Archive for Thursday, January 20, 2005

Commentary: Hinrich could be rare Bulls All-Star

Chicago hasn’t landed player in showcase game since 1998, but that should change this year

January 20, 2005

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The NBA, to inject more life into what is becoming a tedious All-Star weekend, is considering a format change to match a team of NBA All-Stars from both conferences against the streaking, young Bulls.

Perhaps not, but it would be entertaining. After all, who would have thought that nearly midway through the season the Bulls would have the same number of losses as the co-preseason favorite Minnesota Timberwolves? Or that the Houston Rockets with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady would have the same number of losses as the Bulls with Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler? Or that the Bulls' record would be good enough to lead the Atlantic Division?

So, why couldn't the Bulls have their first All-Star since 1998 in Kirk Hinrich?

"The first time since 1998" remains the answer to every question asked about the Bulls these days. Recently at the United Center, someone had five hot dogs in their lap ready to eat, and someone thought they were seeing that for the first time since 1998.

Everyone's fat around the Bulls these days.

Especially Hinrich, who leads the Bulls in scoring, assists, steals, three-pointers made and minutes played. He is shooting 83 percent on free throws, playing both guard positions and usually defending the opponents' tougher or bigger guard since the beginning of December. So why not, finally, a Bulls' All-Star?

It isn't going to be easy for Hinrich, who has been the Bulls' most consistent and important player all season.

The best players in the East are guards. And the two leading the voting at the position, LeBron James and Allen Iverson, are the East's two best players.

Plus, one could make a good case for Dwyane Wade, a shoo-in, Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Jamaal Tinsley and Gilbert Arenas. And that's leaving out Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, Jamal Crawford, Gary Payton and Larry Hughes (now injured).

But, for our purposes, this is the team as it should be instead of the way it will be. The guards should be James, Iverson, Wade, Francis, Hamilton, Arenas and Hinrich.

All-Stars, unless they are exceptional, should come mostly from winning teams. Sorry, Marbury always seems to fall short. Kidd has been hurt and moans too much. Pierce has become a pouting, selfish shooter. Tinsley probably deserves a nod for helping hold the Pacers together after the suspensions, but Hinrich has been steadier all season.

As for the forwards, Vince Carter has the second-most votes in the East after center Shaquille O'Neal. But he's no longer a true All-Star.

What Carter has going for him is such a weak field that Bulls rookie Luol Deng probably deserves a look. Among the league's top-10 rebounders, there are two from the Eastern Conference, O'Neal and Emeka Okafor.

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