The NBA’s All-Star Weekend is the highlight of the season for the NBA. It’s a weekend-long party exhibiting the best individual players the league has to offer. All-Star weekend is typically highlighted by two events, the Slam Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game. This year’s party in New Orleans will be remembered for the great offensive showcase during the All-Star Game and the Slam Dunk Contest which was simply offensive to viewers.
The Slam Dunk Contest is often complained about. The two most common complaints are that there are not enough stars involved and that there isn’t enough innovation. This year’s contest featured 3 all-stars and a completely changed format. However the changes to the format made the contest too short. During the freestyle round, all 3 players from each conference were on the court at the same time. A couple of the dunks were ok, but nothing completely memorable from either team. Then, in the battle round, only one of the 6 dunkers had a memorable dunk. John Wall had a double pump reverse dunk (and a following dance) that excited the crowd. However, after Wall completed his dunk, the contest was over. Every dunker only got one individual dunk. I’m not sure if the freestyle round is a bad idea, but to only have one individual dunk in the battle round is an awful idea and many viewers were left dissatisfied. Dunk contests usually have two or three dunks just in the first round and one individual dunk wasn’t enough for an entire contest.
The All-Star Game exceeded expectations. The All-Star game features 12 of the best players from each conference going head-to-head in a matchup that features very little defense and very relaxed rules concerning fouls. The game this weekend set records for offense and featured countless highlights from both teams. Blake Griffins first 20 points consisted entirely of dunks. Carmelo Anthony set a record for three pointers made. Kyrie Irving was the MVP after putting on a unrivaled passing display. To my disappointment, there were no blocked shots, despite the presence of Anthony Davis and Roy Hibbert, noted shot blockers.
Looking ahead to this week…
Nationally Televised Games (All Times in Eastern Standard Time)
No Games on Monday for All-Star Break
San Antonio at LA Clippers
Tuesday’s Fan Night game features the fundamentally sound Spurs squad versus the high flying Clippers. The Spurs are recovering from injury and biding their time until the playoffs begin. As the season continues, the Spurs will continue their annual tightrope between resting their players and playing at full speed in enough games to maintain a high playoff seed. In this year’s Western Conference, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to maintain that balance, especially with the recent injuries to the Spurs’ supporting cast.
Indiana at Minnesota; ESPN 8PM
The year started with people discussing Paul George as a potentially better player than Kevin Durant. That conversation is luckily over, but given Paul George’s inconsistency, where does he rank. Is he a distant third beyond Durant and LeBron? Is he ahead of Stephen Curry and Chris Paul? Kevin Love would certainly like to be placed in the conversation. He’s currently second in total rebounds and fourth in points per game. However, his inability to play defense and his team’s mediocre win-loss record hurt him.
Houston at LA Lakers; ESPN 1030PM
This game will be marked by Dwight Howard’s return to Los Angeles, the city that he spurned in free agency last summer. After a troubled year in LA, he decided to join James Harden‘s Rockets to great success. They seem to be a competent threat in the conference. However, the Rockets also have a couple of players that they are willing to trade and could be a feared contender if they make the right trade this week.
Miami at Oklahoma City; TNT 8PM
This game provides a match-up between the projected scoring champion and presumptive MVP versus the defending champion and defending MVP. Need I say more? Durant bested LeBron James in Miami a few weeks ago. Given LeBron’s Mount Rushmore comments, he would love the ability to get a win over Durant in Oklahoma City on the national stage. Also, there’s a possibility that star point guard Russell Westbrook will return.
Houston at Golden State; TNT 1030PM
In the battle of guards who don’t play defense, we have James Harden and Stephen Curry. This should be an incredible offensive display. Houston has won both of the matchups this season.
Denver at Chicago; ESPN 8PM
It’s not easy to tank in the Eastern Conference. The Nuggets have been hit hard with injuries. Javale McGee is out indefinitely. Nate Robinson is out for the year, along with Danillo Gallinari. The Nuggets, at 24-27, are 6 games out of the 8th seed in the West. If they played in the Eastern Conference, their record would have them tied for 7th place. The Bulls have played against bad team after bad team since the Deng trade and they have managed to climb to 4th place despite their roster getting appreciably worse.
Boston at LA Lakers ESPN 1030PM
There was once a point, not very long ago, where both of these teams were in the playoffs. They met in the finals as recently as 2010. Now, the Lakers languish near the bottom of the conference and the Celtics are only a half game head of them in the standings.
New Orleans at Washington; 7PM NBATV
In a case of Kentucky on Kentucky violence, we have John Wall, the leader of the 2010 team playing against 2012 leader and nationally champion Anthony Davis. Both players are now all-stars and both players are having amazing seasons. The Washington Wizards are currently projected as a playoff team for the first time since the Gilbert Arenas era. The Pelicans are still at least a year away thanks largely to injuries.
Boston at Sacramento; 10PM NBATV
A day after the Celtics play against the second-worst team in the Pacific Division they play against the the bottom feeder of the Pacific Division and the entire Western Conference. The Kings are terrible at basketball.
LA Clippers at Oklahoma City ABC 1PM
Darren Collison and Reggie Jackson should both be returned to their proper spots coming off the bench as backup point guards by Saturday. Both of them have performed admirably in their roles as starters when the starting point guards were hurt. Both Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul have been injured off and on all year, so a competent backup is a necessary piece for both the Clippers and the Thunder.
Chicago at Miami; ABC 330PM
Chicago used to be the biggest opponent that Miami had in the Eastern Conference. The first year of Miami’s “Big 3” featured an MVP performance by Derrick Rose. If Derrick Rose had remained healthy, the Bulls would be a bigger threat right now. Noah has performed admirably on both sides of the ball, earning a triple-double last week against the Hawks. But for at least the rest of this year, the Bulls are toothless, despite their great coaching.
Houston at Phoenix; ESPN 9PM
Phoenix should have faded by this point. They play in a challenging Western Conference. They have no players on their team that are all-stars. They have a coach who has never been a head coach before and was an assistant for unimpressive Utah Jazz teams. Their best player, Eric Bledsoe has missed 5 weeks due to injury. The starting lineup is filled with castoffs, players deemed unnecessary by more polished teams. Yet, even in February, they remain in playoff contention. They are currently the 7th seed even without Bledsoe.
Tags : All Star Game, All Star Weekend, Basketball, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, NBA, Pro Sports, Russell Westbrook, Slam Dunk Contest, sports, Sports Takes