I often think of superstars as stoppers. I’m not talking Bruce Bown or Ruben Patterson kind of stoppers. I’m talking the guys who hit the “SHUT UP” shots to swing momentum and do not allow for mistakes on the defensive end from their guys. Stoppers put teams in the playoffs.
Plainly put, the Bucks do not have stoppers. When the Bucks absolutely need points or free throws to stop a momentum shift, they cannot do it. When the Bucks need to make sure they take it up a notch on defense and lock down to prevent a run, they cannot do it. They are stopper less. That is what happens when a team is without a superstar. The Kobe Bryant’s, Lebron James’ and Dwyane Wade’s of the world can control the collective wills of their teams and will everyone else up a notch to make sure the team gets a stop on defense. They can then turn around and come back down the court and turn the heat up with timely buckets or free throws.
Were Michael Redd healthy you can’t help but wonder how he would fill the role offensively. Combined with the point guarding skills of a Ramon Sessions would Redd be more effective than ever? Even when he was healthy this year he rarely had Sessions delivering the ball to him. Would he be the offensive catalyst the Bucks need in games like the Bulls game when things began to slip out of hand. Instead of settling for long twos by a hit or miss Richard Jefferson.
It’s been proven time and again that this is a superstar driven league. Star players sense moments when they are needed and raise their games to another level when the time calls for it. As well as Ben Gordon played in this crucial game against the Bucks, I was even more impressed with Derek Rose. Rose has a clear sense of when it is time to take over and finishes so many important “and 1's” around the hoop. He carved through the lane time and time again against the Bucks at moments when it seemed the Bucks may be on the comeback trail. His strength and speed overwhelmed the Bucks and left them flailing their arms in an attempt to block his path. It was his wearing down of the Bucks that opened up the game for the Gordon’s and Kirk Hinrich’s.
During those moments that Rose realizes he is too quick for men his size and too powerful for those with his quickness it is scary. He has the LeBron ability to bounce off defenders as he gets in the lane and the skill to finish at the rim. Rookies are not supposed to do things like this. Even scarier is that this is all coming from a guy who really gets what being a teammate is all about. When Rose figures out a consistent form on his midrange and outside jump shot I don’t see how anyone outside of the LeBron-Kobe-Wade stratosphere will be able to stop him.
Along with their recently improved depth, Rose is the key factor in the playoff race. New Jersey has Vince Carter and Devin Harris and the Bucks have the ever improving duo of Charlie V. and Ramon Sessions, but superstardom is reserved for a select few. Rose has only begun to knock at that door, but if we remember Dwyane Wade and his phenomenal rookie year in the playoffs we know what those who hold that key is capable of.
Meanwhile, the Bucks will continue to search for their very own star. The only stopper they appear on the horizon of is a stoppage of playoff hope.