“Emeka Okafor be roastin’!”
Yes, Billie. I need to apologize. In this space last week, I made fun of Emeka Okafor. Two days later, Connecticut notched a big-time, OT win over No. 12 Arizona and Okafor was even bigger with 19 points, 15 boards, and nine blocks.
I’m sorry, Billie.
That doesn’t mean, however, that — as Billie so subtly proclaimed when I told him about Tuesday’s NBA All-Star selections — “Emeka Ofakor is a frikkin’ all-star!” He looks like a promising center, the Huskies look like a promising team, but Okafor is not yet an all-star. Not in my mind, not in Division I ball, and certainly not in the NBA.
Unfortunately, neither are some of the names that really were on the rosters for the NBA’s 51st annual All-Star Game. In a week and a half, the following undeserving players will get to share the spotlight of Philly’s First Union Center with 21 real all-stars:
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Atlanta Hawks — For the last few years, every time the all-star rosters were announced, ‘Reef was one of the guys who should’ve made it but didn’t. His supporters blamed the small market of Vancouver. I’m blaming the crappy team of Vancouver, and guess what? Atlanta isn’t much better. Averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds is to be commended, but the Hawks are 14-30, and Abdur-Rahim isn’t even the best player on Jason Terry’s team.
Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat — There is no reason why there should be three centers on the East team. The Eastern Conference stinks, and their centers are even worse. Jermaine O’ Neal is the only legit big man anywhere east of L.A., but each team needs two centers and Mourning shouldn’t be one of them. ‘Zo used to be a real all-star, but now he averages 15 points and eight boards while the Heat are dead last in the Atlantic Division. That doesn’t add up to an all-star season.
Wally Szczerbiak, Minnesota Timberwolves — Everyone has been talking about how this selection was fair because as the fourth-best team in the league, Minnesota should get two all-stars. That’s ridiculous. This is the All-Star Game, not the All-Team Game. Szczerbiak’s improvement has been one of the reasons the Wolves are so good this year, but he’s not an all-star just yet. Want proof? Check out Wally’s line from Tuesday, the day he became an all-star: one-for-six shooting, four rebounds, zero assists, and three points in a 30-point drubbing by the 14-30 Cavaliers.
Of course, if Abdur-Rahim, Mourning, and Szczerbiak don’t deserve to be in the All-Star Game, then three others who didn’t make the cut do deserve to be heading to Philly on Feb. 10. My picks for the three guys who got snubbed by the NBA (Emeka Okafor not included):
Andre Miller, Cleveland Cavaliers — Okay, so Cleveland is having a rough year. Miller, on the other hand, is leading the league in assists at 10.3 a game, and scoring 16 points each outing as well. Anyone who leads the league in any major statistical category deserves to be an all-star.
Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons — Likewise, Wallace leads the league in blocks and is fifth in rebounding. He doesn’t have much offensive game, but the Pistons are playing much-improved basketball this season, and Big Ben is one of the main reasons why.
Elton Brand, L.A. Clippers — The Clippers actually might make the playoffs this year, and it is entirely because they had the genius to trade for Brand during the off-season. His critics in Chicago said Brand only put up the numbers he did because he played for the worst team in NBA history, but now Elton is on a talent-laden Clippers team and he’s still recording double-doubles almost every night.
There are a few more players who should count themselves unlucky, simply because there aren’t enough spots on the all-star rosters to accommodate them. Jerry Stackhouse, Baron Davis, and Stephon Marbury should all be going to Philly, but as there isn’t enough room for them in the All-Star Game, how about trying the dunk contest, guys? Vince and Kobe are going to give the same stupid excuses they gave last year for ditching the real highlight of All-Star Weekend, and if someone random like Desmond Mason is named Slam Dunk Champion again, the NBA is going to bring back that silly WNBA propaganda vehicle called Two-Ball.
To Jerry, Baron, and Stephon (and to Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, and Ray Allen as well): you don’t want Two-Ball back, do you?