Liveblogging All-Star Saturday
Disclaimer: The notes which follow were posted live and unedited. Chuck’s comments do not necessarily reflect HoopsVibe’s opinions or any form of coherent thought.
Good evening, folks. As is my custom, I join you from an undisclosed location in the south of England with a bucket of chicken and a unhealthy hatred in my heart for the fact that I missed the festivities in New Orleans, and as a result will be watching All-Star Weekend on a Chinese P2P stream yet again. My thoughts are posted as-is and will be modified and expanded as the night goes on. If you’re following along at home, hit your refresh key to see any changes since you last visited.
– The various participants in the evening’s activities are introduced, with Chris Paul unsurprisingly drawing the biggest cheer from the crowd. Since the commentary on my feed is in Mandarin, I have no idea why the players are followed by children of various sizes. Why are they bringing out children? I hate children. They might be the future, but right now they can’t dunk, and consequently they’re of no interest to me.
– The "Shooting Stars" competition is first up. A friend of mine who boycotted ASW for the past few years texted me to ask what it was about. Having to keep it within the 180-character limit (my U.K. cell phone is older than some NBA rookies), I had to forego the full explanation of the rules of the competition, instead replying with "It’s like 2Ball, but with fifty percent more suck."
– Whenever I hear people engaging in the "Who’s the finest WNBA player?" conversation, Sue Bird and Becky Hammond are inevitably mentioned as the two primary candidates. I disagree. I may have only seen her a few times, but my vote would go to Swin Cash. I say "would go" because I refuse to enter into conversations which objectify women. I’m not a misogynist. I love bitches. (Let’s assume that was irony and not send the angry emails.)
– San Antonio takes the Shooting Stars competition, but I find it very difficult to give even a fraction of a shit. It was nice seeing B.J. Armstrong and The Admiral back in action, though, even if Dave’s hairline is running away from his face like a fat kid from a salad.
– Deron Williams goes first and posts a respectable 31.9 seconds in the Skills Challenge. Jason Kidd follows and assumes his "Ason" persona, missing every one of his jumpers. His shooting stance implies that he has spent all day picking up soap in a prison shower.
– Much to the delight of the crowd, Chris Paul whizzes through with the only sub-thirty-second time of the first round.
– Dwyane Wade’s effort is uglier than Popeye Jones in a dress. He intentionally misses his last two jumpers to get through quicker, stumbles through the passing drill, loses the ball in the dribbling section and tops off the crap sundae by blowing a pair of layups.
– Chris Paul and Deron Williams meet in the finals. Williams is flawless, making every shot and pass first time and finishing with a dunk. It’s a tall order for Paul, but at least he’ll have damn near every person in the building behind him.
– CP3 slips up twice, leaving Williams’ 25.5 seconds as the winning effort.
– The Chinese commentators speak almost without pausing to breathe, but for some reason fall silent whenever Cheryl Miller takes the mic. If anyone knows why that might be, let me know. Personally, I’d rather be listening to the commentators.
– As a sidenote, it’s surprising to see how many simple Mandarin phrases I’ve remembered from high school. Since the whole basketball team except me was composed of Chinese exchange students, I learned the words for "foul", "pass", "three-pointer" and various other basketball terms in my time training with the fellas. My boy Ming also taught me how to say "Your momma has a moustache", although, sadly, I’ve since forgotten it.
– It’s time for the three-point competition, and once again there’s a reverential silence for Cheryl Miller’s appearance as she chats with Jason Kapono.
– Rip Hamilton is first to shoot. He doesn’t have his lucky mask/safety blanket on, but he is rocking an elbow sleeve emblazoned with a flame design more commonly seen on Matchbox model cars. He finishes with a respectable but unspectacular fourteen, mostly because he clanks his first four money balls.
– Boobie Gibson follows with a seventeen, which means that he shot about the same percentage in the first round as he did in the rookie-sophomore game yesterday. He’s congratulated by Damon Jones, whose tailored suit, mohawk and diamond earring make him look like an unemployed P. Diddy impersonator.
– What the crap happened to Nashty? Nine points? My Canadian cousin put his money on Steve before the competition, so he’ll be hearing about this. In fact, I’m going to text him right now.
– The only printable word in my cousin’s reply was "hoser". I respond by accusing him of engaging in carnal relations with a moose.
– Dirk takes a rack to warm up but finishes tied for top with seventeen.
– Peja almost pulls off a Larry Bird with his late run, but can’t connect on his final shot and consequently falls short with fifteen. To my mind, they should have taken a few points off for hitting the side of the backboard in the first round. It’s academic at this point, however, since he’s already eliminated.
– My pre-contest favourite, Jason Kapono, catches fire and ices nine of his last ten, accumulating twenty total points for the best score of the first round. He joins Dirk and Boobie in the final. Now that he’s found his stroke, this competition is Kapono’s to lose.
– Amaré is rocking a rope chain that must have about a pound of gold in it. I have a sudden urge to break out my copy of "Eric B for President".
– Boobie Gibson is the first finalist on the floor. He struggles to find a rhythm in the early racks but knocks down his last four for a score of seventeen.
– The close camera shot of Dirk’s final rack reveals that he has a tiny "shooting window", as one of my old coaches would term it, by which I mean that he pulls the ball so close to his head on his recoil motion that he can’t see the rim just before the release point of his jumper. He posts a fourteen.
– Dirk’s hair might be the wooliest substance on earth not to have originated on a sheep. I heard he goes to a farmer to get it cut.
– As predicted, Kapono leaves the competition swimming in his wake, starting strong and finishing likewise for a very impressive twenty-four and his second consecutive three-point shootout win. I told you so.
– The contestants take the court for the dunk competition, and I’m genuinely excited for the first time tonight. I’m not even going to read the new rules; they’ll only be different next year.
– It’s good to see Dr. J on the panel. He might have gone white around the temples, but he still looks as if he could throw one down if pressed.
– Gerald Green teases us by mentioning a dunk he has planned called the "Birthday Cake". I’m not even going to pretend I know where he’s going with that, but I’m looking forward to it.
– Jamario Moon gets things going with an off-the-bounce 180-degree one-hander that’s almost a carbon copy of a dunk I saw from former AND1 player T.J. "Air Up There" Fontenette (now known as "Mr. 720" for copyright reasons) recently. It’s a nice start to the competition, especially since he put it down on his first attempt.
– Rudy Gay’s first attempt bricks off the side of the iron, but he finishes on his second go with a rock-the-cradle windmill that looks to have been inspired by a James White dunk from the NCAA contest a few years ago. The judges award him a thirty-seven, which seems about right given the degree of difficulty. It’s not completely unoriginal, but since it could probably be performed on a break, it’s not worth more than forty.
– Despite rimming out the first attempt, Dwight Howard brings the house down with his slam, throwing the ball to himself off the back of the glass and windmilling it with his head still behind the backboard. They say that big guys have no style, but that dunk would be physically impossible without a seven-foot wingspan.
– The reason for the name of Gerald Green’s "Birthday Cake" dunk soon becomes apparent as a cupcake with a candle in it is balanced on the back of the rim. The dunk (a simple two-hander off the bounce) doesn’t look pee-your-pants good until the slow-mo replay reveals that Green got his head close enough to the rim to actually blow out the candle on his way up. Like Dwight Howard’s sticker dunk from last year’s contest, it’s an effort you can only fully appreciate in the replay.
– After the first round of dunks, the scores are fifty for Dwight, forty-six for Gerald and Jamario, and thirty-seven for Rudy.
– Gay’s second offering is a little more creative as he catches an alley-oop thrown off the arm of the basket support and windmills it cleanly on his first attempt. He’s rewarded with a forty-eight, which gives him a total of eighty-five for the first round. I could be wrong, but he looks set to be eliminated.
– Jamario Moon puts a piece of tape down a few feet behind the charity stripe. Josh Smith did likewise a few years back but actually took off from considerably closer.
– Moon catches a bounce alley-oop from Kapono, finishing with a leaning lefty across his body. It’s a mean dunk even if he did leave the floor well inside the free-throw line.
– Rashad McCants sits atop a step ladder for Green’s second attempt, dropping off a pass which Gerald converts with a slick windmill. He scores nines across the board, giving him a first-round total of ninety-one and a spot in the finals.
– Dwight Howard also lays a piece of tape before pulling off his jersey to reveal a Superman vest, which he accentuates with the Man of Steel’s trademark red cape. Thankfully, he keeps his underwear under his shorts.
– His jam is something that has to be seen to be believed. Dwight takes off double-footed from just below the stripe, catches the lob from Jameer Nelson and finishes by literally throwing the ball through the rim from a good eighteen inches above. I’m not sure that qualifies as a dunk, but it was enough to make me make me scream like a king crab pinched my nipple. Don’t ask me how I know how that feels. Dwight rightly scores his second perfect fifty and joins Gerald Green in the final.
– Green obviously isn’t intimidated by Dwight’s triple-digit first round, setting the tone with a through-the-legs jam off a pass tossed over the backboard by McCants. I figured a rider (what the French call a between-the-legs jam) was on the way when I noticed that his shorts ended about five inches shy of his knee. If you’ve ever tried to switch the ball through the five-hole while rocking baggy shorts, you’ll know how tricky it is. My friend once pantsed himself in mid-air while attempting to imitate J.R. Rider’s famous "Eastbay" dunk.
– Dwight’s dunk is every synonym for "crazy" in the dictionary. He tosses a bounce alley-oop to himself, then taps it off the backboard in mid-air with his left before dunking with his right. It’s without doubt one of the toughest dunks I’ve ever seen in the contest.
– Green’s final dunk isn’t quite the crowd-pleaser as he takes his sneakers off, signs them and performs a between-the-legs slam in his socks. It was a nice idea and he executed it perfectly, but it’s got nothing on Howard’s effort.
– For his final attempt, Dwight has Jameer Nelson set up a miniature hoop in the lower-right corner of the backboard on which he balances the ball. His first attempt flies off the back of the rim, but his second is cleaner than Grant Hill’s reputation as he snatches the ball off the smaller hoop, windmills it and finishes on the larger one.
– Since the fans determine the winner by text message this year, there’s a brief recess for the votes to filter in and be counted. I’m treated to a commercial break featuring consumer electronics we won’t see on this side of the world for at least a year. I don’t mean to spoil the surprise, but it looks as if an mp3 player with a built-in nasal hair trimmer should be hitting U.S. stores in the first quarter of ’09.
– With a surprisingly low seventy-eight percent of the vote, Dwight is the deserving champion. Although I would have liked to see the competition run a little longer (I don’t think three dunks each in the first round would be excessive), I have to say that I enjoyed this contest as much as any since Vince ushered in a new era of aerial artistry with his exhibition in Oakland.
That’s all for tonight, folks. Let us know what you thought of All-Star Saturday in the comment box below, and join me again tomorrow as I liveblog the weekend’s main event.