NBA General

Around the Rim: All-Star Weekend Recap

1. The Game
Vegas is supposed to be a city that never sleeps, but a last night’s All-Star game changed that. The game was never even close as the West destroyed the East by 21, 153-132. The West was up 20 at halftime and would eventually stretch it out to 30 thanks to a trio of players with at least 20 points. Kobe Bryant picked up the MVP trophy with 31 points while Amare Stoudemire had 29 and Carmelo Anthony put in 20. Every player on both rosters scored in the contest, but it was a struggle for Caron Butler to get a bucket in his first All-Star appearance. Butler connected on his only hoop (1-7 FG) with just 4:07 left in the game, while his Wizards teammate never heated up in the game either. Gilbert Arenas was just 3-8 in the game for eight points.

2. Dunk Contest
Gerald Green won the slam dunk contest as he did his best Dee Brown imitation while leaping over tiny Nate Robinson. He then went on to jump over a table. It was a decent performance but nobody is going to be ranking it up there with Vince, ‘Nique and Mike. Dwight Howard got screwed because he’s tall as he slapped a sticker onto the backboard just a mere 12 ½ feet off the ground. But it was lost on the judges who seemed to kinda stingy with their scores. The commentators even began referring to Michael Jordan as “the Russian judge.” The Mount Rushmore of dunkers probably wasn’t impressed with very many of the slams because it’s hard to give someone a 10, knowing that you could have thrown it down better.

3. 3-Point Shootout
Jason Kapono easily won the 3-point contest over big names like Gilbert Arenas, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry as he put up 24 points in his final run. That ties the record for most points in a final round and was just one point away from tying the most points ever. But it really shouldn’t have been a surprise as Kapono is leading the league in 3-point shooting by nailing 56 percent of his attempts. He has hit 89 of 159 from downtown this season, which is the best first half shooting performance in the history of the league by anyone who has shot at least 75 treys. In all, it was a good weekend for the Heat as Dwyane Wade defended his crown in the skills competition. Now, let’s see if All-Star successes can jumpstart the Heat down the stretch.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. The East 28 min, 31 pts (FG: 13-24, 3FG: 3-9, FT: 2-2), 5 reb, 6 ast, 6 stl

Buzzer Beater: Every year he gets a little bit older and a bit more out of shape, but every year Shaq proves that this is still his league. Even if you don’t like Shaq, he’s an entertaining guy and he understands that the All-Star game is about having fun and putting on a show for the fans. From break dancing during practice, to unveiling his latest concept shoe that doubles as a slot machine, to kissing Tracy McGrady on the head after a slam; he makes it fun. And he’s always going to bring the ball up the court on at least on possession and try to cross somebody over; last night it was Mehmet Okur, and even though he missed the shot, that’s a play that the fans are going to remember. But now that the game is over, Shaq’s going to return to his serious self as the Heat make a push toward the postseason.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Even Vegas Won’t Touch Him

1. Banished
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but too bad for Tim Hardaway he’ll never make it to Vegas. That’s because David Stern has banned Hardaway from appearing at any NBA functions over the All-Star weekend after he publicly blasted John Ameachi and other gays for their lifestyles. You can’t blame Stern for his decision; he can’t release a loose cannon like Hardaway and trust him to properly represent the league during their annual self promotion weekend after he demonstrated zero self control on the radio. Like it or not, Hardaway will be now always been considered a homophobic, venom-spewing hate monger instead of the originator of the killer crossover.

2. In Search of Seven
A familiar face could be returning from retirement after the All-Star break. 41 year old Scottie Pippen says he is seriously considering a comeback, but he wants to play for a contender, perhaps Phoenix. Pip says that this is the best he has felt in the past five years. The last time Pippen was in the league was during the 2003-04 season when he played for a Michael Jordanless Chicago Bulls team. Well, played might be a bit of an overstatement considering that he only saw action in 23 games. No matter how old some of these guys get, they just can’t sit at home and roll in their millions like Scrooge McDuck. Guess six rings isn’t enough.

