Reserve Judgment

BY foxsports • February 3, 2011

By Jon Cooper
FOXSportsSouth.com
February 3, 2011

That the Atlanta Hawks have two representatives headed to All-Star Weekend says something about the Hawks and the state of the Eastern Conference.

Guard Joe Johnson and center Al Horford will be making the trip to Los Angeles for the NBA's showcase event, to be held on Sunday, Feb. 20 at Staples Center, making the Hawks one of three teams from the East with multiple representatives and giving Atlanta the same number of reps as the host Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West.

The 12-man Eastern squad is comprised of Miami's big three - LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were voted starters, and Chris Bosh, chosen as a reserve. Orlando's Dwight Howard, Chicago's Derrick Rose and New York's Amar'e Stoudemire complete the starting five. Horford and Johnson, and four of Boston's starting five (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo) add to the reserves. That's three teams making up nine of the 12 spots.

While the roster is drastically imbalanced, it's not far from wrong. Chicago is running away with a Central Division that is a horror show after the Bulls. Boston and New York are the only respectable teams in the Atlantic and Miami, Atlanta and Orlando are a three-horse race, with the Heat leading the Hawks and Magic by 3 1/2 games.

That two Hawks are included in this party is a sign of respect for Horford and Johnson.

Horford, who has never missed an All-Star Weekend in his four NBA seasons, is making his second straight appearance in the All-Star Game itself (his first two seasons he played in the Rookies Challenge and the Youth Jam), He has enhanced his reputation as an all-around talent, as his 24 double-doubles are seventh in the NBA. Although naturally a power forward, Horford has shown his toughness, by handling guys bigger than him on a nightly basis since he came into the League in 2008. This season, he's pulling down 9.9 rebounds per game (seventh in the League), 7.3 on the defensive end and 2.5 off the offensive glass (19th). Offensively, he has taken his game up a notch this season. "Boss" is averaging 16.1 ppg, on 56.7 percent shooting, 81.3 percent from the line and 3.6 assists per game, all career-highs. Off the court, he is the kind of class act and ambassador that the NBA, or any professional league, dreams of.

Johnson, meanwhile, continues to do what he's always done, score and quietly lead the Hawks to the top half of the conference. Joe has earned enough of a reputation as a bigtime scorer to make his fifth straight All-Star appearance


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