Tag:2011 All-Star Weekend
Posted on: February 21, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: February 21, 2011 1:14 am
 

On the scene at the All-Star Game: Kobe's night

Posted by Royce Young



LOS ANGELES -- In Kobe's town, it was Kobe's night.

The legendary Laker piled up 37 points -- five shy of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time NBA record -- en route to his fourth All-Star Game MVP trophy (tied most all-time with Bob Pettit) leading the West to a 148-143 win over the East. On top of the 37, Kobe also pulled in 14 rebounds.

Following the game, Bryant said, "It's probably my last All-Star Game in front of my home fans, so it was special."

The game itself was pretty entertaining. While there was the usual sloppiness with 36 combined turnovers between the two teams, there were big dunks, fancy passes, a great halftime performance from Rihanna and a close finish. Pretty much everything you could ask for.

Some notes, quotes and observations from the Staples Center Sunday night:
  • Holy crap the stars were out. Pretty much every spare second the arena had it was showing someone of fame. One thing of note though: Justin Bieber had front row courtside seats while Jack Nicholson sat in the third row for some reason. The fact he was next to sports reporter Jim Gray was also weird, but the fact Nicholson wasn't in the seats that are named after him, was odd.
  • One other Bieber note and I'm moving on: The PA guy called him "Justin Berber" when telling the crowd he won the celebrity game MVP. I found that hilarious for some reason. Berber ferver!
  • Lenny Kravitz played the All-Star introductions and while we were all checking our watches to make sure it wasn't 1997, it actually was pretty solid. Probably not the perfect choice, but the NBA never whiffs on these type of things like the NFL. There's always at least a solid opening act and a good halftime act. The NBA does this stuff up right.
  • All three hometown players (Blake Griffin, Kobe and Pau Gasol) addressed the crowd before the game tipped. Griffin's speech was, uh, dull. How can you blame him though? After his weekend, he probably needed a nap. He said after the game: "I can barely move right now. I'm pretty tired."
  • All five Eastern starters did LeBron James' powder toss before the game. Nice one, LeBron.
  • My favorite moment of the game was Doc Rivers putting in all four Celtics with his first sub. The crowd totally freaked upon Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo coming in. Slick move by Rivers, who never lacks in showmanship. Rivers on the move: "I thought that was beautiful."
  • Kobe had a couple of really, REALLY nice throwback dunks in this one. Like 2001 hops. He said after the game: "If you want to know the influence of Blake, just look at the dunks I had tonight."
  • Bill Russell was recognized for winning the Medal of Freedom, awarded by the president. And the Laker (and Clipper, I guess) fans were classy, giving the legend a good, long standing ovation.
  • Be honest: You forgot Joe Johnson was an All-Star at least five times Sunday, didn't you?
  • In a new NBA "big head" ad played in the arena, Chris Bosh and KD are next to each other in a pool and Bosh says "Feeling good Kevin?" Total coincidence? Or is the NBA pulling a funny one on us all here?
  • There were two different videos of players "auditioning" for a role in a new Spike Lee movie. Not the funniest thing ever, but one of those things where you grin the entire time and say, "Not bad" after it finishes.
The weekend was done up big for L.A. and I'd say it delivered. Friday night was as fun as it could possibly be with the Rookie game. Saturday's dunk contest was a blast, even if the props kind of water things down. And Sunday's game wasn't a classic by any means, but Kobe owned the game in his town, Blake Griffin dunked, LeBron threw up a triple-double (29-12-10) and Kevin Durant dropped in 34.

All in all, well done L.A.
Posted on: February 20, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 12:22 am
 

2011 NBA All-Star Game Superlatives

Highlights and lowlights from the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-bryant-lebron-james

The Western Conference prevailed over the Eastern Conference, 148-143, in Sunday’s 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Here’s a look at some of the highlights and lowlights from the evening.

Most Valuable Player – Kobe Bryant

From the opening tip, Kobe Bryant was playing just a touch harder than everyone else in the game and clearly looked like he was gunning for his 4th NBA All-Star MVP. Truth be told, he didn’t have much competition. He had the most points, the best dunks and the home court advantage. The West’s second half force-feeding of Bryant got a quiet Staples Center crowd going and the win sealed the deal. Bryant finished with a game-high 37 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals in 29 minutes. He received a standing ovation when West coach Gregg Popovich pulled him from the game with less than a minute to play. He was voted MVP immediately following the game, tying him with Bob Pettit for most career NBA All-Star Game MVPs.

Least Valuable Player – Kevin Love

Kevin Love might be the most valuable player on the Minnesota Timberwolves, but on Sunday night he was better as a towel waiver and hand clapper than as a scorer or impact rebounder. His limitations – athleticism, lift, height for his position – will never be more glaring than in an NBA All-Star Game. Love finished with two points, four rebounds and one assist in 11 minutes.

Best Moment – Kobe Bryant dunks on LeBron James in transition

As the West looked to pull away in the third quarter, LeBron James tried to shift the momentum by foolishly attempting a chasedown block from behind as Bryant coasted in for a transition dunk. 'Bron got up, but Bryant got up higher, throwing down a two-handed dunk with force to many oohs and aahs from the Lakers fans in attendance. (The dunk is pictured above.)

Worst Moment – Dwight Howard hard fouls Kevin Durant

I get that the paint has to be protected and nobody wants to be in a post, but a third quarter drive from Kevin Durant ended in a massive collision when Dwight Howard met him high off the ground with full force. The resulting crash to the ground had people gasping, but Durant shook off the hit and headed quietly to the free throw line.

Most Thoughtful -- Drake

During a halftime show cameo, rapper Drake joined Rihanna on stage for a rendition of their hit “What’s My Name?” Drake flipped up the lyrics to wish Rihanna a happy birthday as Sunday was her 23rd birthday. Rihanna was later joined by an energetic Kanye West as well, making for a memorable and well-received halftime show. 

Most Historic – Bill Russell

During a first half break in action, legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell was recognized for winning the President Medal of Freedom this week. Russell, who was wearing the medal, was cheered loudly by the crowd, a nice gesture considering the current Celtics were roundly booed when they entered the game.

Best Coaching Move – Doc Rivers

In the first half, East coach Doc Rivers subbed all four of his Boston Celtics – Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett-- into the game simultaneously. What better way for a coach to show his appreciation for as team-first and ego-free group of All-Stars as you’ll find?

Second Best Coaching Move – Gregg Popovich

During the fourth quarter, the Staples Center crowd started a chant of “We want Blake!” West coach Gregg Poppovich immediately obliged their demands. If Bryant is King of L.A., Griffin is surely first in line to take the throne.

Biggest Disappointment – Blake Griffin

In relative terms of course. After showing out big time in the rookie/sophomore game and making history in the Dunk Contest, Blake Griffin was a bit player on Sunday, looking a little bit tentative on offense and managing only a few moments of jaw-dropping glory. Griffin finished with eight points, five rebounds and five assists in 14 minutes.

Best Potential – Russell Westbrook

Of the first time All-Stars, few looked like they belong as much as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who threw down a vicious dunk in transition, yanked his defenders around with crossovers and finished one move in the paint with an acrobatic lefty hanging flip shot. He will be a staple of future All-Star Games for years to come. Westbrook finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes.

Most Overlooked -- LeBron James

Because his night slowly built up over the course of the game, LeBron James got lost in the early Bryant flurry and wasn't the game's headliner. But his supporting performance was still jaw-dropping and thunderous, his relentless drives to the rim ending with one monster dunk and a number of trips to the free throw line. When all was said and done, he finished with a gigantic triple double: 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 32 minutes.  

Best Technology – Mics

The in-arena sound was excellent throughout the night, but the best touch was the on-court microphones, which allowed everyone – even those in the upper deck – to hear scattered player conversations. Guys yelling “same” when two teammates went for the same rebound, “help” when someone didn’t get back in transition and, of course, “come on” when a perceived foul wasn’t called. The sound, combined with the stage lighting, made for an unforgettable live experience.

Star Tracker

Here’s a nearly complete list of celebrities that were shown on the big screen during the game.

Gene Simmons, Justin Bieber, Stevie Wonder, P. Diddy, Spike Lee, George Lopez, Bruno Mars, John Legend, Mark Curry, Keri Hilson, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Tyler, Nick Cannon, Neyo, Warren Beatty, Julius Erving, James Worthy, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Darryl Dawkins, Dominique Wilkins, Rick Fox, Kanye West, Ellen Pompeo, Jack Nicholson, Derek Fisher, Shawn Stockman, Piers Morgan, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Chris Tucker, Snoop Dogg, Noah Wyle, Ciara, Terrell Owens, Rihanna, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Robert Horry, Forest Whitaker.

Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 7:28 pm
 

2011 NBA All-Star Weekend: quotable Kevin Garnett

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett discusses the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kevin-garnett-asw

There's no one else in the NBA quite like Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, and thank goodness for that. His antics, trash talk and intensity have helped make the Celtics a perennial contender but have also drawn criticism from opponents, media and fans. During his All-Star Weekend media availability on Friday, Garnett said he was looking forward to a break from the constant competitiveness and had a number of funny one-liners and interesting observations. 

Here's a collection of Garnett's best quips from Friday.

On whether his fellow All-Stars are thrown off by his on-court demeanor and profanities when they see him at All-Star Weekend: "I don’t swear that much. But I do play hard. I do play with a purpose. My demeanor on the court is what it is, and my demeanor here is a whole different thing."

On whether he will be playing lockdown defense and getting into his teamates' faces on Sunday: "I think offense is the priority here… The fourth quarter is really only the serious time too ... I’ve been doing it for what, 14 years, competition is one thing, socializing and being friendly is another. I know how to separate the two."

On his pre-game music: "In the early years, I used to listen to a lot of hardcore stuff. Now I’m doing my yoga days -- Namaste -- R&B, sort of stuff that calms me before the game."

On what his job would be if there was a work stoppage next year: "An architect. Being somewhere putting some things together. Illustrating.  I’m very much into putting things together, starting from scratch, going forth with that, making it concrete where you can see it.

On whether the Eastern Conference has restored the balance of power against the West: "To be honest, I think it’s 50/50 now. Night in and night out you can see teams from the East beating teams from the West, and vice versa."

On "fraternizing" with opponents over All-Star Weekend: "All-Star weekend is a chance for all players to sit down and relax. Get to know one another. I don’t like the word 'fraternizing' and I don’t like the word 'fronting'. It’s the one time that we get to socialize and be friendly, I don’t think it’s fronting, I think everybody is sort of in a relaxed state."

On what it's like to be one of four Boston Celtics in the game instead of as the lone representative of the Minnesota Timberwolves: "You tend to come here by yourself, sort of got used to that. The fact that I’m up here with three other guys is remarkable."

Posted on: February 20, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 7:29 pm
 

NBA All-Star Game: 5 Things To Watch

5 Things to Watch in the NBA All-Star Game. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Here are five things to watch in tonight's NBA All-Star Game

1. The Last Ride?

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. This could be the last ride for those players to all be in the All-Star Game. Most of them will be around in Orlando next year as All-Stars (if there's an All-Star Game next season, if there's a next season). But this is the last time to see them as all having earned their way through their play and not as legacy selections (you could argue Duncan's already hit that point but seeing as how his team is six games up in the West, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt). We do wish Steve Nash could have made it though. It's a shame the point guards in the West are so talented and deep, because it would have been good to see Nash out there one last time. 

2. The Boston Pops

How will Doc Rivers play the four Celtics? Will he play them together, giving them the chance to share the floor for their accomplishments? Will he hold them back, knowning that rest and injury are the two biggest concerns for the Celtics this season? The Celtics don't exactly get along with their Eastern teammates. Dwight Howard's been known to swing a few elbows and the Heat clearly have a problem with them. All teams are competitive, but the Celtics' culture takes it a bit further than most. Seeing how the Celtics play in what lineups, and how the L.A. crowd greets them will be worth watching, especially if it's anything like what greeted Paul Pierce in the three-point contest Saturday night. 

3. Rebounding Dominance

Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin. Four of the best rebounders in recent history are in this game, and if they give even three-quarters effort, this could be fun.  Defense isn't going to be played at all, but rebounds are necessary regardless, and all of these players are instinctive rebounders.  Love has something to prove as the replacement addition when everyone's wondering why LaMarcus Aldridge was left out, even with Love leading the league in rebounding. Howard can make a statement about his position as still the league's most dominant big, and Blake Griffin just wants to kill everything that moves. Speaking of...

4. Simply Blake Griffin

There are multiple championship rings taking the floor today, yet the biggest buzz will be when Blake Griffin takes the floor. A rookie, in the All-Star Game, for the Clippers, has captured the imagination of the NBA world. If that doesn't telll you how quickly his star has risen, nothing will. Griffin has to watch it, though. He's got to peel it back, or he's going to get on the nerves of his teammates who are pretty much there to not play defense and launch ill-advised three-pointers. But the first guy he posterizes is going to be seen on the news for the next 24 hours around the globe. Something tells me the Eastern centers will be watching out when Griffin makes a cut. 

5. Durant's moment? 

Kevin Durant is still the humble superstar. But he's also still the leading scorer in the NBA, and the leader of a club that no one seems to have noticed is closing in on first-round home court advantage. Durant's had a quiet season despite his scoring dominance because of heightened expectations. But the All-Star game could be his time to step up and showcase his abilities. He needs to after a dreadful performance in the three-point contest. An All-Star MVP trophy would go far in kicking off his MVP campaign in the second half of the season strong. 
Posted on: February 20, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 7:27 pm
 

NBA All-Star Game Preview: Lights, Camera, Action

We preview the NBA All-Star Game (Sunday 8 p.m. EST) by looking at what Hollywood films the All-Stars compare to. 
Posted by Matt Moore




The big game is here. OK, so the game's not actually all that big, considering it's a group of severely hungover 20 and 30-year-olds not playing defense and winging up ridiculous shots with little effort or focus. But it is a staple, a part of the game, and the crown jewel of sports' best All-Star Weekend, the NBA All-Star Game. It's a matter of recognition to be among these players, the best in their industry.  This year they're in Los Angeles, Hollywood, and in the spirit of that, we thought we'd break down for you what some of these players will be showing us tonight in relation to some classic movie performances. 

Carmelo Anthony as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) in the Twilight Saga. You see, just as Bella must choose between werewolf beau Jacob and vampire soulmate Edward, so too does Carmelo Anthony have to choose between the New Jersey Nets and certain money/bigger market, and the New York Knicks, his franchise soulmate, who he's longed for for so long. All-Star Weekend has adopted the role of the woods where so many deep and meaningful conversations between Belo (see what I did there?) and his prospective mates have occurred.  After long conversations and serious contemplation, Belo must choose what life he is to lead. Plus, just like the Twilight Saga, everyone is completely and totally sick to death of this story. It's meandering, pointles storylines and overdramatic interpretations have left us weary, longing for the days when players played out their contracts and vampires were actually tough.  Sunday's game represents Breaking Dawn, the finale to this traveshamockery, and we all pray that afterwards we never have to hear about it again. 

Kobe Bryant as Seth Gecko (George Clooney) in From Dusk till Dawn. Kobe Bryant said last week that his favorite Robert Rodriguez movie was Desperado. But Byrant bears little resemblance to the tender-hearted, vengeance-starved dreamboat from El Mariachi. Instead, Bryant most closely resembles George Clooney's take on a violent criminal turned hero when a Mexican brothel turns out to be a feeding ground for vampires (I know, two vampire flicks in a row. Bear with me.).  Like Bryant, Seth is a cold hard killer who will do what it takes to survive and thrive, but is also portrayed as a hero due to the circumstances he falls under. You're left wondering if Gecko was a good or bad person, but you have no question as to whether he's the toughest S.O.B in the room. And, like Gecko, Bryant is forced to try and protect and carry along those weaker than him, like his Laker teammates. In short, expect a lot of firing out Bryant's guns, even in an All-Star Game he'll mostly be taking off due to injury.

Kevin Garnett as Jaws in Jaws. Garnett's coming off the bench for this All-Star game, so much like his counterpart, you won't see him for a while. But there's likely to be some scary moments when he steps on the floor, as Garnett struggles with turning his hyper-intense attitude off. Much like the gigantic man-eating creature in the horror classic, Garnett's mouth never stops moving as he's always running it at opponents. And like the monster, it takes a ridiculous sequence of events to destroy Garnett, involving a tank of compressed gas and a rifle shot from a piece of flotsam when the creature opens it's mouth having lodged the tank in its teeth.  This isn't exactly like the knee injury that sidelined him in 2009, but it's close. You also get the feeling that after this spring's playoffs, LeBron James may be left saying "We're going to need a bigger boat." 

Derrick Rose as Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction. A postmodern neo-noir exposition on the concept of cool? That's the very mark of Rose, who now steps into the spotlight as a starter for the first time in the All-Star Game. Rose is cool, calm and collected, much like Winfield, and just as Pulp Fiction is often overlooked now for its influence and yet wildly overrated for being a work of complete genius, so too does Rose both outperform our expectations and suffer from an overload of hype. Those who "get" Rose adore him, and those who don't think his game is little more than a flashy version of Stephon Marbury. But the impact of his play is just as considerable as the film that pushed Tarantino from indie-filmmaker to one of the world's premier directors. 

LeBron James as Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks) in Big. Yup, I went for the cheap laugh here. The overgrown child who winds up succeeding beyond his wildest dreams thanks to his natural ability? Hello, Lebron. But while Josh is endearing to the audience in Big thanks to Hanks' delicate performance of naivety, instead we play the part of John Heard's Paul Davenport, the annoyed boyfriend of the love interest who can't undestand why this guy keeps getting pushed when he's such a moron. In this way, LeBron reveals that we're at once right, and wrong, and it doesn't matter because in the end he gets to play with his friends and that's all that matters. 

Dwyane Wade as James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) in Star Trek. Smooth, aggressive, and constantly doubted by those in his life, Wade ends up saving the planet because of his ingenuity and bravado. That's Wade. This J.J. Abrams re-invention of the classic sci-fi tale serves as a comparison for Wade re-inventing himself as part of an ensemble cast rather than the lonely lead.  In this scenario, the 2007 season was Wade's time spent as Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) in Moon. Wade brings fast action and a nice smile to the game, and the knowledge that when you put him on the big screen, this flick is going to sell. Try not to get lost in the fact that J.J. Abram's penchant for formulaic character concepts wrapped in overly-developed plots are desperately similar to Erik Spoelstra's offensive schemes. 

Kevin Durant as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in The Bourne Identity. Humble, unassuming, and kill you quick. That's Durant. Durant also seems to have a hidden past, as he shows up as this fully formed phenom despite his time in D.C. And similarly, Durant is looking to escape the shadowy organization out to take hold of him. In this case, the media. 

Dwight Howard as Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) in The Truman Show. Just as the movie reprsented Carrey, the biggest comedic star in Hollywood at the time's first real attempt at drama, so too does this season see Dwight Howard straining for serious recognition as the best player in the game.  In the end, it's Carrey's humor that helps deliver the emotion and empathy needed for the Peter Weir film to carry us to a place of consideration, just as it will always be Howard's goofy demeanor combined with his freakish athleticism that puts him on the front page of the NBA paper. But whereas Carrey's Truman steps out of the world he's been placed in in order to experience reality, Howard seems to further immerse himself in the cocoon that's been placed around him, refusing to take responsibility for his part in the Magic's championship hopes and instead holding the threat of his departure to a bigger market over the heads in Orlando like the giant metal moon in The Truman Show
Posted on: February 20, 2011 10:17 am
 

Players weigh in on trash talk

Posted by Royce Young



LOS ANGELES -- Sometimes it's in good fun, sometimes it's to try and irk your opponent to gain an edge. Whatever the intent behind it, trash talk is just a part of sports.

Always has been, always will be.

The topic was kind of brought to the forefront earlier in the NBA season when Charlie Villanueva tweeted that Kevin Garnett told him he looked like a cancer patient during a game. Immediately we were all wondering what was fair and what was foul.

Spike Lee, who sits courtside at New York Knick games and can surely hear a good amount of on-court chatter, recently said of Garnett's trash talking tactics, "He needs to calm the (bleep) down." So it's at least a conversation worth having.

I think the whole trash talk thing is overrated," Dirk Nowitzki said. "I think no feelings will get hurt. Once the game's over, everything is forgotten. We want to win, that's how we compete and afterwards, it's done.

In terms of Garnett specifically? "I don't think it's bad. I think it's his style," Dirk said. "I've been competing against him for 13 years now, and that's how he plays. His intensity is [second to] none to any other player in the league. That's his style."

Garnett has kind of become the lightning rod for discussion about it. With Lee's comment, the Villanueva tweet and then the low-blow to Channing Frye, all of this trash talk/dirty play thing has been re-hashed all over again. Garnett has always been this way though. He's always been intense. Always been a talker. It's the way he plays. It's his game. And he's not changing it.

