Unsung Player: Charlie Bell

   Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) drives to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks' Charlie Bell, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, in Milwaukee.   In all this excitement over whether the Heat would tank and set the Bucks up against the Celtics in Round 1, I forgot that yesterday was Unsung Player Day, an annual celebration started in Japan by a crazed Laker fan named Don at his blogsite With Malice.  This must also have meant that at some point it was April 14th in Japan.

My Unsung Player Day Bucks honoree is Charlie Bell. Of course. No, he’s not the typical unsung player — he started 39 games for the Bucks this year. But since the acquisition of John Salmons, Charlie’s been relegated to the DNP-garbage time zone by the coach who loves him, fellow Michigan State alum Scott Skiles. (Yes, Charlie was a Flintstone, and with a year 2000 NCAA title on his resume and a “FLINT” tattoo to prove it, I realize I’m pushing the unsung player rules.)

The DNP-garbage time zone: In March CB got 5 DNP’s and played 164 mins in 10 games. Most of the minutes were played when he was rushed back into the lineup after Carlos Delfino went down March 26 against the Heat and missed four games. Prior to that, Charlie had been sitting. The Bucks split those four games and the 6’3″ Bell spent one of them guarding Lebron James in Cleveland (a game the Bucks had in their grasps) while Bucks fans groaned every time Charlie chested James up on D or rose to shoot a three.

It’s the strangest thing. CB’s a defensive specialist who’s been the Bucks’ most consistent 3-baller most of the season (39% until recently) yet he’s the guy in Milwaukee whose misses register with fans the most.  That’s saying a lot, as Jerry Stackhouse now fires away for the green and red. …

…  This was the season I wrote that “trying to get Bucks fans to appreciate Charlie Bell is like trying to get Republicans to read the health care bill.” I might have even tweeted that.

CB appreciatiation shouldn’t be that difficult. In January, he hounded D-Wade in two games over three days (13-39 shooting, 43 points). Brandon Jennings even called him “a D-Wade stopper” … in public. (I know, I know, it was close to singing Charlie’s praises, but bear with me …  there’s more.)

This was during a stretch in Jan.-Feb. (after Michael Redd went down for the season) in which Charlie started at guard with Brandon Jennings, shot 43% from Downtown, mugged every opposing two guard in sight and the Bucks went 8-4. Yet the local media handed the credit to newcomer Stackhouse, who hardly played in many of those games.  How such an obvious snub was even possible after the Bucks ran a popular “Charlie Bell Do My Job” promotion last summer, I don’t understand.  Milwaukee can be a strange town. But it certainly qualifies Charlie for the ranks of the unsung.

The Bucks had a rough season starting a rookie at point guard while dealing with Michael Redd’s on-again, off-again comeback from knee surgery, all the while trying to work two new forwards (Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova) into the rotation. Andrew Bogut, after a fast start, was injured in November and not fully healthy again until January.

Brandon Jennings exceeded everybody’s expectations in managing all this change — and deserves the ROY for it — but through it all there was steady old Charlie Bell, guarding everybody from Lebron to Kobe to Durant and D-Wade.  Overall, the Bucks were 21-18 with CB starting at guard, 19-16 before Salmons arrived — and a few of those losses came as a result of Redd’s experiments in fitting into the lineup.

The evidence is there. It’s irrefutable. The Bucks have won with Charlie, and at a playoff level clip. If nothing else, he’s one of the best 2-spot defenders in the game.  Yet the Bucks 22-8 record since Salmons will be what stands in the memories of Bucks fans.  Or it will be Brandon Jennings in his rookie year and Andrew Bogut’s All-Pro second half. Or Bogut’s horrific season-ending injury against the Suns.

If fans do think of Charlie, it may well be for one shot — a game winner Kobe Bryant hit over him in OT Dec. 16.  It seems there’s probably little doubt that shot’s a tune that’ll be sung somewhere, sometime, probably even right now.

8 thoughts on “Unsung Player: Charlie Bell

  1. Ariana Maniscalco

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  2. Kevin

    You kind of lost me on that one, let’s just compare the productivity per minutes played in this series.

  3. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Well, Kevin, obviously they’re not isolated but you probably know that. Nominating him as the unsung Bucks really was quite a stretch as far the Unsung Player Day guidelines went. Thank heavens for the daily paper in Milwaukee’s weirdness over Jerry Stackhouse. But I digress …

    Bucks-Hawks, Game 1 tip-off in 6 hours and 17 minutes. I’m stoked to say the least!

  4. Kevin

    I have no problem recognizing isolated incidents, and if I was able to see more games, I would know a few more. As of now, the only other one I have is Kobe hitting that gut wrenching game winner over Charlie. Also, that record with Charlie starting has many variables, mostly Brandon Jennings. And it doesn’t compare to Salmons’ record starting.

    Redd filled that role when he came into the league, and no team is going to trade for him. But Charlie could get his job back. Or be an assistant coach.

  5. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Nov. 30 vs. Chicago, Charlie outplayed John Salmons in a Bucks win …. but who will remember that? Or the 18 Charlie scored in breaking the Sixers seven game winning streak against the Bucks while Stack played six minutes? Who will remember Charlie against Boston? — telling Stack where to go in the half court offense, holding firm and forcing Ridnour to run the plays (which resulted in buckets for … Stack!) …

    Michael Redd can never fill that role and never will. No more Redd disasters for this team. Charlie fills the role all the time, the Bucks succeed, players develop, the team improves. Yet the praises are sung for others. And that is why, Charlie Bell is the Bucks honoree on Unsung Player Day.

  6. Kevin

    Stackhouse vs. Bell = Mike Tyson vs. Pee Wee Herman. Most games when they play about the same number of minutes, Stack comes up much bigger, no contest! He’s not the player he once was, but Charlie has to have his best game to come close. Jerry probably won’t be back next year, but he definitely gave us a lift. Hopefully, Michael Redd can fill that role next year if they keep Salmons. If Redd still thinks he is the team, then keep him inactive next year, like the Knicks did with Starbury.

  7. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Thanks Don, welcome to the Jinx – hope you take a look around.

    I’ll take this matchup with the Hawks any day over the alternative – the Celtics frontline would have dominated the Bucks without AB.

  8. Don (With Malice)

    Awesome suggestion – if Milwaukee are to have ANY hope of overcoming Atlanta – or even taking a few games, then guys like Bell are going to have to step up big.

    A pity Boges went down, because I think that the Bucks would have given a few teams a real shake.

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