All-Star Saturday (and Friday) Night from an NYC couch.

by February 18, 2007
3

By Russ Bengtson

ROOKIE CHALLENGE AND YOUTH JAM

The announcers are Dick Stockton with Reggie Miller and John Thompson. Youth? Where? Oh, the entire crowd, apparently. Which apparently has instructions to shriek at all times.

And OK, there’s a little kid with a horrible bowl haircut and a super-weak voice doing the introductions. Aren’t there labor laws to prevent this? I’m curious what name he’ll mispronounce first.

He got Bargnani right, so he either has a pronunciation guide or a coach. I also just realized that Paul Milsap may very well be the leading candidate for Rookie Of The Year, and I’ve never seen him play. I should probably get League Pass soon.

It’s amazing how many rookies and sophomores have simple one- and two-syllable names, actually. Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, David Lee (still sporting the remains of that Tim Thomas shiner). Weird. And there are only three foreigners, one of whom is Andrew Bogut (sporting the worst NBA beard of all-time—unkempt and straggly, it looks like something a college kid would grow as part of some sort of floor challenge).

I can’t believe they convinced Christopher Lloyd to reprise his role as Doc from Back to the Future for those DirectTV ads. So bad.

Rudy Gay is a better small forward than he is a public speaker. Good thing he had Chris Paul out there to carry the load.

David Lee can start for the sophomore team, but can’t start for the Knicks. Can someone explain that to me?

Let’s see how quickly this turns into a defense-free dunkfest. Lee scores first, then gets a steal and gets an alley-oop. MVP!

6-2 Sophomores, on a layup and two dunks (Bogut gets the second one, from Deron).

Make that three dunks. Lee has six points already. Deron Williams hits a jumper, and it’s 10-2, Sophs. Adam Morrison, who is BARELY out-creepied by Bogut in the personal grooming are, hits a three. Sophs are still hot, though, 14-5, and I don’t think they’ve missed a shot yet.

First sophomore miss on some sort of alley-oop off the backboard from Head to Deron. Gay responds with a dunk on the other end. Hopefully after the game, Gay will reveal that he’s amaechi.

David Lee. Again. He’s got 10. Make that 12.

Black Snake Moan. This is a real movie?

All new players just about with 12:21 to go.

Lee stays in, is 6-6 with 12 points. He’s got a bunch of rebounds, too. Gonna be hard for him to NOT get MVP. Make that 7-7 with 14. Who is this guy, Bill Walton?

Adam Morrison posts up Raymond Felton and shoots a turnaround over the top, and Felton comes down and scores on the other end. Sophs up 36-20. This is boring.

Adam Morrison has nine points, and David Lee has some neat Air Force 25s. Pretty much all the Nike guys are in team-colored AF25s, actually.

Chris Paul alley-oop to Felton (who dunks it with both hands) and Morrison scores on the other end while I’m still trying to type—then Farmar dunks. Is EVERY point guard gonna get a dunk in this game? There’s opportunities galore—lots of 3 and 4 on 1 breaks. Farmar with a wide-open corner 3. 45-31 sophs.

David Lee with another layup. 8-8. 16. And with a dunk (from Chris Paul, who has a whole mess of steals and assists), 9-9, 18.

I can’t decide how I feel about the new Air Jordan XX2 “high school basketball game as high drama” ad. I CAN decide how I feel about the Charles Barkley/Dwyane Wade T-Mobile ads, and it’s not good. They were funny the first couple times, but after 100 viewings or so, not so much.

Monta Ellis is the last soph off the bench. Hatin’! He scores in the first minute and the sophs are up 20. And he scores again and the sophs are up 22. Did I mention that this was thrilling? Ellis, AGAIN. 55-31.

58-33. Blech.

Ellis AGAIN, on an underhand alley-oop from Paul. AND AGAIN. Can he be the MVP off the bench? 64-36. AND AGAIN. Sheesh. 66-36. This is stupid. Chris Paul is gonna have 27 assists by the time this is over.

Ellis gets another dunk. He’s got 14 points in less than four minutes, pretty much all on dunks They should make the sophs play four on five in the second half.

Bill Russell is in the building. He could go out there right now and play better defense than anyone on either team. And he’s 67 years old. Thereabouts.

So could KG. In his sweater. And giant diamond earrings.

Deron Williams for three, 77-46, sophs. It’s 77-48 at the end of the half. The 20-minute half. What an awful display.

Hey, it’s Kenny Smith! On location at his party, which doesn’t look too poppin’ yet. And what with all the speculation lately, Craig Sager HAS to be gay doesn’t he? There’s no other reason for him to dress this badly—in some sort of a spotted velvet sportscoat and a candy-striped tie. And speaking of badly dressed, a dazed-looking Murs is wearing the worst Bapes of all-time. If there is such a thing. And Craig Sager just looks confused. And, um, outspoken.

11-11 for Lee. And a steal. 83-54. Bargnani! 83-56. But Bogut comes right back down. 85-56. I’m not really paying attention anymore—and won’t take another note until it’s a 20-point game. I don’t care what happens in the meantime.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE

OK, so it’s Saturday night. Been watching the TNT coverage since it started at 5. I like this whole “Posterized” thing, but I wish they talked to more people (primarily the guys who got dunked ON). Still nice to see a lot of them again. And I can’t think of many they missed off the top of my head. Oh yeah, good to see Darryl Dawkins is still completely insane.

I’m trying to think which of those dunks I actually saw in person, and the only one I’m positive about is Reggie Miller against the Nets. Yay. I THINK I may have been at the Blazer/Laker playoff game when Kobe threw the alley-oop to Shaq, but I can’t remember for some reason. And I definitely remember showing Dikembe the photo of Jordan dunking on him and hearing his long and growly response. So good. Probably better than the All-Star Saturday events to follow. Well, except for the Bavetta/Barkley race. That’s the one event I wish I would be able to see in person.

A quick note as Vegas ASG traffic pushes all the start times back—they STILL insist on doing that event with WNBA players and retired NBA players? Amazing. Has it done anything to increase WNBA attendance? Isn’t it a possibility that it’s actually made NBA fans LESS likely to pay attention to the WNBA, because they’re (we’re) sick of having it crammed down their (our) throats? I’m just sayin’. Although I’d welcome a Utah-based team with John Amaechi as the legend.

While Bavetta v. Barkley promises to be outstanding, ENOUGH with the promos. My money’s definitely on Bavetta, as I can’t see Barkley handling the changes of direction very well. Too much mass.

Anyone else remember and miss the Schick Legends Game? Used to be there’d be the anti-rookie game, legends and Hall of Famers running (well, jogging) five-on-five and showing that there’s more to basketball than athleticism. Unfortunately there were also a lot of catastrophic knee injuries, so they eventually stopped having it. Hm, below the rim, slow, lots of knee injuries—basically it was a WNBA game. Still, imagine if they brought that back? Dominique, Jordan, Barkley and Bird going up against Magic, Kareem, Hakeem and others? I’d watch for sure.

OK, here we go.

Kobe welcomes the crowd, gripping the mic tightly with both hands, and introduces…Rat Pack impersonators? Las Vegas is very strange. The fake Sammy Davis, Jr. looks like a cross between Dwyane Wade and Terence Howard.

If Celine Dion isn’t a part of this weekend, I’ll be very disappointed.

The fake Rat Pack goes into a second song. As usual, the NBA is catering to the younger crowd. They finish—and maybe it’s how the mics are situated—to dead silence. Awesome.

Does anyone else wonder who actually IS in Dwyane Wade’s five? If I see him again this year, I’m totally asking him (a quick Google search doesn’t bring up any answers, but I discover he DOES have a signature Sidekick 3).

I don’t understand the continuing appeal of the Blue Man Group. Basically they’re blue mimes. And don’t most people hate mimes?

Hey! A Canadian comedian/impressionist singing the Canadian National Anthem! Would have been much better if he did each line as a different famous Canadian (Mike Myers, Celine Dion, Wayne Gretzky). Instead he plays it straight. Loser.

What exactly is a Clint Holmes, and why is he singing the national anthem? Where’s Celine? Or Tom Jones? At least he’s quick.

Introductions to music that’s sort of like the Alan Parsons Project “Sirius” (the Bulls classic intro music) but isn’t, that turns into Elvis. And hey, it’s Scottie Pippen! God Scottie, don’t come back. For the love of God.

Wait, the Lakers have a team in an event involving a retired star, and it’s NOT Magic? I’m shocked. And how do they pick the teams for this thing anyway? Is it always the same teams? Sure seems that way. You’d think the damn Knicks would have a team in this.

Everybody gets introduced right away. It’s kind of sad that the Skills Competition has—by far—the best competitors. If that’s going to wind up being the event with the most star power, why not make it the final event of the evening? It’s not like the Dunk Contest is sacred. At least not anymore it isn’t.

What the heck was that Gilbert Arenas hand gesture? He’s definitely insane.

I guess Tyrus “I’m just in the Dunk Contest for the money so I can pay my fine because I said I was just in the Dunk Contest for the money” Thomas’s ankle is OK.

It’s the “Haier” Shooting Stars. I have no idea what kind of a company Haier is. As usual, it takes longer to explain the rules than it does to actually run through the event. Which is fine.

Hey, why didn’t they introduce Barkley and Bavetta? Haters.

Queen Latifah and Cheryl Miller make a lovely couple, don’t they?

Why do the Chicago Sky wear uniforms based on the Denver Nuggets?

Scottie Pippen takes three attempts to hit a straightaway three and gets beaten to the halfcourt shot by a girl, therefore he shouldn’t come back. I’m just sayin’.

OK, so Michael Cooper takes 16 attempts to hit the same three. Who does he think he is, Nate Robinson? L.A. is obviously eliminated, because the clock isn’t even running anymore. Coop is probably even more embarrassed than he was when Dr. J dunked on him. Of course the clock malfunctions, though, which extends the event. I’m sure the fans are thrilled. Just eliminate them, damn. It’s not like they were gonna be even close to making the next round.

AND THEY BRING THEM BACK OUT. So bad. Way to go, NBA. The clock goes to two minutes anyway, so it doesn’t make a difference.

BILL LAIMBEER shoots the straightaway three for Detroit. He looks like a senator or something. Very grey, distinguished and non-athletic looking. Not that he ever looked particularly athletic.

Awesome. The clock stops again. Don’t they do dry runs of these events before they get started? So embarrassing. Maybe it’s God’s way of saying that the WNBA players shouldn’t be participating in All-Star weekend.

By the way, Bill Laimbeer is a PERFECT example of why it’s great that NBA coaches don’t wear uniforms. Yeesh.

Reggie Miller AND Steve Kerr talk about how you shouldn’t be surprised if the WNBA players hit the half-court shots because they have such great touch. Mm. Yeah. Well, except they don’t have that range. And a halfcourt shot is as much dependent on strength as aim.

Shot clock stops at 1 minute again, and the light behind the backboard goes on. Yeah, that’s not distracting or anything. Chicago and Detroit make the Finals, which is something everyone should be used to. If they were around in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Maybe Scottie’ll gets a migraine and have to sit it out.

Kevin Harlan thinks Swin Cash hits the half-court shot when it was really Chauncey Billups. Yeah, they look a lot alike.

Pippen hits the half-court shot in first-place time, but BG hit the same shot twice by shooting out of order. So they pretty much have to get disqualified. Cheaters. Most importantly, though, I’m curious what sneakers Pip is wearing, and I can’t tell. Damn you, TNT!

An appropriately crappy ending to a crappy event. I’m sure Chauncey will put this trophy right next to his Finals MVP.

The Timmy Hardaway Memorial SKEE-ills competition is next, including shooting, passing, dribbling and gay-bashing.

You KNOW there’s bragging rights at stake here. Nice shot of LeBrons gold IVs, there. Can’t pay for that sort of coverage. My money’s on one of the little guys. I’m going with CP3 beating D. Wade in the Finals. LeBron sort of sleepwalks to a 35.4.

There are camera malfunctions, of course.

And CP doesn’t even beat LeBron, so he’s not going anywhere. Good pick, me.

There’s a break? In this contest? Wow, TNT, way to milk it. I assume there are dance teams and t-shirt tosses and the like going on in the arena. Here it’s just another Toyota Tundra commercial.

“My five’s hot!”

Kobe’ll probably beat LeBron. But they’re all just jogging through this. Kobe hits everything first try, beats 30 seconds. Wade, though, he knows exactly what time he has to beat. And he’s won this before.

Wade and Kobe in the Final, even though he missed a pass.

ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK. Awesome.

Whoa. Wade blows STRAIGHT through the final round in 26.4. He should have dunked it at the end, though. Curious to see whether Kobe CAN beat it. This is definitely the event with the most intrigue.

Until Kobe misses three straight chest passes. Hopefully he finishes wjth a serious dunk…no. He misses a jumper and then begrudgingly flips in a finger roll. Dwyane Wade picks up $35,000 for less than a minute’s work. Not bad (that works out to $2.1 million an hour). And he gets a Playstation 3, too—I’m sure he doesn’t have one of those yet.

Bavetta v. Barkley is next. Man. I need to run to the deli, but there’s no way I risk missing any of this.

Oh. My. God. The Shaq slot machine shoe is the greatest thing ever. It’s amazing how he manages to top himself year after year. Nice ‘fit, too.

Bavetta running through the cheerleaders is worth the price of admission. And Charles Barkley is fat. All the three-point guys looking over his shoulder, Nowitzki peering intently at the screen with a smile on his face.

Bavetta’s gonna wipe the court up with Barkley. The turns are gonna kill him. And wow, he’s fat.

Dick is SERIOUS. Ha. If it’s an act, it’s a good one. And he’s wearing compression shorts!

Oh my God. Barkley wins…and runs backwards across the court and falls down on his (sizeable) butt. He’s completely winded. Meanwhile, you figure Bavetta could run another 25 laps or so. Even though he DOVE across the line. And barely lost.

Charles looks at $50,000 check to the Boys and Girls club. “We’re gonna give two blackjack hands to charity.” So great. Especially because you know he’s sort of serious.

Somehow I’m gone for 10 minutes and…don’t miss anything? I figured the first round of the Three-Point Shootout would have started. Maybe they just did player introductions?

Magic Johnson is literally squeezed into the announcers table between Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller.

Is the Money Ball a COMPOSITE???? It’s the same shape as the old new NBA ball. What a piece of crap. Where’s the OG red white and blue joint? So depressing.

Kapono only has one really good rack. OK, three. 19 points. Not sure if that’ll get it done.

Mike Miller still looks like Marilyn Quayle. Or a South American soccer player, I guess. We probably won’t be seeing him again anyway.

Jason Terry is Terryble. Sorry about that.

Usher! Dennis Miller! Penny Marshall! Dave Winfield? Eva Longoria! Penny and Dennis look like they may be living in the same refrigerator box off the Strip.

Damon Jones is pretty hot—but not hot enough. He falls apart a little down the stretch. But at least he finishes ahead of Jason Terry.

AGENT ZERO! I can’t believe he’s in that horrific gold jersey. I’d rather get the WNBA forced down my throat than that garbage. Best score of the first round—by far—with only Dirk left.

Arenas, Dirk and Kapono in the Finals.

It absolutely sucks that all of these events are just a first round and a Finals now. It just makes everything seem so anticlimactic—not to mention it pretty much assures that any mistakes will be fatal. Sometimes I really miss 1988.

And like that, Jason Kapono pretty much locks this thing up with the first Finals go. Dirk is out before he’s halfway through. I blame it on his stupid haircut. At least Gilbert might still do something insane.

He doesn’t. Misses his first four shots. Although he hits four of five on the last rack with one hand. Kapono joins Wade (who’s already back on the sidelines suited) as a Heat skills winner. Too bad there’s no one from Miami in the dunk contest.

Kapono shoots better than he talks. Hello, Mr. Incoherent!

It’s funny, the dunk contest used to be like Christmas and New Year’s rolled into one—a hugely special event. And now. Now it’s an afterthought. And even better, we get to sit through a Penn and Teller routine first. With, um, Tony Parker. As it ends, someone who thinks they’re NOT on live TV says “that’s it?” Yeah, pretty much.

