Notes From Day 2 Of All-Star Weekend
Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday at All-Star Weekend.
- Carmelo Anthony says he’s not thinking about the scoring title. Do you believe him? He’s just 0.6 points behind Kevin Durant. “I don’t think about that,” Anthony said. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t really do anything for me so I don’t think about that.”
- Durant discussing his MVP chances.
- Spurs/West coach Gregg Popovich on the MVP race: “LeBron, especially lately, has been on another planet, the things he’s been doing. He’s on a heck of a run. Obviously, he’s probably the guy to catch (in terms of) MVP if he continues to play the way he’s playing.”
- Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant were joking around with each other and having a good time during the All-Star practice this morning. Just a few weeks ago they got into a small shoving match during a game. It always amazes me how these relationships can change for a weekend and go right back to being ultra competitive on Monday.
- Speaking of relationships suddenly changing.
- So, about All-Star Saturday night. It wasn’t great. But it was far from bad. In a word, I’d describe it as entertaining, which obviously is the goal. So mission accomplished.
- Let’s start with the Shooting Stars competition, which kicked off the night. Team Westbrook (for Russell Westbrook of course) finished second behind Team Bosh (or Chris Bosh’s team). It was a strangely suspenseful event for what it was, which was a four-team, three-person-to-each team, timed shooting competition. The shots included a mid-range shot, a 3-point shot and a half-court shot. After each team member made the shot from their respective location, the team could move on to the next location. It was fun to see who was going to make which shot, especially the halfcourt heave, and which team could beat the others’ times.
- Westbrook’s team was stacked. He had Robert Horry and Maya Moore. It was the best team of the field and played like it. They posted a time of 29.5 seconds in the opening round, which stood as the fastest time of the night. No other team cracked 35 seconds in any round.
- After advancing to the championship round, Westbrook’s team needed only to beat a 1 minute, 29 second rate that Team Bosh (which included Swin Cash and Dominique Wilkins). Given that Team Westbrook did completed the course a minute faster than that in the first round, it seemed like a given that they would win the title. Didn’t happen. They breezed through the first portion but couldn’t knock down a halfcourt shot. It cost them the competition.
- Westbrook had three or four straight halfcourt shots go in and out. Each one looked like it would drop. He even grew animated, contorting his body as the ball hung in the air, almost trying to will it in. “It was fun. It was great,” Westbrook said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t make a halfcourt shot. But it was a good experience.”
- Westbrook on how they couldn’t sink a halfcourt shot despite having a minute to do so: “Yeah, that’s the problem. We kept thinking we had enough time and then ended up on our backsides.”
- Westbrook called the rims “carnival rims.”
- I learned from the Shooting Stars event that Brook Lopez shoots halfcourt shots like spot-up jumpers. And he actually isn’t bad at them.
- Horry on his impression of Westbrook as a player: “Man, I just love the guy. It’s certain guys that I admire. He’s one of those guys that is just a flat out talent. He’s so fast and so explosive. I sit around sometimes in the barbershop and listen to these guys talking about ‘Man, Westbrook shoot too much.’ I say, ‘Dude, that’s what he does. He shoots the ball. Y’all don’t complain when all these other guys shoot the ball.’ They like, ‘Nah, he need to give it to Durant.’ Durant the leading scorer in the league. I say ‘he must be giving him the ball sometimes.’ But I love the guy. I hope he continues to be successful, because he definitely has the potential to be one of the best point guards ever.”
- More from Horry on whether people are just stuck in the past when it comes to the role of point guards: “I think that’s it. I think it’s a lot of old school stuff that people don’t want to get rid of. They always used to a point guard being a facilitator. Everybody wants (point guards) to be Steve Nash, Jason Kidd. Those guards are gone by the wayside just like big men. There aren’t enough big men out there anymore. You may have one, two or three guys. But now, guys are just basketball players. They can just flat out do everything. They can score, they can shoot, they can pass, they can do it all.”
- While waiting on Westbrook to get to the interview room, I missed the entire Skills Challenge. I hear Damian Lillard won. That young man’s rep is growing bigger by the day.
- Kryie Irving put on a shooting display in the final round of the 3-point contest to win it. The same thing I just said about Lillard can be said about Kyrie.
