All-Star Game Preview and Chat

Darius Soriano —  February 16, 2014

That was my thought yesterday morning when thinking about today’s game. All-Star Saturday and Sunday are usually two of my favorite days every season. Call me a sucker, but I love the pageantry of the events on Saturday evening and the transition to Sunday where the game’s best players showcase their talent.

This year, I am still excited, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a bit different. Not only is Kobe out, but the game really is transitioning to the younger generation of players — especially out West where Lillard and Curry are making their first appearances in the game and Aldridge, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love (who isn’t new to the game, but was named a starter for the first time) are all a new(ish) crop of players who are trying to become mainstays.

The weekend also took on a different feel with the change in formats to Saturday’s events. The night became a battle of the conferences where East vs. West was a more dominant theme than a conversation about 90’s hip-hop. In some cases the events only felt slightly different with little drop off in quality. I thought the Skills Challenge actually was improved with the team format. And while the three point contest could have been a bit better in the early rounds, we still got a good finish with Bradley Beal and Marco Belinelli dueling in the Finals. Beal’s six consecutive makes in that last round to force an “overtime” was great theatre and Belinelli closing the door in that extra frame also gave us a climactic finish.

The dunk contest, however, left a lot to be desired.

I won’t get into all aspects of the contest that I found disappointing, but I did feel especially letdown by how the entire thing ended. After getting through the freestyle rounds, I was actually looking forward to the battle rounds where guys would show off some of their best dunks. And heading into the final battle John Wall got everyone in the arena buzzing with this fantastic throwdown:

But just as quickly as fans were into the event it was over. Wall’s dunk ended up sweeping the battle round in the East’s favor which, due to the format of the competition, ended the night. There would be no dunk off between the night’s best dunkers. No true defense of Terrence Ross’ title. No Paul George vs. John Wall final battle. No anything.

Talk about anticlimactic.

Heading into tonight, then, I just hope that we get a better show. No, Kobe won’t be playing and for some Lakers’ fans that may take some of the luster off this game. As I noted up top, it certainly will be a bit strange without him. But tonight’s contest will still be the best collection of talent seen on a basketball court this year. Not only are they the league’s elite players, some are just coming into their own as stars and will be making what will be their first of many more appearances in this game.

As with any all-star game, one of the things I’m looking forward to most — besides those special singular plays that only these guys can provide — is the individual match ups that have the potential to advance (or in some cases, trigger) a rivalry. So give me some possessions where LeBron and Durant go at each other. Let me see Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving have their moments of going back and forth. I also wouldn’t mind some old school battles in the paint between Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard.

As always, though, what I truly want is a close game at the end. A five or six point game with under 5 minutes allows the coaches to insert their best players to decide the game. It also turns what is meant to be a fun showcase into a game where each side allows their competitiveness to take over to try and get a win. Guys start playing hard on both ends and we get to see who really can raise their game and stand out amongst the game’s very best. Let’s see Durant hit a dagger jumper with LeBron draped all over him defensively. Let’s see Curry hit a crazy step-back with Paul George extending to try and contest. Let’s see the best players playing their best ball with the game close in the final minutes. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Darius Soriano

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  1. I have to agree it will be quite different watching the ASG without the Mamba!


  2. Did the West hire MD as defensive coach?


  3. The display of dunks in the first 7 mins of this ASG has been more enjoyable for me than last night’s entire dunk contest.


  4. First time since 96 there’s no Laker involvement. Was interesting hearing Kobe’s thoughts during the game.


  5. D12 is exhibiting the very mannerism that makes me dislike him as a basketball player. The man has no concept of timing or how to play the game. Two 3 pt shot attempts…really?


  6. C.Hearn, Roy Hibbert took at least one 3 pt attempt also. If a post player can’t take a 3 point shot in a all star exhibition game when can he? My issue is with guys who miss large amounts of games (Tony Parker & D. Wade) then want to play in all-star game. Would love to see a rule (guideline) stating a player can’t miss more than 20% of the games his team has played to be eligible to play in the all star game. Too many other healthy guys available.


  7. BigCity, it was not that he took a 3pt shot attempt, per se, rather it was the timing in which he took those shots. The East was on a run that erased a 12 pt lead when he took those ill advised shots. The game took a decided turn in the East’s favor at the end of the third period when they pulled within 1 point of the West. I’d venture to guess (I don’t recall) that Hibbert attempted that 3pt shot when the East was down by 10 or more points. Joakim Noah was on the floor during the waning minutes of the game and not Hibbert, and Dwight a supposed defensive player for the West sat on the bench the entire 4th quarter in favor of Paul, Curry/Harden, Durant, Blake and Love.

    I had no dog (Kobe or any Laker) in the fight, so the game was irrelevant. Very odd all-star game, indeed.

    chris: Nice post!!!

    Notable young stars: Kyrie Irving is a stud; Anthony Davis needs only to remain healthy to put butts in the seats of an arena; John Wall is nice; Lilliard will soon be a starting all-star; Curry had an off night shooting but had 10 assists; if Blake ever plays defense….


  8. Watching Dwight Howard walk up and shake Bill Russell’s hand made me so glad that he is not a Laker. No, not Lakers-Celtics juju. It was Howard’s over the top plastered smile that looked almost ghoulish in it’s transparent insincerity. Real Lakers don’t roll that way. . . .


  9. Howard comes to town Wednesday.


  10. .. when he finally got just one other perennial (or close to) perennial all star in Gasol on his team, he went to 3 straight finals .. He didn’t need to team up with 2 other all stars in their primes ..

    Well said.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that Lebron, as great a talent as he is, gets too much praise for his accomplishments from the ‘media mouths’, who tend to overlook the fact that he took the easier path to success by teaming up with Bosh and joining Wade in Miami.


  11. Lebron took the practical road to rings – when the public seems to measure greatness almost exclusively by rings. I don’t think we should fault him for that.

    Now Kobe was able to do it with less all-star support AND he was able to do it in two very different eras. Kobe deserves his props. Michael Jordan deserves his props. Magic deserves his props. Kareem deserves his props. Wilt deserves his props. West and Baylor deserve their props. Miken deserves his props. However, the discussion always centers on the now and it is Lebron – and Durant – who occupy the now. Soon it will be Lebron in the Kobe position, looking back at the prime of Durant. That is the way of sports.


  12. Tra, I see it differently: part of the skill of being an NBA player these days is astutely managing your career. Among other things, that means playing a kind of GM and envisioning how a team might be constructed and pitching that vision to your talented friends. Without question, NBA players have a freedom to lobby each other in a manner that would be considered tampering if done by a team exec. We’ll never know if (as rumored) Kobe is some kind of problem on this front (that he either fails to lobby or, when he does, says idiotic things like ‘I eat first’), but imo LBJ deserves credit, not blame, for his role in creating a championship team. frankly, I wish we had a little more of that in LA…

    This is why, although I have come to despise DH, I actually give him credit for making a decision that is in his best interest. How much more unbearable would the trainwreck that is this season be with DH smiling in the middle of it and taking zero responsibility?

    btw, is there a synopsis somewhere of the injury timelines? I know henry is out for a month, and kobe is now in that karl malone ‘we’ll see’ country, but when are farmar & young coming back?


  13. Basketball Reference has injury timelines on the team pages.

    I personally would find the Lakers to be much more “bearable” with Howard here, but part of the reason he bailed is that a season like this was a real possibility for the Lakers.


  14. Three days left until the deadline and all is quiet… Ninja Mitch time?

    Man Kyrie looked spectacular last night! Melo wasn’t too bad either- Durant and Lebron were great and Griffin was super fun to watch!


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