Back in training camp, more than three months ago in West Virginia, Washington Bullets guard Rex Chapman was talking about shaking the "inconsistent" label that had stuck to his first five years in the league.
"I think I can score 20 points a game," Chapman, 26, said at the time. "I'd like to make the All-Star team before I finish my career. I can silence a lot of people from that standpoint."
Maybe it's time to let the silencing begin. Statistically speaking, Chapman, who scored 25 points in Washington's 118-109 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, is having an All-Star season.
Starting all of Washington's games this season, Chapman is averaging 18.4 points and shooting 50.5 percent from the field (second among Eastern Conference shooting guards behind Atlanta's Stacey Augmon, at 51.2 percent).
Chapman, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Clippers, has scored better than 20 points in seven of Washington's past 10 games. He's shot well from the outside, driven aggressively to the inside and has come through with some clutch baskets down the stretch in wins over the Clippers and Houston Rockets.
Kind of makes you want to rush out and punch out a vote for Chapman for the All-Star Game, right? Sorry, Chapman's name isn't even on the ballot.
"Of course, I've thought about it, and I'd really love to make it," Chapman said. "Not being on the ballot, I know it'll be hard. But I've had some good games, and I've been very consistent -- especially against Eastern Conference teams."
The numbers bear him out. In 22 games against Eastern foes, Chapman is averaging 19.1 points, shooting 52.8 percent from the field. He scored a season-high 37 in a nationally televised game against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 19, and had 30 points against Atlanta Nov. 26. But it's been the consistency (Chapman shot 43.8 percent before this season) that has left everyone impressed.
"He's become a real positive player," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said after Chapman scored 27 against his Rockets Thursday. "His shot selection has improved immensely from when he first came into the league. He's become very explosive."
Added Rockets guard Kenny Smith: "He's matured as a player. . . . Once you get more minutes, you start to prove if you really belong. Rex is proving just that."
Now, the trick is convincing coaches, who will decide on the All-Star reserves on Feb. 1.
"I think he's having an All-Star year," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "I'm hoping to see if we can help him in the selection process. We're going to be doing some things to see if we can."
During their first three-game winning streak since November 1992, the Bullets seemingly have upped the tempo -- a fast-break style that has benefited Chapman.
"If I can get some points on the break, I'm going to be able to score some more points," Chapman said. "Mike [Adams] is making a effort to get me the ball on the break more."
Chapman also was impressive from the outside, going 3-for-3 on three-pointers Saturday, with 14 fourth-quarter points.
"I was trying to stay with him, but he just kept making big shots," Clippers guard Ron Harper said.
Chapman's hoping to get a big All-Star shot -- and silence a few critics in the process.
"I hope the Eastern Conference coaches have noticed," Chapman said. "I'd really love to play."