With the 2004 NBA All-Star Game just around the corner, it's time once again for the third annual All-Quasar Team. As all the eggheads and Googlers can tell you, quasar is short for quasi-stellar, the description of a celestial object that in many ways resembles a star but is not. In the roundball universe, Quasars are players who have had a pivotal role in their team's success but are not likely, now or ever, to be recognized by the league's official midseason classic.
Here are the qualifications for selection: Only players on teams above .500 as of 9 a.m., Jan. 28 are eligible. Teams over .500 are represented only if they have a quasar type -- the closest the Kings have, for example, is Darius Songaila and he's not quite there. Players on teams overachieving, in the eyes of the committee (me), get extra credit. Partiality is also shown to players who have been maligned, unfairly or otherwise, and have switched from a negative to a positive influence. (That being because quasars, in the real world, are not that far away from being a black hole and because I'm a sap for reclamation projects.)
Efficiency in limited minutes also gets extra weight. In other words, whatever argument you can raise for someone being more deserving, I can counter with a valid justification, even if it requires making one up after the fact.
So, without further padding or procrastination, your 2004 All-Quasars:
Antonio Daniels, Sonics. Flip Murray received all the pub for his early-season scoring in place of Ray Allen, but Daniels has been far more effective and efficient at both ends of the floor. Logging less than 20 minutes a night, he's averaging 7.9 points on 51 percent field-goal shooting, 40 percent from the 3-point arc and flashing a gaudy 4.67 assist/turnover ratio. He's shooting better from the arc than Flip is overall.
Dan Gadzuric, Bucks. The numbers are modest but he's seventh in the league in rebounding efficiency per minute, fourth in blocked shots per minute played and indispensable for a team with all its talent on the perimeter. His tag-team partner, Brian Skinner, deserves mention for his recent play but missed nearly two months with a knee injury. Watching the rail-thin Gadzuric effectively and stoically do all the dirty work is one of the league's secret pleasures. He's averaging nearly two blocked shots a game and has a positive assist/turnover ratio, all major improvements over last season. You try doing that after wearing wooden clogs your whole life.
James Posey, Grizzlies. He gives off one of the league's worst vibes but you can't argue with the tenacity he brings, particularly as a ball-hawking defensive stopper and open-court slasher. He has been huge in Memphis' 10-2 January mark, shooting better than 50 percent overall, better than 45 percent from the arc and getting to the free-throw line every single game. A betting man might've had Bonzi Wells taking over Posey's starting spot after the deal with Portland, but instead Wells has seen his minutes shrink and Posey's role grow. Deservedly.
Marcus Camby, Nuggets. Fragile as a Middle East cease fire, he's one away from matching his career high for double-doubles (10) in a season and seven appearances from matching his number of games played for the last two seasons combined. Blocked shots average (2.5) is his highest in six seasons. Cases could be made for teammates Earl Boykins and Voshon Lenard as well.
Jim Jackson, Rockets. Made the 2003 All-Quasar team for his contributions to the Kings. The ultimate utility player, he handles the ball against pressure when Steve Francis doesn't and takes the toughest swing defensive assignments. His perimeter shooting (42.2 percent) and rebounding (career-high six per game) have shored up two of Houston's biggest weaknesses.
Hedo Turkoglu, Spurs. Lost his spot to Jim Jackson in the Kings' rotation last year but has recovered with a vengeance in San Antonio by dropping 30 pounds and committing himself to rebounding and defense. The handle and perimeter shooting were always there when healthy but he's shaping himself into a complete player now. Provides everything Stephen Jackson did last year without the insanity.