by Russ Bengtson

Fratello, Harlan and Miller to start off TNT’s All-Star Saturday Night events. Can I just say that Reggie Miller is the worst TV commentator in the history of TV? It’s not just his annoying voice, or the fact that he never says anything that’s not appallingly obvious, or that all of his interaction with his fellow announcers seems totally forced. Well, actually it’s all of those things. I could get past the voice and demeanor if he brought extra insight to the table as an 18-year NBA vet and former All-Star, but he doesn’t. The one positive, I suppose, is he makes me appreciate Kevin Harlan and the Czar a lot more.

I really, really, REALLY don’t like the idea of allowing fans to vote for the slam-dunk contest winner. And Mike Fratello agrees with me.

Can’t believe they still force do the star-WNBA player-legend thing. Thank God Magic Johnson isn’t involved this year. B.J. Armstrong looks younger than Chris Duhon, Bill Laimbeer looks more and more like William Shatner every year. And someone must have hacked into Tim Duncan’s mainframe.

Have they always done all the All-Star Saturday Night introductions in one shot?

OK, Dwight and Jamario Moon dancing was funny. Where’s Dikembe?

Could they not find any black singers in New Orleans? What’s the deal? The guy who does the Canadian Anthem is either a lost Beatnik or Henry Abbott’s cousin. Kudos to the trumpeter who performs the National Anthem, though.

If you want to know why All-Star seems weird without Shaq, this article sums it up.

What are the chances that Jason Kapono walked into the locker room tonight, looked around, and asked “OK, which one of you motherf*ckers is getting second?”

In case you were wondering, All-Star Saturday Night is presented by State Farm.

The Haier Shooting Stars is the first event. Basically, it’s Two Ball on life support. Other than being a tired WNBA promotional device and a way to get another sponsor to cough up some dough, I don’t get it. At all. (Yes, I’m being negative. Again. Deal with it.)

Why are the Chicago WNBA uniforms baby blue, yellow and white? Are they already planning on moving to Denver?

Does Cappie Pondexter have a WNBA tattoo on her shoulder? Reggie Miller definitely calls her “Cappie Poindexter,” I know that.

David Robinson is in the wrong contest, I think—and then he hits a corner three and a halfcourt shot both on his first try. Sheesh.

After Detroit self-destructs, Chicago and San Antonio are in the ‘finals.’ As a Bulls fan, I should cherish this, because it’s likely these are the only finals they’ll be appearing in any time soon.

Becky Hammon plays for San Antonio? And the bigs are on fire right now. David Robinson should come out of retirement as a three-point specialist.

Did Reggie just say “John Naismith?” Please tell me I heard that correctly.

The Bulls suck.

Nice of Back To the Future‘s Mr. Strickland to present the Spurs with their trophy.

Chris Paul will win the skills competition.

Can I propose that next year the NBA hosts the No-Skills Competition? Same course, but with guys like Scot Pollard, Kwame Brown, Jason Collins and Ben Wallace.

OH GOD. TJ Kidd is sitting on the bench next to Deron Williams. Of course he is. And he’s getting more camera time than the competitors.

Jason Kidd, not a shooter.

And see ya, Dwyane Wade.

Deron Williams with a flawless run through the course before they cut to Inspector Gadget LeBron James. A trenchcoat? Seriously?

Deron Williams is your 2008 Skills Challenge champion. You’ll be telling the grandkids someday.

You know, TJ Kidd looks more like Deron than he does like Jason Kidd. I’m just sayin’.

Did they really just give Deron a PS3? I’m sure he needs another one of those.

Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith replace the Czar…but Reggie stays. Curses! “And Kevin’s like, ‘What’s government cheese?’” Charles Barkley is the best.

I have no idea who I picked to win the three-point shootout. Daniel Gibson, I think. I’m pulling for Rip Hamilton, though.

I miss the red, white and blue moneyball.

Rip Hamilton’s arm sleeve makes me not want to root for him anymore. It’s got his number and flames on it. Where’d he get that thing, Hot Topic? A NASCAR shop?

