2005 All-Star Weekend Preview
Shaquille O’Neal leads the East in this year’s NBA All-Star Game.
Fast-Breaking It Down: All-Star Style
-All-Star weekend kicks off tonight at 7 with the McDonald’s NBA All- Star Celebrity Game featuring such marquee names as Kevin Frazier (must have been real tough to get him, he only ESPN’s NBA studio host last year) , Eric Koston (who?), Brian McKnight (how does he get invited every year? I think his celebrity status still exists purely because he appears at events like these and Hollywood Squares–like Coolio and Mark McGrath), Mark McGrath, and Roger Lodge. Oh,boy! I can’t wait to see Rap mogul Jermaine Dupri battle cheesy rock mogul Ryan Cabrera for position in the post, or how about the fascinating one-on-one matchup that pits Fox star Danny Masterson (That 70’s Show) against NBC star Donald Faison (Scrubs), and of course the we’ll all be eagerly awaiting the moment when Ice Cube goes in for a lay-up only to have the ball shoved back down his throat by a woman over a foot taller than him–one Ms. Lisa Leslie (I actually wasn’t being sarcastic about that last part). And what’s with Greg Anthony and Stephen A. Smith being listed as the GMs for the two teams? Are we supposed to anticipate trade discussions during this sorry 2 hour event? Hey, if Nelly refuses to play for Greg Anthony in order to force a trade to play under Stephen A’s club, or if Eric Koston (who?) goes to Stephen A. to see that team coach Andre Miller is fired–then it’ll be just like a real game, and I’m all for it. -The Rookie/Sophomore Challenge has turned into one of the more reliable events at All-Star Weekend over the past 5 or so years and this year could prove to be the most enjoyable. The Sophomore team is stacked from top to bottom with the likes of LeBron, ‘Melo, Wade, and Bosh. Unfortunately LeBron has been feeling a bit under the weather as of late and may have to pull it out, which would hurt this game’s stock immensely. I’ve been itching to see LeBron in this game ever since he put on a marvelous display in last year’s game. You have to think the King takes this game a less seriously than Sunday’s All-Star Game and so we’ll likely see the kid having a little more fun and being more creative. The Rookie team will be without Emeka Okafor, which basically means that instead of losing by 30, they’ll probably go down by about 47. There are some nice faces on that team that should be a good source of entertainment–Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, and my boy Ben Gordon. But we don’t watch this game for the competitiveness now anyways–so enjoy the dunks, no-look passes, and the worst defense you’ll see this side of Savannah State. Inside the NBA follows the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge–tune in. The crew always turns it up a notch during All-Star Weekend and last night Charles made an absurdly lucky pool shot that is sure to be aired continually throughout the weekend.
Carmelo Anthony will help lead the Sophomores to victory in tonight’s Rookie/Sophomore Challenge.
-TNT begins their programming at 4pm on Saturday with NBA Street Series and while none of the live events begin until 8pm, it’s worth checking out some of the programs they’ll be airing. At 5 pm, they’ll be showing All-Star 1-on-1 where several All-Stars sit down with TNT talent–Steve Nash with Charles Barkley, Ray Allen with Kenny Smith, Dirk Nowitzki with Doug Collins, Kevin Garnett and Grant Hill with John Thompson. If any of you caught the snippet of the KG sit-down with John Thompson where “The Big Ticket” nearly broke down and cried when discussing how tough this season has been for him, you probably have an idea of how good this could be. By the way, is there a better interviewer than John Thompson for the NBA? Seriously, most of these cats were growing up when Georgetown was enjoying it’s run as the most feared and respected team in the nation thanks to JT, so every player respects him immensely from a basketball sense. And then he’s also got that reputation as a father figure and so the players look at him from that angle as well. I encourage you to watch Big John tomorrow, you’ll know what I’m talking about. At 6pm, Inside the NBA and you all know how I feel about that–must- see TV. Afterwards, TNT will be airing The Legend of the Dunk Contest and this simply cannot be missed. Highlights of past dunk contests, famous dunkers speaking–should be some entertaining stuff.
-Finally at 8 pm, TNT brings us the main event for Saturday–All-Star Saturday Night which has always been my favorite part of All-Star Weekend. It begins with the…ugh…Shooting Stars Competition which has been a disaster year in, year out. Who cares to see 4 teams with one current NBA player, one retired NBA player, and one WNBA player going against each other to see who can hit more jump shots? Why not just take 4 NBA players and have them play HORSE or 21? Next up is the Playstation Skills Challenge with Gilbert Arenas, Earl Boykins, Steve Nash, and Luke Ridnour. This is an enjoyable event, but it goes by too quickly with almost no suspense. Instead of giving them only an obstacle course to run through, why not have the top 2 winners face off in a 1-on-1 battle? The third event is the 3-point Shooting Contest where Voshon Lenard (on one achilles) attempts to defend his title against Vladamir Radmanovic, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, and Kyle Korver. I love this event, but how can the NBA possibly not invite Damon Jones and Fred Hoiberg regardless of what criteria they have? DJ would have brought extra drama to the event with the bet Shaquille O’Neal proposed to him if he were to win it. What’s the harm in getting Shaq involved with every event possible? And Hoiberg is far and away the league leader in 3-point percentage and would certainly fair better than Q-Rich who only qualifies because of his Antoine Walkeresque bombs away mentality. Finally we have the Slam Dunk Contest to conclude the night, which everyone is already poo-pooing. C’mon now. Josh Smith and J.R. Smith can both jump out of the building–I’m not sure there’s 2 guys that we haven’t seen in a dunk contest yet (save LeBron and Wade) that I’d rather see than these two. Amare Stoudemire has to have something up his sleeve if he’s so pumped to be doing it this year. He wasn’t anything special two years ago and he knows his status as only being a power dunker is on the line, so I’d imagine the man-child is going to bring something nice to the table. And Chris Anderson, well–not a bad dunker at all and he wasn’t too bad a couple years ago either, but I can’t see him doing much. Let’s pray that LeBron gets worked up enough to just toss his name into the fray and enter the contest at the 9th hour. The league is still holding out for him, but in reality, LeBron has a lot more to lose if he doesn’t claim the crown than if he does. I’d imagine a lot of his confidantes have been whispering in his ear to stay out, and that’s why we likely won’t see him.
-Sunday brings us the entree if you will–The NBA All-Star Game…East vs. West…Shaq vs. Kobe…LeBron’s first All-Star Appearance…Grant Hill making his heartfelt return to the All-Star Game…Vince Carter trying to prove he belongs…Nash and Nowitzki as teammates again…should be a blast. I think this year has a great chance to be one of the more competitive games in recent years. For starters, Greg Popovich and Stan Van Gundy are not exactly coaches who endorse showmenship, so I’d expect them to be coaching this game with a strong desire to win. There’s also a slew of exciting first-timers including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Gilbert Arenas on the East as well as Manu Ginobili and Amare Stoudemire on the West. Guys always go extremely hard in their 1st All-Star game and considering the immense talent that each of these guys has, I’d imagine that their impact on the game could be enormous. And with Shaq moving to the East, the balance of the two teams certainly becomes more even. The East can now match up better size-wise and has the guard play to be able to run along with the more fast-paced minded West team. Look for the East to win by 5 or so and Shaq to take MVP honors.