Let's all move on."

Anthony isn't an angel, but who is? If character were part of the criteria for All-Star selection, there are a few other guys who should be knocked off that list.

He's also served his time. In a day and age when athletes look for somebody to blame before the misdeed is even done, it's got to count for something that Anthony took his punishment without excuse.

"I could've easily kept my name out there by appealing it and doing other stuff about it," Anthony said before the reserves were announced Thursday. "But I just did my 15 games suspension and hopefully put that behind us."

The NBA has been trying to clean up its image since The Brawl at The Palace two years ago, and rightfully so.

A big part of Vegas' charm is the city's slogan: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. The NBA ought to take the same approach with Anthony and his bad behavior at the Garden.

Otherwise, there's going to be a big hole at the All-Star game. And not even Vegas has enough neon to fill it.

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