Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NBA All-Star Weekend 2016: Where the Sideshows Topped The Main Event

This year, for the first time, I purchased an NBA League Pass, which means I can watch any NBA game I like whenever I like. This is of less value if you have a full-time job or any life outside of watching basketball, but I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. I particularly like watching on the weekends and being able to flick between multiple games. After a few months of watching I have got to the point now where I instinctively know how long a time-out is, and know when to flick back.
Part of having full access is being able to watch the NBA All-Star Weekend. This is something I haven’t been able to do much over the years, so I was looking forward to it. While I couldn’t watch the actual All-Star Game live – due to having a job, you know – I could watch live some of the All-Star Saturday events.
All-Star Saturday was great. The Skills Challenge (the first event), which is generally considered the least of the events, was actually quite enjoyable. This was in part to dividing the draw into ‘guards’ and ‘bigs’, so that a ‘guard’ and ‘big’ played off in the final. The camaraderie among the groups was somewhat unexpected to me, with Minnesota rookie Karl-Anthony Towns being mobbed by his fellow bigs after unexpectedly hitting the winning shot.
The Three-Point Shootout was a bit long, with eight contestants and then a tie-breaker between three contestants to determine the last qualifier for the final, but was still fascinating to watch to find out which of Golden State’s ‘Splash Brothers’ would emerge victorious. Stephen Curry, the league’s best player and now often considered the greatest shooter ever, narrowly lost to Klay Thompson, who some consider the second-best shooter in the league. It was Thompson’s day though, and he shot beautifully to edge out his more heralded teammate. The Golden State Warriors, boosted by their two great shooters, entered the All-Star break with a record of 48 wins and just 4 losses.    
I didn’t see the Slam Dunk Contest live, as I had to go to a mothers’ group meeting (I was one of two fathers there). But I didn’t know the result when I watched it, other than that Aaron Gordon and reigning champion Zach Levine met in the final. I haven’t watched many Slam Dunk Contests but it was clear to me that there wouldn’t be many contests better than this. In the final Gordon and Levine had three dunks each with perfect scores before Gordon, running out of ideas, finally scored less than perfect on his fourth go. Some felt, like I did, that was a bit harsh on Gordon, who for me had the most memorable dunk of the night when he went through his legs over the Orlando mascot, but alas for him you can’t get higher than a 50. At the least I wish they had been made joint winners.
And then there was the All-Star Game itself, which I watched on replay. The introduction of the players at an All-Star Game, which I hadn’t seen before, was interesting for me to watch, but after a few minutes of tribute to retiring Laker Kobe Bryant I fast-forwarded to the tip-off. What followed was a bit of a disappointment, my knowing the result notwithstanding. There was essentially no defence – just a series of easy shots, and contrived alley-oops. I got to the point in the second quarter when Andre Drummond from my team the Pistons had played a few minutes, and then gave up. The highlights told me all I needed to know about that game.
Could they make the All-Star Game better? NBA commentators The Starters suggested that they have two captains that pick teams, with some stars having the ignominy of being picked late or last, hence adding to the players’ motivations. But I don’t know that the players would actually care that much about that. I like the intrigue around who gets picked as All-Stars each season, and the game has a long history, so I hope it sticks around. Maybe the games are more interesting when they are close.

No comments: