Thoughts on the NBA All-Star Game

February 16, 2009 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA

Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

The 58th NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix on Sunday turned out to be an okay affair.  The Western All-Stars creamed the Eastern All-Stars, 146-119, and Kobe Bryant (game-high 27 points) and Shaquille O’Neal (17 points)  made up after years of public bickering by winning co-MVP (I feel all warm and fuzzy now).

The usual stuff

The game itself was what the fans expected.  Highlight dunks, flashy passes, plenty of silly stuff and minimal defense for most of the night.  The Western Conference thoroughly dominated the East with size and speed, though no one seemed to be taking things too seriously.  Shaq provided the entertainment with his dancing and stunts, including one of the highlights – a give ‘n go jam after going through Dwight Howard’s legs.

East played bad

Lebron led the East with 20 points (but on only 8-19 shooting), and provided plenty of eye-popping lay ups.  He may have been trying a little too hard.  There were actually quite a few poor performances on the East team though: Joe Johnson going scoreless in 22 minutes, Allen Iverson scoring 2 points in 16 minutes as a starter; and Devin Harris going -31 on the plus/minus charts in only 17 minutes!

Granger’s first Al-Star appearance!

Danny Granger (perhaps still bummed by the knee) played the least number of minutes (11) on the East squad but was tied for leading FG% with Kevin Garnett (both shot 100%, though Granger only took one shot whereas KG took 5 – but that’s beside the point…)!!  His first All-Star Weekend could have been better – injured knee, first around elimination at the 3P contest, playing the least minutes in a losing effort in the All-Star Game.  Don’t worry Danny, you’ll get more chances in the coming years (hopefully).

Gripes

My main gripe has to be Shaq winning co-MVP in playing only 11 minutes and scoring 17 points with 5 boards.  I know he was the star of the show and the hometown hero, but come on.  It must have left a sour taste in Amare Stoudemire’s mouth – he had more points and rebounds (19 and 6) than Shaq, plus he’s supposed to be the biggest star in Phoenix (I recall Shaq saying it was Amare’s team when he arrived in Phoenix), and yet Shaq’s the one getting all the attention and MVP trophy whereas he’s at the centre of all the trade rumours.  What about Chris Paul?  If anyone should have gotten co-MVP it was the sensational Chris Paul who powered the West’s engine all night.  14 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds – including an alley-oop dunk where he was the receiver!  There were a lot of quiet achievers on the West squad – Brandon Roy, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker in particular.  As a team they shot over 61%, whereas the East only shot 47% against no defense!

Also cringeworthy was the fake love Shaq and Kobe showed for each other.  At least Kobe was a little more honest with himself when he said: “We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff.  We had a good time. That’s all.”

I’ll leave it at that because I might start vomiting.

Finally…well, I got another 3 predictions wrong – the East didn’t beat the West, the final score wasn’t close, and Dwayne Wade didn’t win MVP.  I think out of all the events, I only got one thing right: Kevin Durant to win the Rookie Challenge MVP – but anyone could have seen that one.  Oh well, better luck next year.

Thoughts on NBA All-Star Friday and Saturday

February 15, 2009 in Basketball, NBA

nate

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.

NBA All-Star Weekend Predictions for All Events

February 13, 2009 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA

allstar

The NBA All-Star Weekend 2009 in Phoenix is almost upon us.  I’ve already discussed who I think (or thought at the time) should have been named All-Stars.  Here are my final predictions for each of the main events (not including the celebrity game and D-League stuff).

H-O-R-S-E Contest

Contestants: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Joe Johnson (Atlanta), OJ Mayo (Memphis)

Rules: Everyone should know the rules of HORSE.  Players have to make the same shot as the player ahead of them or they get a letter.  When they spell all the letters of HORSE, they’re out.  Last man standing wins.

Prediction: A little unpredictable, being the first one and all.  I’m going to have to go with OJ Mayo to take it out with an array of dazzling shots and trick lay-ups (no dunks allowed).

Haier Shooting Stars Contest

Contestants:

Thunder Dan is back

Thunder Dan is back!

San Antonio: Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Becky Hammon
Detroit: Arron Afflalo, Bill Laimbeer and Katie Smith
Los Angeles: Derek Fisher, Michael Cooper and Lisa Leslie
Phoenix: Leandro Barbosa, Dan Majerle and Tangela Smith

Rules: The teams have to make a variety of shots from all over the court, including: (1) 10-foot bank shot from the right; (2) 15-foot jumper from the left; (3) NBA 3-pointer from the top; (4), 18-foot shot from the right; (5) NBA 3-pointer from the left; (6) Half-court shot

Prediction: These things usually just come down to who can make the lucky half-court shot first, so it’s almost impossible to predict.  If Tony Parker was playing I’d say San Antonio, but since he’s not, I’d have to go with the home team, Phoenix – can’t go wrong with Thunder Dan Majerle!

