(The Hawks have confirmed that Joe Johnson and Al Horford made the Eastern Conference All-Star team. See link below.)
Last week, former NBA and Michigan star Chris Webber – a relative newbie to broadcasting for TNT — said what I believe a lot of people were thinking: that Hawks guard Joe Johnson might be added to the Eastern Conference All-Star team but Jamal Crawford deserved it more.
In fact, I might even take that one step further. While Johnson is a three-time All-Star and again the team’s leading scorer — he had 31 points in a loss at San Antonio Wednesday night — a case could be made that he has been the Hawks’ third-best player this season, behind Crawford (the super sub)
and Josh Smith (who has matured and is less prone to firing up jumpers from Macon).
The balance of the All-Star teams will be named tonight. Odds are, Johnson will be included and Crawford and Smith will be excluded. It’s a numbers thing, and maybe a perception thing. Hawks coach Mike Woodson had a point the other day when he told our hoops guy, Michael Cunningham, that the team deserved to have multiple players in the All-Star game. (He sent letters to Eastern Conference coaches pushing for Johnson, Crawford, Smith and Al Horford.) But here’s my question: If the Hawks only get one in, is Johnson really the most deserving?
I phoned Webber, now an Atlanta resident, to ask him this. He backed off his original comments slightly, but not completely.
“The more I thought about it, I’ve decided Joe is deserving to be in the game,” Webber said. “I just felt it would be good to have an infusion of some new guys who deserved to be in the game, like Jamal and Carl Landry of Houston. Even though I think Jamal should be an All-Star, I know it would be strange not having the leading scorer on the team there but have a guy who’s averaging four points less a game than the other guy is. I think there would be a lot of trepidation on the part of the voters to do something like that.”
Webber also has become a big fan of Smith, saying: “He’s toned his three-point shooting and he’s been a lot more disciplined. I’m glad he’s proving himself.”
I asked Webber if I was crazy for thinking Johnson might be the Hawks’ third-best player this season.
“If you’re talking about third-most impactful this year, I could understand somebody thinking that,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t argue with that statement.”
Here are the numbers on Johnson, Crawford, Smith and Horford. I’ve also got a poll up. If you had one vote, whom would you say is the most deserving Hawk to be in the All-Star Game?
UPDATE II: The Hawks have confirmed that Joe Johnson and Al Horford — not Crawford or Smith — will be announced as Eastern Conference All-Stars. Congratulations to Horford, who made it for the first time. Here’s a link to the early AJC story, which will be updated later: