Schanowski: Will Bulls' All-Star Drought End?

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Schanowski: Will Bulls' All-Star Drought End?

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010
5:08 PM

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

You've heard it so many times in recent years, the Bulls haven't had a representative in the All-Star game since the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Well, that streak should come to an end Thursday night when the reserves are announced for the Feb. 14 game in Dallas. Derrick Rose has been one of the top players in the league over the last 20 games, averaging 23 points and six assists a game, while cutting down his turnovers. More importantly, he's almost singlehandedly led the Bulls on a hot streak that has him within a game of the .500 mark. If that's not worthy of an All-Star spot, the Eastern Conference coaches just aren't paying attention.

With that said, here are my picks for the All-Star reserves for both conferences.

Eastern Conference

GUARDS
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls: Derrick got off to a slow start because of that preseason ankle injury, but since early December, there hasn't been a better guard in the conference outside of Dwyane Wade. Rose has dramatically improved his jump shot, making him almost unguardable. And just as importantly, he's really learned how to dissect opposing defenses. He shoots the jumper when defenses sag, and attacks the basket when the opening present themselves. He's been especially aggressive in late game situations which is the mark of a true star.

Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: Johnson really should be starting in the game, but the fans decided to vote for Allen Iverson's reputation instead of the player who truly deserves the honor. Johnson is the guy who makes the Hawks go. He's a 6-foot-7 guard with the ability to knock down three-point shots and attack the basket. He's also an underrated defender. Can you imagine Rose and Johnson in the same back court? It could happen next season if the Bulls go hard after J.J. in free agency.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: We know all about Boston's Big Three, but Rondo has emerged as the second most important player on that roster behind Kevin Garnett. Bulls fans know all about his ability to put up triple-doubles, he almost averaged a triple-double in last spring's classic playoff series. Rondo has picked up where he left off in the playoffs, and his ability to change the game on both ends of the floor makes him a unique talent.

FORWARDS
Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors: Another guy who would look awfully good playing with Rose and the Bulls next season. Bosh is putting up the best numbers of his career as he gets ready to jump into the free agent market this summer. He's always been a good shooter from the perimeter, but this season he's added an improved post-up game, and he's also been much more aggressive going after offensive rebounds.

Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats: This guys is one of the most underrated players in the league. He scores, rebounds, blocks shots and runs the floor as well as any small forward in the league. He's been among the league's rebounding leaders all season, even though he plays on the perimeter. The Bobcats have been one of the league's pleasant surprises in the first half of the season, and Wallace is the biggest reason why. The trade with Golden State for Stephen Jackson has also helped. Jackson is averaging almost 21 points a game, but his past reputation will kill his chances of being named to the team.
Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards: The easy choice would be to go with Boston's Paul Pierce, but Pierce is having an ordinary season by his standards and the Celtics have leveled off after a hot start. In my opinion, two All-Stars, Garnett and Rondo, is more than enough. Jamison has quietly been a beacon of light in the darkest of seasons for the Wizards. He's averaging almost 22 points and nine rebounds a game, and has handled all the media attention over the Gilbert Arenas gun situation with class and dignity.
CENTER
David Lee, New York Knicks: I would love to go with Joakim Noah for this spot, and Noah is my choice for the league's most improved player at the midway point. But Lee's numbers are hard to ignore. He's averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting 55 percent from the field. And, until the recent 50-point home loss to Dallas, the Knicks looked like a team that could contend for a playoff spot in the East. Give Lee a lot of the credit for making the Knicks competitive on most nights.

Western Conference

GUARDS
Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers: Maybe it's because he plays in a small market in the Pacific time zone, but Roy is one of the most under-appreciated stars in the league. He can score, he defends and he's the go-to guy for Portland at the end of close games. The Blazers have done a good job of putting together a talented young roster, but Roy is the guy that makes this team dangerous.

Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: Paul has had a frustrating first half of the season, missing time because of an ankle injury and dealing with an underachieving team. But he's still one of the top 10 players in the league and puts on an all-around show every night. New Orleans is still in playoff contention in the West, and it's only because of Paul's individual brilliance that they even have a chance.

Deron Williams, Utah Jazz: You could certainly argue for the Denver Nugguts' Chauncey Billups in this spot, but the former Illini star has never been named to an All-Star team, and this season the game is in his hometown of Dallas. So, with Williams and Billups having comparable numbers, I'm giving the nod to Deron. He's been the driving force for all those good Utah teams since he came into the league, and he was a member of the Olympic championship team in 2008. It's about time he gets picked for an All-Star game.

FORWARDS
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: You've got to have the hometown scoring star in the game, and Dirk is still at the top of his game. Dallas has emerged as one of the best teams in the West this season, and Nowitzki is their leader. He still knocks down the mid-range jumper with ease, and he's getting more points in the mid-post.

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: One of the rising stars in the league. He's averaging 29 points a game and shooting 48 percent from the field, even though every opposing team knows he's the guy who will have the ball in his hands at crunch time. This will be the first of annual All-Star appearances for the OKC star.

Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: Along with the Thunder, Memphis is turning heads around the NBA with an above .500 record in the far superior Western Conference. Z-Bo was considered a selfish player at every one of his other NBA stops, but he's fit in perfectly with the Grizzlies, scoring 21 points a game to rank 12th in the league. Normally this spot would go to a guy like Pau Gasol or Carlos Boozer, but looking at it objectively, Randolph has had the better first half, and he deserves to go to Dallas.
CENTER
Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers: Another player who's been maligned over the years for not helping his team win, Kaman has quietly put up excellent numbers for L.A.'s other team. Kaman is averaging 20 points and nine rebounds, helping the Clips stay close to .500 in the West. When they get Blake Griffin back next season, the Clips might finally be ready to make a move upwards.

As always, a lot of deserving players are left off this list. In the East, Josh Smith (Hawks), Al Horford (Hawks), Stephen Jackson (Bobcats), Pierce, Noah, Brook Lopez (New Jersey Nets) and Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks) all deserve consideration. Same thing in the West for guys like Monta Ellis (Golden State Warriors), Billups, Boozer (Jazz), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs), Rudy Gay (Grizzlies), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings) and Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets). But it's impossible to include all the deserving players with the limitation of 12 man rosters. Let's just hope Rose is one of the 24 All-Stars introduced on Feb. 14.

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

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

This story originally appeared on Big3.com. Hear from Kendall and Ice Cube as they give their opinions on the Aug. 26 fight in the video above.

Timing really is everything.

When I went to Las Vegas for the BIG3 combine and draft back in April, I liked my chances. Sure, I was one of the oldest guys there, but my training as a boxer (I fought professionally after my NBA days) keeps me in great shape.

So I was pretty shocked when I didn’t get drafted.

I tried to be positive about it. I figured maybe the man upstairs was saying, “Just sit tight. I gotta put you on the right team.”

So there I was, sparring in the gym the other day. I get out of the ring and there’s a text waiting for me from Corey Maggette, asking me if I want to play for Power.

He didn’t have to ask twice!

Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from Power’s coach, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. I looked up to Clyde my whole career, looked at him as a big brother. To play for him in the BIG3 is the perfect scenario.

So it was great to be in Philadelphia last Sunday and help Power defeat the Ghost Ballers in my BIG3 debut. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams and Paul McPherson.

I was a bit rusty on the offensive side, but my defense -- which has been a staple for me throughout my career -- my rebounding, passing, that was all on point. I found Cuttino and DeShawn for a couple of shots when we forced them to double-team down on me. I had Mike Bibby on me in the post, and they knew that he probably couldn’t guard me down there.

So it was a pretty good first day. Now that I’ve got that under my belt, here comes the fun part. Everybody was excited when I was finally added to a team, and when they found out we were playing in Chicago they got twice as excited. When I got off the plane from Philadelphia on Monday, I had about 50 messages waiting for me – friends and family asking for tickets to the UIC Pavilion for Sunday’s games.

And since I work Chicago Bulls games for CSN Chicago, the network is excited, too. They want to mic me up and follow me around for the day, go behind the scenes. Radio stations have been calling me for interviews about the BIG3 coming to Chicago. It’s exciting. But when it comes time to play, I’ve got to forget about all that and go out there and play.

A lot of people think I’m biased because I was born and raised here, and still live in Chicago, but if you look at the number of pro players that we’ve produced, there’s really nowhere else that can compare to Chicago as a basketball town. You look at all the number one picks in the draft. Look at the top five picks in the NBA Draft throughout history. I think you’d have to say Chicago is probably the number one producer of NBA players – and college basketball players for that matter.

Only a few fortunate kids make it up the ranks to college and the pros. For most kids growing up in Chicago, at least basketball can be an important recreational activity that helps keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But there’s so much more we can do. When I was preparing for the BIG3 draft, I was practicing with Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. Duncan, who has played competitive 3-on-3 with USA Basketball, is doing some great work with underprivileged kids in Chicago.

For my part, I donated a home in Champaign-Urbana (home of my alma mater, the University of Illinois). It’s the Cunningham Children’s Home and it helps disadvantaged kids in the region. We just had our annual golf tournament last week. We’ve been doing it for 28 years and have raised more than $1 million for the home.

While Arne Duncan is doing great work with Chicago youth, I’m grateful for the work he put in with me on the basketball court. He showed me a lot about how to cut, do a lot of pick and rolls away from the ball. In 3-on-3, those aspects of the game are very undervalued. Some guys have a tendency to play too much one-on-one, which I saw in some of the other games I was watching Sunday. The 3-on-3 game is very easy if you do it right, like we did. I think that’s why we won that game. We did a lot of cuts, and it worked well for us.

So after the disappointment of not being drafted, I’m thrilled to be where I am now – playing for a Power squad that is 3-1 and looking good for the playoffs. Which got me to thinking…

I really love boxing – not just training and sparring myself, but watching it. Boxing is the sweet science.

If we are fortunate enough to make it to Las Vegas for the BIG3 championship game on August 26, there just happens to be a pretty big boxing match taking place that night, right down the road. You may have heard:  Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.

Personally, I don’t think McGregor has a chance. I’ve seen Floyd train in person and I’ve seen all his fights at least 10 times. He’s one of the greatest fighters to ever live. Now a guy who has no boxing experience whatsoever is going to get into the ring with him? Not happening.

But it’s gonna be an event. Believe me, I’m planning to buy the Pay-Per-View.

Unless I’m in Vegas that day and get to see it in person. You know, right after we win the BIG3 title.

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Thursday: 

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

That escalated quickly: Cubs just a game back of Brewers, could be in first place as soon as this weekend

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

Joe Maddon's prime-time message: 'Help or die'

Report: Derrick Rose is considering teaming up with LeBron James, Cavs

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since