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Thoughts on NBA All-Star Friday and Saturday February 15, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, NBA.
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This year’s All-Star Weekend had a new event, some new contestants, still a lot of hype compared to substance.  Still, it’s been a decent show thus far.  My predictions so far have been a little…um, off.

Here’s what I thought of things so far.

Rookie Challenge: Despite one of the best rookie teams I’ve ever seen, the Rookies still got smoked by the Sophmores for the 7th consecutive year (!).  The final score was 122-116 and it was better than previous years for 2 main reasons: (1) the players actually took the game a little more seriously than before, and tried to win the game rather than just settle for different alley-oops all night.  (2) Kevin Durant, record 46 points, ’nuff said. 

I guess no matter how good the Rookies are, that one year difference in experience cannot be understated.  Plus game MVP Kevin Durant.  He really deserves to be in the proper game on Sunday.  As for my prediction, I said a Rookie win (which was wrong) but I got the MVP (Kevin Durant) right at least.

D-League All-Star Game: This was surprisingly good.  Entertaining and the players have skills.  Just shows there are plenty of good ballers out there who don’t have a multi-million dollar contract.  If they really want a competitive game, they should pitch the NBA Rookies against these guys rather than the Sophmores.  Both sides would be playing their butts off – one side to prove they belong, the other side to save face.  But I can’t see it happening – it would be just too embarrassing if the young NBA stars lost, and they wouldn’t want to risk injuries to either side in games like these.

H-O-R-S-E: Well, this went better than I expected, but also had the same problems I expected.  They idea was right – 3 players, outdoor courts, etc, but they got a little too excited for their own good, picking shots that they had no chance of making, which got plain silly at times.  The highlight was OJ Mayo’s shot from the stands that did go in.  After Kevin Durant got serious, it was all over, raining threes from all over the court.  That made it a little conventional but it got the job done.  I pretty much just described the problem with this contest: if they go for too much, nothing will go in and it gets silly; but if they go for the conventional shots, they go in, but it becomes too boring.  The key to making this work is to strike a fine balance between the two extremes.  Nevertheless, I hope they bring it back next year.  By the way, I picked OJ Mayo to win.

Haier Shooting Stars: One of the more boring events of the night.  As I expected, it all came down to who could hit the half-court shot first.  In this year’s case, it was Team Detroit.  I had picked Thunder Dan and Team Phoenix to win (wong again!).  It’s nice to get NBA legends and WNBA players involved, but I would not be surprised if they decided to scrap this one in a couple of years.  Not many people would be complaining.

Skills Challenge: Another one of those contests where things are getting a little old, but this year was a little different because of Derrick Rose.  Everyone wanted to see what the kid had.  Rose won the contest in the final against Devin Harris, and punctuated the victory with a vicious two handed, double-pump reverse jam.  The thing is, Rose looked like he was strolling in the park as he went through those obstacles, and he still torched everyone!  I had wanted Rose to win but I thought he would be too inexperienced, so I picked Tony Parker.  But man, Derrick Rose is going to be a superstar in a couple of years.  Anyone that has seen him in the open court should feel the same way.  He probably should be in the next Slam Dunk Contest too.

3-Point Shootout: Usually one of my favourite events of the night, but this year’s contest was a snoozer won by Daequan Cook (who I considered a ‘dark horse’) in a shootout against Rashard Lewis.  Everyone was just off tonight.  I think the highest score was 17 (okay it was 19)?  It wasn’t pretty.  Bring back the Ray Allens, Pejas and Dirks and we’ll have a real contest.  I picked the 2-time defending champion Kapono who was surprisingly very average all the way through.  But I did get one prediction right: Danny Granger (who I was rooting for) got eliminated in the first round!

They should revamp the shootout by bringing in NBA legends and former winners like Mark Price, Larry Bird, Craig Hodges, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Jeff Hornacek, etc.  That would be interesting – to see if the old guys still have it.  It could get very ugly though when we see they don’t…

Slam Dunk Contest: Okay, the big one.  These days, it never lives up to expectations.  Former champ Nate Robinson beat the defending champion Dwight Howard by jumping over him (ala Vince Carter over Frederic Weis in the Olmpics), but Rudy Fernandez (the man I picked) probably deserved to be in the final more than either of them (but he got screwed by the judges).  There are two major problems with the contest nowadays: (1) people are getting too good at dunking, so we’ve just about seen everything before; and (2) the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has become more about creative gimmicks than creative dunks.

JR Smith’s dunks were okay – nothing to make the fans leap out of their seats.  He went for more power than creativity and that was fine, but as a last-minute replacement I think he did fine.  Rudy Fernandez got snubbed badly.  The same dunk that Andre Iguodala got screwed on when Nate Robinson last won (the off the back of the backboard one) was the same dunk that screwed Rudy.  Do the judges know how hard that dunk is?  The behind the back toss dunk was also pretty impressive.

On the other hand, what the finalists Robinson and Howard aimed for were gimmicks.  Howard got into the same Superman attire thing (last year was good, this year…not so good) – this time he changed in a phone booth, big deal.  He also dunked on a 12 foot ring especially brought in.  I think I know why David Stern was against it before.  It was boring.  The guy is 7-foot with ultra long arms.  It’s like a someone 6 foot dunking on a 10 foot ring.  Five foot nine (if that) Nate Robinson with short arms dunking on a 10 foot ring was much more impressive – or least it looked that way.  Howard’s best dunk of the night actually involved no gimmicks – just an awesome, side of the backboard toss and a one handed catch and throwdown from outside the key.  Nate went for the green Knicks jersey (kryptonite to Howard’s Superman, get it?) and jumped over Superman to win it.  That was a sick dunk, no doubt about it.  But his earlier dunk where he just stepped on the back of Wilson Chandler was pretty lame.  I mean, stepping off someone’s back is like stepping on a chair – doesn’t it make it easier to dunk?  The only person that should have been commended was poor Chandler who probably got his back broken.

Enough complaining.  It was still alright.  Looking forward to an awesome All-Star game.

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