Also, he stepped on the line on every shot in the corner, and has had his final score changed three times. He’s not getting out of the first round anyway.

Nash’s stroke is too slow for this contest. He can shoot threes, but not like this. Wait, did Charles Barkley just namecheck Vernon Maxwell?

Celeb check time: Oh, I don’t care.

I really wish they’d have two contestants shoot at once on opposite ends of the court. Isn’t that what they used to do? I seem to recall split-screen coverage back in the day.

Dirk misses a bunch off the first rack, and Charles starts dropping he-must-have-spent-last-night-on-Bourbon-Street jokes. He hits enough to tie with Boobie for first (so far) and they cut to Mark Cuban in the crowd, who’s wearing some kind of weird headset. Apparently he either got a day job as an air traffic controller, or is remotely controlling Dirk.

Rip Hamilton’s been officially eliminated.

Kapono goes 5-5 on the last rack for a first-round 20 to lead all shooters and make the final along with Dirk and Boobie. I miss the days of three-round contests, but hey, gotta make time for that Shooting Stars contest. Who won again?

On the local broadcast here, they’re running fairly frequent ads for ‘Knick Fan Packs.’ Is that some kind of sick joke?

Not counting warm-ups and practice, Boobie has taken 70 threes in two days. He gets a 17, and he’s gonna lose.

Amare’s wearing a big Run-DMC dookie rope gold chain, and he’s sitting with his kid. Next to LeBron.

Dirk is putting so much arc on his shots that he could probably get two in the air simultaneously. Fourteen points, not good enough. Enter the Kapono.

Kapono seals the win halfway through the second-to-last rack and puts on a clinic with 25 points, tying Craig Hodges’s 1986 single-round record. And he repeats as the three-point champ. Now all he has to do is win next year and he’ll be blackballed from the League.

OK, bring on the Slam Dunk contest.

But first, a few words from Steve Nash about the NBA Cares program. And Dr. John soundtracking a slide show. Man, I saw him perform in Philadelphia 15 years ago. My man. Was he the inspiration for The Muppet Show’s Dr. Teeth? I think so. Dr. John, for the record, is not as good looking as Mariah Carey. Then again, I wouldn’t want to see him in the Jordan dress.

I keep forgetting that All-Star is all about stretching it as far as it can go. Silly me thinking the dunk contest would have started by now. All-Star weekend is like cocaine—the pure stuff is mindblowing, but by the time it hits the street it’s been cut so much you can barely recognize it. Um, not that I’d know anything about that.

My money’s on Rudy Gay.

Magic is an official dunk contest judge? Seriously? While he’s waxing poetic about Dr. J (also judging and sitting next to him), a furry green hand reaches in to give him a pound. Who let the Philly Phanatic in here?

Other judges: Darryl Dawkins, Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone.

I really think they need to go back to the old dunk contest format (you may sense a theme here) with six contestants, three rounds, and attempts judged by the dunk, not by some arbitrary timeframe.

I wonder who’s going to get jumped over this year?

Oh, whoops, it started. Jamario Moon with a one-handed 360 off the bounce. Nice, but guys have done that one before. 45 at best. Judges? 46. Good enough. Curious who gave him a 10. Chocolate Thunder, apparently.

Rudy Gay up next. “If this kid can harness all his talent, he’s gonna be scary.” —CB. He misses his first attempt, gets the second. Whoa. A nice rock-the-baby two hander than he finishes with one hand…and gets a 37? I actually liked that dunk better than Moon’s. Maybe the fans should be voting from the start. And if I actually DID have money on Gay, I’d have already lost it.

Dwight Howard is out of his mind. Bounce off the back of the backboard from out of bounds to left-handed windmill. That’s a 50 if I’ve ever seen one. He has to do it on the opposite basket because there are cameras all over the other one, and his head is still behind the backboard when he puts it down. Yeah, that’s a 50 all right. He doesn’t have that Vince Carter emotion, though. Come on, Dwight!

