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Thread: 2004-01-26

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    Default 2004-01-26

    Who will make the all-star cut?
    By Chad Ford
    NBA Insider
    Updated: January 26
    12:49 PM ET

    The fans have spoken. The media have spoken and spoken. Soon, the
    coaches will get their say too.

    The final All-Star Game voting tallies won't be announced until
    Thursday, but if all goes according to current voting trends, Vince
    Carter, Jermaine O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Ben
    Wallace will be in the East starting lineup. Kevin Garnett, Tim
    Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Steve Francis and either Shaquille O'Neal or
    Yao Ming (the one race still too close to call) will start in the
    West.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that. The East starting five is
    solid. At least, this year, Carter is actually playing. The West
    starting five is a bit shakier. TD and KG are obvious choices. Kobe
    is an interesting fan vote given his legal troubles at the moment.
    But given the contenders at the two guard position (Ray Allen,
    Emanuel Ginobili, Michael Finley) can you blame them? Francis is
    about the fifth-best point guard in the West this season, but who's
    counting.

    Once the starters are announced, the league will turn to the coaches
    to make the final seven selections. Predicting what they'll do has
    turned into a laughable proposition.

    The all-star selection process is one of the great unsolved
    mysteries left in the universe. There is no rhyme or reason. No
    pattern. No logic. Might as well sacrifice small animals, throw
    their innards on the ground and let a shaman or two divine the
    stars.

    The fans would vote in Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley if they
    could. Everyone thought LeBron James would be a shoo-in with the
    hype and the shoes. Go figure that, per the latest NBA results, he
    ranked behind Carter, O'Neal, Wallace, Iverson, McGrady and Jason
    Kidd in fan voting in the East. The fans want to see the stars, the
    flash and the dunks. Period. There's nothing wrong with that.
    The media love to rail on the fans for getting it wrong. Of course,
    we too, rarely get it right (witness the Jazz and Bucks). We're
    great at hyping our pet projects or making selections that bolster
    preseason predictions -- but what do we know?

    The coaches have the better chance of getting things right. They do
    more than peruse box scores or breath heavily over the latest flavor
    of the month. They're less likely to be swayed by a good player
    putting up great stats on a horrible team. And they're more likely
    to give a guy who busts his butt every night (read Ron Artest) over
    a no-substance scorer (read Shareef Abdur-Rahim).
    They also have
    grudges. That's why you'll never see Rasheed Wallace or Latrell
    Sprewell get any love this time of year. Again, nothing wrong with
    that.

    With that said, here's the part where I tell you to ignore all of
    that and listen to me. I don't, however, have all of the answers. My
    all-star ballot doesn't make much sense either. Is it OK to vote in
    a guy like Zach Randolph, whose entire team needs to be checked into
    a rehab center? I have no idea. What about a guy like Brad Miller?
    His numbers are all at career highs, and he's a key player on the
    best team in the Western Conference. The Kings would be lost without
    him. But, is he really among the best six or seven big men in the
    West? It's debatable.

    Company policy forbids me from mutilating squirrels, so, for the
    second year in a row, I went for the next best thing. I called up
    five successful GMs and asked for their perspective. I respect the
    GMs' opinions for a couple of reasons. One, they see the whole
    picture. Skill, work ethic, bang for the buck, marketability and
    character all play into it for them. Second, they see the whole
    league. GMs are constantly scouting other players, looking for a
    good fit, or that guy who will put them over the top. It's not an
    exact science. But to these five guys, all of whom wished to remain
    anonymous, it's as close to science as any of this gets.

    While no one agreed on everything, here's a rough consensus of who
    should be flying first class to Los Angeles in February.

    Eastern Conference Starters

    G- Jason Kidd, Nets
    G- Tracy McGrady, Magic
    F- Ron Artest, Pacers
    F- Jermaine O'Neal, Pacers

    C- Ben Wallace, Pistons

    Comments: All five GMs agreed that Kidd, O'Neal and Wallace were the
    best at their positions in the East. McGrady and Artest garnered
    four votes, with one vote going to Paul Pierce and another going to
    LeBron James.