"I go at this a certain way. I always have, always will," Garnett said Friday in Los Angeles. "I don’t make any excuses about that or apologize for anything that I’ve done. I think I carry myself in a well-fashioned manner. I respect the game first off. I respect the players, and I’m definitely not out there trying to hurt anybody. I don’t want to be hurt ... I’m out there playing hard and playing competitive. If it comes off as something else, then that’s your problem.”

Obviously, it's clear what's fair and what's not. Garnett's line about Villanueva and cancer definitely appeared to cross some sort of trash talk line. (Though later of course Garnett said that he was actually calling Villanueva a cancer to his team. Who knows.)

But talking is fun. In most cases, that is. Players don't always do it to try and get in their opponents head. Sometimes it's just because basketball is fun, playing basketball is fun and talking trash is fun. Simple as that. Some take part, some don't.

"I enjoy myself, but I don't talk no trash," Kevin Durant said. "If guys want to talk about the game or whatever, I talk. But I just leave it at that. I don't try and get into it too much."
Posted on: February 19, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 12:09 am
 

On the scene at All-Star Saturday night

Posted by Royce Young



LOS ANGELES -- Buzz started building early Saturday afternoon around the Staples Center. Can Team Texas really defend its Shooting Stars title? They did not in fact, as Atlanta took it away. Quite a moment, I can assure.

But as the clock ticked down to the main event, word started pop up that Blake Griffin had big plans. And when a car started driving out onto the court, I guess we knew. Blake Griffin is going to jump a car? Then it got better. Baron Davis popped his head out of the sunroof.

Oh and on top of that, Griffin brought out a gospel choir to sing "I Believe I Can Fly" as he soared. Quite the production.

"It was actually my idea to use the car," Griffin said. "When they first came to me with the dunk contest idea, they said there was no rules. I was like, 'So I can jump over a car?' kind of playing around. He was like, 'Yeah.' And I was like, 'Oh, maybe I have to do it now.'"

With him soaring over an automoble, there had to be some concerns about safety though. Griffin said Clipper coach Vinny Del Negro called him into his office to talk about it, but Griffin said he played dumb, saying Del Negro already knew about the car stunt. But after a dress rehearsal Thursday, everyone was at ease.

The question was though, what if you didn't make the finals Blake? How could you know you'd be there? Griffin tried to coyly say he didn't, but we all knew otherwise. This contest was really over a month ago when the contestants were announced.

McGee on the other hand, busted out his big guns early on. Not having the idea he'd be in the finals, McGee dunked two basketballs on two different goals. It was... awesome. But for his final try to follow up Griffin's car dunk, McGee didn't really have a plan. He said after that he was planning on the free throw line dunk but Serge Ibaka did it before him and he didn't want to recycle it.

"My last dunk, the second dunk I did was actually supposed to me my last dunk, but Serge did a dunk similar to the one I was going to do," McGee said. "So I had to change it around just to get a high score. But definitely [Griffin] came prepared with the car, and nothing's going to beat the car unless I bring a plane out or something."

