by Russ Bengtson
Here’s the official All-Star reserves list (fresh off TNT) with a few of my thoughts about them. I wrote most of them up last week with the intent of posting who I thought SHOULD make it. For the record—not that I have any way of proving it—I got the entire East right, and just one wrong out West. Um, so to speak. Check it out.
CHRIS BOSH. C: Bosh isn’t really a center, but it’s slim pickin’s in the middle out East. I know Shaq was the sentimental pick—he’s been an All-Star 14 straight seasons, the game’s in Louisiana (he went to LSU), and he’s often a source of levity throughout the weekend. That said, the Heat have nine wins and they already have one All-Star. It would be unfair to take a second. And the rest of the field is uninspiring—Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Rasheed Wallace, um, whoever else there is. But make no mistake, Bosh deserves it. 22.5 and 9 for the 24-19 Raptors. (And of course there was the infamous video, which has been viewed more than the Zapruder film by now. Ain’t that right, Bubba?)
CARON BUTLER, F: If you’re looking for the reason the Wizards have kept their heads above water despite losing Gilbert Arenas to knee surgery, look no further. Tough Juice is averaging 20 and 10 while leading the way. (Question: If Gilbert opts out and demands the max, do you consider not giving it to him? It’s actually worth considering.)
PAUL PIERCE, F: This has been nothing short of a dream season for Paul Pierce. First, his Celtics add Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett over the summer. Then he remains the first scoring option on a team that’s blasted to the best first-half start in Celtics history. No-brainer.
CHAUNCEY BILLUPS, G: Probably the best point guard in the East, Billups isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done.
RIP HAMILTON, G: Rip is shooting 51 percent from the floor, 47 percent from three, and is averaging 19.1, 4.4 and 3.3. He’s also averaging 1.9 turnovers, the fewest since his rookie season (when he played 19 minutes a game). Not to mention he’s the leading scorer on the second-best team in the East.
JOE JOHNSON, G: The Hawks have fallen below .500 since a hot early-season start, but hey—it’s the Hawks. Johnson’s averaging 21.7 points, 5.4 assists and 4.2 boards, all above his career averages. And his Hawks are playing better than the Bucks (Michael Redd) and Bobcats (Gerald Wallace). Besides, it’s the East. Good teams are hard to find.
ANTAWN JAMISON, F: The other reason the Wizards are doing so well, Jamison too is averaging 20-10. You really can’t split up Jamison and Butler, so you don’t.
STEVE NASH, G: Four straight years playing at an MVP level. Crazy. Mark Cuban doesn’t make many mistakes with his investments, but this is sure looking like one.
CHRIS PAUL, G: It’s too bad Paul wasn’t chosen to start in New Orleans, but if he keeps playing the way he has been, there should be plenty more chances in his future.
DIRK NOWITZKI, F: He’s not even amongst the top five candidates for MVP this year, but he’s still at 22, 9 and 4.
CARLOS BOOZER, F: The best low-post scorer in the game not named Dwight Howard, CBooz does it all while giving up between three and 10 inches on a nightly basis.
AMARE STOUDEMIRE, C: This one hurt. I really wanted to see Marcus Camby—who somehow has never been an All-Star—make it, but couldn’t rightly pick a third Nugget. Tyson Chandler was in the mix as well. Chris Kaman would have been if the Clippers were any good. But in the end, it’s the defensively challenged Sun who gets the nod.
BRANDON ROY, G: There were plenty of reasonable arguments why Brandon Roy SHOULDN’T have gotten this spot. He’s only in his second year, the Trail Blazers’s success is more of a team thing, the West doesn’t need any more small guards. There’s one reason why he should. Brandon Roy is a definite candidate for MVP, and if you’re an MVP candidate, you should be an All-Star.
DAVID WEST, F: Guess he ain’t underrated anymore. The Hornets absolutely deserved to get two guys, and David West is absolutely an All-Star, but the boys in Oakland just got a serious chip dropped on their shoulder for the second half. (I had Baron Davis getting the last spot.)