Did I mention that the judges are much better dunkers than the actual participants? Like, today? Kobe, Vince, MJ (what the HELL is he wearing?), Doc, Dominique. Vince should be embarrassed that he’s in the building and not dunking. At least Kobe was in the damn skills competition.

Kobe and Jordan are at opposite ends of the judge’s table.

Magic says that Dominique was the first to 360. Um. That was David Thompson, actually.

No one warmed up? Absurd. Can someone please take tonight sort of seriously? And Tyrus Thomas can’t put his first dunk (with teammate Ben Gordon) down right away, so he breaks out the old Kenny Smith special. Backwards through the legs off the glass with both hands, except forward instead of a reverse. Yech. 37.

Gerald Green with Paul Pierce. Whoa. Off the side of the glass from Pierce to some sort of a two-handed windmill. 48, with nines from MJ and Doc. Rough. Hard to not give that one a 50. Wow.

Dwight Howard. SO TALL. Just a straight-in windmill? From outside the circle. Head at rim height at the peak. 43. Nothing too exciting.

NATE. Let’s see how many he misses. His shoes are bright. Off the bounce, legs spread. 45? Jordan gives him an 8? Charles: “Every time a midget does something like that, you got to give him a 10.” Awesome. At least he hit it on his first try. I’ll admit, it’s already a better contest than I thought it would be.

Tyrus again. Jumps over Ben Gordon, dunks with his left, and destroys the net. 43. And now they have to fix the net because the cameras are all on the same end. He was off to one side, sort of, and he’s too tall. Magic: “I guess he can get his check now, cause that’s all he was talking about.” Yeah, he’s not gonna be joining us in the Finals.

COMMERCIAL BREAK. Thanks, Tyrus.

Net fixed, it’s Dwight time. He puts a sticker at the TOP of the backboard—12-6—with one hand, and dunks with the other, and gets THREE eights? “Michael’s lost his damn mind.” Barkley. A 42? Sheesh. These judges might be great dunkers, but they can’t judge.

Some sort of Statue of Liberty 360 for Nate with David Lee holding it up (as the Statue), and he gets a 45? Soooooo, Dwight’s out unless Gerald Green really blows it. He’s changing into Pumps! Haha. Total Dee Brown tribute. And Paul Pierce brings out a Nate Robinson cutout for him to jump over…and Nate himself comes out and replaces it. Awesome. And he DOES pump up, covers his eyes Dee style AND jumps over Nate. Jordan and Doc still give him 9s. 47. And it’s him and Nate in the Final. With nary a 50 in the first round. Not to mention, except for the Tyrus Thomas misses early, everyone hits everything.

Man, I might have to wear my Dee Brown Pumps out tonight.

And Dwight Howard should probably be in the Finals over Nate.

Nate’s up first. Uh oh, off the bounce. This is where he got in trouble last year. I think he’s trying to switch hands? Grabs the rim with one hand, dunks with the other. Hard to tell. Jordan gives him a seven, everyone else comes with eights. 37. This is Gerald Green’s contest to lose, no doubt.

Pierce passing to him from OOB over the backboard with both hands. 41. Eights from all except Doc, who gives him a nine. I expected more, really. So the door’s still open, but not much.

Nate’s last chance. Trying an off-the-glass 360? He should have practiced this one more. He’s still got time, but it’s just not working. Under a minute left of his two minutes. This is sucking all the life out of the building. He almost gets one. Keeps trying. “The moment has left the building.” Kenny Smith. Misses something like eight tries, runs out of time. Has two attempts left. Already switched from trying a 3 to trying a 180. Misses the first. Tired out. Gets it—on the 10th and last try. And it’s actually the 360. Gets a 41, all eights and a nine from Doc.

Gerald Green, needing only a 38 or higher to win this thing, brings out a table, sets it up just inside the circle. Does a tuck windmill over it—and gets the first 50 of the night with the last dunk of it. I kind of thought he’d go from the free-throw line. Kind of underwhelming, really (it wasn’t the best dunk of the contest—or even HIS best dunk). No. 2 on Gerald’s headband? For who? Is that the number that’s retired for Red Auerbach? Yes it is.