Gerald Green is doing “the Birthday Cake,” which apparently includes placing a cupcake with a candle in it on the back of the rim. He intends to blow out the candle as he dunks. This is following NBA regulations but raising the basket to 12 feet isn’t? I’m sorry, but this is stupid. Off the bounce, too. He does it—blowing out the candle—but everyone just looks confused. I mean, so what? Dwight Howard could have gone up and ate it. Gerald gets a 46, and I’m fine with that, although Chuck thinks he should have gotten a 50. WRONG.

Lowry assist to Gay off the side of the basket support (like, out of bounds) for a windmill. Nice, but the 37 on the first is gonna kill him. He gets a 48, and he deserves it. Too bad his contest is over.

The whole assist thing is sort of silly, IMO.

Um. If Jamario Moon launches from where he just put tape down—three inches behind the free throw line—it’ll be unbelievable. Dwight’ll need to pull off something even more ridiculous to top that. Kapono’s gonna bounce it to him. The first attempt isn’t even close—and he jumps from inside the free throw line anyway. Uh-oh. And while the second one goes down, he jumps from a step inside the free-throw line. “I think he made a mistake putting the tape down.” Yep, Magic, you’re right. He gets a 44, not sure who gave him the eight.

The ladder is back out for Gerald Green, and I’m not sure why. Rashad McCants takes a seat atop the ladder, his head even with the box, holding the ball at rim height. He flips the ball in the air, and Green windmills it for a 45. That’s enough to put him in first. For now.

I don’t like props, either. Grumpy old man? Perhaps.

Jameer Nelson is helping Dwight on this one. Dwight puts down tape, and pulls off his jersey to reveal—a sleeveless Superman jersey? The arena erupts. I mean, everyone goes nuts—including an extremely excited Dikembe Mutombo—as he puts on a cape. Shaq tribute? Honestly, they may as well just give him a 50 now.

I don’t even know what just happened.

Wait.

He threw the ball through the rim from over the top. Like, he didn’t even touch the rim. Was that even a dunk? I’m still confused.

He gets a 50, of course. That means it’s Dwight and Green in the final.

Kenny Smith says the Superman dunk is in the top three dunks of all time. Um, what? I’m going to go ahead and STRONGLY disagree: Any one of Carter’s from 2000, Jordan from the free-throw line, Jason Richardson’s off the glass and the legs. And that’s not even getting into Doc and Nique. And J.R. Rider.

Gerald Green is getting into Nate Robinson/Birdman territory with the missed bounces. What happens is an over-the-backboard bounce pass from McCants, that Gerald passes through the legs and bangs down. Very nice, but not world changing. Not sure what the judges gave it. Oh that’s right, the judges aren’t scoring individual dunks this round. Sigh.

Dwight off the bounce, taps it off the glass to himself above the square with his left hand, and dunks it with his right. What? That was just wrong. So wrong. Kenny Smith is babbling something about quitting his job and leaving the arena right now: “He’s a video game, he’s not a real person!” Good lord. That’s how a tall guy wins a dunk contest. That was better than the Superman ‘dunk’.

Gerald Green essentially waves the white flag, going through the legs again in just his green NBA socks while people are still settling down from Dwight’s last masterpiece. I remember Jason Terry telling me that J.R. Rider used to do that exact same thing in practice when he was on the Hawks.

Dwight sets up a small basket in the corner of the backboard with a regulation NBA ball in it. Goes up, grabs it, windmills it. Misses his first attempt. It’s taking too long, which is the problem with using props. He gets it on the second try, but it was probably his least impressive dunk of the night. Still, his head is above the rim. Dwight Howard is the champion no matter what the fans say.

Did Chocolate Thunder just say that Dwight Howard had “magistration”?

Since all the judges picked Dwight Howard (although Doc filibusters so long I think he’s running for office), I kind of want the fans to pick Gerald Green and ruin it. Is Katharine Harris involved?

But first, more commercials.

Let’s put off announcing the fan vote even more. Thanks, Cheryl Miller! This is like Gladiator! And in a burst of anticlimax, Dwight Howard gets 70 percent of the fan vote. Your 2008 Slam Dunk champion. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

See you tomorrow.