Too bad it took three days to get to those final 3 minutes.
And the final 10 seconds? Well, that was quite a special pass LeBron James threw to Blake Griffin (wrong team) rather than attempt the game-winning shot.
We gonna see that again in June, ‘Bron?
Even Kobe Bryant got up in James’ face after that ill-advised pass, asking him what the hell he was thinking?
“He was telling me I have to shoot it. I definitely wish I could have had that one back,” James said.
Didn’t we hear that last June in Dallas?
This was the first All-Star Weekend I’ve attended in four years, and pardon me for being a party-pooper, but I’ll remember enduring the first 45 minutes of Sunday night’s showcase event more than enjoying the final 3.
What will I remember from being in the building Sunday night? Elevators that beeped if too many people were aboard? The L.A. Thai Burgers ($12.50) being sold at the concession stands behind the luxury suites? Security guards who decided that the rules for getting around the building on Saturday night no longer applied on Sunday night? Dwight Howard reading off a cue card as he thanked the NBA for having the league’s showcase event in “my city, my home, Orlando.”
When Howard closed his opening statement with he words “I appreciate you guys from the bottom of my heart,” you couldn’t help but wonder if that was coming off the cue card, too.
We are about to enter the annual post-All-Star rumor hysteria period, and the stuff being thrown against the wall is going to last for three weeks rather than the customary three days.
In a typical year, the trade deadline comes on the Thursday after the All-Star game. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are rumor days, the deadline then mercifully arrives, and we have a final reading on what each team if going to look like heading into the home stretch.
Then for two months, we can concentrate on the basketball.
This year, however, is not the same. The rumor mill will churn so hard it will detract from the quality of the ball being played by the league’s best teams, specifically the Heat, Spurs, Thunder and Bulls, and all eyes will remain on Orlando as the league awaits to see what 85-year-old owner Rich DeVos decides to do with his franchise center.
It is going to seem like an eternity — sort of like this weekend did.
The dunk contest? A dud.
The 3-point shootout? Hasn’t been exciting since Craig Hodges was in it.
The rookie game? Sorry, but I prefer to see Kyrie Irving do his thing when the competition is actually trying, because this kid gets it done for the Cavs like a grown man — not like the teenager he actually is. I don’t want to see him playing exhibition game-style basketball.
I’ve probably grown too old for these All-Star weekends. I am 46, I’ve been coming to these things since I was 28, and the allure of being surrounded by mobs of people, getting stuck in traffic and being spoken to condescendingly when asking a legitimate question of the commissioner has me down on this whole event.
I like real NBA basketball, because it’s competitive.
I love FIBA competitions, because they are speedy 40-minute battles in which players cannot call timeouts, there is true national pride involved, there are actual culture clashes and the whole thing is just so damn genuinely real.
It’s gone too over the top. It is more about the pre-game introductions and the halftime show, who is sitting courtside and who is in stopping to get photographed on the red carpet outside the VIP entrance (yes, they had an actual red carpet. It about 1/100th the size of the one at the Oscars, which happened to be the NBA’s TV competition on this particular All-Star Sunday.)
If I had been home on the sofa and had the choice, I would have switched to the programming being beamed out of Hollywood rather than watch the first three quarters of this game, which was won by the West 152-149 over the East in what turned out to be an entertaining, close finish.
“I feel like I let my teammates down,” James said after throwing the ball away with less than 2 seconds left when he should have been freeing himself for the game-winning shot.
The West scored 88 points in the first half Sunday night, an All-Star record, and the teams combined for 157 points to tie the record for a half. In the second half, Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history when he converted a breakaway dunk midway through the fourth quarter. I guess that is a neat thing. But I’d bet true die-hard Laker fans could care less. They want a better team by the time March 15 has come and gone, and they want a straight answer from the commissioner on why he vetoed the Chris Paul trade (I know this because hundreds of them tweeted me Saturday night for asking Stern the question they all wanted asked.)
But what this particular game reminded me of (aside from the Mavs-Heat finals) was the charity games that were being held here and there through the summer of the lockout, the summer that turned off so many of the casual fans that had begun to embrace this game for the first time since Jordan retired.
Those folks may come back in the spring when the playoffs begin, and it’ll actually be nice to have a compacted postseason with back-to-backs in the second round because that’s the kind of legit old-school NBA basketball I spent the early part of my adult years watching.
Those games were battles. Real battles. The atmosphere back then was genuine, not manufactured.
Bring on Tuesday, when there are nine real games on the slate. And then bring on Wednesday, when Andre Iguodala is going to be in Kevin Durant’s jock in Philly, actually trying.
I am a sucker for real competition. I am a hater of fake competition.
My idea is for a one-year experiment, scaling this event back.
Put the All-Star weekend it in a big city, but put the game itself it in a tiny gym that has real atmosphere. Or better yet, put the actual Sunday night game in a YMCA with no crowd at all.
Put a wireless microphone on every player, put a pile of $12 million in cash on a table courtside, like they do at the World Series of Poker, and let the winning team split it up evenly. The losers get nothing.
I guarantee you’ll get a more riveting game for a full 48 minutes, rather than just the final 3. The NBA is all about money, anyway, so they might as well make that the actual prize.
Maybe that’ll be the thing that makes LeBron go for the game-winning shot rather than reminding everyone about how he played last June. He’s all about the money and the glitz anyway. If a table of money was sitting there, I’ll bet he’d have taken that last shot.
I’ll walk away from this one with one final snapshot in my head — James giving the ball up when he should have been going for the glory.
Who knows when he’ll play another close fourth quarter and we’ll get to see what he’ll do with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. The Heat have been beating everyone so thoroughly, we haven’t seen him have many of those chances.
Maybe we’ll get that treat later this week when the Heat go out West, where they went 0-3 on a road trip earlier this season. And if I have to stay awake until 1 a.m. to see whether LeBron is going to shoot or pass, it’ll have been worth it. For the remainder of the season, that is the question I want answered.
Yes, I want to know where Dwight Howard will end up.
But mostly I want to see if LeBron can come through in the clutch.
He certainly didn’t Sunday night, just like last June.