Recapping All-Star Weekend
A bunch of random thoughts and observations from three days in Orlando.
- Russell Westbrook was one of two people who became the first to welcome me to Orlando. Take a look for yourself.
- Kevin Durant nearly ruled the weekend. He narrowly lost a tiebreaker shootout to Kevin Love in the 3-point contest on Saturday. And then he ran away with MVP honors in the big game on Sunday. The guy is a superstar. He never shrinks in the moment. The only time he’s even come close was last year in the 3-point contest in L.A. But that doesn’t even count because KD didn’t take the event serious.
- As coach of the West Celebrity All Stars, Durant did watch his team get drubbed by 29 on Friday. Said Durant: “It was bad. I won’t be the next Scotty Brooks, I know that.”
- Brooks on his experience this weekend: “I loved every minute of it. I will cherish it for the rest of my career.”
- At this point, I can’t fault LeBron James and Blake Griffin and any other big name you want to throw out there for turning down the dunk contest. It’s virtually impossible to impress anymore. Everything might not have been done yet. But we’re just about there. Besides, any star who signs up for the contest would only be setting himself up for failure. Everyone would go in expecting the greatest show since MJ and Dominique. And there would be no way they could live up to the expectations.
- With that said, LeBron’s left-handed half windmill dunk in the first half of the All-Star game was better than about seven dunks we saw in the dunk contest.
- In case you missed it, here was LeBron’s explanation on not joining the dunk contest. “It’s not me,” James said. “I’m not a dunk contest type of guy. I’m an in-game dunker.”
- Immediately after offering up that explanation, James was asked what he would do if a $1 million, winner-take-all pot was the prize? “Then I’d reconsider,” James said. “Wouldn’t you?”
- The next time someone nationally criticizes Westbrook or KD, Thunder heads should jump for joy. Because, clearly, all it’s doing is bringing the two players closer together. They’ve bonded extremely well in the face of outside negativity. More and more, they’re having each other’s back and making it a point to support the other on and off the court. That hasn’t been clearer at any point quite like their media sessions on Friday afternoon. Durant listed Westbrook as the best in-game dunker. Westbrook, meanwhile, named Durant as the game’s most clutch player, the league’s toughest cover regardless of position and the teammate whose couch he’d prefer to sleep on if he had to. Keep in mind they were on opposite sides of the room, far from an earshot of the other, as they supplied their answers.
- One of Westbrook’s best answers of the weekend came when he was asked what skills he would combine to form the ultimate point guard. “The skills I got,” Westbrook said.
- Dirk Nowitzki proved he didn’t belong in the All-Star game. If I’m a snub, I look at his seven-point performance on 3-of-8 shooting and I’m heated.
- Charles Barkley did nothing to taint his standing as my all-time favorite interview. I got a few minutes with the Round Mound of Rebound on Saturday night and he was once again a great interview, albeit in a much more condensed version. Think what you will about his opinions or his jokes. But I love that the guy speaks his mind and tells it like (he thinks) it is. It’s rare and it’s refreshing.
- I’m still trying to figure out what the big deal about Kevin Hart is? Homeboy is way overhyped.
- I’m still trying to figure out Nicki Minaj’s talent.
- I did like Pitbull’s halftime show. I don’t know if he’s a rapper, dancer, singer or spokesman. But I now know this. The guy knows how to put on a show.
- Mary J. Blige sang her butt off while performing the national anthem.
- I walked into Amway Center alongside Super Bowl winning New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. I actually cut in front of him at the security checkpoint (good thing his arm was in a sling. Apparently he recently underwent shoulder surgery).Well, it was more of putting an extra pep in my step to beat him to the checkpoint as opposed to “cutting.” Not realizing who he was, I let him go anyway because the young lady he was with had a step even on my pep and beat me to the metal detector. As a man of the people, I didn’t want to split up the two. So I tapped Tuck on the back and “let” him in. Here’s what I learned from that one light tap: dude is a brick!
- First non-basketball celebrity I spotted upon entering the Amway Center for All-Star Saturday night: Pooch Hall, perhaps better known as Derwin Davis.
- Old friend Byron Mullens took exception to Diddy saying “black power” during the Slam Dunk Contest.