3. High Hopes and High Hoops
Dwight Howard has big ideas for his performance during Saturday’s slam dunk competition, but it seems like the league isn’t going to let them come to fruition. Howard wants the hoop to be elevated for several of his attempts, but his requests have been oddly denied. One move that Howard has been practicing in Orlando is a 360 slam with the rim set to a height of 12 feet. Another dunk that Howard has been working on is an “East Bay Funk Dunk” type maneuver between his legs with the rim set a full foot and a half higher than the regulation setting.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Cleveland 41 min, 34 pts (FG: 9-22, 3FG: 2-7, FT: 14-15), 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: The Kobe Bryant/LeBron James is becoming one of the best individual rivalries in the game today. In the past week, we’ve seen these two compete in their only pair of games this year. In the two games, Bryant scored a total of 70 points but went home as the loser both times. James, on the other hand, put up 56 points as his team walked away with a pair of closely contested victories. It’s probably not too hard to see these two hooking up in a classic Finals series one day, but it’s definitely not this year.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Jordan Judges and Kobe Critiques

1. Dunking Royalty
Finally, the league has brought together the best of the best for the slam dunk competition. Too bad they’re only there to repeatedly hold up placards with the number 10 on them. Michael Jordan, Jul ius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter make up the list of superstar judges who will grade an all new group of mediocre dunkers. But this year, the league has decided to spice things up by throwing in a couple of big fellas into the competition as Dwight Howard and Tyrus Thomas join Nate Robinson and Gerald Green. And thanks to Robinson’s time consuming performance last year that lulled the audience to sleep after 14 attempts, there is a two minute time limit placed on each player.

2. Money Hungry
Most players will tell you they simply love playing the game, it’s their childhood passion and it’s a privilege to make a career out of a game. Then there are the players that will tell you the truth, like Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas. When asked how it felt to be a part of the All-Star experience, Thomas replied, “I’m just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day.” He was then asked if it’s beneficial for a rookie to take part in such an event. “I’m just into the free money,” said Thomas. At least he’s honest.

3. All-Star Performance?
Carmelo Anthony did something last night that most people would assume he had done numerous times before. While everyone is aware of Melo’s scoring abilities, last night was the first time he ever displayed his complete array of talents by racking up his first triple-double. Could this performance help convince David Stern to put Melo on the All-Star team?

Melo’s triple dip marks the 17th time someone has gotten a triple-double this season. Only Jason Kidd with eight and Andre Igoudala (two) have pulled off the feat more than once. The other players on this season’s list include LeBron James, Boris Diaw, Ryan Gomes, Andre Miller, Chris Paul and John Salmons.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carmelo Anthony vs. Phoenix 40 min, 31 pts (FG: 12-27, 3FG: 0-2, FT: 7-8), 10 reb, 10 ast

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (38-10) @ Portland (20-29) Phoenix is always just one win away from ripping off another massive win streak, and chances are tonight will be one of those wins. The Suns won their last game against Denver, so a win tonight would officially begin another streak. Amare Stoudemire has an interesting matchup with Zach Randolph who is looking to sneak onto the Western Conference All-Star team. A big performance against one of the league’s best teams could go a long way in helping David Stern come to a conclusion.

Buzzer Beater: Caron Butler did a lot to quiet his critics last night when he dropped a career-high 38 points on the Sonics. The young journeyman is en route to his first All-Star Game, where he will join up with the Wizard’s main man, Gilbert Arenas. And while he is having a solid season, if you want to get picky about it, he’s the most questionable Eastern Conference All-Star. But when the coaches are forced to choose between Joe Johnson on a pathetic Atlanta squad or Butler who plays for one of the conference’s best squads; unfortunately, they’re gonna automatically take the winner every time.

Overtime Buzzer Beater: Read yesterday’s Buzzer Beater and simply replace the words “three” with “four,” “Sunday’s” with “Monday’s” and “Hawks” with “76ers” in the next to last sentence.