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Tuesday, January 31

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Bulls Sat Jan 19 2013

Bulls Front Court Deserve All-Star Nods

Bulls_200.pngThe 62nd annual All-Star Game starters were announced Friday with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng finishing seventh and twelfth (dis)respectively, while Carlos Boozer didn't even crack the top 15. The All-Star starter online vote is a popularity contest where reputation, marketable star power and suburban school-children are the deciding factors for election. Unfortunately for the Bulls starting front court, there's nothing 50 Shades of Grey sexy about double-doubles, playing 40 minutes a game, and true shooting percentages above 52%. Members of the TNT broadcasting crew suggested Noah and Boozer warrant a shot, and Coach Thibodeau thinks Deng should make his second appearance in as many years. There is hope for this trio to make the All-Star Game as reserves. Why is this even important for them to play in a presumed meaningless game? Aside from contract incentives, All-Star players money pool share, and a free trip to Houston, the NBA All-Star Game means a lot to its players and fans.

The three other professional sports leagues' All Star Games doesn't hurt or help in the growth of their sport, but the NBA's does. MLB tries to make its All-Star Game meaningful by having the winning league of the exhibition host the seven-game World Series championship. The NFL's Pro-Bowl, which I've been to three times on family Hawaiian vacations, is only exciting when the players are introduced and then hearing the pockets of fans of that player's team cheer. The game itself is a half-speed, full-throttle nightmare. Hockey's All-Star Game doesn't even happen every fours years because of the Winter Olympics, and this year due to greed. The NBA is a time for a lot of African-American families to get together in a ritual that Chicagoan sportswriting demigod, Michael Wilbon calls "Black Thanksgiving." The players seem to love adoration a spot on the team garners, and for the rest of their lives they can call themselves an All Star. Just ask Wally Szczerbiak how much respect he's received due to the honor.

Making a case for Noah.

It's perceived by most hoop-headed insiders that Noah will make the All-Star team now that Anderson Varajao is injured, and last year All-Star center, Roy Hibbert has been playing poorly. Noah's averaging a double-double, playing the third most minutes per game in the league, he's number one among centers in assists, not to mention he's the Bulls interim leader. At his position in the Eastern conference he's in fourth in blocks, third in steals, and 11th in fouls per game, which is an over looked stat, but an all-important one when it comes to a team success. If we were to do a power rankings of intangibles amongst centers in the NBA, Noah would be ranked first, and it wouldn't even be close. If the Bulls were to only have one player chosen to be an All-Star, I would hope it's Noah. Deng and Boozer have been there before, and in the Eastern Conference, where there's an abundance of good young centers, there's no telling if he'll get another chance due to circumstance.

Backing Boozer.

Boozer's time in Chicago has been a bit uncomfortable. After signing a big contract to play for the Bulls in 2010, Boozer tripped over a gym bag at home and injured himself, causing him to miss two months of the season. Ever since the ink dried on his contract Bulls fans have called for him and his rich to be amnestied. Oh, and this happened. In year three with the team, when the organization has needed his scoring and rebounding the most, Boozer has finally come through. He leads the Eastern Conference in double-doubles with 21. He's the third most efficient forward out of the East behind Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James. And he's fifth in the points-rebounds-assist category of Eastern forwards. Though he's not the most valuable player on his team, he's the most important. No one else on the squad could reproduces his offensive input while Derrick Rose is out.

Deng Redux.

With his own Coach coaching the Eastern All-Stars last year, Deng only saw six minutes of action in the contest after he took a fall. His stats across the board are improved over last year, with a large part of that due to Rose's rehab. He's scoring more, and shooting the ball at a better percentage. He's top five in assists at his position, in his conference. Deng leads the NBA in minutes per game. He may be the toughest sell though for a place on the roster. Paul Pierce refuses to regress and is playing his best season in years. Other do-it-all small forwards like Paul George and J.R. Smith have a buzz around them and it would be their first appearance, which mentally serves as tie-breaker in the minds of the coaches who vote for the reserves. Deng should be rewarded but nothing would be taken away from him is he misses the trip to the game in Houston. Honestly, he could probably use a night off.

If sports gambling were legal in Chicago, I would say put all your All-Star hope chips on number 13, Joakim Noah. The full All-Star rosters will be announced Thursday, Jan. 24. Keep your fingers crossed, and your heads up. All Stars or no All Stars, the Bulls are playing very well and additional help is on the way.

* All positional rankings courtesy official NBA league leaders stats page. Stats as of 1/17/13.

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