    There aren't any huge surprises here. Baron Davis is having,
    arguably, a better season than Kidd this year. What kills Davis,
    according to the GMs, is his 38 percent shooting percentage and his
    love affair with the 3-point shot. Everything else -- points,
    assists, steals, defense and ability to carry his team -- is great
    this year. McGrady is having a down year, especially when you
    compare it to what he did last season, but he's still the most
    talented swingman in the game. Artest should finally get the love
    this year based on his tough defense (Will he actually defend in the
    All-Star Game?), emerging offensive game and his calm demeanor this
    season on and off the court.

    O'Neal may be the only guy in the group having an MVP season. He
    continues to mature every season and has turned into the East's most
    dominating big man on the offensive end.
    I always get a kick out of
    putting Wallace at center. He doesn't play the position, hasn't for
    the past two season[s], but in the size-challenged East, he's as close
    to an All-Star as you can get. All 15 starting Eastern Conference
    centers just don't make the cut. So you must move on to the
    second-best power forward in the East and that's Wallace by a
    landslide.

    Eastern Conference Bench

    G - Paul Pierce, Celtics (5 votes)
    G - Baron Davis, Hornets (5 votes)
    G - Allen Iverson, Sixers (4 votes)
    G - Michael Redd, Bucks (3 votes)
    F - Vince Carter, Raptors (3 votes)
    F - LeBron James, Cavaliers (3 votes)
    F - Lamar Odom, Heat (3 votes)

    Comments: Everyone knows that the East is very guard heavy, but this
    is a little ridiculous. Depending on how you rank positions, there
    are six guards here and just one forward, Odom. Carter and James can
    technically be listed at forward because of their size and the
    positions they play on their team, but objectively, they're closer
    to guards than they are to forwards. What happened to the rest of
    the forwards? The problem is there are few players worth voting for.
    Odom barely made it in with just three votes. The Nets' Kenyon
    Martin got two votes, the Cavs' Carlos Boozer and the Nets' Richard
    Jefferson got one each. No one else even garnered so much as a vote.

    The nature of the guard-heavy East also produced a two interesting
    snubs. The Knicks' Stephon Marbury and the Pistons' Chauncey Billups
    garnered just two votes each. Marbury was probably hurt the most
    because of his teams' poor records. Billups has been huge for the
    Pistons this season, but his numbers, when stacked up against the
    other top guards in the East, aren't as convincing.

    Western Conference Starters
    G- Sam Cassell, Timberwolves
    G- Peja Stojakovic, Kings
    F- Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves
    F- Tim Duncan, Spurs
    C- Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers

    Comments: Garnett and Duncan were the only unanimous selections this
    year. Stojakovic edged out Kobe, 3-2. Shaq beat out Yao Ming 4-1.
    Cassell edged out Steve Nash 4-1. It's tough to argue much of
    anything here. Stojakovic at two guard? I let that slide. It was
    clear that the GMs weren't comfortable voting in Kobe and were
    looking for an out. If we let Eastern Conference GMs vote Ben
    Wallace in at center, then why not Stojakovic at the two. He can
    play the position and does it about as often as Wallace plays
    center.

    Cassell was a little bit of a surprise. He's having a career season,
    but given his inability to make the team previously, it's nice to
    see the voters put the past behind them. Shaq may not be having a
    great season, but the fact that, whenever he does play he's
    dominating, gives him the edge this year.

    Western Conference Bench

    G- Kobe Bryant, Lakers (4 votes)
    G- Steve Nash, Mavericks (3 votes)
    F- Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (4 votes)
    F - Brad Miller, Kings (3 votes)
    F - Pau Gasol, Grizzlies (2 votes)
    F - Zach Randolph, Blazers (2 votes)
    C - Yao Ming, Rockets (5 votes)

    Comments: There's room for plenty of healthy debate here. Let's
    start with the guard snubs. Ray Allen, Michael Finley, Steve
    Francis, Emanuel Ginobili, Mike Bibby and Gary Payton got one each.
    Allen would've been a lock had he played most of the season,
    according to several GMs who left him off the ballot. There was a
    feeling that he just hadn't played enough to earn a spot. Francis
    is, by all accounts, having an off year, though the GM who voted for
    him said we shouldn't penalize him for trying to play with Jeff Van
    Gundy's system.

