A recap of the NBA’s version of Super Bowl weekend.
ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT. NBA All-Star weekend kicked off Friday night with the celebrity game. Kevin Hart became the first participant to win MVP two years in a row after the West defeated the East 58-38. After catching a brief highlight of the MVP, Nillzgal sincerely asked why Nate Robinson was playing in the event.
TEAGUE PASS ALERT. Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks performed so poorly in Saturday night’s “Skills Challenge” that the Bulls are now reportedly looking to trade his brother Marquis in fear his condition is hereditary (not really). The Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard won the event while wearing the adidas Rose 3.5 sneaker, which obviously foreshadows the success of Derrick’s #TheReturn.
UNCL3 DR3W. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (sometimes referred to as “Uncle Drew”) did his best Craig Hodges impersonation in the 3-Point Shootout, hitting 17 of his first 18 attempts in the final round. I was most impressed with Irving hitting as many shots without needing Brandon Knight to guard him.
With his speed, handles, and range, some (insane) NBA analysts are led to believe Uncle Drew is better than Derrick Rose. Kill that noise. I’m admittedly a big fan of Kyrie Irving and concede he is a better shooter than Rose at this stage of his career (i.e. NBA Sophomore). However, it’s ridiculous to suggest he’s suddenly better than the idle Rose when he has yet to lead his team to the postseason, much less to a playoff game win.
DISCOUNT DOUBLE BEEF. I’m still disappointed Nate Robinson wasn’t invited to participate in the 3-Point Shootout to settle his feud with Steve Novak. I had imagined that the winner would earn ownership rights of the discount double check celebration that both have performed during games after made 3-pointers. The Bulls’ pint-sized point guard would’ve likely had a better showing than Indiana Pacers’ forward Paul George who recorded a contest low of only 10 points.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE. The biggest buzzkil of All Star Weekend was the Slam Dunk Contest where participants required multiple mulligans that managed to drain the energy from the crowd. Despite several notable “above-the-rim” players, Saturday night’s main event quickly became the 2013 Los Angeles Lakers of dunk contests – a product only good on paper. James White of the New York Knicks failed to live up to his high-flying legend and advance past the 1st round. At the age of 30, “Flight White” was closer to Birdman than Vinsanity. The good news for White is that his dunk contest greatness still lives in eternity on the internet, and that isn’t a veiled Manti Te’o joke.
GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT. There’s no official word on whether the dunk contest has been officially pronounced dead after Saturday night, but if the event is just in a temporary coma, here are my suggestions for a revival:
- A game of P-I-G (dunks only): This format hopefully balances the dichotomy between creative and simple dunks. Specifically, P-I-G should reduce repeated failed attempts of the same dunk and help ensure dunks are converted at a higher rate. There are plenty of holes in this suggestion (e.g. participants would have to be of the same athleticism, repeating a failed or converted dunk defeats the purpose of diversifying the attempts), but a back & forth duel could restore the appeal of this formerly high-profile event. For example, the 1988 contest was obviously compelling primarily for its star power, but also for it’s “anything you can do, I can do better” vibe between Jordan & Wilkins. The dunks performed did not have the greatest degree of difficulty, and Jordan even executed the same free throw line dunk twice in the contest. Regardless, 1988 featured arguably the most iconic dunk contest in the event’s history.
- The Floor Exercise Routine: Each dunker is allotted a minute & a half to complete 4 consecutive dunks. Similar to gymnastics or figure skating (um, not that I watch either), the judges would assess scores on the entire routine, with points obviously deducted for missed attempts. Participants would need to balance the more conservative approaches with riskier attempts that warrant higher marks, but fans would still benefit from a vast array of (successful?) dunks.
JOAKIMVP. The Bulls’ Joakim Noah fell 1 bucket short of recording a double-double in his first all-star game appearance as he finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds. Noah continued the trend of Bulls contrarians at the all-star game by actually playing hard in the exhibition (Derrick Rose refused to dance in 2011 while Luol Deng violated league rules in 2012 by sporting a t-shirt in honor of his native Africa). In 16 minutes, Noah made an impact almost immediately with a block in the 1st half using one of his jazz hands on Zach Randolph, who also fell victim to a Joakim crossover. Noah’s intensity in the usually care-free game probably caught opponents & spectators off guard like how his elbow incidentally caught all-star game MVP, Chris Paul in the mouth. You’d think Noah was vying for MVP himself with his constant energy and hustle, but you couldn’t really tell since he always plays like that. The Bulls center certainly left his mark in Houston whether it was his performance, the grievances towards officials, and/or the most epic (frantic?) defensive stance in all-star game history – despite it’s ineffectiveness.
LUOLSTAR. Luol Deng had a much more nondescript all-star showing relative to his Bulls’ teammate, but the forward still scored 10 points and redeemed himself from a lackluster performance in last year’s event (0 points, 6 minutes). While he struggled from the field (40%) by all-star game standards, at least he isn’t Chris Bosh.
MAMBA OUT. Perhaps the most talked about highlight of Sunday night was Kobe Bryant’s defense on LeBron James in crunch time. With under 3 minutes left and the East attempting to come back from a 9 point deficit, Bryant surprisingly displayed a burst of energy in his old age by blocking James’ field goal attempt. Bryant, who was vocal about checking James down the stretch, then repeated the act a couple minutes later in isolation. For at least two consecutive possessions in likely his last meaningful minutes of the season with his Los Angeles Lakers in a tailspin (shot fired!), the “Black Mamba” accomplished the unenviable & seemingly impossible task of making the reigning league MVP look human. The sequence appeared to be the hyper-competitive Bryant’s way of proving Michael Jordan right… or just an audition for the Bulls’ 2014 Plan! He might be two years older and on the fringe of retirement then, but I’m sure that isn’t anything a trip to Germany can’t fix.
SILVER LININGS (PLAYBOOK). Although the Bulls may be returning from their vacations (or the soft, soothing voice of Eric Spoelstra) to the tune of 40+ minutes per game, the end of NBA All-Star weekend also means Derrick Rose will finally be playing 5 on 5.
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