February 16, 2009

An NBA pit stop

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

He might not have played in the actual all-star game, but what a great weekend it was for Kevin Durant. First, he absolutely puts on a clinic in the rookie-sophomore challenge, then wins HORSE, err, GEICO. Sure, nobody plays any sort of defence in that youngstars game, but 46 is a lot of points. As for the HORSE event, did they really have to spell out GEICO? Talk about selling out. And why wasn’t it televised? I had no idea it was even taking place until they announced who had won… outside the arena. The highlights looked like it was fun enough, why not give it some more pub next year guys?

And the dunk off? Well, we all knew that J.R. Smith and Rudy Fernandez had no chance at winning it; why not just start off with Dwight vs. Nate if it was inevitable?

Now, I wasn’t a fan of the whole Superman dunk thing to begin with, but Nate’s counter was something for the ages. A 5′7″ man dunking over a 7-footer is one for the ages. I don’t care if he needed a little hand plant on the shoulder, it was still specactular. Let’s just see if LeBron can top that next year. Maybe we can get a redux of the VC dunk off and have four superstars involved.

Now, to sum up the other events in a few words:
I’m glad that Jason Kapono lost in the three-point shootout. He’s such an awful play and now he has nothing that redeems him. Also, it was an awful shootout all-around. In the Skills comp, well, I won’t say anything, I, like most people, didn’t even pay attention. And in the crappy Shooting Stars comp, why not just make it whoever-hits-a-half-court-shot-first wins? That’s essentially what it is.

On to Sunday…

Two things from the intros: It was fun to see Shaq hamming it up with the Jabbawockeez, but really, that was a bit too long for my liking (and the strip tease was especially excessive).  Also, what a shock it was to see Allen Iverson without his cornrows. Apparently he hadn’t had a haircut since his rookie year and buzzed down just for this game. Quite a surprise, I’ll say.

So really, why did they start the game so late? An 8:45 p.m. EST tip-off on a Sunday? Sure, the game is in Phoenix but that’s too late to start a showcase game. Then, at half-time, why stretch it out with not just a performance, but with a lame ceremony to honour the Olympians of seven months ago? Did we really need that? Having the half take place around 10 p.m. was bad enough, extending it made even less sense.

The game itself had a nice flow to it. While there wasn’t any huge defensive stands, there was a level of competition to the two sides that kept things interesting (until the West inevitably pulled away). Chris Paul showed the best example of not mailing it in at his own end by hustling back and picking up what might have been the first mid-court, reach-in foul in NBA all-star history.

And, finally, that last two minutes of “play” was precisely that. Come on guys, don’t just wander around aimlessly, letting people go coast-to-coast while you’re chatting it up. That little jam session made the game even worse than it already was. How about putting on a defensive clinic one of these years? Even the NHL has had relatively low scoring all-star games. It’s time the NBA steps up on that end.

Even print has been given to Shaq and Kobe teaming up and being co-MVPs so I won’t even discuss it. What I will discuss is why didn’t Chris Paul win? 14 points and 14 assists wasn’t good enough? Really?

In the end, are we really going to remember this game at all? It’s just a pointless pit stop on the way to the games that really matter. From here on out, there’s the trade deadline on Thursday, then an absolute battle towards the playoffs. i hope teams have filled up on energy from this slight break because a lot of teams have quite a fight on their hands.

Finally, in our all-star picks showdown, the Intern nailed two events while I also nailed two. I still think I win the bet since I correctly said the West would win the actual game.

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