by Russ Bengtson

PREGAME

8 p.m. Chris Rock’s intro is exactly like something he’d give at the start of the Oscars, the Emmys or something truly prestigious like the MTV Movie Awards. I can’t wait for the game to tip off someday.

I actually have one of those East All-Star jackets, courtesy of adidas. Should I wear it tonight? I probably should, but it’s warm in here. The versions the actual All-Stars are wearing feature the All-Star logos of all their previous appearances. Kidd and Kobe have a lot.

David Aldridge interviews Dwight Howard on the sidelines, who says “I guess I got a new nickname, Superman.” Does Shaq know about this? Also, the Kidd deal is back on. Again.

Craig Sager looks like a complete fool, as usual. Can’t someone tell him to wear normal clothes? I know it’s his schtick, but it’s the people he’s INTERVIEWING that are supposed to be the focus. Right? I don’t get it. Chris Paul says he’s nervous, and looks it. His first All-Star game in front of his hometown fans? No wonder. He’s got maroon, gold and white Air Jordan XX3s on right now, and one of his CP3 signature shoes in the same colorway in his hands (which he’ll be changing into at halftime).

The TNT crew discusses the nervousness of your first time (Magic and Charles, at least—Kenny was never an All-Star) and the stupendous food they’ve had in New Orleans. Shockingly, it’s not Charles who shifts the conversation in that direction.

8:11 Aldridge with Jason Kidd, who speaks in platitudes about the All-Star game and says not much about the trade. A smile threatens to cross his face as he says he thinks he’ll be in Dallas.

Sager with Kobe. “I’d rather sit out, as much as I like to play in these games.” He then goes on to make fun of Sager’s ludicrous tie. Thank you, Craig Sager, once again for making sure it’s always about you.

Barkley doesn’t think the Lakers make the playoffs with Kobe out for six weeks. Magic agrees, and says that this is the happiest Kobe has been since Shaq was there. Kobe was happy when Shaq was there? I think they could make the playoffs anyway, but that’s just me.

Kenny Smith thinks the Kidd trade—if it happens—puts the Mavericks in contention to win the West. I don’t agree, since they’re going to have to re-tool their ENTIRE offense and defense on the fly. Charles thinks it’s a risky trade, since they’re giving up young players and a pair of first-round picks for a soon-to-be 35-year-old point guard. That, I can agree with. Rod Thorn is a genius. Other thoughts on the would-be trade: I really hope Keith Van Horn suits up for the Nets this year, even if it pushes back his Hall of Fame eligibility, and I think it’s great that a guy named Trenton winds up in New Jersey. I hear his brothers Newark and Metuchen could ball, too.

8:19. Doug Collins and Marv Albert. We start with LeBron James, who could be Doug’s MVP if he had to choose right now. Then the Pistons backcourt. Collins feels the Pistons are the team to beat in the West. Meanwhile, mascot mayhem goes on behind them. Reggie Miller is saying something about Chris Paul being the Prince, but I refuse to listen to anything he says. Intros when we come back, apparently. I’m ready for a spectacle.

8:21. The first Fave Five commercial of the telecast. And that’s why I don’t eat shrimp! I’m as sick of Charles as Dwyane is. In commercials, at least. I could listen to him talk NBA all day and all night.

8:23. There’s a great movie to be made about the ABA. There’s also countless terrible movies to be made, and Will Ferrell made one. Look! It’s Will Ferrell being wacky in weird situations!

8:25. Harry Connick, Jr. (disappointingly not dressed like his character from Copycat) and Branford Marsalis are doing the introductions. But first, the Rebirth Brass Band featuring Trombone Shorty! Now THAT’S a name.

The Eastern All-Stars appear from what looks like a high-class brothel. With their warm-ups on they look like the French National Soccer team. Caron and KG are introduced first, looking dapper (KG especially so). Chauncey, blasé. Ray Allen. Joe Johnson, taciturn. Paul Pierce, cool. Rip Hamilton. Antawn Jamison, stoked. Rasheed Wallace, boogieing. And the starters emerge from the smoke in the back. Jason Kidd, protesting. Dwyane Wade, buggin’. Dwight Howard, dancing. Chris Bosh, chewing. LeBron James, REALLY dancing. And making the Roc sign. Of course. Gotta cross-promote if you’re gonna be an icon.

8:32. Enter red-hatted trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. Actually, this whole thing looks sort of like a Muppet Show set. I half expect to see Miss Piggy chase Kermit across the front. No, not Kermit Ruffins.

West intros. Darrell Walker’s suit is SHARP. Byron Scott untangles his arms enough to wave. Chris Paul, nervous but happy. Steve Nash announced while they show Brandon Roy. Oh, now B-Roy. David West, still disbelieving. CBooz, hirsute. Amare Stoudemire, applauds, holds up one finger. Dirk Nowitzki, hippie. And the starters. Allen Iverson, calm. Kobe Bryant, braced. Yao Ming, tall. Carmelo Anthony, braided. Tim Duncan, processing.

For the Canadian anthem, Debra Cox. She looks like she’s trying out for American Idol. Classy outfit, lady. Couldn’t find a dress that fit? And the camera cuts to token Canadian Steve Nash. I still don’t get why they perform the Canadian anthem before games not played in Canada. Assuming the NBA’s idiotic European expansion goes through, will they start performing the anthems of all those countries before the All-Star game, too? I can hardly wait! Well, here are the flags of every country represented, anyway.

For the national anthem, a trio of Branford Marsalis, Stephanie Jordan and a guitarist whose name I’ve forgotten already. No offense. You know, some of the best anthems I’ve ever heard have been performed by former players? Wayman Tisdale did a mean bass version, and my man Thurl Bailey actually has a great voice. Go figure. This version’s all right, if a bit subdued. It won’t be replacing Marvin Gaye’s version atop the All-Star charts, though.

The NBA: Where Commercials Happen.

This is the 57th All-Star Game. I did not know that. Before tip, Davis West and Chris Paul address the crowd. Well, Chris Paul does. Just a brief thank you for supporting the New Orleans community. David West has a deep voice—they’re trading off. Teleprompted? “New Orleans is a great town with wonderful people,” Paul concludes.

I hope the Kidd deal goes through at halftime and he has to change uniforms.

Two refs are making their first All-Star appearances. Great. Where’s Joey Crawford? Where’s Dick Bavetta? Where’s Bobby Covert?

1,100 plus words and it ain’t even tipped off.

FIRST QUARTER

8:49 p.m. Tip-off. Dwight, to Kidd. Bron tries a lookaway off the penetration, and commits the first turnover. The West gives it right back, and Wade gets ahead for a dunk.

Duncan misses a 19-footer, and Bron flicks an oop to Dwight Howard. Collins says it’s “shades of last night,” but it really isn’t. Although the replay reveals that his elbo was above the rim AND he got fouled.

Bosh, dunk. Duncan, off glass. He’s calibrated now.

Bosh, miss. Melo squares up, shoots over LeBron, swish. Bron misses a three, Bosh recovers it for an easy dunk.

Carmel omisses too strong, Iverson takes the dribble behind his back, has a pass denied, then is fouled by LeBron, earns his first pints at the line. Enter Nash for Kobe at the 9:13 mark. Guess he’s not gonna get the MVP this year. Was it really worth having him play those three minutes?

Lebron, to a cutting Howard, who gets fouled by Duncan on a dunk attempt. I wish my remote had a Reggie Miller mute button. Work on that, Time Warner. Thanks.

This game is sloppy. Kidd with a nice lob to a hard-charging LeBron along the baseline, though. Yao can’t quite get to it. Nice pass.

Kidd leads the break, tries to sling it off the glass to someone. Doesn’t work.

LeBron outlet to Wade, layup. East leads 14-5.

Yao recovers a miss, gets a layup of his own, then ruins a Bosh layup attempt. Duncan comes back with a three-point attempt (who do you think you are, Zach Randolph?) that almost shatters the glass.

Chris Bosh x 2. 18-7.

Kidd to LeBron, who tries to fire a 90 mph behind the back pass to someone up top. It flies by and goes out of bounds.

Kobe’s right hand is wrapped up to the point where it looks like a lobster claw. He should come back in and play with it wrapped like that.

LeBron is long on a deep three.

Melo to the rim, it counts, and the foul. Time out on the floor with 5:54 left in the first. Kind of anticlimactic so far, too many turnovers.

8:58. “You’re not drivin’ through no tunnel!”

Aldridge with more news on the Kidd trade. This couldn’t wait until after the damn game? Give me a break. I’m not listening! LALALALALALALALA.

The uniforms are really confusing. Are there four teams?

Hey, now it’s Dirk talking about the potential trade with Sages! Why would he say anything after all that’s gone on? “I wanna make sure it’s really on until I comment on it.” Good man, Dirk. P.S. Spilt-screens are the best. Thanks for doing interviews during the game! It’s only All-Star, it’s not like anything exciting ever happens.

There are a LOT of substitutions out of the timeout, and they’re just telling the viewers about them now. Thanks. Really. Glad we discussed the trade-that-might-happen again first.

