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kriD
01-29-2007, 11:33 AM
BIG SHOTS

Classic centers starting to thrive again in the NBA

By DWAIN PRICE
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

Over the past few years, it seemed traditional centers in the mold of Shaquille O'Neal had gone the way of the dinosaur.

Not anymore.

With Yao Ming flourishing (when healthy), Dwight Howard arriving, and Amare Stoudemire re-emerging, big is back in the NBA.

In an era when the game is being dominated by guards and forwards, traditional, back-to-the-basket centers are showing that they, too, can stand their ground.

Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations, has an interesting explanation as to why traditional centers are once again emerging.

"I think the good Lord sometimes puts them down on this great earth in bunches," Nelson said. "Like this year's crop [possibly with Greg Oden] is supposed to be a bumper one in the draft, and then sometimes it's a lean crop. But there's no rhyme or reason to it."

Yao struggled to gain his stamina as a rookie after the Houston Rockets made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft. But since that first season, he has turned into a franchise player.

Mavs assistant coach Del Harris said teams are always beating the bushes trying to find the next great center. They're just not easy to find.

"There has not been enough of this type of ballplayer available," said Harris, who has coached Moses Malone and O'Neal. "It's not that they were out there and people didn't want them.

"People have always wanted guys like Howard or Bynum or the good big players."

Why?

"Good and big will beat good and small most of the time," Harris said.

Stoudemire's return from knee surgery last year is one of the main reasons the Phoenix Suns have put together the best record in the NBA.

Howard has shown why the Orlando Magic chose him with the top pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

"He is a machine, and he's got everything," Nelson said. "The only thing he doesn't have is a 3-point shot. He's the kind of guy you build a franchise around."

Andrew Bynum could be a future cornerstone for the LA Lakers. As the 10th pick of the 2005 draft out of high school, he became the youngest player in NBA history. Now 19 years old and in his second season, he has shown quite an upside, averaging 10.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in January.

"I definitely think that we have some bright young centers who are on the horizon that are on their way up," Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw said. "Yao Ming is still relatively young [26], so there should be some good battles and some good rivalries that develop over the next few years."

And what about the impending arrival of Ohio State freshman phenom Greg Oden? If you believe the hype, he's the low-post version of LeBron James, attending college only because NBA rules now prohibit players from jumping from high school directly to the league.

"People want to compare Oden to Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Shaq," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "But they were playing against four-year players who were going to go to the NBA, whereas now this is the first season where you're getting the big guys [coming out of high school] who are going to college first.

"So it's really hard to say [how good he is], because he doesn't play against anybody big. But just athletically and skill-wise, it sure looks like he's going to be a stud."

But it's not always an easy road to success.

New York Knicks center Eddy Curry and Mavs backup center DeSagana Diop are proof that it often takes time to develop. Curry was the fourth overall pick by Chicago in the 2001 draft -- the same draft in which Cleveland selected Diop eighth.

Both players entered the NBA from high school, with Curry showing incremental improvement almost every season. Diop's first few seasons with the Cavs were marred by injuries, growing pains and inconsistency, but he was a productive defensive presence in his first season with the Mavs last year, starting 45 games.

Now Curry and Diop, who turns 25 Tuesday, could also find themselves part of the big man renaissance.

"It's like anything else, you don't know where these guys are going to pop up," Nelson said. "It could be a 7-6 Yao Ming in China, it could be a 7-5 Arvydas Sabonis in Europe, or it could be Hakeem Olajuwon or Dikembe Mutombo or DeSagana in the middle of Africa. It's random."


POST-ER BOYS

The future of strong low-post play in the NBA seems to be in good hands, thanks to these five:


Amare Stoudemire, Suns

Age: 24

Ht./Wt.: 6-10/245

18.8 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.4 bpg

The least traditional of the bunch, but he has the size, quickness and skill to dominate.


Andrew Bynum, Lakers

Age: 19

Ht./Wt.: 7-0/275

8.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg

Still very much a project, but he has flashed serious potential. Excellent defensive instincts.


Greg Oden, Ohio State

Age: 19

Ht./Wt.: 7-0/280

15.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.6 bpg

Strong and agile athlete who likely will be the top draft pick if he leaves after his freshman year.


Yao Ming, Rockets

Age: 26

Ht./Wt.: 7-6, 310

25.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg

The best center on the planet -- when healthy. Extremely skilled and an excellent shooter.


Dwight Howard, Magic

Age: 21

Ht./Wt.: 6-11/265

17.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg

Most GMs would tell you he is the most special player in the game. He's freakishly athletic.

jthig32
01-29-2007, 11:36 AM
Since when is Amare a traditional center????????/

kg_veteran
01-29-2007, 12:54 PM
Since when is Amare a traditional center????????/

Yeah, if you're going to go with the quasi-center, I think Tim Duncan would be the prototype, not Amare, who has no post-up game at all.

TheDiggler
01-29-2007, 01:01 PM
Amare is NOT a center.....he is a legit power forward on a small team. He doesnt have a post game. Where is Timmy Ducan on that list? He is a 7 fter and has the BEST low post game in the league along with Ming.

Usually Lurkin
01-29-2007, 01:46 PM
if they mentioned Duncan, they'd have a hard time arguing that the players they are writing about are a resurgance of something that had disappeared.

mqywaaah
01-29-2007, 02:23 PM
ok, I disagree with everybody that Amare shouldnt be on that list. I also believe that given the right allowance to develop, Mbenga has the possibility of being on that list. Well call it homerism but I openly admit that I feel that way.



Go Mavs! Arriba!

Dtownsfinest
01-29-2007, 03:58 PM
I don't think Duncan is listed because they went to the younger centers around the league. Most seem to be under 25 according to that list. Really though saying Amare isn't a center is like saying Dirk isn't a power foward IMO. What sets Amare way from being a center? Because he doesn't post up?

jthig32
01-29-2007, 04:03 PM
I don't think Duncan is listed because they went to the younger centers around the league. Most seem to be under 25 according to that list. Really though saying Amare isn't a center is like saying Dirk isn't a power foward IMO. What sets Amare way from being a center? Because he doesn't post up?

The point of the article is that the traditional, back to the basket, post up center is now back in the league.

Amare is not that kind of player.

It'd be like writing an article stating that the bruising, low-block scoring PF was back in the game, and citing Dirk as an example.

Usually Lurkin
01-29-2007, 04:19 PM
yeah. Amare is the epitome of a "new center." You know, that revolutionary mobile big man whos presence has made the classic center an obsolete notion? He is the replacement for the traditional, back to the basket, classic center. He's not the resurgence of that Shaq like player.

Dtownsfinest
01-30-2007, 02:41 AM
The point of the article is that the traditional, back to the basket, post up center is now back in the league.

Amare is not that kind of player.

It'd be like writing an article stating that the bruising, low-block scoring PF was back in the game, and citing Dirk as an example.


So Dwight Howard is a "traditional, back to the basket, post up center" now? Amare and Dwight are very similar players. Howard has more athleticism and is a better shot blocker but they are in the same mold IMO.

4cwebb
01-30-2007, 03:13 AM
So Dwight Howard is a "traditional, back to the basket, post up center" now? Amare and Dwight are very similar players. Howard has more athleticism and is a better shot blocker but they are in the same mold IMO.

The only reason some think that those two aren't very similar is that Dwight doesn't play with a pick-n-roll guy like Nash (or for a coach like D'Antoni that wants to run, run, run).

Thespiralgoeson
01-30-2007, 03:15 AM
So Dwight Howard is a "traditional, back to the basket, post up center" now? Amare and Dwight are very similar players. Howard has more athleticism and is a better shot blocker but they are in the same mold IMO.

Eh, other than their sheer athleticism, I don't think they have a lot in common. While Howard isn't really a prototypical center, he's much closer than Amare. Howard is a phenominal rebounder, shotblocker, and a much better defender than Amare.

They do both rely on their athleticism to score, but the thing is, Howard only does so because he just has a very limited offensive game. Amare OTOH, is a much better ball-hander, and plays the game outside-in. Howard just doesn't have the skillset do to what Amare does. He'd be much more effective if he polished his post-game.