Beyond the Arc: Do Bulls deserve 2nd All-Star?

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Beyond the Arc: Do Bulls deserve 2nd All-Star?

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011
4:52 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

In a word, yes. Problem is, while Carlos Boozers averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds a game are All-Star worthy, hes missed 18 out of a possible 47 games because of hand and ankle injuries. Joakim Noah probably would have made the Eastern Conference team as the back-up center to Dwight Howard, but Noah has been out since mid-December because of a hand injury of his own.

And, what about Luol Deng, you ask? Hes been one of the NBAs top perimeter defenders this season, earning praise from head coach Tom Thibodeau after almost every game. His averages of about 18 points and six rebounds a game might not suggest an All-Star appearance, but they compare favorably with other players who are in line for reserve spots like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Chris Bosh.

As weve found out over the last decade, NBA coaches tend to favor players from winning teams when they cast their votes for All-Star reserves. Miami figures to get three players on the squad, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh, while Boston is also likely to have three representatives, Pierce, Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Since the Bulls have caught the Heat in the Conference standings, it certainly makes sense for them to have a 2nd representative.

So, here are my picks for the Eastern Conference reserves, which will be announced Thursday night during TNTs national coverage. Center, Al Horford, Hawks. Forwards, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Boston. Guards, Rajon Rondo, Boston and Raymond Felton, Knicks. Wild card picks (two per conference) Chris Bosh, Miami and Carlos Boozer, Bulls.

Okay, I know Ive got too many power forwards on the squad, but in my mind, Boozer deserves the final spot over guys like Deng, Danny Granger, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. Even though Boozers missed 18 games, hes given the Bulls the low post scoring threat theyve been missing for years. And, his vocal leadership on and off the floor has also been a big plus. When it comes time to tip things off in Los Angeles on February 20th, the Eastern Conference coach can use Pierce as his back-up shooting guard, and play Bosh some at the small forward spot. Hey, its an All-Star game, who cares which position the guys are playing?

Over in the West, my reserve picks would be: Center, Pau Gasol, Lakers. Forwards, Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas and Blake Griffin, Clippers. Guards, Deron Williams, Utah and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City. Wild cards, Manu Ginobili, San Antonio and LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland.

Its tough to leave out guys like Kevin Love, Steve Nash, David West, Kevin Martin and Monta Ellis, but unfortunately, theres only room for 12 guys on the roster. Hopefully, commissioner David Stern will give the Spurs a 2nd representative by naming Tim Duncan as the injury replacement for Yao Ming, who was voted in as the Wests starting center.

So, what do you think? Please post your thoughts on the All-Star reserves in the section below.

The Bulls start their two-week Western swing with a rematch against former coach Vinny Del Negro and the Clippers Wednesday night. All told, theyll play five games on the trip, three of them against teams with winning records (Portland, Utah and New Orleans). Im thinking 3-2. Let me know your prediction in the comments section.

Ill see you Wednesday night at 9 p.m. for the pre-game show on Comcast SportsNet before the Bulls-Clippers game.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Jimmy Butler limited, Rajon Rondo out as odds stack against Bulls for Game 6

Jimmy Butler limited, Rajon Rondo out as odds stack against Bulls for Game 6

If the Bulls are going to push the Celtics to a Game 7 with a win tonight at the United Center, it’ll have to be under the most improbable of circumstances.

Jimmy Butler is banged up and finally, the Bulls are admitting it as he has a sore left knee he suffered from a collision in Game 4 that has affected him in Game 5. And point guard Rajon Rondo will not be making a miraculous comeback to lead the troops in some made-for-TV moment.

Butler took just two shots in the fourth quarter in Game 5, clearly favoring his left knee, the knee he jumps off of, limiting an offensive game that relies a lot on explosion and contact.

“Jimmy, he’s gonna battle. One thing you know about Jimmy, he’s as well conditioned as anybody in the game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s as big a competitor as anybody in the game. He does have soreness, no denying that. He’s gonna continue to go out there and do everything he has.”

After bumping and bruising his way to 23 free-throw attempts in Game 4, Butler took just one free throw in Boston two days ago — the greatest indicator of how this injury is affecting his game.

Hoiberg said Butler didn’t do much in the morning shootaround, and it seems the best method could be using him as a decoy if the Celtics still treat him as a player capable of scoring 30.

“He’s still gonna have the ball in his hands a lot,” Hoiberg said. “Tried to give him the ball with the side cleared, and let him go to work. I thought he drew the defense and got us a couple quality looks, we just didn’t knock it down.”

With Rondo, while he’s improving and has a track record of playing through injuries, it appears his broken right thumb isn’t healing at the rate it needs to for him to be on the floor and contribute without risking further damage.

“Not much. Pretty much the same,” Hoiberg said. “He’s still got a lot of soreness in that right hand, especially with everything he’s got with the torn ligament and also the broken thumb. Not able to do enough at this point.”

So without their best player and their most indispensible, the Bulls are facing an uphill task against a Celtics team that made the Bulls lose a little poise in a critical juncture of Game 5, and will try to push all the buttons again.

And it means more will fall on Dwyane Wade’s experienced shoulders in the meantime, and he believes Butler can be effective even while limited.

“My approach is going to be the same as it was last game — just try to be aggressive. And try to find other opportunities to find a way that Jimmy can still lead,” Wade said. “He’s just a little banged up. It’s fine. It’s the NBA. Jimmy is a tough guy. We have to find different ways to make sure he’s involved.”

For the rest of the roster, Wade believes finding a way to continue their season appears to be a matter of opportunity instead of panic, with the urgency being the best teacher.

“There definitely should be,” Wade said. “This is a big game for our season. It seems like every playoff game, the cliché thing to say is, ‘Oh, this is the biggest game of our season.’ But it rings true tonight. I think it’s a good thing for this young team to be in this situation now just to see how we respond.”

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 6

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 6

Watch as the Bulls take on the Celtics tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. The point guard carousel. It's been something to watch all year, and with the Bulls desparately searching for answers it will continue to be one heading into Game 6. Isaiah Canaan actually played well against Isaiah Thomas, and Dwyane Wade looked comfortable initiating the offense. That'll need to continue simply for the Bulls to have a chance, with Rajon Rondo ruled out for the game.

2. What's Jimmy Butler's health status? Jimmy Butler attempted just two free throws in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He only went to the free throw line one time, in the second quarter. This goes without saying, but the Bulls' only chance to win Games 6 and 7 is for Butler to be playing like his old self. With his back against the wall, maybe we'll see that "Jimmy Game" where he wins it by himself.

3. Is Isaiah Thomas heating up? The smallest player on the court is starting to heat up in the series. While his shooting hasn't been great, he was super in Game 3, took over in Game 4 and made plenty of plays in Game 5 that led to a win. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him continue this, as his eyes seem to light up every trip down the floor with Rondo on the sideline.

4. Who's the next surprise contributor? Bobby Portis, Paul Zipser, Isaiah Canaan and now Anthony Morrow have all made surprising contributions in the series. At this point that's what it's going to take to compete against a deep Celtics team that's healthy and rolling with some momentum. Could it be Cris Felicio playing big? Perhaps Portis gets hot again from deep? Either way, it's got to be someone helping Butler and Wade.

5. The Bulls' backs are against the wall. It's simple. Win or go home. How will the Bulls respond in this type of situation, with Boston holding all the momentum and looking to end this before it goes back to Boston for a do-or-die Game 7. The Bulls don't have a lot of pressure on them from a national standpoint, but you can bet their expectations for themselves are large. How they respond early will say a lot about the job Fred Hoiberg did getting them ready.

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