When I started Rufus on Fire, one of the other names in contention was "After Mourning". Ultimately, I decided it was too subtle and people would take it as a downer name, even though I intend the blog to be a celebration of basketball, just like one goes on living after mourning. Well, Alonzo Mourning retired today.
As a member of the first successful Charlotte Hornets squad, and another playoff team two years later, Zo occupies a special place in Charlotte's basketball history. He was the antecedent to Dwight Howard, and his kidney troubles and subsequent on-court decline shouldn't obscure his consistent excellence in both Charlotte and Miami.
From one All Star center to, perhaps, another. Howard will get the start this year, and Emeka Okafor should be the front runner to take the backup center's position for the Eastern Conference. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been injured and has only played 28 games. Chris Bosh moved to forward and should back up Kevin Garnett. The others in the conversation are Bargnani (a hybrid F/C), David Lee (another one), Brook Lopez, and Rasheed Wallace. However, none of them put together offense and defense like Emeka does. The following stats aren't precise, but for a generalization, they paint a pretty convincing picture.
NAME -- POINTS/48 -- FG% -- REB/48 -- BLK/48
Okafor -- 19.3 -- 59% -- 15.0 -- 2.46
Bargnani --21.4 -- 44% (41 3P%) -- 8.2 -- 1.89
Lee -- 21.3 -- 57% -- 15.7 -- 0.50
Lopez -- 18.3 -- 49% -- 13.0 -- 3.20
Wallace -- 17.8 -- 41% (35 3P%) -- 10.9 -- 2.02
Put him in the game!