Chauncey Billups stops an 8-0 West run. And Doug Collins reiterates that the East will go through Detroit. He’s not biased or anything, though. Reggie Miller is incoherent.

“Chauncey Billups, one of the best free-throw shooters in the NBA,” Marv says, as CB4 puts up a brick. He makes them when it counts, though.

Rasheedbound, Pierce triple. Iverson to Amare, layup. Shots are going up so fast I can barely keep track. Thank God for timeouts and turnovers.

Celebrities! Again, don’t care. Sorry.

P-Double off glass. MVP so far?

Chris Paul almost overthrows Dirk in the corner, who slings it to West in the lane, who drives in for a dunk.

Rasheed with two straight offensive boards, one off a HORRIBLE three-point brick from Antawn Jamison. Reggie Miller is being mercifully quiet.

Paul Pierce got that midrange game poppin. And Amare hits a three. Pierce, to Jamison underneath. Rasheed gets called for a ticky-tack foul on Dirk and tragically doesn’t flip out. I guess it’s only the first quarter.

Rip from the corner, and the West (and West) can’t get a shot off at the buzzer. East up 34-28 after one.

SECOND QUARTER

I’m not much for impressions, but Frank Caliendo’s Charles Barkley kills me every damn time. Turrible knucklehead.

Changing into the personalized authentic East jersey for the rest of the game. Thanks yet again, adidas.

There was a block in the first quarter? I hate having to look at the keys when I type.

Aldridge with Doc. Is he talking about slowing the ball down? Someone fire that guy. And the quarter starts split-screen. Awesome.

9:19. Doug Collins ruminating on Doc Rivers still coaching after last year’s awful record. Brandon Roy hits his first shot right off the bench. Guess his nerves are OK. Then again he just played on this floor two nights ago.

Jason Kidd hit a shot? And Roy drops another one. He’s already better tonight than he was in the rookie/soph game. Bron miss, Roy rebound, Dirk miss, Bron rebound. Kidd to LeBron, dunk. CP3 HIGH off glass. And David West scores again. 40-36, East. Joe Johnson three. No time to expand.

Roy, fake, layup. Ray Allen with another three for the East. I think Reggie just said (about Chris Paul) “for his size, he’s a great leader.” What? Just go away, Reggie. I hope he hasn’t officially retired and the Pacers re-sign and trade his ass.

Boozer’s got a board, and we roll back to time out. Reggie briefly mentions the idea of the best 16 making the playoffs, which I agree with. Dammit. Oh well.

National Anthem highlights during ‘Inside Trax’? I love when they just show laughter. That’s fantastic. Although Bron bulling TD out of bounds and TD saying “that’s not right” is pretty great. I wish they’d show the miked up stuff unedited on HBO or something. Actually, I wish I could watch this game on HBO with JUST the mikes, no announcers.

Hey, it’s Sager with Kobe. Split screen! This is great, because it’s like I’m watching the game on a 13-inch TV now. Can they figure out ways to marginalize the game even further? I refuse to talk about the action while they’re doing split-screen interviews. I can hear that baskets are being scored, but I’m not interested enough to squint and figure out who’s scoring them.

Oh, we’re back. Nice layup, Bron. It’s 53-48, East. Turnover West, and a double-lob for the East—Kidd to Bron to Dwight. East loses it, Paul loses it, Bron flips it up for Howard, who catches it and flips it back up for Bron. Next time down, Bron for Howard again. Apparently the East’s strategy is “throw it somewhere near the basket, Dwight’ll get it.” Hard to argue with that.

SHUT UP, REGGIE.

Chris Paul for three, LeBron for about six. OK, three.

Boozer miss, LeBron rebound, Paul steal, failed oop to B-Roy, and I’m not even sure whose ball it is anymore. Time out.

Will Ferrell is the biggest sellout in the history of sellouts.

Reggie Miller likes Dwight Howard. You can’t get that insight just anywhere. “There’s nothing wrong with a coach coaching.” I’m glad I’m not near any sharp objects right now.

Dwight Howard dunk contest highlights. Reggie, again. “I remember when he took his jersey off and put the cape on…” You remember all the way back to last night, Reg? Wow.

Kind of bummed that Rip Hamilton’s not wearing some sort of a Mardi Gras mask.

Not sure what the West shooting percentage is, but it’s not good. Rasheed follows up with a lefty three-point attempt, then a righty on the next trip, with exactly the same result. Misses. Time out.

A Rip three makes the East lead 10. Dirk answers with a two. Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be able to guard Dwyane Wade if his legs worked. Booz layup, Sheed three. Melo backs down Wade, has to work for a layup. Wade answers.

Wait, fans can vote for MVP, too? Where does it end?

East leads 74-65 at the half. I need to run across the street and get a beer if I’m gonna survive another half with Reggie.

A glittering Craig Sager interviews a hoarse Dwight Howard. Sager is then raised to the ceiling to play a disco ball in the halftime show.

HALFTIME

9:49. “You ever been to Amsterdam?”

The NBA: Where The MVP Losing In The First Round Happens.

Hey look, it’s Harry Connick and his Big Band? But first, some pontification about the New Orleans music tradition. And I guess this is going to be an All-Star musical cast? Cynicism aside, however, Ellis Marsalis is off the meter. And obviously Connick himself has got chops, but I keep thinking of him telling Will Smith “you’ll never be an astronaut if you marry a stripper” in Independence Day (which Fox Movie Channel shows 250 times a week), so I can’t take him seriously.

I keep half expecting Dwight Howard to jump over this entire set and dunk on it.

Dr. John puts the hip in hippie. And I’m pretty sure I just saw Steve Javie playing trombone.

Ivan and Art Neville? How many damn pianos are out there anyway? And how many Neville brothers are there? One of them stole Michael Jordan’s hat.

Allen Toussaint! He’s “the legend,” and I’m not quite sure who he is. I feel guilty about this, whether it’s my fault or not. Gonna take five.

The crew. Highlights. Kenny Smith: “For me, it’s who becomes the star of stars.” He mentions LeBron and Dwight. Charles: “Would it be fun to play with Jason Kidd or what?” By the way, my favorite Barkleyism is “athaletic.” Also, I like how everyone says ‘Jason Kidd doesn’t care about scoring’ instead of ‘Jason Kidd can’t score.’

Magic has Bron for MVP, and I’m not sure what anyone else says. Charles Barkley blows the Goodyear blimp line, and it’s funnier that way. Charles is everything that Reggie isn’t.

Dwyane Wade’s in an awful lot of commercials for a guy on such a turrible team.

10:13. “What is it, Chuck?”

THIRD QUARTER

Starters start, with Nash replacing Kobe. Byron Scott is a hater.

Dwyane Wade, reverse, flip over the shoulder. Iverson to Duncan, knocked away.

Apparently Allen Iverson spoke in the locker room to get the West back in the game. AI is the best in All-Star games—and then Doug Collins calls him out for his turnovers. No wonder why he got fired three times. Jerk.

Yao taking threes? Guess he’s American now.

Reggie just called Kobe “triple-ocho.” I’m counting slowly back from 247,000.

Bron three, Iverson two. Kobe is still in the locker room, presumably receiving treatment.

Iverson to Nash for a layup. Bosh misses, it’s knocked ahead to Iverson, but Duncan blows a dunk. He must be running XP.

Melo cuts the East lead to six.

Dwight supermans that Yao.

Jason Kidd throws a lob way too high, but Bron almost gets it on the second opportunity. Instead it goes the other way and Yao dream shakes Dwight, who fouls him.

Bron misses a three, Bosh rebounds, hits the midrange J. AI answers. Reggie: “Allen Iverson is a competitor.” NO! Really?

Kidd to Bron, to running/drifting fallaway. Nothing but net. Doug Collins is impressed. Yao tries another three, misses badly, and Bron catches another dunk. Next year the Chinese contingent is voting for Marcus Camby.

Nash stops the East 8-0 run. AI misses a layup, and Melo loses the ball out of bounds.

Chris Bosh has 14 points, and Pierce has an assist. And Allen gets an and-one. Apparently there have been mass substitutions. Ray Allen proceeds to brick the free throw.

Nash. Again. Keep shootin’, Steve!

Boozer over Sheed. Bang. And the West comes back again, Melo dunks off a Paul pass.

Ray Allen responds with a three.

I’d like a closer look at Paul Pierce’s shoes. And Rasheed’s.

Time out.

The game re-starts while there’s just a big Heineken logo on the screen.

Chris Paul to David West, who does his best Charles Smith impersonation. (Credits to Rasheed Wallace and Antawn Jamison. I think Sheed is yelling. I love Sheed.)

Steve Nash ain’t passing today.

Ray Allen with the over-the-head layup, then a steal. And a clear path to the basket for an open layup. Has am injury replacement ever won MVP?

Nash is still shooting.

Paul Peezy fo’ sheezy. The West takes 20, no, a full, down 104-93.

“Reggie’s Remarks”????? The only ones I want to hear is “I quit.”

Hey, it’s Bob Pettit! His thoughts. “Where are all the white guys?”

Rasheed’s AF1 straps are gangsta. And Pierce is cold-blooded.

The West just can’t get anything going. East holds for a last shot. Pierce dribbles up top, goes through his legs, shoots a three off the back rim, time expires. East up 13 at the end of three.

FOURTH QUARTER

Sages with Byron Scott, whose arms AREN’T crossed! He’s talking strategy. That’s funny. At least they keep it short. Marv: “Byron’s looking to get Yao back in there for that three-point touch.” Funny, guy.

Reggie, a former teammate of Byron’s gives deep insight—stats that you could find on Basketball Reference.

Amare with the fadeaway in the paint, Bron misses a high-flying floater over Dirk.

Amare dunks on Dwight Howard! Ouch. And stop calling him Superman, dammit! It’s like if people started calling Michael Jordan “Dr. J” in 1985. Wrong on so many levels.

A Boozer dunk (with his usual “I’m being electrocuted!” leg kicks), and the West has awakened. Again. West within five, Paul has a mess of assists, and the West is on an 8-0 run.

Fan voting for MVP opens when it’s a five-point game with over eight minutes left. Terrific. Not like anything can change.

amareisabeast.com, baby.

Bron, staying in the MVP hunt. But Dirk responds with a three, and it’s a two-point game. Bosh loses a rebound, Roy scores on the enduing break, and we’re tied at 110. Bosh is blocked, and I think Billups tries to pick up a mid-court charge. In an All-Star game?

Dirk, guarded by Kidd (!), gets a layup, and the West leads. Billups ties it back up. Dirk misses, the ball travels around, and Duncan puts it in off glass. Billups misses a 3, Paul misses a layup, Bron, guarded by Paul up top, AIRBALLS a three. That ain’t what MVPs do.

Allen Iverson is vocal. Also, he calls everybody “boy.” The NBA: Where Steve Nash Kissing His Bicep Happens.

Sager with Nash. Nash snatches Sager’s handkerchief, blows his nose in it, puts it back. Also, Shaq apparently is back in Phoenix today. Sucks. Also, free pub for Nash’s shoes while the split-screen game continues. Not like it’s compelling or anything.

Dirk airball. Bron tough reverse layup. East by two. Dirk with an open path to the rim, two-handed dunk.

Wade with a bad turnover, Bron jumps over the first row trying to get to a loose ball. Tragically, he doesn’t land on Reggie Miller.

Doug Collins marvels over the shoes. OK, old man.

Wade layup attempt blocked emphatically by Amare Stoudemire, who gets the and one on the other end. MVP candidate for sure. That was a ridiculous shot—getting hit by Dwight Howard AND off-balance. Ray Allen comes back with the conventional three, and Paul for two.

Paul to Roy, layup. 13th assist for Paul. He’s the leading candidate for MVP right now. Allen with another 25-footer, though. He’s got 20, tied up at 122 with 2:08. CP misses 3, Allen buries another one. OK, HE’S the leading candidate for MVP. 125-122, 1:49. Time out.

Trouble B-Roy with the bad pass.

CP3. Tied up again at 125 with 1:32 to go.

Allen misses a three, Duncan rebounds, Paul brings it up, Duncan doubled, the West turns it over, and Bron drives in with a RIDICULOUS dunk on Dirk. He’s got 27. Offensive foul on Paul on the other end.

Wade with a layup AND the foul. Goes sprawling. Gets up eight times. Misses the free throw. Still up four, 30 seconds.

Wade blocks a Dirk three. Well. That’s embarrassing.

Allen all the way, East up six. Roy hits a three with 8.6, Allen is fouled by Paul with 8.2. Allen hits one of two, and Billups comes in for Howard. And the East has it back? Missed that. Allen is fouled again with 1.8 seconds, and Byron Scott is out of tricks. Allen hits both, has many points.

And that’s it. The East wins, 134-128. Either Allen or Bron is gonna get MVP. Doubt they’ll split it, although you never know.

Apparently it’s LeBron. Which is fine, but Ray Allen kept the East in it when it truly mattered. Maybe that last dunk made the difference—which it definitely could have. David Stern says something about “thank you for letting us assist in the restoration of this great American city.” Which is fine. “We’re still getting out of here as soon as humanly possible, and you’d better average 15,000 a night or the Hornets will be too,” he doesn’t add.

Seems like the fans would have been cool with Allen as MVP—at least the ones who are there. Crazy that Bron has a second All-Star MVP at 23. Sheesh.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Thank God, because 4,028 words is plenty.

UPDATE: Or maybe it isn’t. I just published a ginormous sneaker wrap-up column on KING. Go check that out and add some comments so I can feel better about myself. Carpal tunnel, what?