The 2012 All-Star Game is upon us. The league’s biggest stars–however they are determined–and fans from all over converge on Orlando forÂ some fun and camaraderie. I asked Hardwood Paroxysmâ€™s Jared Dubin, Clint Peterson, Andrew Lynch, Sean Highkin, and Steve McPherson 5 questions about this year’s festivities and the All-Star Weekend in general.
1) Who’s your: biggest snub and biggest undeserving do-nothing?
Jared: Biggest snub: Tyson Chandler. The man is a monstrous freak of nature who has taken the Knicks from the bottom third of the league in defense to the top third despite having basically the same roster while doubling as the league-leader in FG% and the best pick-and-roll big man in the league. It’s not a travesty that he’s not there because Roy Hibbert was extremely deserving, but it’s disappointing to not see his work so far this year get rewarded.
The most undeserving was probably Joe Johnson, but now I’d say it’s Luol Deng. He hasn’t been much better – if at all – than last year; the only real difference is that the Bulls were expected to be this good this year and he’s recognized as an important contributor to that team. There have been plenty of guys better than him this season.
Clint: The correct answer is Josh Smith. If you lose a guy for the weekend from a perennial playoff team there’s more than likely more than one player on said team responsible for helping that squad into the spring every year. The Hawks are deserving of a representative to replace Joe Johnson, and it drives me bananas that Rajon Rondo gets sent as a proxy in place of an Atlantan. When Jazzman Carlos Boozer was (shockingly) unable to go in 2007 Jazzman Mehmet Okur was sent in his stead. This is fitting. Ironically, in 2010 when Brandon Roy was unable to participate we saw an undeserving Chris Kaman go instead of Boozer, in Deron Williams’ first visit to the festivities. No rhyme or [basketball] reason, I’m tellin’ ya!
Andrew: My biggest snub is Shannon Brown in the Slam Dunk Contest. No, seriously. Hear me out!
When I complain about Brown being on the Suns, most Lakers fans (and, I suppose, a few Shannon Brown fans, which might totally be a thing, you guys) tell me that his one saving grace is his ability to viciously dunk the ball. Sadly, it’s not something I’ve seen much of this year. Here’s my proposal, then – put Brown in the dunk contest. If he places in the top two, then I’ll admit he has at least one redeeming skill on the basketball court. If he doesn’t, the Lakers get him back.
Sounds fair to me.
Kevin Durant’s career 3-point percentage is lower than Joe Johnson’s, so his inclusion in that competition seems odd, but I don’t really have any problems with the various selections for this weekend. All the fans voted hard. Cut the check.
Sean: Biggest snub: Brandon Rush in the Three-Point Shootout. He’s only leading the league in three-point percentage. You’d think that would be enough to guarantee him a spot, but I guess the NBA had other ideas.
Biggest undeserving do-nothing: The All-Star rosters are generally pretty good this year, but there’s no way Carmelo Anthony deserves to start over Chris Bosh on the Eastern Conference squad.
Steve: Biggest snub feels like Tyson Chandler. I could quote stats here about his win shares and player efficiency rating (okay I actually will quote the 38 pt spread between his offensive and defensive ratings), but instead Iâ€™ll say that while people have said that Melo and Amareâ€™s absence made Linâ€™s rise possible, Chandler is a huge part of what makes the Knicks work with Lin (notwithstanding the result against the Heat last night). Itâ€™s crazy to think that he was thought to be a small forward when he was drafted because he plays like the ur-center, doing nothing but grabbing rebounds, catching alley-oops, and tipping in putbacks. Hibbertâ€™s been great, but Chandlerâ€™s been the anchor for the Knicks.
Is there anyone else to nominate for undeserving do-nothing than Melo? Itâ€™s not his fault that he hasnâ€™t played in enough games, nor that he was asked to play as a point forward, a position to which he is ill-suited (his natural position is as a ball-stopping three). But he has the name recognition and the reputation so he got voted as a starter. Iâ€™ve said it before and Iâ€™ll say it again: democracy doesnâ€™t work.
2) Who is missing from the dunk contest that could have reasonably been a part of it (the guys with lots to lose and little to gain, like Blake and LeBron, don’t count)?
Jared: Let’s get this out of the way first: I hate the Dunk Contest (and most of the rest of All-Star Weekend too). No one has come up with anything new or exciting in years, and they won’t do it any time soon, because everything’s been done. Who’s missing? MJ and ‘Nique, that’s who.
Clint: The Utah Jazz’s Jeremy Evans was absolutely the right choice to attend as an alternate in place of Iman Shumpert (Iman Shumpert? Really?!). The All-Star Weekend accidentally gets this one right. This (waved off for an offensive foul) Smash on Crash has been my wallpaper since the preseason when it happened. Gimme that dunkface, Elevator Evans!
If you don’t know Elevator Evans’ work above the iron Google it. He killed summer league becoming a cult YouTube sensation for his sensational slams.
Andrew: Other than Shannon Brown? (Seriously, stop laughing.) Nikola Pekovic. Nothing fancy, although if Pek wants to throwdown a 360 windmill, so much the better. The goal for Pek in the dunk contest would be to tear down the entire basket stanchion. Not break the “unbreakable” backboards. Not bend the rim. I want Pek to try to rip down the whole damn thing, then I want Ivan Johnson to emerge from under the structure and engage Pekovic in Mortal Kombat. If we’re going to have props, let’s go all the way with this.
Sean: Selfishly, I’d like to see Elliot Williams get a shot at it, not just because he’s had some serious highlights in garbage time but also to get a groundswell of support going for Nate McMillan to give him actual minutes.
Steve: JaVale McGee. First of all, he was robbed last year by Blake Griffinâ€™s preordained coronation as the slam dunk champ. I mean, did anyone seriously doubt heâ€™d walk away with it? Plus, the biggest problem with the dunk contest in the last couple years has been its scripted feeling. Thereâ€™s simply no way to script McGee, the man who ran back hard on defense when his team still had the ball, who spiked a goaltending block into the tenth row for no apparent reason. At its best, the dunk contest is thrilling entertainment, but McGee has the potential to make it as confusing, moving, and mystifying as a Terence Malick film.
Jared: Family Double Dare FTW. Funny story: I went to a taping of Family Double Dare when I was, like, 9, and the contestants were NOT a family. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble.
Clint: Um, I don’t know how to answer this. While you guys were doing Nick at Nite I was doing this:
Andrew: In typical petulant-child fashion, I will forego your options in lieu of my own. The answer has to be Legends of the Hidden Temple. Two teammates from six teams go full Blue Barracudas on All-Star Weekend. Who wouldn’t want to watch Kobe and Metta World Peace do a Temple Run, or Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio do The Moat?
Sean: This is the awkward part where I lose any credibility I’ve ever had by admitting that I never watched a second of Nickelodeon growing up. My parents didn’t have cable. Still don’t, actually. [Amin's Ed. note: I got most of my Nick viewing in at my cable-having cousins' house. Sweet, sweet mooching.]
Steve: If pressed, Iâ€™d have to go with Family Double Dare just so I can watch Magic Johnson get green slime dumped on his head. But can we include MTV game shows? If youâ€™re not interested in Michael Beasley and J.R. Smith sitting in recliners and answering pop culture questions on Remote Control, I canâ€™t even talk to you.
4) Do you feel like the D-League and WNBA are well-represented at All-Star Games? Do you think they should be?
Jared: I feel they are more than well represented and I also don’t think they should be represented at all. It’s the NBA All-Star Game, not the NBA and WNBA and D-League All-Star Game. Do they invite CHL players to the NHL All-Star Game? Do they invite Minor Leaguers and women’s softball players to the MLB All-Star Game? Do they invite the Lingerie League to the Pro Bowl? The WNBA is and has been a bad investment for a long time and the league just refuses to let it go. I’m all for the ladies having their own league, and I wish it was successful, but it’s just not, and shoving it down our throats on All-Star weekend doesn’t make it any better. As for the D-League, that’s what the D-League Showcase (their All-Star Game) is for.
Clint: Doesn’t the D-League have it’s own festivities? There’s no crying in basketball.
Andrew: I think All-Star Weekend is a nice opportunity to showcase the various other basketball products associated with the NBA, but I believe those two particular leagues are better served by their own focused weekends. The D-League showcase is a basketball event unto itself, as is the WNBA All-Star Game, and that’s how it should be. The point of All-Star Game and the festivities that surround it, in my mind, is to celebrate the game as a whole and the players who make it great on a stage that’s just for them. The D-League All-Star Game on Saturday and the inclusion of WNBA players in the Shooting Stars contest will provide entertainment and exposure, though, and it’s hard to ague with that.
Sean: Not that the WNBA and D-League aren’t important parts of the NBA empire and don’t deserve to be acknowledged, but with all the big shiny NBA superstars taking up our attention, it might not be the best avenue. Maybe give them their own weekends instead.
Steve: Itâ€™s certainly not doing the WNBA any favors to be involved in the All-Star Gameâ€™s lamest event, the Haier Shooting Stars competition. The D-League ASG is fine, but feels too little brother-y. In both cases, the problem doesnâ€™t start with the ASG, but rather with the leaguesâ€™ day-to-day relationship with the NBA. Some teams do a great job using the D-League to develop talent and rehab injured players (San Antonio springs to mind), but not all of them. Until that relationship is clearer, itâ€™s hard to know what to make of it. Same goes for the WNBA, which still faces an uphill climb to acceptance. Having Sue Bird shoot three-pointers next to Detlef Schrempf isnâ€™t going to help.
5) What’s something that other pro-leagues do in their All-Star Games that the NBA should emulate?
Jared: I really like what the NHL has done with their All-Star Game. They pick the participants and then let two captains pick the squads on national TV. It’s great theater, the gy who gets picked last wins a car so he doesn’t feel too bad about himself, and it makes for more intrigue leading up to the game. You can see which guys like each other best and who really cares about winning the game and who wants to play with their buddies. It would also allow for selecting the 24 most deserving players for the game rather than 12 from each conference, which often leads to guys who shouldn’t be there getting there anyway.
Clint: Eliminate the fan vote for all starters. Let’s vote in the top two in each conference, but select the rest based on coaches, peers, and media. I mean, who has the time and money to hire an army of clones who haven’t got the slightest idea of whom they’re brainlessly voting for 3,000,000 times a day via proxy from halfway around the globe? I fully expect Jeremy Lin to set some kind of new record for first-place votes gotten next year. The NBA may think that fans know who they wanna see, but it’s slighting the game and the guys that truly deserve to be there by allowing the current farce format to continue.
Andrew: Having team captains and picking sides in the All-Star Game would be awesome, but there’s little else I’d adopt from other sports. One certainly doesn’t want to make this exhibition mean something or have it the week before the championship and limit the participation of the game’s best players.
Sean: Clearly an NHL-style draft is something that would add interest and drama to the main event. In fact, Andrew and I actually became internet BFFs last year while making one ourselves.
Steve: Thereâ€™s no reason on this green earth that the ASG shouldnâ€™t run like the NHL game, where captains pick players from a pool voted on partly by fans and selected by coaches. Itâ€™s a facepalm simple idea whose time has come. MLBâ€™s attempt to make the games matter by having them determine home field advantage in the World Series seems silly to me, but so does the way the NFLâ€™s Pro Bowl matters not at all. Honestly, having captains pick the teams might all by itself make it both more fun and more competitive. After all, these guys have spent plenty of time being picked first in their lives and will probably take getting picked last very personally. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge might provide a good lab this year for seeing how it works.