Monday, February 20, 2006

NBA Buzz: Feb 20

The All-Star Game gives way to the NBA homestretch.  Seemed to come quick this year.  First, about the game:
3-point Shootout: What a motley group of contestants.  Still can’t get my head around the number of career chuckers that managed to make it: Terry, Arenas, Q (as defending champ)…why not toss in Walker and Baron Davis and complete the set?  I personally feel there’s no good reason why Sarunas Jasikevicius wasn’t a part of this, if only for the way he assassinates Olympic and World teams.  Hopefully next year, we’ll see him and Redick go gunning for Dirk’s crown and bring back the days where you needed scores above 20 (out of 30) to advance.  
Dunk Contest:  I’m hoping Charles rags Kenny for the rest of the season over fixing the finals.  Golly, the 20-yr anniversary of Spud Webb’s win with the man himself on hand courtside and he’s happy to participate in Tiny Nate’s dunk.  What a coincidence!  Even outside of the outrageous allowance of endless missed dunks (how is there not a 3-strike rule here???), that dunk shouldn’t have won it all.  Sure it was fist-pumping hot, but I still remember seeing Vince Carter do the same thing, over a defender in the middle of an actual Olympic game!  Nate needed a couple tries to do it and couldn’t completely clear Spud.  Vince’s Teabag was on a man a foot and a half taller and was absolutely spontaneous.  Greatest dunk of all time.  I contrast this with Iguodala’s very original bounce alley-oop from behind the backboard.  That dunk literally got me to reflexively leap up in excitement when I was out eating dinner with the wife, my sister, and another friend.  Nearly sent all the food on the table onto my sister.  Nate?  I saw it coming before he even botched his first try.  Unfortunately, Andre was competing against someone who won the contest the second he entered it.  
The game itself: we nearly had another fix, this time with the West openly setting the table for McGrady to get the Karl Malone/John Stockton hometown MVP treatment.  LeBron was not about to go along and sunk the West with the help of the Pistons’ D.  Shaq seemed to be an awfully kiddie mood, really demonstrating how well he’s mellowed over the course of his career.  Even Kobe’s realized that it’s more fun to put on a show rather than be the show.   Pretty fun atmosphere overall, even if there weren’t any exceptional displays.  
Now about the fixes; this was hardly anything new.  Jordan’s dunk contest win over Dominique in Chicago was an absolute sham, with the judges thoroughly intimidated by the hometown crowd.  There was also Magic’s sendoff in the ’92 game where the East didn’t attempt to compete and turned the closing minutes into a nostalgic show by letting the recently retired Magic go one-on-one against each of his old Eastern rivals (Jordan, Isiah, etc).  The players gave the fans what they wanted.  What was disturbing for me last night was how transparent they were willing to be.  We were only inches from becoming an MTV Celebrity Jam, and if Frankie Muniz and Ashton Kutcher were in the building, I shudder to think of what might have happened.  The game doesn’t really matter, but I hope it doesn’t slip into a farce.  

Moving past the game, the trade deadline is Thursday!  Denver, Orlando, and New York all seem hellbent on making big moves involving the obvious players.  It’s still possible they end up swapping amongst themselves, though it’s becoming less likely that Denver can pawn off their max contract mistake on anyone.  
Looking ahead to the stretch run:
-Things have been quiet on the Amare front, but I’m sensing disturbing similarities to the Webber/Kings scenario that played out a couple seasons back.  If he does return, Mike D’Antoni would be wise to hold him back as a reserve for the reminder of the season rather than risk him upsetting the offensive flow that they’re enjoying now.
-The league has realized it’s made a huge mistake in setting things up so that the #1 and 2 West teams will almost certainly meet in the second round.  Does a SA-Memphis West finals light your eyes up?  And yes, I just let slip my first round upset prediction.  
-The Western conference 8th seed dogfight should come down to Sacramento, Houston, and LA, which could be awfully exciting.  Ron Artest in a honeymoon period is a powerful chip to hold.
-Expect Duncan’s inflamed foot to catch up to him before the lights go out this June.  The only reason the Spurs have not been back-to-back champions has been his health, which is looming like a dark cloud at the moment.  This could seal the deal for the Pistons.
-There’s a lot of infighting in Oakland these days, with Baron Davis and Mike Dunleavy on particularly bad terms.  Junior’s ineffectiveness and Pillsbury’s shot-putting approach to the point guard position has the two viciously sniping at one another.  My guess is that Dunleavy will be the one to go, but both have particularly unattractive contracts.


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