- Also, Kyrie just has one of those names that need no last name. Kobe. LeBron. Shaq. Carmelo. Yao. Amar’e. Manu. Dirk. Something about having a unique first name seems to only enhance a star player’s reputation.
- Ever watch Matt Bonner’s left arm when he shoots a 3? Pay attention next time. That thing does not move. He looks like a machine hoisting 3s.
- The best thing about the dunk contest? The money it raised for charities. That’s not a knock on this year’s competition. That’s a reality. It’s sometimes easy to overlook, or flat out write off, occurrences when pro sports teams and leagues make charitable donations. But for the people on the receiving end, I’m sure it makes a huge difference.
- Terrence Ross won the dunk contest, and deservedly so. Dude had some insane dunks. He can fly. Ross also donated $2,000 for each round he advanced to children afflicted with cancer. Makes me even happier he got to the final round and won it.
- Mark Eaton didn’t look to sure about whatever Jeremy Evans was trying to do. The jumbotron inside the Toyota Center caught him taking a couple of nervous breathes. The whole arena cracked up.
- Maybe this will be a lesson to everyone talking about how James “Flight” White was a shoe-in to win the contest, especially in this era, when there are many more missed dunks than made ones.
- I didn’t like White coming out with the flight attendants and the dude that’s on the ground at the gate directing the plane, though. Nice touch.
- Somebody should have told White beforehand to not dribble while running into his dunks. He can’t.
- You’ll have to forgive me. I have no idea who the Fallout Boys are.
- Westbrook, Durant and James Harden were all seated next to each other during the last two events. Every time somebody ask one of them about their friendships they each say something along the lines of they’re brothers for life.
- Comedian Kevin Hart is really funny when he’s not trying too hard. His stand-up is great. And when he’s ad-libbing he’s hysterical when he sticks to jokes and refrains from going over the top with silliness. I don’t know if the jokes he cracked on Westbrook made the broadcast or was only for the arena. But it was, in Hart’s words, seriously funny. The Toyota Center showed baby pictures of some of the All-Stars and, by God, we at The Oklahoman have got to get our hands on the pictures they showed of Westbrook. His face looked about the same as it does today, but he had long slick hair, pulled into two braids on each side. He also had on a gold chain. Hart’s first crack: “TWOOOOO CHAAAAAINS,” which is a reference to the rapper who goes by that name and famously screams his name just like that. After a series of other cracks, Hart then said something to the effect of, “Russell, you know yo momma didn’t love you at that age, right? No mother in the world would braid their baby’s hair like that.” It was all in fun, and Westbrook was laughing along with it. I just wish I could have seen the reaction of Westbrook’s parents, both of whom were in the building.
- A few notes from David Stern’s annual press conference. First, Ste n said “lots of exhibition travel” is on the horizon. He said there is nothing to announce at the moment. But we’re getting closer and closer to seeing the Thunder journey overseas for a preseason game. It’s been rumored for years. Now, it could be on the verge of happening.
- Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the league envisions a 30-team D-League so every NBA franchise can have its own affiliate.
- Stern on Seattle: “I’d like to see the NBA go back there.”
- Stern responded to a question about whether Seattle fans should be worried about Thunder chairman Clay Bennett doubling as the chairman of the relocation committee. “Absolutely not,” Stern said.
- Silver said the league is looking into future All-Star plans, which could include international cities, neutral cities and revamping All-Star Saturday night.
- Stern said his favorite All-Star memory is handing Magic Johnson the MVP trophy at the ’92 All-Star Game in Orlando. “I would have to say my favorite memory actually compounded and growing to the present day is awarding Magic Johnson the MVP trophy in Orlando,” Stern said. “Giving sweaty Magic Johnson a big hug right after he hit the last 3 and still being able to hug him because he’s alive every time I see him. That is at the top of the list. And it will not easily be dislodged. Even though I do enjoy every All-Star, that one will resonate for the rest of my life.”
- Some of you will be glad to know that reporters from three cities asked Stern and Silver about the prospects of hosting a future All-Star Weekend, and the Oklahoma City contingent was not among those asking. The writers who inquired were from Cleveland, Miami and New York.
- Along those same lines, Silver said it’s likely that the 2015 All-Star Game will be in New York City, either in the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden. That ought to be a madhouse.
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