- Jeremy Evans slamming two basketballs while jumping over Gordon Hayward in the dunk contest was incredible. If Blake Griffin did it we’d be sick of seeing the highlight by now. But since it was Jeremy Evans, of course it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves.
- Seated directly in front of me during the All-Star Game: rapper/actor Common.
- I’m not the type to go out of my way to speak to celebrities. In fact, the only non-basketball celeb I spoke to this weekend was Bill Bellamy. He just happened to be walking in the tunnel with me from the court toward the courtside club. The guy looks the exact same as he did in How To Be A Player. I had to tell him as much.
- I nearly broke Steve Nash’s nose as I busted into the restroom. He was three feet from catching it in the kisser.
- The next day, George Gervin walked into the same restroom as I was walking out.
- No idea what the reasoning behind his question was, but ESPN’s John Hollinger (who I’ve gained a ton of respect for) after the All-Star Game asked Brooks how he liked Westbrook at shooting guard. Hollinger’s exact question was a two-parter. “I wonder what you thought about Russell’s one-handed dunk down the lane in the fourth quarter, and also, in general, more how you liked being able to play him at the 2 tonight?”
- In typical Scott Brooks fashion, he didn’t really answer either of the questions.
- Westbrook was caught spazing out.
- Durant on seeking his third straight scoring title: “I’m not worried about that at all. I’m just worried about winning basketball games and how I can help my team win. And just figuring out how I can get better every single day. The scoring title is cool. I did that the last two years. I’m excited I did it. But that time is over. I’m just worried about winning basketball games and growing as a leader.”
- I can’t believe Dwyane Wade bloodied and busted Kobe Bryant’s nose. Wade delivered a dang playoff foul in an All-Star Game!
- It’s sad to see how Dwight Howard has one foot out the door. He addressed his “hometown” crowd just before the start of the All-Star Game and it might have been the oddest thing ever. The guy seemingly has less than three weeks left in town and here he was calling it “our city.” Said one City of Orlando police officer watching on a nearby monitor with the volume muted: “What is he giving his farewell speech?”
- I use the term hometown loosely because very few Magic fans were actually in the building. It’s like that every year at All-Star Weekend, and it’s a shame.
- Some guy was introduced along with the coaching staff just before the All-Star Game as Thunder trainer Joe Sharpe. It wasn’t Joe Sharpe. Joe Sharpe is black. This guy was white.
- An increasing number of Thunder fans are clamoring for an All-Star gala in Oklahoma City. But Oklahoma City is not ready for All-Star Weekend. And it has nothing to do with the lack of hotel rooms in the city, as NBA commissioner David Stern has repeatedly stated. This is a weekend that is extremely, hmmm, how shall I put this, urban. Some would call it “hood.” There is a lot of extracurricular centered on All-Star Weekend. It’s not just about the game and the exposure the city gets. Thousands of people descend upon the host city each year, many of them unlike the majority of the 18,203 that fill the Peake every night. When you sign up for All-Star Weekend, you sign up for blaring music emitting from souped-up cars until 4 a.m., you sign up for half-naked women strolling the streets, you sign up for marijuana smoke polluting the air and, sometimes, you sign up for violence. Don’t misunderstand me. Those are not stereotypes about any particular demographic. Those are facts. And Oklahoma City, as a community, appears a long ways away from wanting to roll out the red carpet to welcome that reality.
- Of course, Oklahoma City isn’t the hottest of spots. It could be that a negative perception of the city keeps a certain crowd away anyway. I wonder what a poll of All-Star Weekend partygoers would yield.
- Just before leaving Orlando, my undying curiosity led me to take matters into my own hands and conduct my own poll. While refueling just before heading to the airport, I politely asked one gentleman for his thoughts. It was approximately 4:30 a.m. The gentleman was black, appearing to be in his mid to late 20s. He confirmed to me that he was in town for All-Star Weekend. He said he hails from Chicago. After asking him if he would attend an All-Star Weekend in OKC, he paused and gave it some thought. He then responded “Why not?” My reply was that OKC is not a hot spot. His counter: “We makes it what it is.”
- Not two minutes later, another gentleman, a younger white guy, strolled by and asked me where he could “cop some green.”
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