Who is All-Star-worthy?
TYSON IS KNICKS' BACKBONE
Twenty-four games, 20 games and 14 games.
That's how many Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby have played this season. From their view on the bench, they have witnessed Tyson Chandler hold down the middle for the New York Knicks on both ends of the floor -- a big reason why he should be an All-Star reserve.
Not only has Chandler played through injury and illness to appear in all 39 games, but also he is averaging 12.2 points and 11 rebounds and leads the NBA with a .674 field goal percentages. Better yet, the Knicks (25-14) remain atop the Atlantic Division and are still competing defensively.
While Brook Lopez has the Nets hot in pursuit of the Knicks in the standings, he benefits from having a lot of muscle -- Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, Andray Blatche -- alongside him in the frontcourt. Without those guys, Lopez's second-chance opportunities would be limited. That's because Lopez, even at 7-0, is still a relatively weak rebounder (7.4 boards per game). On the flip side, Chandler is a game-changer on the glass -- especially with his tap-backs.
Case in point: Dec. 11 against the Nets. With 47 seconds to play, after a J.R. Smith miss, Chandler hit the ball back to Carmelo Anthony, who found Jason Kidd for the game-winning 3-pointer. Without that extra possession, the Knicks likely don't win.
Another knock on Lopez is that he doesn't cover the court like Chandler. Lopez's prime real estate is close to the basket. He can finish inside and come up with the big block, but his slower footwork prevents him from running the court well to finish with the fast-break dunk or guarding a pick-and-roll and sliding back to protect the basket. Chandler's agility in transition and half-court sets is much better, which scares opposing coaches.
He'll get even scarier when Raymond Felton returns. Before the point guard was injured, they formed the NBA's most formidable alley-oop combination.
Jared Zwerling covers the Knicks for ESPNNewYork.com.
BROOK AMONG NBA'S BEST
And to think, Lopez is on the bubble to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Lopez, 24, is an emerging star who would rather discuss comic books, video games, his affinity for the Detroit Tigers -- basically anything other than his Houston candidacy.
Whatever. Lopez has always been humble and unassuming, never one to politick for himself. But as he builds a case for one of the All-Star frontcourt reserve spots, the numbers do the talking for him.
As of Wednesday, Lopez is the only NBA player averaging at least 18 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game. He also leads all NBA centers in scoring (18.5 ppg).
Throughout his five-year career, Lopez has been known as a gifted offensive player. This season, he has improved as a rebounder and a defender, developing a solid all-around game.
The Nets (25-16) are 2-5 without Lopez, 0-5 versus winning teams. And let's be honest: If Lopez didn't miss seven games because of a sprained foot, Avery Johnson would still have his job.
Mike Mazzeo covers the Nets for ESPNNewYork.com.