T-Mobile Rookie Challenge (Rookies/Sophmores Game)

Contestants:

Rookies: Michael Beasley (Miami), Rudy Fernandez (Portland), Marc Gasol (Memphis), Eric Gordon (LA Clippers), Brook Lopez (New Jersey), OJ Mayo (Memphis), Greg Oden (Portland), Derrick Rose (Chicago), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City)

Sophmores: Aaron Brooks (Houston), Wilson Chandler (New York), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Jeff Green (Oklahoma City), Al Horford (Atlanta), Luis Scola (Houston), Al Thornton (LA Clippers), Rodney Stuckey (Pistons), Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia)

durant

Durant looks to dominate the Rookies

Rules: Two 20-minute halves, fouls kept but no player can foul out.  2-minute overtime periods if necessary.

Prediction: The Sophmores have won 6 years in a row, but if you take a look at the ridiculous Rookie roster, it’s hard to go against them.  Can you imagine Rose and Westbrook slashing all over the court, OJ Mayo swishing jumpers from everywhere, Eric Gordon raining threes, Fernandez alley-ooping and Gasol, Lopez, Oden and Beasley anchoring the paint without being able to foul out?  It’s going to be a sick game.  Kevin Durant and Rodney Stuckey will dominate for the Sophmores, but I’ll have to go with the Rookies in an upset in a high scoring affair (win by roughly 5-10 points).  Kevin Durant to be named MVP in a losing effort!

Playstation Skills Challenge

Contestants: Devin Harris (New Jersey), Tony Parker (San Antonio), Derrick Rose (Chicago), Mo Williams (Cleveland).  NB: Williams replaced the injured Jameer Nelson.

Rules: Players are timed on an obstacle course that tests their dribbling, passing and shooting.  The two players with the fastest times in the first round battle again in the final.

Prediction: I would love to see Derrick Rose win but maybe another year – Tony Parker Longoria to take it out in the final against Devin Harris.

Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout

Contestants: Mike Bibby (Atlanta), Daequan Cook (Miami), Danny Granger (Indiana), Jason Kapono (Toronto), Rashard Lewis (Orlando), Roger Mason (San Antonio)

Rules: Players have 60 seconds to shoot 5 racks of 5 balls from 5 spots around the 3-point line.  Each ball is worth 1 point with the exception of the money ball in each rack, which is worth 2.  The top 3 scores from the first round battle it out again in the final.

Prediction: I want Danny Granger to win something for Indiana (but in his first practice he only got 15) but would be happy if he makes it past the first round.  The favourite still has to be 2-time defending champion Jason Kapono, so conventional wisdom tells me to go with him.  But I expect Roger Mason and Daequan Cook to give him a run for his money and wouldn’t be surprised if Kapono chokes and someone else takes it from under him.

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

rudy-fer

Rudy Fernandez was selected by the fans

Contestants: Rudy Fernandez (Portland), Dwight Howard (Orlando), Nate Robinson (New York), JR Smith (Denver).  NB: Smith replaces the injured Rudy Gay.

Rules: Each contestant performs 2 dunks in the first round and the 2 with the highest scores battle it out in the final.  In the event of a tie there will be a dunk off!  Each contestant has 2 minutes to complete a dunk, and the first made dunk will be the one that counts.  The first round is judged by judges but the final round combines the scores of judges and voting on NBA.com and text messaging.

Prediction: I originally went with the injured Rudy Gay, so now I have changed my vote to Rudy Fernandez.  I just can’t see Dwight Howard repeating as it’s tough to outdo what he did last year.  This really isn’t a big man’s contest.  I expect the creative highlights to come from Fernandez and Smith with Nate Robinson missing a few.  Regardless of the outcome, I just hope it can be as entertaining as last year.

All-Star Game

Contestants:

East: Allen Iverson (Detroit), Dwayne Wade (Miami), Lebron James (Cleveland), Kevin Garnett (Boston), Dwight Howard (Orlando), Joe Johnson (Atlanta), Ray Allen (Boston), Danny Granger (Indiana), Paul Pierce (Boston), Mo Williams (Cleveland), Devin Harris (Orlando), Rashard Lewis (Orlando).  Coach: Mike Brown (Cleveland).  NB: Allen replaced the injured Jameer Nelson and Williams replaced the injured Chris Bosh.

