Around the Rim: It’s a James thang


1. Another All-Star spectacular
As usual, the All-Star game was a can-you-top-this contest for most of three quarters before the players’ pride kicked in and they delivered a heck of a finish. The East led by six points after one, nine after two and 13 following the three quarters, but then the West put together a 15-4 run to open the final period, taking its first lead of the game at 112-110 on a Dirk Nowitzki layup with 6:52 remaining. The remainder of the game was back and forth until the East finally edged out a 134-128 victory in the waning moments. LeBron James slammed, jammed, rebounder and dished his way to the second All-Star MVP award of his career, barely missing a triple-double in the process [see below].

The game was missing some serious glitz as names like Kevin Garnett, Caron Butler, Tracy McGrady and Shaquille O’Neal were absent from the lineups, in addition to Kobe Bryant’s three minute performance, but there were still some straight ballers lighting it up in Nawlins. For the victorious East, Ray Allen came off the bench to score a game-high 28 points on 5-of-9 from behind the arc. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade scored 14 apiece as Jason Kidd kicked out 10 dimes and Dwight Howard was perfect from the field (7-7) for 16 points and nine rebounds.

For the West, it was the bench that did most of the damage, combining for 94 points. Carmelo Anthony was the only starter to reach double-figure scoring, netting 18 points to match Brandon Roy and Amare Stoudemire for team-high scoring honors. Chris Paul went nuts in his home arena, scoring 16 points to go with 14 assists and four steals while Carlos Boozer produced a double-double of his own with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

2. Dwight’s all right

If you missed the Sprite Slam Dunk contest then shame on you. It was as plain as the chiseled shoulders on his frame that Dwight Howard was going to make the judges pay for robbing him last year and he did. Howard put together the sickest routine of dunks since Vince Carter hung on the rim by his elbow. The man-child put in a dunk off the back of the backboard before donning a Super Man cape and literally flying to the title. But the cherry on top of the sundae came when he decided to play volleyball off the glass en route to a wicked powerful throw down. All in all, we hope your DVR was rolling because it was a slam jam performance for the ages. While Howard ran away with the trophy, Gerald Green took home the ingenuity award by blowing out a candle on a cupcake set atop the rim before throwing down a two-hander.

3. Second trophy is three times as nice
Jason Kapono shot the lights out in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, successfully defending his title by scoring 25 points to tie Mark Price (1986) for the all-time record. It was a dazzling display by the champ as he left Daniel Gibson (17 pts) and Dirk Nowitzki (14 pts) in his dust during the final round. Peja Stojakovic was the last player to earn back-to-back honors when he took the title in 2002 and then again in 2003. The Raptors are really hoping Kapono’s hot hand stays afire as they head down the final leg of the regular season.

2008 All-Star MVP: LeBron James vs. Western Conference All-Stars 30 min, 27 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 2-7, FT: 1-1), 8 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Buzzer Beater: Believe it or not, but there was actually some business going on during the pleasures of the All-Star break. Sacramento sent Mike Bibby to Atlanta for Anthony Johnson, Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second-rounder. The Hawks gave up a lot, but they’re hoping the move provides the spark and veteran leadership that will take them deep into the playoffs. There’s no doubt that the trio of Bibby, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith will be a formidable one that could turn into a serious contender once they have time to gel.

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