Some other notes, quotes and observations from All-Star Saturday:
  • The Skills Challenge was of course pretty much as lame as ever, however, Chris Paul did miss his opening layup, which was kind of funny. Stephen Curry won with an impressive 28.1-second run in the finals beating Russell Westbrook who notched a 30-second effort his first try, but finished out with a 44.1-second run.
  • During introductions for the 3-point contest, Ray Allen was cheered wildly, while Paul Pierce was booed loudly. Pierce soaked in the boos, gesturing that he wanted more. Sheryl Miller asked Pierce about it and he said, "I don't understand how they can boo me and not boo Ray." I didn't get it either Paul. 
  • Pierce however won the crowd over, hitting a buzzer-beating moneyball to top Dorell Wright to advance on to the finals of the 3-point contest. As soon as the shot dropped, Staples, well, clapped loudly. I don't want to say erupted, because for the most part the arena stayed comotose, but still, it was louder than most other moments.
  • Daniel Gibson started 0-9 before finally hitting a moneyball on the second rack. He finished the round with just seven points and left three balls on the final rack. You might be able to make the case that it was the worst effort ever in a 3-point contest. As John Hollinger tweeted, for a second, we were all worried he'd miss 26 in a row. 
  • Kevin Durant actually put up a worse score than Gibson, but at least finished. Then again, I guess that means he had a worse percentage. Gibson was 31.8 percent from 3, Durant was just 24 percent.
  • James Jones won the 3-point contest, beating out Ray Allen and Pierce. Here's where you make your joke about the Heat finally beating the Celtics.
  • Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in the crowd's reaction when Blake Griffin was introduced. I guess I just expected more from the hometown crowd. Then again, I think we all keep forgetting that Griffin actually plays for the Clippers, not L.A.'s other team.
  • Daryl Dawkins and DeMar DeRozan named their dunks. "East Bay Funk Remix" and "The Showstopper."
  • Serge Ibaka came out representing NBA Africa. And he pulled off a legit free throw line dunk. He got robbed with just a 45, because to this point, no one has ever done it. Dr. J tried, but had a foot over the line. Same with MJ. Ibaka had a full foot behind the stripe and finished it clean. The crowd didn't react well originally, but upon replay, definitely buzzed.
  • Important lesson learned that we already knew: If you miss your dunk on the first try, it really loses a lot of luster. JaVale McGee's double-dunk was awesome, no doubt, but watching him struggle to get it done was tough. It didn't affect the score because he got a 50, but the thing with these super difficult dunks is that they're hard to finish. High risk, high reward. Well, I guess McGee got the reward anyway, but still, those 90 seconds of awkwardness don't represent his score.
  • Blake Griffin suffered the same fate as McGee and DeRozan, missing on his first try. But actually, it kind of worked the other way for him. People got a taste of what he was doing and most everyone said, "No way!" The entire arena stood, cheering his next attempt. His missed, but nailed it on his third try. No doubt, it was an impressive finish.
  • On McGee's second dunk, he actually tossed in three basketballs. Which was insane. But his mother came out and wooed the judges, giving each a kiss on the cheek. Except for Dr. J who was last. For some reason, they kissed on the mouth. It was weird.
  • Griffin pulled out Vince Carter's "elbow dunk" and after seeing Griffin's arm after the game, I don't know if it was worth. Definitely bruised up pretty good.
  • Before Griffin's car dunk, Kenny Smith was trying to "hype" it, and accidentally blew the punch line. He said "We've seen teddy bears, we've seen cars, now you're going to see something else." Whoops.
The dunk contest is the prime event of All-Star Saturday and despite some awkward moments as players missed dunks, there's no denying it was entertaining. The anticipation was at an all-time high and the creativity of McGee, with the power of Griffin, plus DeRozan and Ibaka's vastly underrated finishes, it was a good night.

You can't dog on players too much for missing dunks. I mean, it can't be easy tossing a ball off a backboard, putting it between your legs and flushing it through a 10 foot goal. No matter how easy they might make it seem.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 9:43 pm
 

Kevin Durant stays in the dark about himself

Posted by Royce Young

Kevin Durant walks out of the locker room, head held high, and immediately starts shaking hands. His Thunder just destroyed the Sacramento Kings and Durant has completed his post-game interviews. He's the only Thunder player that speaks every night to the media and after 10 solid minutes of questioning, his night finally appears to be over.

But he comes out and starts shaking. He calls each security guard and Thunder employee by name, looks them in the eye and says thank you as they congratulate him on the win.

It's almost like a politician on the campaign trail, except there are no cameras capturing Durant's candid kindness. It's just KD being KD.

As Durant gets ready to play in his second All-Star Game and first as a starter, he's still the unassuming superstar. It’s like Brooklyn Decker looking in a mirror and saying, “What’s the big deal?” Durant’s constantly in the dark, but it’s one of the reasons it’s so easy to like him.

Just two years ago, while sitting on the All-Star bubble in his second season, Durant emphatically declared he was no star. Now, as the reigning scoring champ, the league's current leading scorer and the second leading vote getter in the West behind Kobe Bryant, it's hard to argue with that, but Durant is still trying.

“Nah, I don’t” Durant said with a small grin when I asked him if he feels like a star yet. “When I go to the other arenas and they call my name I kind of listen to the crowd. They don’t roar as much as they do for a Kobe or LeBron or Dwyane Wade or Carmelo. I’m not there. I’m happy with the progress I’m making as a player, I wouldn’t say I’m a star but I’m growing, I can tell you that.”