West: Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers), Chris Paul (New Orleans), Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix), Yao Ming (Houston), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas), Shaquille O’Neal (Phoenix), Brandon Roy (Portland), Chauncey Billups (Denver), Pau Gasol (LA Lakers), David West (New Orleans), Tony Parker (San Antonio).  Coach: Phil Jackson (LA Lakers).

Rules: No need to explain.

wade

Can Wade win MVP?

Prediction: The more I think about it, the more I think the West should win.  I mean, just take a look at the line-ups.  I know the coaches don’t do much but Mike Brown is not the guy you would want at the helm if the game got tight.  The last 3 years the winners have alternated conferences: 2006 East, 2007 West, 2008 East.  Aren’t the West due this year?

However, I must stick with my original prediction.  The Eastern Conference Team to down the Western Conference Team in a tight, see-sawing contest with a final margin of less than 7 points.  Danny Granger for MVP!  Just kidding.  Dwayne Wade to win MVP by dominating down the stretch to prove that he is well and truly back.  I’m also expecting Dwight Howard to have a monster game.

NBA Skills Challenge: Mo Williams replaces Jameer Nelson

February 12, 2009 in Basketball, NBA

Mo Williams is now an All-Star and a Skills Challenge contestant

Mo Williams is now an All-Star and a Skills Challenge contestant

To me, the Playstation Skills Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend is a nice addition but honestly I wouldn’t complain too much if it wasn’t there.

This year’s contestants are: Devin Harris (New Jersey Nets), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs) and Mo Williams (Cleveland Cavaliers).  Williams replaced the injured Jameer Nelson (Orlando Magic).

I’d love to see Derrick Rose take this one out (because he’s just sick), but I have a feeling that veteran Tony Parker will rise to the occasion this time.

All-Star Weekend Update: new dunker, HORSE contestants announced

February 11, 2009 in Basketball, NBA

JR Smith to replace Rudy Gay in dunk contest
Rudy Fernandez

Rudy Fernandez

Well, it looks like I have to revise my predictions on the NBA Slam Dunk Contest for this year.  I had originally picked Rudy Gay to beat out defending champion Dwight Howard, former champ Nate Robinson and rookie Rudy Fernandez.  But now, Gay is out due to a strained left hip, and the man replacing him will be Denver Nugget JR Smith.

My revised prediction

Now I really don’t know what’s going to happen.  Smith had apparently competed before in 2005, but the fact that I can’t remember it must mean he didn’t do all that great.  Maybe he can surprise me this time.  I still can’t see Dwight Howard winning again – if he does it would be ultra impressive because it’s going to be damn near impossible to outdo his tricks from last year.  Nate Robinson?  Let’s see him make some dunks first.  So I would say now there are no favourites, it’s a wide open race, and I think both Fernandez and Smith will be dark horses.  Can you specify 2 dark horses in 4-man contest?  What the hell, I just did.

Rudy Fernandez to win with some creative dunks we haven’t seen before!

H-O-R-S-E contestants announced

The old game of H-O-R-S-E is the latest contest to be introduced to the All-Star Weekend.  The 3 contestants are: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), OJ Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies) and Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks).

For those that don’t know the rules: the game starts off with the first contestant, who can shoot a shot from anywhere in any way he wants.  If he makes it, the next player has to make the exact same shot.  If that player misses, he gets a letter (start off with ‘H’).  Players will be eliminated when they spell out the entire 5-letter word HORSE.  The last man standing wins.  In the NBA version of the game, there are no dunks allowed and players have 24 seconds to complete each shot.

My prediction

OJ Mayo

OJ Mayo

I’m very excited about this new HORSE contest.  Everyone that has played basketball has probably played HORSE before, but not everyone has the skill of NBA players, especially the likes of these guys.  I’m expecting to see some outrageous shots, some unbelievable trick shots, some funny shots.  I just hope they don’t try too hard and end up missing them all.

It’s hard to predict a winner because I’ve only seen these contestants in games, and I don’t really know what their trick shot repertoires are like.  So I’m going with gut instinct and will say the youngster OJ Mayo will take out the first ever HORSE trophy!

(I have heard that Durant has been so busy that he hasn’t had time to practice, and Joe Johnson seems a little more old school to me, so that may also have something to do with my pick)