The All-Star reserves, voted on by coaches, will be announced tonight (coverage begins at 7 p.m. on TNT). The Hawks will be repped for sure, and the question is how many guys they will place on the team.
(UPDATE: A few minutes before the official announcement, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the East reserves are Al, Joe, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh. The league officially announced reserves a few minutes later.)
Unless something crazy happens, Al will make the team. J.J isn’t a certainty but he’s got a good shot. Smoove is the wild card, though Hawks blog legend Sekou gave him the nod over Joe.
Josh, if your remember, downplayed his desire to be an All-Star last season both before and after he was left off the team. Then after going on a tear in the weeks following the announcement of the reserves, he admitted he very much wanted to be an All-Star and motivated by the perceived snub.
This time he’s not pretending he doesn’t want to be on the team.
“I hope I make it,” he said today. “I’m a little anxious. As long as at least two of us make it, that’s all that matters. I think we are a good enough team to get at least two guys. We all have the stats to make our claim. Every year there is going to be a snub. We will see what happens at 7 o’clock.”
Josh thought he should have been on the team last year and he thinks he’s playing better ball now.
“I can make my claim,” Josh said. “I played in every game this season. I’ve been one of the more consistent players in the East. However they see it, I have got to respect the choices.”
To me Al’s case is pretty simple. He was named an All-Star last season, when there was more competition for spots. He’s improved this year by every measure, the Hawks are still winning and there’s less comp. So he should make it again.
“I think this season I feel more confidence as a player and I feel like I am having a better year,” Al said.
Al got the five-year, $60 million extension but said that was coincidental to his improved play.
“I think it was business as usual,” Al said. “If you’ve been following my career, I feel like I’ve been getting better each year I’ve been in the league and adding different things. It just happened I got the extension at that time. Coming into the season, I felt really good about my game.”
J.J. has been on fire the last month or so. Clearly the elbow had something to do with his lackluster play to start the season.
“Health and confidence,” J.J. said of the difference between now and then. “Confidence takes you a long way.”
Before he found out he needed surgery, was there ever a time when his confidence was shaken?
“Maybe a little,” Johnson said. “It was an unfortunate thing. I am glad it was out of the way now.”
Was it somewhat of a relief, then, to find out that the elbow was the issue?
“Maybe so,” he said. “I think everything happens for a reason. I didn’t know what the reason was [he was struggling]. I was coming out and trying to do everything it took to give the team everything I had. Early in the season it was a struggle. I knew eventually I would overcome it.”
And now Joe says he feels fresher at this point of the season than previously.
“I think that is going to help in the long run, especially April and May,” he said. “I look forward to finishing off the season and getting back to the playoffs and, for us, proving everybody wrong.”
All three Hawks can make claim to be included among the players added to the East squad behind starters Dwight, LeBron, Amar’e, D-Wade and D-Rose.
Noah is hurt, so that leaves the Hawks’ trio competing for votes with a group that should include Rondo, Pierce, Bosh, Ray Allen, KG, Boozer and Raymond Felton. (The list ends here with the assumption that coaches won’t vote for players from the East’s losers unless they are having All-World seasons, thus ruling out the likes of Bogut, Granger and Brook Lopez.)
Rondo and Pierce are shoo-ins. Rondo runs point for the East’s best team while leading the league in assists per game and is second in steals. Pierce leads the C’s in scoring and has been highly efficient, so far posting career highs in effective field-goal percentage, true shooting percentage and win shares per 48 minutes.
Bosh’s production and efficiency have fallen off; the former was expected playing with LeBron and D-Wade, the latter can mostly be contributed to his slow start. He’s recovered and managed to find his fit as the third SuperFriend. Bosh certainly thinks he’s in since he’s the key cog for a winner.
So assuming Al, J.J., Rondo, Pierce and Bosh make it that would leave two spots for East reserves with Smoove vying with Allen, KG and Boozer.
Boozer is putting up his usual numbers but he’s played just 30 games and the Bulls won without him. Felton has the New York hype going for him but he’s cooled off and looks like the player we thought he was. KG and Allen’s have been just OK from a production standpoint so a vote for them would be a vote for the C’s being head and shoulders above the rest of the East (cool) or lifetime achievement (I guess).
L.D. made his case for Joe last night and today did the same for J.J. and Smoove.
“I think both guys deserve it, I really do,” he said. “I think Al has been very consistent throughout this first half of the schedule. And I think Josh has played really well. His overall play has been phenomenal. He has really developed his outside shot. He has shown the ability to make a 3. He just does everything else. He’s an assist guy, he’s a rebound guy, he blocks shot. I think he has had a phenomenal first half of the season and to me he is an All-Star.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat