Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post All-Star Thoughts

Finally home. Part of me is going to regret taking my time in Dallas for granted, while part of me is glad it's over. The All-Star weekend definitely had its highlights, but it also had its lowlights. Either way, it turned out to be something I'll never forget. Let's get right into it.

Friday Night (Rookie game and Dunk-In)

I'll be honest - I was more interested in what was happening during halftime than the actual game. I practically ended up missing the entire first half because I was too hyped about what our Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan had in store for us.

As we all know, the NBA is a business. And what better way to turn up All Star weekend a few notches by adding a little bit more of what all the fans came to see - jaw dropping dunks. And thus, the first ever dunk-in.

The result? Hmmm...Meh.

I should have known DeRozan was going to hold back. The rookie played it safe, perhaps too safe. Fortunately for DeMar, Eric Gordon had trouble throwing it down. I'm as biased as a Raptor fan can get at times, but if Gordon had been able to put down those dunks on the first attempt, things may have been different.

As for the actual rookie game? Three things.

1. I feel terribly bad for Brook Lopez. He has to put up with all the losing in New Jersey. And then he finally gets to play on a team that is favored to win; and then loses that game as well. Yikes.

2. DeJuan Blair is the real deal. He cleaned up the glass like it was no one's business. The Spurs rook just has that feel for the ball, that instinct you can't teach. You need a player that brings what Blair brings to the table on every championship team. San Antonio really lucked out on him. Hopefully those knees hold up for him.

3. There was a bit of a debate going among NBA fans about the MVP award for the game. But let's get one thing straight. Tyreke Evans' performance in the first half was a huge reason why the rookies were able to win the game. He really set the tone for the rookies and kept the sophomores on their heels the entire night.

Saturday Night (Skills Night)

Every year, this turns out to be my favorite night of All-Star Weekend. Every season, Friday's rookie challenge looks like a YMCA pick up game, while Sunday turns out to be a snooze fest (maybe that's because they always seem to freeze out Chris Bosh). So in at least the last couple of years, the one night I always tune in for the entire show is on Saturday. Part of the reason is because the events shown often remind me of the fun basketball mini-games I used to play at summer camp or participate in during high school pep rallies.

H.O.R.S.E - I was a bit skeptical about this last year. Little did I know, my skepticism came a year early. Last year's competition was actually fairly entertaining. This year's version of the popular basketball trick shot game was absolutely awful! No one busted out any real trick shots, the crowd looked disappointed, and I'm pretty sure even the eventual 2-time champ Kevin Durant didn't want to be there. It even got to a point where I thought players were missing attempts on purpose because they were running out of time. I DARE you guys to find me someone involved in the organization of the events to tell me that they actually thought they'd use up the entire 1 hour time slot put aside for this event. The only thing that kept it going was the fortunate presence of the TNT broadcast crew.

Shooting Stars - People hate on this part of the night all the time, but I don't see how anyone could use this particular one as an example of why they should just get rid of the "Shooting Stars" competition. This actually had me on the edge of my seat a couple times. From the last second half court shots, to the very impressive times put up by the Texas team, it was all good. Fun, fast paced, and a good mix of basketball players is always a good formula.

Skills Competition - Forget the dunk-off. Forget the 3-point competition. This is where it's at for me. What happens when you take some of the best point guards in the NBA, and throw them into an obstacle course? You get Steve Nash victorious of course. Like many other Canadians, I called that. You could see it on his face, Steve was still on a high from his experience of the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies. There was no way he was going to lose. As much as I love this event though, they seriously need to upgrade it some. Take away the carrying that most - if not all - the point guards do. And then add another feature to the obstacle course!

3 Point Shootout - Looking at the list, 1 through 6, this turned out to be a fairly respectable group of shooters. I wasn't really too high on Paul Pierce lobbying to get into the competition. But it proved to be worth the hassle he went through, as the self-proclaimed "Best shooter in the world" ended up taking the 3-point crown. I truly despise the Celtics (except Ray Allen). Why did it have to be Pierce? Anyone else could have won. My two sleeper picks coming into the shootout was Channing Frye and Danilo Gallinari. Unfortunately for me, not only did I feel they were slept on, but neither of them woke up for the competition. ALSO. Mark my words: Stephen Curry will win this shootout one day.

Slam Dunk Contest - Ugh. Sigh. OMG. Whatever words, phrases, symbols you can think of to summarize this year's dunk contest, throw it out the window because it wouldn't be able to describe the travesty that occurred in front of millions. Ladies and gentlemen, that WAS NOT a dunk contest. That was something else. That was the most disappointing thing ever associated with the NBA. Gerald Wallace didn't even look like he wanted to be there. He should be fined for pulling off the pathetic dunks he decided to go with. Shannon Brown - who will forever be mocked because of his petition website - put forth his candidacy for "Biggest Dud of the Weekend". DeMar DeRozan didn't show us the two dunks "no one has ever seen before", while also letting the title slip away from him. And the champion? Nate Robinson? The dude won the title using his old dunks from previous contests. What in the world was that? Did you see the looks on the faces of the audience? They looked pissed off! The NBA players sitting sidelines put away their camera-phones, the commentators were taking jabs at the participants. It was definitely a forgettable event. Yet I'll always remember it as the night DeRozan gave away the Slam Dunk title. He could have done anything but the last dunk of his, and he would have won the event. I've seen him do a 360. I've seen him bounce it off the glass/floor before doing a windmill. Any of those would have been better than that awful final attempt. Yikes.

Sunday Night (All-Star Game)

The night I usually end up flipping channels on turns out to save the weekend. It's like the typical story of the unexpected hero. The thing that had everyone talking about this year's All-Star game was the fact that it was going to be held at Cowboys Stadium. They say everything is bigger in Texas. And boy, is that an understatement. This building is ridiculous! Have you ever wondered where all that stimulus money went? Well look no further than Arlington, Texas.

How was the crowd and the entertainment? Mixed emotions here. This was the first All-Star game I had ever attended, so I can't really say I have a firm grasp on the typical All-Star crowd. But the apparently 100,000+ people that were there couldn't hold a candle to the crowd at the ACC. They were dead! And on top of that, there was an incredible amount of empty seats by the second half. Speaking of halves, the halftime show was hit and miss for me. Shakira wore her hips but forget her voice. Thankfully, Alicia Keys was amazing.

As for the actual game. What made it watchable for me was the fact that they actually got Chris Bosh involved. It's pretty tough to get your touches and shining moments on a team that has LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Thankfully for Raptors fans, Bosh was playing in front of his hometown, and so it was expected that he got "HIS".

And for those who say Bosh can't hang with the best. Well, what do you say about last night's game? Chris Bosh looked like he fit right in with everybody, and it's been awhile since we could say that about one of our Raptors. He was one of the only players who cared about rebounding. He made sure not to be regulated to the role of "Inbounder". He showed off the full arsenal of offensive moves. And he made the fancy plays.

And on top of that? He provided the East with the game winning points. Had he not missed those two free throws earlier on in the 4th quarter, nor had he missed an open jumper, or botched that alley-oop from James, Toronto may had just gotten their first ever All-Star MVP.

And there you go. All-Star weekend from a Raptors fan's perspective. Thanks for reading! I'm out.

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