Tag Archives: All Star Game

HP Round Table: All-Star Break! Woo!

Image via kahunna on flickr

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 for  some fun and camaraderie. I asked Hardwood Paroxysm’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 I’ll say that while people have said that Melo and Amare’s absence made Lin’s rise possible, Chandler is a huge part of what makes the Knicks work with Lin (notwithstanding the result against the Heat last night). It’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. Hibbert’s been great, but Chandler’s been the anchor for the Knicks.

Is there anyone else to nominate for undeserving do-nothing than Melo? It’s not his fault that he hasn’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. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy doesn’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!

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/CJMiles34/status/172124740260085760"]

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 Griffin’s preordained coronation as the slam dunk champ. I mean, did anyone seriously doubt he’d walk away with it? Plus, the biggest problem with the dunk contest in the last couple years has been its scripted feeling. There’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.

3) Which late-80’s-early-90’s Nickelodeon show would you like substituted for the Haier Shooting Stars contest: Family Double Dare, Wild and Crazy Kids, or Nick Arcade?

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, I’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 you’re not interested in Michael Beasley and J.R. Smith sitting in recliners and answering pop culture questions on Remote Control, I can’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: It’s certainly not doing the WNBA any favors to be involved in the All-Star Game’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 doesn’t start with the ASG, but rather with the leagues’ 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, it’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 isn’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: There’s no reason on this green earth that the ASG shouldn’t run like the NHL game, where captains pick players from a pool voted on partly by fans and selected by coaches. It’s a facepalm simple idea whose time has come. MLB’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 NFL’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.

One Round to Rule Them All

Photo by Nrbelex on Flickr

When the lineup for this year’s Slam Dunk Contest was announced, there was nothing but crickets coming from casual basketball fans. No Blake Griffin? No LeBron James? More dedicated followers of the NBA were maybe less surprised. Defending your dunk title has become a bit passé. And rumors about James’ participation fly every year, but he has little to gain by entering and winning and much more by losing. Getting into the dunk contest and falling to anyone might be a bigger misstep than The Decision.

But even the most enthusiastic basketball fans groaned at the field. Derrick Williams? He’s caught some nice alley-oops from Ricky Rubio, but he strikes me as a game dunker, not a showcase dunker. Paul George had that one great breakaway reverse where he pulled it down between his legs, but that’s about it. Chase Budinger’s dunks would best be described as workmanlike. And lastly, Iman Shumpert (who misses nearly as many dunks as he makes) bowed out to be replaced by the wildly better Jeremy Evans. But Evans is 6’9” and bigger guys get less credit for jumping high. It just doesn’t look as cool. His best dunk so far was called an offensive foul.

So why is there any reason for positivity? For one, the new single round format might actually work. Call me crazy, but the multi-round format of previous years has ruined what could have been some great dunk contests. Take Andre Iguodala’s performance in the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest. His alley-oop from Allen Iverson caught off the back of the backboard was probably the best dunk from that year’s event, but it came in the penultimate round and Iguodala ultimately lost to the diminutive Nate Robinson in a dunk off. Robinson’s dunk over Spud Webb signaled the turn of the contest towards a weirdly meta, prop-based approach to the dunk contest. Plus it took him 14 attempts to put it in. Iguodala was, in short, robbed.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6z9-l4hnMM

Two years later, Dwight Howard took the crown with the most prop-driven performance up until that point, but Gerald Green’s opening round dunk got lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame, because it was slick and creative.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1pXEumOGOU

But in subsequent rounds, Green showed he couldn’t come up with anything to top himself, much less any of the other contestants. The best dunk contest participants, from Michael Jordan to Vince Carter, have shown a sense of showmanship that extends beyond the individual dunks to the arc created over the whole contest. It’s kind of cognitively dissonant with the spirit of dunking in the game, which relies more on chance, timing, and opportunity than advance planning.

So there’s a chance that this single round format will level the field a bit more, resulting in good early dunks carrying more weight. But on the other hand, the NBA ditching the judges and awarding the trophy based solely on fan vote is thoroughly wrongheaded. The judge system has had its own problems (as when Howard’s truly impressive sticker dunk was misunderstood by them in the moment), but it’s impossible to see how a fan vote doesn’t lead to something that values flash or name recognition over an honest appraisal of dunks. On the bright side, no one knows who these contestants are. Seriously, this field’s about as open as the field of Republican presidential candidates last November.

But mixed feelings over the Slam Dunk Contest are nothing new. The truly revelatory performances are almost always surprises, which is perhaps in the dunk’s very nature. Like humor, a good dunk thrives on being unexpected, whether that means breaking out of the flow and rhythm of a regular game or coming up with something that’s never been seen before in the contest. The real key to a great dunk contest performance, though, is not only doing something startlingly new, but rather finding a balance between athleticism, showmanship, and, strangely, comprehensibility. Green’s cupcake dunk, Howard’s sticker dunk, and Javale McGee’s cradle under-the-backboard dunk all suffered for not being as immediately graspable as Dr. J’s free throw line dunk or Vince Carter’s through-the-legs alley-oop. Given the tremendous athleticism of players in the NBA now and the switch to fan-voting, it’s likely that the winning dunk won’t be the most impressive, but rather, the one that communicates the best.

NBA All-Star Game: Are We Sure Players Were Snubbed?

Popularity and personal taste are odd things.

I remember the first two All-Star Games that I REALLY watched (with an eye on basketball rather than just a casual fan) were the 1992 and 1993 All-Star Games. I was an NBA obsessive 10 and 11-yr old back then just trying to find any reason not to believe Michael Jordan wasn’t the best player in the NBA.

I didn’t have really anything against Michael Jordan. I’ve just been playing Devil’s Advocate in obvious arguments since I realized that you could have some fun with that sort of mental exercise. And I wasn’t really willing to accept that MJ was the best player (possibly ever) at the time because I wanted to find holes in his game. Confoundingly (is that a word?), I tried to convince myself that his dribbling ability and three-point shooting were weak enough that there could be an argument against his hands-down greatness.

Sure it was completely moronic and stupid but I was 10 years old. Aren’t all 10-year old kids moronic and stupid? Naturally, this made me gravitate towards players that hand amazing dribbling abilities and deep range on their jumpers. Guys like Kenny Anderson, Muggsy Bogues and Tim Hardaway dazzled me with their handles. Chris Mullin, Ricky Pierce and Dan Majerle bewildered me with their clichéd but accurate “in-the-gym range” on their jumpers.

Whenever I caught a glimpse of Dan Majerle, I was particularly enamored. He would spot up five to eight feet behind the three-point line and drill it. It seemed so effortless. It seemed so natural. If he was on NBC on the weekend, I was going to watch. Well, I was going to watch regardless but I was going to focus on him during the game. I just wanted to see the shooting stunts he would attempt each game. So when I buckled down with my “wealth of basketball knowledge” at the age of 10 and watched the 1992 All-Star Game from Orlando, I was thrilled that I was going to get to see one of my favorite players giving it a go in his first All-Star Game.

He didn’t do much. Made a couple of baskets, missed a couple of threes and was one of many players lost in the celebration of Magic Johnson as he dazzled the court that day, stopped Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan on the last two defensive possessions of his hey-day and made that improbable three-pointer to cap off an incredible display of respect and love for the recently retired legend.

However, the next year in Salt Lake City, Dan Majerle shined a bit brighter. He made three long-range shots. He finished all over the court and ended up with 18 points off the bench in 26 minutes. He even blocked a couple shots and grabbed some boards. It was a nice showing.

So what’s the point of all this Dan Majerle rehashing?

Well, Dan Majerle probably never really deserved to be an All-Star. He made the ASG three times in his career. And he was a fine player. He was a really good player in face and a game changer quite often. But was he actually an All-Star? Does it even matter? His best pre-All Star break numbers in a season were the ’94-’95 campaign in which he averaged 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 44% from the field and 38% from three. He did it as the main guy for the Suns while Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson battled the injury bug.

Here’s the crazy thing about this All-Star appearance though – he came off the bench for the Suns during most of that first half. He only started 46 games that season and 21 of them came before the All-Star break. He was voted into the All-Star Game by the fans becoming the first bench player to ever be voted to start an All-Star Game. And where do you think the All-Star Game was?

Phoenix, Arizona!

Dan Majerle was a really good role player throughout his career. And for a four-year stretch, he was arguably the best role player in the NBA. But was he ever truly an All-Star? What does All-Star even mean? Are we sure he was one of the 24 best players in the NBA those three years? Was he just voted into his third ASG as a starter because of some hometown cooking? Does it matter?

I had an epiphany last night. I was thinking about the All-Star Game and what it meant. Even though we all regard it as a meaningless exhibition, the majority of us still hold it in high regard. You can tell we hold it in high regard because we’re outraged that Allen Iverson is starting the All-Star Game despite the fact that he received over one million votes.

Should we really be outraged though? What is the All-Star Game? It’s a celebration of basketball, right? Maybe it used to be the 24 best players from that year showing up to play a spirited exhibition at the mid-ish point of the season but it hasn’t necessarily been that for some time now. Players no longer take it seriously unless they’re trying to win the MVP award for that game (see: Kobe, LeBron, Iverson).

Everyone gets mad at the fan voting system (myself included) because it often puts one or two guys into the starting lineup and therefore the game itself when they might not be completely “deserving.” Does this upset us because it’s a basketball injustice or because we keep confusing the term “All-Star” with “All-NBA?”

The All-NBA teams are meant to tell us who the best players in the NBA are for that particular season. The All-Star teams are supposed to tell us who the stars of each conference are. That’s a huge difference. In fact, those are two different worlds altogether. With the starting lineups in the ASG format, there are already HUGE flaws for determining if these 10 players are deserving, most popular or a combo of the two.

The All-Star ballots are put together before the season starts and voting begins about two weeks after the start of the regular season. Why would you have voting two weeks into a 25-week excursion if it was supposed to truly reward the 24 best players of the first half of that season? With All-Star voting, it’s never been about who is having the best season. It’s always been about popularity. And after this epiphany last night, I don’t really have a problem with it. We’re mixing popularity with this celebration of the game. So why do we get bent out of shape about “All-Star Snubs?”

Does anyone honestly think that David Lee is one of the 24 best players in the NBA this season? Sure, he puts up some fantastic numbers and is one of the few bright spots on the Knicks this year but he doesn’t play a lick of defense and I’m not sure I’d have him in my Top Ten Forwards in the East list. Are we SURE that Josh Smith’s snubbing is a bad thing? Matt Moore perfectly articulated what this could mean for his career by taking this personally. Well, isn’t that more important to the game of basketball than giving him 18 minutes of play against the Western Conference this year?

You want your guy there because you want recognition for your team/player. People want to ignore the fact that Monta Ellis has more turnovers than a breakfast buffet or makes Troy Hudson look like Gary Payton on the defensive end of the court. It’s the reason that Chris Kaman is a snub. It’s the reason that Marc Gasol is a snub. It’s the reason that Andrew Bynum is a snub. It’s the reason that Derrick Rose making the All-Star Game in the East this year is “absurd.”

Is it really that absurd? Between Derrick Rose and David Lee, who would be more fun to watch in an All-Star Game? It’s Derrick Rose and it’s not even close. Now, with Josh Smith you have a better argument. Josh Smith is one of the five players I make sure to watch every night. He always does some otherworldly ish on the basketball court.

So if we’re celebrating the game of basketball this Valentine’s Day weekend, maybe we DO need him in Dallas. Maybe Kevin Garnett will not want to risk further injuring himself in the All-Star exhibition and sit out, thus opening the door for Josh Smith to show his stuff.

Whatever happens, just know that it’s a game we put too much thought into. We should be much more concerned with the All-NBA teams and the All-Defensive teams at the end of the season. This game is about fun and it will be fun for the most part. The pace will be fast, the shots will be plentiful and we’re all going to get to see some amazing feats of basketball.

It’s not about who the best is. It’s not about who the most deserving is. It’s about giving those 10-yr old fans something they’re going to remember.

Now enjoy your weekend with some Dan Majerle highlights: