For the first time in a long time, the Bucks can rightfully claim they are getting worked over at the ballot box.
Glenn Robinson is currently 10th among forwards in Eastern Conference All-Star voting, behind the likes of Marcus Camby, Elton Brand and Brian Grant. No one has ever applauded fan voting as being completely righteous, but Robinson should be a no-brainer starter at the small forward slot.
Vince Carter leads all Eastern forwards, though the scoring machine is really more of an off-guard (2) than a small forward (3). Grant Hill is in second despite playing in just four games this year. And three Knicks forwards -- Camby, Latrell Sprewell and Glen Rice -- having less-than-terrific years are also in front of the Big Dog.
Silly fan voting aside, though, Robinson is having his best year as a professional. Glenn leads the first-place Bucks in scoring (22.3) and rebounding (7.5) and is second to Sam Cassell in assists (3.7). He's also shooting 47.1 percent from the field, a terrific mark for a jump shooter. And while any Big Dog critic can always resort to accusing him of defensive negligence, Robinson is actually playing the best D of his career, averaging a block per game and just little over a steal per night to go with it. Finally, he's on pace to end with up with roughly 100 fewer turnovers than the 319 of his rookie season.
The Bucks' No. 1 overall pick in 1994 is suddenly in his seventh NBA season. While more than a few people questioned his selection over both Jason Kidd and Grant Hill (the pair would go on to share Rookie of the Year honors), Robinson has finally arrived as an NBA star. Would the Bucks be better off with Kidd or Hill today? No one will ever know, but the off-season cries for Robinson to be traded look more foolish by the day.
You had a feeling Robinson would always be defined by what he was not when he entered the NBA. His spectacular two-year career at Purdue was punctuated by one of the best collegiate seasons I ever saw -- 30.3 ppg and 10.1 rpg (both led the Big Ten) and armloads of Wooden, Naismith and other All-America team honors.
But Robinson had the misfortune of being cast opposite Hill his rookie year, and Hill was everything the good people at Sprite and the NBA's marketing machine could ever want. Hill was (and probably still is) a more well-rounded player than Robinson when they entered the league, he came from pro sports bloodlines (father Calvin played with the Cowboys), he was good-looking and at ease in front of the cameras (you have to be to play at Duke), and he could even play the piano. Meanwhile, Robinson was introspective, practically brooding and only concerned with conducting interviews as far as it allowed him to shoot baskets for a living.
Hill made an immediate splash with the fans and has become an All-Star staple, making the Eastern squad every year since 1995. Robinson didn't make his first All-Star appearance until last season and showed some bitterness over that fact along the way. While the argument against Robinson often cited the Bucks' team struggles, the Pistons weren't exactly Jordan's Bulls during this time either (neither players' team has won a first-round playoff series). In reality, Hill was the better overall player -- their career stats are fairly similar but for Hill's 6.3 apg to Robinson's 2.9 -- but Robinson simply never received credit for what he was: a borderline lethal shooter who scored 22 points on a nightly basis.
But the comparison with Hill is no longer really valid; Robinson has become his own player. His role in Milwaukee's success over the last two years is hard to argue. There have been nights this season (last week's 14-for-18 against the Nets, for one) when Robinson seems unstoppable from the floor. He paces a small team on the boards and has eight double-doubles thus far. Plus, his relationship on the court with teammates Ray Allen and Sam Cassell has made all three better players, the ultimate accomplishment for anyone involved in a team sport.
Perhaps best of all, people now notice "G-Rob" (a preferable nickname in my mind). "Glenn Robinson can play basketball," said ex-Buck Johnny Newman last week after Robinson torched his Nets. "We didn't double him the way we were supposed to tonight and he killed us. He got in a very good rhythm and we couldn't stop him." Or, as Clippers center Cherokee Parks said this week: "You can double (Vince) Carter. You can double (Allen) Iverson. Who are you going to double on this team?" Much of that respect is due to Robinson's development.
Vince Carter is considered the best forward in the East (and the likes of Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Shareef Adbur-Rahim dot the West), but Robinson is certainly in the running. Initial proof may have to wait until April. Will Carter's 28 ppg and ESPN highlights outlast Robinson and the Bucks' run in the playoffs?
Sports shots columnist Tim Gutowski was born in a hospital in West Allis and his sporting heart never really left. He grew up in a tiny town 30 miles west of the city named Genesee and was in attendance at County Stadium the day the Brewers clinched the 1981 second-half AL East crown. I bet you can't say that.
Though Tim moved away from Wisconsin (to Iowa and eventually the suburbs of Chicago) as a 10-year-old, he eventually found his way back to Milwaukee. He remembers fondly the pre-Web days of listenting to static-filled Brewers games on AM 620 and crying after repeated Bears' victories over the Packers.