    One GM, in love with Ginobili, thought he was the second most
    important cog on the Spurs. Bibby has been great this year, but gets
    lost in the shuffle with so many Kings. Payton has been good for the
    Lakers, but like Bibby, just got lost in the shuffle a little bit.
    The West is big heavy, so it was no surprise to see them grab five
    of the seven other spots. Yao was the only reserve everyone seemed
    to agree on. It was a little surprising that one GM left Nowitzki
    off his vote completely. He's struggled this season, but not that
    much. There was a popular sentiment for Miller who, in addition to
    scoring and rebounding, has turned himself into one of the best
    passing big men in the game.

    After that was really wide open. Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko,
    Elton Brand, Erick Dampier, Carmelo Anthony and Rashard Lewis all
    got one vote each. In my mind, Kirilenko is more deserving than
    Randolph based on his overall contribution to his team. The Jazz are
    winning and Kirilenko is getting it done in every category.
    Randolph's scoring and rebounding numbers are better, but he gives
    up as many points as he scores every night on a terrible team. It's
    also surprising that three teams with winning records -- the
    Nuggets, Sonics and Jazz -- don't have any representatives on the
    team.

    But what do we know?

    "This isn't rocket science," one GM said. "You just kind of vote
    your gut and try to keep the past out of it. But bottom line, this
    is just personal preference. The coaches will see things differently
    and I could absolutely see a guy like Kirilenko or Dampier, who give
    them fits every night, get in. We'll find out soon enough."
    Spoken like a true shaman.

    Joe All-Star

    Now that we've got that out of the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't
    mention five guys who didn't get much support for their all-star
    bid. Whether it's because their team is terrible, their play isn't
    highlight-reel quality, or they've just appeared on the radar,
    here's my vote for five average Joes "almost all-stars" who are
    doing special things in the NBA this year.

    Andrei Kirilenko, G, Jazz
    The Stats: 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 2.1 spg, 47 percent shooting
    The Skinny: He may be the most complete player in basketball. His
    numbers are never flashy on the surface, but dig a little deeper and
    he's pretty amazing. He became just the third player in the past
    decade to have a game in which he scored at least five points, had
    five boards, five assists, five blocks and fives steals. The fact
    that he's already done it twice this season is just amazing. He
    won't make the all-star cut this year, but Kirilenko has been the
    big reason behind the Jazz's surprise run this season.

    Andre Miller, G, Nuggets
    The Stats: 15.9 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.6 spg on 46 percent
    shooting
    The Skinny: The Nuggets added two big weapons to the worst team in
    basketball last summer -- Miller and rookie Carmelo Anthony. While
    Anthony himself is also worthy of all-star recognition, Miller was
    given the keys to the Nuggets' offense and he's been running it to
    perfection. The fact that he's bounced back from a horrible season
    in Los Angeles proves that Miller isn't just a guard who puts up
    good numbers on a bad team. He's also a leader capable of turning
    around a team when he has the right talent around him.

    Carlos Boozer, F, Cavs
    The Stats: 13.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg on 50 percent shooting
    The Skinny: Lost in all of the LeBron hoopla is the emergence of
    Boozer as one of the most dominating power forwards in the Eastern
    Conference. Not bad for a second year player who mysteriously
    slipped into the second round on draft night. Boozer seems to
    improve by the game. When LeBron went out with ankle injury, Boozer
    proved that he can be a lethal scorer in the paint as well. He's
    averaged 23.5 ppg, 16 rpg and 1.5 bpg over his last four. With Cavs
    GM Jim Paxson slowly weeding out distractions, it may be just a
    matter of time before Boozer works his way into the All-Star Game.

