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.

Isaiah Canaan will start Game 5, but Bulls need more adjustments against Celtics

Isaiah Canaan will start Game 5, but Bulls need more adjustments against Celtics

If the Bulls were doubting Thomases before Sunday afternoon, Isaiah made them pay for it dearly with each turn of his hand, each herky-jerky dribble and each devastating floater.

Perhaps wiser to their errors, the Bulls will go into Game 5 in Boston with an Isaiah of their own in the starting lineup, as Isaiah Canaan will make the start at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

Having been banished to the inactive list and end of the bench, Canaan's best moments under the United Center lights had been one-on-one matchups with his teammates hours before the real games began.

So being tossed in with 2:15 left in the first quarter and the Bulls already behind 13 points presented both opportunity and some nerves given the stakes. Having played a total of 92 minutes since the calendar turned to 2017, beggars can't be choosers.

"Throughout the season you just wonder when that opportunity is going to come," Canaan said. "I believe everything happens for a reason. You never can see what it may be, from going from not playing for the second half of the season mostly to playing in the most crucial time of the season in the playoffs, I guess God just sent me a sign to mentally be locked in and really battle your faith."

He responded by pressuring Thomas in a way Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams couldn't with any effectiveness, probably due to his quickness and similar build to Thomas.

"My job is to make his job miserable," Canaan said. "He's a great player and he can find different cracks, but I'm just going out there trying to interrupt their timing, try and milk as much time as I can off the shot clock and just keep him uncomfortable. Not let him get settled in for what they want to run, so I'm just out there to make him uncomfortable and speed him up."

Canaan scored 13 points in 33 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers and being a +11 while on the floor, so it's easy to see why Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wasn't going to mess around with the Grant and Carter-Williams combo that hadn't done much of anything in the friendly confines of the United Center over the weekend.

"I really thought he did a good job picking up the ball and pressuring the pickup point a full 94 feet," Hoiberg said. "I thought his initial ball pressure was good. We have to get off to a much better start if we want to have any chance of winning another game in this series. That's two games in a row now we've gotten ourselves down 20 points and fought all the way back."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bulls playoff tickets right here!]

Still, Thomas scored 33 points and exploited a once-aggressive Bulls defense that seemed to be on its heels for most of the second half against Thomas, leading to Hoiberg's claims about Thomas carrying the ball to give himself an advantage in his hesitation moves.

Hoiberg wouldn't revisit the topic before Monday's practice and praised the Celtics guard who's battling through the devastating loss of his sister, who died right before the series opened in Boston last weekend.

"I'm a huge Isaiah Thomas fan. He's as big a competitor as we have in our league," Hoiberg said. "Obviously, he's as tough a guy to guard as we have in our league. I think the world of the kid, especially what he's going through now, how he's fought through that and like I said last night, he's a warrior to go out there and do what he's done so far in this series."

Thomas has averaged 25.8 points on 45.8 percent shooting with six assists and four rebounds per game. At times, the Bulls' size has bothered Thomas at the rim, particularly Jimmy Butler coming over to help alter his share of attempts, but since the Celtics have altered their approach Thomas has found easier traction to the basket.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens inserted Gerald Green in the starting lineup and the move has worked masterfully, with Green scoring 18 points with four 3-pointers and one highlight-worthy baseline dunk.

It's rendered Robin Lopez effectiveness to a minimum, as he was an unsung hero on the offensive glass in the first two games, meaning Stevens' move to play smaller was a risk, albeit a calculated one.

The Bulls didn't adjust at all to it in Game 4 after the Celtics won decisively Friday night, but changes besides Canaan have to be in store if the Bulls hope to come home looking to clinch a berth in the second round as opposed to fighting off elimination in Game 6.

"It changed it entirely. Obviously when it was big-big, we dominated them," Dwyane Wade said. "Dominated them defensively, incredibly. They made adjustments, we didn't need to because we were up 2-0. Then coming off Game 3, we felt watching the film we played with low motor, not enough energy so we didn't feel the gameplan was the key. 

"But it was coming out of Game 4. So now it's a few adjustments we hope to make and hopefully it makes a difference."

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