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Basketball Sat Apr 16 2011

NBA Playoffs: Top 10 Chicago Natives

The top-seeded Bulls will, of course, command most of your NBA playoff attention, but what about those nights when they're not playing? What if, heaven forbid, they get eliminated early?

Fortunately, the grand tradition of Chicago basketball means Derrick Rose isn't our only native son taking the stage this spring. (Heck, he's not even the only one on the Bulls roster; Jannero Pargo is a Robeson graduate, though he's only been on the team for a month and won't be on the playoff roster.) Trying rooting for these guys too:

Dwyane Wade, Heat (Harold L. Richards H.S.)
Our relationship with Wade was totally different a year ago, before the Super Friends became the greatest villains in sports and the primary obstacle to the Bulls' steadily growing title hopes. He was our basketball boyfriend before D-Rose, and still deserves some love. Just root for LeBron to fall apart; we'll get rid of the Heat that way.

Kevin Garnett, Celtics (Farragut Career Academy)
KG doesn't really qualify as a native son; he grew up in South Carolina and spent only his senior year at Farragut. And he's hardly easy for opposing fans to love, what with his legendary "intensity" on the court too often bleeding into "being an asshole." But hey, the guy was Illinois Mr. Basketball and USA Today's national player of the year while he was here in 1995. Your mileage may vary.

Juwan Howard, Heat (Chicago Vocational Career Academy)
Before he went to Michigan with the Fab Five and became one of the most overpaid (and then curiously long-serving) big men in recent NBA history, Howard was raised by his grandmother on the South Side. He still lives here in the off-season and has done a lot for local charities.

Tony Allen, Grizzlies (Crane H.S.)
An occasional role player on the Celtics' 2008 championship team, Allen has come into his own this season, cementing his reputation as one of the toughest, hardest-working perimeter defenders in the game. If you care about more than dunks and 3-pointers, you'll want to watch him guard Manu Ginobili in the first round.

Shannon Brown, Lakers (Proviso East H.S.)
In 2003, he joined Doc Rivers in the pantheon of Proviso East greats, winning Illinois Mr. Basketball and playing in the McDonald's All-American Game. He's one of the best leapers in the NBA, competing in the Slam Dunk contest last year, but his career has really taken off this season as a key reserve for Kobe's two-time champions.

Evan Turner, 76ers (St. Joseph H.S.)
Drafted second overall last year, the rookie wing man came up alongside Rose and Illini guard Demetri McCamey in the vaunted high school Class of 2007, one of the best in Chicago basketball history, and rejoined Rose in the NBA this season after three years at Ohio State. He hasn't been an immediate success with the Sixers, but he's been thrown into the fire in recent weeks and might be starting to find his footing.

Quentin Richardson, Magic (Whitney Young H.S.)
It's been a long time since Q was dating Brandy and scheming with Clippers teammate Darius Miles to take over the NBA. At 31, he's just a spare part off the bench for the Magic, playing a career-low 16.8 minutes per game. Even his 3-point shot has bottomed out at 28.8 percent. But we'll always remember when he was tearing it up at Whitney Young and DePaul.

Andre Iguodala, 76ers (Lanphier H.S., Springfield)
We're fudging a little here on geography, but hey, he was the Sun-Times player of the year in 2002. If he's in their coverage area, he qualifies as a Chicagoan. He's definitely fun to watch, especially now that he seems to have accepted he's not a front-line NBA star and has focused on his phenomenal athletic and defensive talents.

Melvin Ely, Nuggets (Thornton Township H.S.)
Another former McDonald's All-American and Sun-Times player of the year, Ely hasn't ever done much in the NBA, bouncing around to five teams in nine years. But he's long and strong (no word on his ability or willingness to get the friction on) and the Nuggets are the Ewing Theory underdogs of the year.

Nazr Mohammed, Thunder (Kenwood Academy)
Because someone has to root for the backup center.

If you want to start rooting for coaches, try Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich, Doug Collins or assistants Brian James, Mo Cheeks, Bob Ociepka and Craig Hodges.

Collins and Hodges of course also are former Bulls, as are Phil Jackson, Elton Brand, Tyson Chandler, Chris Duhon, Roger Mason Jr., Aaron Gray, Jim Cleamons and Bernie Bickerstaff.

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