    Emanuel Ginobili, G, Spurs
    The Stats: 12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.9 spg
    The Skinny: The Spurs have one of the most boring, traditional and
    lethal offenses in the league, but thanks to Ginobili, it now has
    the requisite spice to make it palatable. Ginobili has been amazing
    for San Antonio, especially when Tim Duncan is struggling or out
    altogether. His quickness and gambling on the defensive end have
    made him one of the team's most valuable players in the plus/minus
    stats. In a conference with a dearth of great two guards, give
    Ginobili another year to get his feet wet and he should be well on
    his way to his first all-star selection.

    Elton Brand, F, Clippers
    The Stats: 20 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg on 53 percent shooting
    The Skinny: Don't hate the guy just because he plays on the
    Clippers. The former all-star will likely be passed over because the
    Clippers are struggling once again, but there isn't a more
    consistent double-double guy in the NBA. Brand may not be exciting,
    but the consistency in horrible conditions is enough to impress us.
    Honorable Mention: Erick Dampier, Warriors; Shawn Marion, Suns;
    Donyell Marshall, Raptors; Keith Van Horn, Knicks; Jim Jackson,
    Rockets; Richard Jefferson, Nets; Chauncey Billups, Pistons.

    The Kids

    While we're at it, the league is set to announce the rosters for the
    Rookie-Sophomore game this week as well. They've traditionally done
    a pretty good job of getting it right, but just in case there's any
    confusion at the league office, here's our take on who should be in.

    Rookie All-Stars
    STARTERS
    G - Dwyane Wade, Heat
    G - Kirk Hinrich, Bulls
    F - LeBron James, Cavs
    F - Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
    C - Chris Bosh, Raptors

    BENCH
    G - Leandro Barbosa, Suns
    G - T.J. Ford, Bucks
    G - Raul Lopez, Jazz
    G - Keith Bogans, Magic
    F - Jarvis Hayes, Wizards
    F - Josh Howard, Mavericks
    C - Chris Kaman, Clippers

    Comment: The top five are pretty easy to pick. All five have been
    outstanding at their positions. Given their relative draft
    positions, none of it should come as big surprise. The bench isn't
    that controversial either. The biggest snubs are Udonis Haslem of
    the Heat and the Jazz's Aleksandar Pavlovic getting pushed out by
    Lopez and Bogans for the last positions on the team. Still, when you
    look at this list, there's no question that this is one of the best
    rookie classes ever.

    Sophomore All-Stars
    STARTERS
    G - Frank Williams, Knicks
    G - Emanuel Ginobili, Spurs
    F - Tayshaun Prince, Pistons
    F- Carlos Boozer, Cavs
    C - Yao Ming, Rockets

    BENCH
    G- Ronald Murray, Sonics
    F- Amare Stoudemire, Suns
    F - Jiri Welsch, Celtics
    F - Drew Gooden, Magic
    F - Mike Dunleavy, Warriors F/C - Mehmet Okur, Pistons
    F/C - Nene Hilario, Nuggets

    Comment: This group was considered a huge success for a rookie
    class, but it pales in comparison with the Class of 2003. Yao,
    Stoudemire, Boozer and Ginobili all look like they have star written
    on them. Prince, Murray, Nene, Gooden, Dunleavy and Welsch also
    appear to have a bright future. Last year's point guard class was
    awful, however. Frank Williams and Jaric were the best that we could
    come up with, and neither player has done more than impress in small
    stretches.

    What's also interesting is who's not on the list. Caron Butler was a
    starter last season but has struggled to rebound from offseason knee
    surgery. Dajuan Wagner was supposed to be the second coming of Allen
    Iverson, but injuries have wreaked havoc on his young career. An
    injury to Jay Williams, another starter from last year, may end his
    career. Several other players are just now starting to come around.
    The Wizards' Jared Jeffries, the Clippers' Chris Wilcox, the Lakers'
    Kareem Rush, the Suns' Casey Jacobsen and the Bucks' Dan Gadzuric
    are having promising seasons, but not enough to make the cut this
    season.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


  2. #2
    Administrator/ The Real Jay ChicagoJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2004-01-26

    Thanks for posting. My computer monitor is still out, and I'm banished to distant computer labs to work.
    There's one more article to come... but my boss is making me work today so I haven't gotten it yet...
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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