PREGAME: Not sure what it means, but it means something, that the Celtics Big Three is about eighth on the All-Star game sidebar list this time around. The hot topics du jour are:
Lebron James vs. Kobe Bryant,
Kobe and Shaq
The pending break-up of the Phoenix Suns
Craig Sager’s hot pink jacket
Anything else that corresponds with some variation of Kobe and LeBron.
Honestly for the Celtics that’s all good. They have spent the last three and half months as the biggest target in the league and they could probably use the breather. Kevin Garnett has already been angling to play about 10 minutes and with the glut of swingmen on the Eastern roster it wouldn’t be a shock if Paul Pierce and Ray Allen didn’t get much more than a quick look-see either. And that’s OK. They’ve got bigger things to worry about than their NBA Q ratings.
On to the festivities. I’ve been a sucker for the NBA All-Star Game since the first one I saw back in 1981. No league does a better job of melding stars, hype, celebrity cameos, and even the occasional bout of in-game brilliance as the NBA. The baseball All-Star game is still fun but they messed it all up when they tried to make it more meaningful than enjoyable.
No such issues with the NBA. Before we get started, let’s break down one man’s highly unofficial for amusement purposes only odds on MVP.
Kobe or LeBron: Even money
Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Shaq (for sentimental reasons): 2-1.
Allen Iverson, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire: 4-1.
Devin Harris, Brandon Roy: Dark Horses.
8:27: Would MLB have the Jabbawockeez, DJs and dancing girls? I think not.
8:30: Didn’t think it would be possible to love Shaq any more, but as my girl friend just said, “I’ll watch every All-Star Game if it involves Shaq dancing.”
8:35: Just so we’re clear, Tim Duncan gets booed, but Kobe doesn’t? I don’t get the fans in Phoenix.
8:40: Would have been better if Yao had popped and locked, but the opening was pretty awesome. Also, I had to make sure that my windows didn’t shatter after Jordin Sparks’ anthem. (It is NBA law that one must now reference Marvin Gaye’s edition before the 1983 game as the greatest ever).
— Ron Olesiak is in his 21st season as an NBA ref? Not sure what it says about him, or about me, that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Ron Olesiak.
— Allen Iverson without corn rows. Do not want.
— Dwight Howard got robbed in the dunk contest last night. Nate Robinson’s kryptonite thing was amusing, but Howard is the best dunker in the league. Oh, and LeBron’s “announcement” that he would be in the dunk contest next year would have been cooler if there wasn’t a marketing plan behind it.
— The West has a serious problem right now in that Yao and Duncan are both bad fits for the All-Star game. Neither one of them has the game for this kind of thing.
— Love that Garnett was yelling about getting back on defense. Also love, as Doug Collins just said, that it’s not sloppy yet. Yet.
— Gratuitous shot of Sager’s outfit. Those shoes belong in the Hall of Fame. They deserve their own wing.
— Kobe has nine shots in seven and a half minutes in an All-Star game. Supply your own joke.
— I know there aren’t a lot of big men in the Eastern Conference, but Rashard Lewis on Shaq? I’d question Mike Brown’s rotation there, but that’s all he’s got on the bench.
— The East might not score another point. Hadn’t realized how unbalanced the bench really is until now.
— Did you see how LeBron gave all his teammates a crystal thing singed, Your Friend LeBron? I’ll say it: That’s kind of weird. Nothing LeBron does is by accident so you kind of half-expected the crystal to be sponsored by his shoe company or something. Pierce’s reaction was the best: “I didn’t know we were giving gifts,” like he showed up a house party and forgot to bring the cheese dip.
– Which of these things is not like the other–Jay Z, Snoop, Ludacris, Cindy McCain? Right, Ludacris isn’t a Republican.
— That was a joke. Just like Dirk Nowitzki’s defense on Pierce.
— Look at the players in the game right now and know this: Paul Pierce is the elder statesman among the guys on the court in the NBA All-Star game.
— I haven’t seen a movie in a theater in about five years and it is extremely doubtful that Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail will help me break that string.
— Does D Wade wear that stupid eye patch/band aid everywhere he goes now? What’s the deal with that? And what does it say that he’s just ripping off Derrick (Mis)Chievous? So many questions…
— Marv just called the Pau Gasol deal a steal, and it was. Have you noticed how people have stopped calling the Garnett trade an outright theft these days thanks to Al Jefferson’s emergence? You simply can not get fair value for a true NBA superstar. It’s never been done. But I think history will note that Minnesota did pretty well for itself.
— I just sneaked a peek at the box score and I have to say I’m amazed that Pierce has 14 points already. Something tells me Kobe will not stand for this. Also, Mike Brown does know that he has to play LeBron more, right?
— That was the best two-minute stretch of All-Star game action I’ve seen since the Tom Chambers era.
— Now that’s a great moment. For posterity sake what just happened is Garnett, Allen and Pierce wheeled out a cake for Bill Russell for his 75th birthday. The league announced over the weekend that they were naming the Finals MVP trophy after him and that is a very good move by the NBA. Nobody, not even Jordan, is more synonymous with winning than Russ.
— I just spent the last five minutes looking for Google images of Sager’s outfit, but no luck. And he just called them the Wockajobbiez. Close, Sages!
OK, so with one half in the books Pierce is the leading scorer with 14 points, while Kobe Bryant leads the West with 13. Is it too much ask for a Kobe-Pierce staredown in the fourth quarter? As great as LeBron is, nobody can touch Pierce in the fourth quarter right now.
