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Talkin’ All-Star Weekend Blues

 

All-Star Weekend is a drag.

Every season as it approaches, I study the calendar’s five-day stretch absent “real” NBA games with dread and try and talk myself into the idea that Friday’s rookie-sophomore game will be hard-fought and shed a light on guys who’ve flown under the radar, that Saturday’s dunk contest won’t feature one dude missing the same dunk six times in a row before finally choosing something easier and anticlimactic and that the three-point contest, the most interesting of the peripheral events, will feature the kind of showmanship we saw back when it was fresh:

I am usually disappointed by all these events but never by the all-star game itself, possibly because my expectations are so painfully low.

It’s hard to blame the players for the lousy basketball that inevitably caps off the weekend. Unlike baseball, which has tied homefield advantage in the World Series to the all-star game’s outcome, the NBA’s game is decidedly, perhaps deliberately, low stakes. It’s a series of uncontested youtube-style dunks and matador defense. And unless you’re in the arena, bathing in star power, it’s borderline unwatchable.

But who can blame the players for enjoying a little oasis of slack in the middle of an overlong, grueling season?

It’s time for the NBA to shake up the all-star game. Either they need to find a way to make it mean something again, a la baseball, or they need to give up any pretense of competitiveness and embrace some of the inventive changes the NHL has imposed on its celebration. I vote for the latter.

Last weekend, in lieu of a standard showcase, the NHL threw all its eastern and western conference players into a single pot, selected two captains and had them pick their teams.

Imagine the same thing in the NBA. Who would get picked first? Who would get picked last? How would you go about building a team with this many stars and no true role players?

For the sake of argument, we could make the two captains the two top vote-getters from this year’s fan balloting.

That would give us Team Kobe and Team D12.

Let’s give Kobe the first selection. Who does he pick from the below group?

Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets (lets’s assume snub-of-the-moment Kevin Love gets the nod in his stead)
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Pau Gasol
, Los Angeles Lakers
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

Kobe would be under some pressure to take Gasol, but as anyone who saw the Celtics-Lakers game last Sunday knows, Bryant would surely prefer one of the other guys on this list, particularly because this is Kobe’s team and Kobe does not like to lose. So, what does he do? Maintain team harmony back in Lakerland, or try and build the best possible group right now?

Because we’re playing God here, we’ll assume Kobe takes a big man, someone who can play off the ball (so he can play on the ball, ‘natch). Just to be mischievous, let’s say he takes Garnett. That would put perhaps the two most manically competitive guys in the league on the same team.

"No way we're taking Bosh that early"

So, what does Howard do to counter? Probably the safe pick with Lebron, who already would have a chip on his shoulder from having been passed over.

Which throws us back to Kobe, who could use for his nascent franchise, a perimeter shooter, a big man and a point guard.

Let’s have Kobe pick Rose here, and Howard counter with Gasol (who now also has a chip on his shoulder), giving us big threes for each group like this:

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Derrick Rose

Dwight Howard, Lebron James, Pau Gasol

And on and on it would go…

The exercise is, of course, a ton of fun, but more so, it would add a bit of edge to a game that has long since lost it. And it would do so without putting important things like homecourt advantage in The Finals into play for what may always be destined to be an exhibition.

Just imagine Pierce grinning as he D’s up Rondo at the top of the arc, or Ray Allen coming off a curl and trying to get his shot off over Pierce’s outstretched hand.

That sounds like a game worth watching.

  • DRJ1

    I just take it for what it is: a lark, a fun time for the players, a little bit of entertainment, completely meaningless. I used to hate it, but have come to recognize that the guys love it… so why not let them have a fun break once time per season?

  • MMatosVr4

    Agreed. Let's start a petition!

  • JP-

    Sounds interesting, Bill Simmons wrote something similar to this, except with Kobe and Wade as captains, Kobe picks Blake Griffin to stick it to Pau, and all of the celtics are the last picks, because of jealousy/hatred.

    As for the actual game, its a fun thing to have on in the background while your doing something else. Its exciting to watch all of the best players play offense.

