I’ll get back to Ray and D-Wade and the Heat … First …
The beleaguered-yet-determined Bucks — what’s left of them — are out west, headed for Denver where who-does-what-now should decide how the lineup shakes up when Bogut is ready to come back to work. The early returns suggest that Ersan Ilyasova has taken Drew Gooden’s starting power forward job and John Salmons may end up taking a seat soon so that he and the Bucks can figure out what ails him.
The better-than-expected arrival of Chris Douglas-Roberts Saturday and the pending return of Corey Maggette gives the Bucks some options with the Fish, who’s sluggish game thus far has made me miss Charlie Bell. CD-R in two games has been just what the Bucks have needed — an NBA guard who can hit a shot. (15 pts per game on excellent 61.1% eff-shooting.)
Ersan Ilyasova in Utah (18 pts on 10 shots, six tough-to-get-in-Utah rebs and three steals) continued to show that when he gets minutes, he produces. In the 7 games that Ersan has played 25+ minutes, he’s averaging 14.6 ppg and 7.1 rpg, shooting an e-fg rate of 53.2% — that’ll win a few games for the Bucks if he keeps it up. He’s also managed 13 steals, pretty impressive for a power forward.
And no, Ersan’s not riding a six steal game or getting a bump from a 27 pt break-out — he has consistently scored and wreaked havoc on opposing offenses in each of the seven games that Skiles has given him 25+ the minutes. All evidence suggests that Ersan has recovered from leading Turkey to a silver medal at the 2010 World Championships, and has likewise recovered from the early season benching-by-Skiles that his Turkish heroics earned him back in Milwaukee.
ALL STAR VOTING: This apparent rebooting of the Bucks has given me time to think about the All-Star ballot and mull over what’s been what in the first one-fifth of the season. Have Lebron and D-Wade really earned a trip to the All-Star game? Why do the Spurs and Lakers refuse to allow their centers to be listed as centers? And who’s to stop me from voting four Celtics as the East starters?
On this last question: Nobody. So I did. And I probably will again until Lebron James does something truly impressive, like listen to his coach, Erik Spoelstra. Rajon Rondo is an obvious choice to be the east starter at point guard. I’ve seen enough Paul Pierce this season to know that he’s still knocking ’em down with clockwork regularity and leading the Celtics in scoring. Those two selections were easy.
At power forward I would consider voting for Lebron, because the Heat don’t have one now that Udonis Haslem is hurt (note: this wasn’t intended as a knock on Chris Bosh but the word “power” just doesn’t connote the word “Bosh” in my mind.) And I would consider voting for the Hawks Al Horford if only he were not listed as a center. Anybody who saw Dwight Howard and the Magic pummel the Hawks in four straight in the East semi-finals knows that Al Horford is not a center. Anybody who watched the Bucks take the Hawks apart earlier this season knows the same — the Hawks don’t let Horford guard Andrew Bogut, instead starting Jason Collins at center against the Bucks. Horford’s not big enough to tangle with Bogut, Howard, Noah, Lopez, the real centers of the East.
Dwight Howard is the All-Star starter at center, and it’s too bad Bogut hasn’t given Bucks fans a reason to vote for him … yet. Let’s hope that changes. Right now, Joakim Noah has the edge to be the backup center to Howard.
That leaves me with Kevin Garnett at power forward. Sure, he backs away when confronted by guys like Bogut, but he’s still KG — love him, loathe him, he’s at least that — and his Celtics are still the team to beat in the East. Done. That’s three Celtics and a maybe for Lebron. Maybe, but not now. Did I forget Amar’e Stoudemire? I forgot Amar””e, though he may be listed as a center, which makes him not only forgettable but irrelevant here. I seem to have forgotten Chris Bosh, too. Imagine that. Bosh has not played like an All-Star in 2010, going back to last season. (If you watched him in Toronto at the end of last season, you’d have wondered who was leading the Raptors in their bid for the playoffs.)
My shooting guard should be Dwyane Wade, shouldn’t it? This is usually automatic. But after two losses to the Celtics in which Ray Allen scored 55 points on him and shot 20 for 36 — see highlight reel above — it’s time to reconsider. On the season, Ray’s shooting better than any long range gunner has a right to — 56.8% effectively, which takes into account his 44% shooting from Downtown. Ray’s a weapon, pure and simple. D-Wade is scoring 21.3 pts per game but it’s been a struggle to get those, and with the weapons the Heat have, his assists shouldn’t be down. In Atlanta, Joe Jonson has also struggled to be the triple-threat that he was last season. In Boston, Ray just lets the game come to him. Easy, nothing but net.
One-fifth of the season done, the Celtics and Magic are leading the East at 12-4. Punch it in: Four Celtics and Dwight to the 2011 All-Star game.
THE WEST: This is much tougher since I don’t watch the West as much as the East. But these teams/the NBA (whoever makes the call on the ballot) don’t make it easy to pick a forward, do they? Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan — two big men who mostly play center — are listed as forwards. Dirk, West, Carmelo Anthony, what’s the voting fan to do? At this point in the season, I’m punching in Gasol and New Orleans Bucks-assassin David West but that could change. Dirk, carrying the Mavs and dropping the occasional 4o — deserve a vote.
The West guards: Kobe, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant … After Deron Williams‘ shredding of the Bucks last night, I went with Deron. This brought to mind CP3’s expert game management in the Hornets two wins over the Bucks, so I gave the nod to Chris Paul, in recognition that the NBA is a better place with CP3 in it. I then immediately thought of Kobe’s 30-point game in Milwaukee and how Brandon Roy’s Blazers handed the Bucks arses to them, also in Milwaukee. Good thing Durant missed his game in Brewtown. I may have to vote again.
Yao doesn’t need my vote at center, but he’s the only center on the ballot for the West. There’s Haywood in Dallas, but he doesn’t start. Tyson Chandler anyone? Didn’t see him on the ballot. Yao, even in his part time role, is out indefinitely with a bone spur. Nene Hilario?
C’mon. Don’t make me vote for Chris Kaman. At last check, Kaman says he doesn’t want “to be a hindrance” to the young Clippers. The West has not All-Star worthy center on the ballot, so I picked Yao, figuring it was the fair thing to do because he won’t play anyway and that’ll open up a spot for a deserving forward who plays center — which will then open up a forward spot, which will help ensure that somebody like David West isn’t snubbed. See how this works — or does it?
I’ll probably have to vote again tomorrow to see how all this settles.