We’re gonna take a little break and come back for the second half.
— You know what would have made that halftime better? Sly and/or the Family Stone. If you’re going to cover “I Want to Take You Higher” shouldn’t it be at least a little lively? Also, when did a choir become the must-have accessory for halftime performances?
Disappointing halftime to say the least. Also, who the heck is Juanes?
— So, between the Jim Bean Girlfriend ad and the Burger King spot, if I drink bourbon and eat tiny burgers I’ll get hot women falling all over me? Never have I felt so betrayed by advertising.
— I would give you the efficiency numbers on the halftime stats but I’m quite sure nobody cares. Suffice it to say a 50-28 edge in points in the paint ought to be worth more than a five-point lead.
— I’m almost positive that somewhere somebody is calling WEEI to complain about KG taking jump shots in the All-Star Game.
— Did you read the story in the NY Times magazine by Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame)? It was about the stat movement in the NBA and focused on Shane Battier. It’s a great story, the best NBA story I’ve seen this year in that it captured perfectly the boredom of playing basketball for a living and also the immense mental angst that someone like Battier carries around.
I bring it up because Iverson just went left and clanked a jumper and in the story Lewis notes that Iverson is deadly when he goes right, but when he goes left, “he kills his team.” Here’s the passage:
The Golden State Warriors forward Stephen Jackson is an even stranger case. ‘Steve Jackson,’ Battier says, ‘is statistically better going to his right, but he loves to go to his left ‘ and goes to his left almost twice as often.’ The San Antonio Spurs‘ Manu GinÃ³bili is a statistical freak: he has no imbalance whatsoever in his game ‘ there is no one way to play him that is better than another. He is equally efficient both off the dribble and off the pass, going left and right and from any spot on the floor.
It’s great stuff.
— LeBron is making his MVP push now, but this still looks like Kobe’s game. Speaking of MVP, so long as LeBron doesn’t get hurt he’s a lock to win the MVP this year. There will be some debate for Kobe, and probably some for D-Wade as well, but by any measure LeBron is the best player in basketball. Typically a guy has to be the best for at least one year before the voters notice, but not this year.
— Great no-call there. No reason to be shooting free throws at 10:35 in the evening.
— I know Steve Nash isn’t having an All-Star year but I think we can all agree that an All-Star Game without Nash isn’t nearly as good as one with him. You’d think they would have found a way to get him to play this one in his home arena.
— This one is starting to get out of hand. Good thing homecourt advantage isn’t at stake. Honestly, how dumb is that? How would you be feeling right now if you knew the Celtics chances of getting homecourt in a seven-game series with the Lakers depended on the fact that nobody wanted to guard Shaq?
— Seriously, the fact that Rashard Lewis is the de-facto big man off the bench for the East and Shaq is for the West has kind of detracted from this game. It’s just not a contest.
— Wait did I just hear Doug Collins say that Robert Sarver went on the radio and say not re-signing Joe Johnson was a mistake?
No, Bob. Drafting Luol Deng, Rajon Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez and then trading them for cash was a mistake. Allowing Mike D’Antoni to assume control of personnel and signing Marcus Banks to a five-year contract was a mistake. Trading for Shaq was a mistake. Not re-signing Joe Johnson for more money that he is worth is not a mistake. But everything else you’ve done in Phoenix is.
— I’m mildly disappointed in the celeb sightings this year. John King is a celebrity? Terrell Owens is not a celebrity. Chris Tucker used to be a celebrity. I guess Eva Longoria counts, but when you’re married to one of the players you really shouldn’t be counted. Hey looks who here? It’s the point guard’s wife. Never expected her to show up.
— More Sager please. Thank you.
— I’m not sensing a lot of urgency on the part of the East right now. If you’re looking for some alternative programming you should check out Sports LateNight on NECN where your humble narrator taped a segment earlier this evening. Go ahead and flip. You won’t miss anything. I’ve got you covered.
— Aw, Shaq and Kobe are pretending they like each other.
— So, 16 points is basically nothing in the NBA and it’s really nothing in an All-Star game but you get the feeling the East has packed it in?
— MVP: Shaq or Kobe? I’d vote for Shaq based on the fact that he broke the game open in the first half. Also, his dancing.
— Oh good a TO interview. In a past life I covered Owens when he played for the Eagles. There has never been a more disingenuous phony than Terrell Owens.
— Chris Paul missing a dunk might be the signature moment of tis All-Star Game. It started off with great hopes–the Jabberwockeez-Shaq dance was awesome–and then it slowly came apart once it was obvious that no one could guard Shaq.
The great Kobe-LeBron face-off never happened. Some guy named Juanes sang at halftime. The East stopped playing once it got down by 20. As All-Star Games go, I’m going to give it a 4.5 on a scale of 10. I’ve seen worse, but not many. At least no one got hurt. The NBA: Where no one gets hurt in the All-Star Game happens.
— Oh it’s old split MVP with Kobe and Shaq. Holy plot twist Mr. Stern!
When they gave it to Stockton and Malone in Utah in 1993 it made sense. Heck, at that point it looked like the only trophy those two would ever win together. But this one feels forced and contrived. Well, there you go: an unsatisfying conclusion to an unsatisfying game. At least the first half was entertaining.
Thanks for spending part of your Sunday with us. That’s all I got.