    Also, I totally agree Kevin Love is a huge snub, and should be at the all-star game, but his game (rebounding mostly) is not interesting, or relevant at an all-star game (where little defense is played and not a lot of banging down low happens)

  • Zee

    Agreed.

  • Zee

    OFF TOPIC

    NEW VIDEO: Behind the Scenes – Ray Allen
    http://www.csnne.com/pages/v3_video?PID=hIcpfJqKJ

    • Tom W

      Ray is so ripped…my goodness.

  • Mariya

    I don't think I would be able to handle watching Paul vs. Rondo or Ray. I wouldn't know who to root for!!! lol

    • someguyinsac

      Root for the tie!

      • Tom W

        root against Kobe?

  • Matt

    D League All stars vs Rookies game would be awesome. Possible give D Leaguers their choice of 1 rookie to keep it competitive.

    Also, a guards 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 tourney would be sweet. So for the guards player pool would be Wade, Rose, Pierce, Allen, Bryant, Paul, Ginobli, Westbrook, Williams.

    • Chris O

      Pierce is a small forward, unfortunately…..

  • http://www.pardisparker.com Pardis

    I've been trying to get people to start seriously thinking about adding a 1-on-1 game to all-star weekend. How would this _not_ be the highlight of the weekend? Seeing the top, say, 8 or 16 one-on-one players face off against each other? A Final Four of Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Durant? CP3, Deron, Rose, Melo, Rondo, Pierce, Kevin Martin, Monta, Curry, Nash, Ginobili, Johnson, the list goes on and on.

    I blogged about it last year: http://www.pardisparker.com/1348

    The list of players obviously needs to be updated, but it bugs me that more people aren't suggesting this as a common-sense possibility.

    • Tom W

      just read your post, I think you could do post players. as a matter of fact, i think they'd be at a disadvantage, they wouldn't necessarily be able to just back a smaller player down, since they aren't used to starting outside the three point line, they are used to being passed the ball already in the post. Also, they wouldn't be used to perimeter defense at all. So I think you could put them in there, but I don't think they'd have a chance at winning.

      • http://www.pardisparker.com Pardis

        Hmm. I dunno. I mean, couldn't a post player just start backing a guard down from the top of the key? If the guard tries to reach around for a steal, the big has a wide open lane to the hoop. If anything, I'd have two categories. One for bigs and one for smalls.

        • LStrike

          The only problem with this is that players don't want another thing to compete in during the all-star break. When Tony Parker was asked what he thought of that idea, he scoffed at it and said "the season is too long already". I imagine there are others who feel the same way.

          If this were to happen though, I'd love to see it. Have to guarantee that LeBron would rather not show up than put his ego and pride on the line, haha!

          • http://www.pardisparker.com Pardis

            Just have to make the prize money big enough to lure ol' Mr. LBJ. I'm sure a sponsor would be willing to pony up $2m for naming rights to an event that culminates with a Kobe vs LeBron final, no?

  • Tony

    No offense, but I don't think its a common sense solution. The minute a player tweaks his ankle in the slightest way would be too much for the owners to take. It's oviously something I'd like to see, but I wouldn't wait for it. I'd really like to see the captain thing to, but wouldn't wait on that either. I think the thing that has the best chance of happening(and I don't think even this is gonna happen)wold be to somehow make the game mean somethign for the winning conference. I dunno, if prize money would be enough, I wouldn't want Final Home Court to be decided by this, I wonder what they could do.

    • http://www.pardisparker.com Pardis

      Hmm. But their ankles could get hurt during the skills competition just as easily as during a one-on-one game. Or during the Rookie game, even. I'm not sure that's a strong enough reason to dismiss the idea of a one-on-one tournament. If anything, I'd be worried that the star players would even want to compete, knowing what the effect of a loss would have on their image (imagine how Kobe would react if he lost to, say, LeBron, or if he didn't even make it to the finals altogether).

  • JCP

    "No way we're taking Bosh that early." HAHAHA! Great caption.

  • Paulius (Lithuania)

    great artickle, nice idea and I agree that this weekend needs an immediate fixing!

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