February 20, 2007

Just Another Saturday Night in Las Vegas

A few thoughts from All-Star Saturday that continue to linger in our mind like a festering yet strangely pleasurable hangover:

1) Must admit, this Shooting Stars competition (featuring a current NBA player, former NBA star and current WNBA player) is not the stupidest thing we’ve ever seen in our lives.

However, it does seem a bastardly exercise in cruelty that the rules are designed so that the aging former player has to shoot a three from the top of the key as opposed to one of the closer shots. Because while it was admittedly about 12 percent entertaining to watch Michael Cooper clang about 14 threes in a row, it was also 87 percent agonizing (lab results are not yet in on the remaining one percent).

And on a broader note, it seems odd that every NBA player had to shoot from the same spot (the left elbow and the left wing), every WNBA player shot a short bank shot and a mid-range baseline j, and every semi-gimpy former star had to hoist a straightaway three. Wouldn’t it make the competition more interesting if the teams were allowed to mix it up and decide who shoots what?

Also needs to be mentioned that play-by-play man Kevin Harlan seemed to be a tad bit disheveled during this event, at one point giving credit for a made half court shot to the WNBA player (we believe it was Swin Cash) when the NBA player (to our recollection Chauncey Billups) blatantly made the shot. Quite odd considering that it would have been essentially impossible to mistake if you were watching the action, which makes us think that maybe Kevin Harlan wasn’t watching at that particular moment. Maybe he dropped his pen.

And lastly, it’s kind of funny to think that this was some sort of a tryout for Scottie Pippen, who’s hoping to make a comeback for the last part of this year.

Though Scottie’s only 41, the fact that the other former NBA greats participating in the contest were Michael Cooper, George Gervin and Bill Laimbeer speaks to the incontrovertible truth that it’s not so much your numerical age that matters, but who you associate with that determines exactly where you are in life. Pippen may have looked to be in pretty decent shape, but there’s no denying it – Scottie’s old.

Most words ever written in one place about the Shooting Stars competition? Survey says: yes. Time to move on at once.

2) It was interesting to hear one of the TNT commentators (either Kenny Smith or Reggie Miller) say that LeBron was being too nonchalant during his run through the Skills Challenge in light of the fact that some believe that LBJ might be coasting a little bit at this point in his career.

Not to say that how seriously one takes the Skills Challenge is an automatic barometer for how hard he’s playing. It was just noteworthy, that’s all.

And for the record, when it first debuted, the Skills Challenge was an exciting novelty and a great addition to the All-Star Saturday festivities, but this year it looked a little bit too easy (aside from the passing through the tires). The obstacle course could use a little bit of revamping to up the difficulty a little, because while we don’t need to see Dwayne Wade hurdling snake pits with a basketball tucked under his arm, it would also be nice to see him and others have to work a little bit to complete the course.

3) And now some love for the Three-Point Shootout, the one event at All-Star Weekend that seems to stay evergreen. Honestly, the only modification we can think of would be adding a couple more shooters and an extra round. Otherwise, it’s still good theater, and the sight of great shooters doing what they do just doesn’t really get old.

A couple other thoughts on the Three-Point contest:

-It was interesting to see how much everyone struggled from the baseline, particularly on the first rack. Maybe it was just a matter of getting loose, but the first rack shots were generally way off, and come to think of it, it’s hard to picture guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Gilbert Arenas shooting a lot of corner 3’s in games, so maybe there’s something to those baseline struggles that indicates a larger trend among some of the NBA’s elite shooters. (Or maybe we’re just conveniently forgetting that Dirk and Gilbert shoot a lot of corner 3’s to add weight to our otherwise obvious comment that all of the shooters struggled on the first rack.)

-Speaking of throwing up bricks on the first rack (and everywhere else on the court), Jason Terry appeared to be shooting way too fast. And his shot was definitely the ugliest (relatively speaking) of anyone’s in the contest. But it’s kind of impressive that he shoots so well on 3’s in game action despite that slightly busted-looking j.

-The contest definitely would have benefited from a small graphic showing each player’s maximum possible score as he progressed through the racks, because there were multiple instances where Kenny Smith and Reggie were saying that a player still had an outside chance to get the necessary score if he went perfect on his remaining shots, but you got the sense that they didn’t actually know if that was true or not and were just going on gut instinct. A graphic would solve this problem.

-Gotta love the fact that Gilbert shot his final rack one-handed (and many props to Reggie Miller for acknowledging the significance of the one-handed shot as it relates to the now famous Arenas-DeShawn Stevenson contest). For a second there it looked like TNT was going to let that moment pass without catching its importance.

Also of note: Shortly after Arenas finished his turn, the cameras zoomed in on Dwayne Wade on the sideline, who appeared to turn and say to someone nearby, “That boy got an ego.” Gotta think he was talking about Arenas.

You’ve also gotta think that somewhere DeShawn Stevenson was boiling over like a Dutch tea kettle. (Dutch tea kettles of course being notoriously boil prone.)

4) Due to time constraints brought about by ongoing office-wide jujitsu training, we have been unable as of yet to load up the dunk contest on DVR for a proper screening.

But from having seen the highlights and from what we’ve heard, we can tell that:

a) Gerald Green’s winning dunk was not all that special;

b) it appears as though Dwight Howard was robbed;

c) the contest once again proved that it’s in need of some more star power – come on, Kobe and Vince, get in there – or at the very least some mild to serious revamping if it ever hopes to return to what it once was.

Because at this precise moment, for a number of reasons, the dunk contest feels a little bit like an afterthought.

(Although truth be told, we can't stop thinking about watching it... which just goes to show, once and for all, that we have issues.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

off color,

some good and funny thoughts a usual. but no point dwelling on that. i pretty much skim the pieces until I get to something i disagree with anyway.

First, and least important is that while Green's winning dunk wasnt that special, he deserves props for his first dunk which was sick. Creativity points for doing a "first" (off the side of the back board) and then nasty points for doing what green does best which is simply jumping higher than any other dunker and throwing it down like an NBA-Jams dunk: 2 handed windmill, head almost above the rim, and lets not forget that when one catches the ball after it as bounced off the SIDE of the backboard, one is catching the ball quite far from the rim.

Most importantly ( or rather most glaringly) however is the lack of criticism of the skills challenge. You mentioned it could use a little increase in difficulty. Understatement of the year!
THat thing is the worst insult to humanity that I have ever witnessed. THis is an NBA all-star ball handling skills competition for god's sake! The participants are all Future Hall of famers, some of the most prodigious basketball talents to ever grace the earth, all gathered under one roof in front of a crowd of thousands and world-wide tv audience of milions, all ready to see the best basketball players in the world face a competitive "challenge" of their ball-handling skills. THese guys are capable of mind-blowing feats of speed and manipulation of the "rock". They continue a legacy that includes such wizards as Cousy, Maravich, Magic, Isiah Thomas, Jason Williams, who have all delighted and awed us with the "SKILLS" they have acquired through inhumane dedication and drive and COMPETITION and a freakish allotment of God Given Talent. All in all, we have here an opportunity for a classic piece of entertainment. Yet, how are these basketball treasures, these legends, put to the ultimate test to determine the most skilled of the most skilled? How is their overflowing competitive nature set ablaze for the viewing pleasure of the fans?
They are let loose on a baby course any 4 year old with no hands could complete with her eyes closed! Its the warm up dill for the City Rec summer day camp for 6 year olds run by pimply bobby who is starter on the junior high squad. And the All-Stars understandably complete it with the passion they keep reserved for "things that are a complete and total waste of existence". Dribbling around a couple cones???? That is the NBA ball handling skills challenge????? HOw was this outrage allowed to see the light of the tv camera and how is it allowed to continue??? How is this outrage lost on the astute commentator?

3:29 PM, February 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:44 PM, February 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I challenge you to watch this entire clip of the "Skills Challenge". Warning: significant chance of side affects, including suicidal thoughts.



3:48 PM, February 21, 2007  
Blogger James said...

I agree. I remember when Jackie Brown (old bball coach, not soul sista from Tarantino movie,) got Rumeal Robinson, a member of the Hawks at the time, to show up at basketball camp to basically do nothing except show off a little. He basically did the sickest dribbling drills I've ever seen. He got two basketballs going between his legs using both hands (hard to explain) at about 900000000 dribbles per second. He did the little spider thing where you bend down and dribble the ball low between your legs moving your arms to the front and back to tap it at about 7.95 zillion taps per minute. They would have needed fox's super slowmo hi-def camera used in the baseball playoffs to catch a glimpse of one of his hands. Let me remind the listener that I'm talking about RUMEAL Robinson. Think what Nash can do?!?!?

Speaking of Jackie Brown. Do you remember how literally once a week during PE he would spend 45 minutes showing how he could throw a ball from 3/4 court and make it bounce ounce into the hoop? I am guessing Kobe could make a ball put on a freaking shortened version of Vagina Monologues before hopping into the hoop. We know these guys can throw a pass correctly and dribble the length of the floor quickly. They need to show some shit that makes every wannabee NBA teenager think, "Jesus, I sure as hell can't do that!" That right there would solve any issues of high schoolers entering the NBA draft.

Give me the globetrotter style shit to show off some skills, for God's sake.

4:00 PM, February 22, 2007  
Blogger The OCC said...

Good points, Prof and James. I agree that I understated the fact that the skills challenge needs to be revamped. I was in a semi-comatose state when I wrote that post and didn't quite get as fired up as you guys, but I agree fully.

And as for the dunk contest, I'll give some props to Gerald Green. Most of his dunks were actually pretty sick.

4:06 PM, February 22, 2007  

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