Durant’s personality gets almost as much pub as his game. Easy to understand why too. I mean, just read that quote again. We’re talking about the league’s leading scorer and someone that brought in more than 1.7 million All-Star votes. And yet he’s still no star in his own mind. Talk about not getting it.

In fact, while I was asking him the question about his own profile, I said, “Let’s face it it though, you’re an awesome basketball player.” Durant stopped me mid-sentence and sincerely said, “Thank you,” as if it was the first time someone had told him that. You see, this is the stuff I’m driving at.

More than just humble quotes   and ah-shucks attitude though, Durant has inadvertently endeared himself to fans with his simple nature. There was the announcement of his extension over the summer with a simple tweet that became the beacon of hope as LeBron James held a one-hour special. There are things like Durant requesting that little-known teammates Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha join him on a Sports Illustrated cover because Durant doesn’t feel like they get enough attention. And then there are stories like the one I told to start this thing off.   They’re almost endless honestly.

They’re stories, however, that Durant actually gets a bit tired of people (like me) repeating every time they talk or write about him.

“Yeah man, sometimes it gets a little annoying,” he said. “People make too much of a big deal out of it. Because other guys probably have done the same thing. I’m not the first guy to do things like that. But I’m just being myself.”

He’s right: It is a little odd how much appreciation there is for Durant’s humble attitude and “normal guy” routine. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so refreshing and different than what we’ve seen in other high profile stars, but when people speak of Durant, it’s almost always about what a player he is plus about what a great young man he is. And not always in that order.

But don’t think for a second though that Durant’s putting on an act. Don’t think that his team first talk and low-key demeanor are for show or some clever backwards marketing plan. Because he doesn’t want to hear that.

“I think the thing that really upsets me is a lot of people in talking about it too much try to say it was fake,” he said. “That’s something that I think is BS because I’m just being myself. I’m just doing the things I was taught basically. It is what it is. I’ve just got to continue to be me and not let anybody change me.”

So what’s it like being him? Pretty easy, he says. He talks incessantly about the dream he’s living and how he never imagined even being in the NBA, much less an All-Star starter in just his fourth season.  Maybe that’s why he doesn’t understand his own starpower – because he’s waiting for someone to pinch him.

Durant acknowledged that one of the ways he keeps his head straight is by always realizing there’s room to improve and by listening to his critics. Somehow, Durant’s 2010-11 campaign has disappointed some. He sizzled in Turkey, scoring nearly a point a minute for Team USA en route to gold an the tournament’s MVP. Most figured that he’d build on that momentum and last season’s stellar 30.1 point per game effort and roll out something like 32.5 ppg on 50-40-90 percentages and win an MVP. But he’s not. He’s averaging just 28.9 ppg, is shooting only 47 percent and his team is better than last year.

Expectations are a pain and if you had them too high for Durant before the season, that’s your problem, not his. If you’re worrying that he’s already touched his ceiling, chill. Remember, he’s just 22.

And he’s not done working. In the 10 minutes I talked to him, he mentioned working hard three times. It’s the first thing he said on draft night when he was taken second overall. He’s committed to his craft and even after 14-18 performance for 46 points, he says he’s goes to bed thinking about those four missed shots.

“I’m always thinking bigger,” Durant said. “Of course I’m happy with the progress I’m making. Sometimes I get a little too excited at times but then I need to calm down, but I’m always looking to get better and get bigger, so I can never really get too complacent.”

That’s who KD is. He’s an obsessive compulsive basketballer. Nothing is ever good enough for him. If you set expectations for Durant through the roof, I can promise you, he has them higher for himself. Every shot he misses you can tell, he’s just disgusted with himself. That’s why we probably haven’t even seen what Durant can truly offer yet. Because he doesn’t even know. And maybe that’s why he doesn’t give credence to the superstar tag.

While I was talking to him, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’d ever be a point things could change his own opinion of himself. Right now if you ask him who the league’s best scorer is, he’d tell you LeBron or Melo. If you ask him who’s a better scorer, him or Jimmer Fredette, he takes Jimmer. But what would it take for him to finally join in with the rest of the world and acknowledge that he’s awesome?

“I guess I just got to win a championship, I don’t know.” What about an MVP? Maybe 10 straight scoring titles?

“I guess then you could say that, but right now, I haven’t really done too much.”

Yeah, he's right. He's just 22. There's still a lot of time left.

 
 
 
 
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