2012 NBA All-Star Game Preview

“Most all-star games are for the guards and they do their thing. But for me the game is about entertaining the crowd as much as it is anything. I want to get a few dunks, shoot some threes and bring the ball up the court like a guard.” — Dwight Howard

“I have a lot of rivals in this game. But it’s not about me coming out here and trying to play buddy ball.” — Rajon Rondo

“I’m sure he’s going to come out and try to get (the MVP) just like Kobe (Bryant) did in L.A. If it’s going to happen, it will here (in Orlando) for Dwight. I’m definitely going to throw the ball to the big fella.” – Deron Williams

“I’m not sure that Dwight even needs our help because he’s good enough to win the MVP all by himself. He can dominate games on his own because he’s that good.” — Derrick Rose

Recent All-Star Game MVP Winners in “Home” Cities

  • Kobe “Jelly Bean” Bryant: (Los Angeles, 2011) and (Philadelphia, 2002)
  • Shaquille “The Big Aristotle” O’Neal: (Phoenix, 2009) and (Los Angeles, 2004)
  • Allen “The Answer” Iverson: (Washington, D.C., 2001)

The last time the All-Star game was in Orlando, Earvin “Magic” Johnson returned after being diagnosed with the HIV virus and won MVP.

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NBA All-Star weekend is as scripted as The Decision or the 1985 NBA Draft, and as long as you can accept that, the festivities shouldn’t bother anyone. I attended the event last year and remember hanging out at the lobby bar of the team hotel the day of the dunk contest. NBA players and other celebrities were walking casually through the entire hotel since the building was on complete lockdown with metal detectors (for everyone but the players) and you couldn’t enter unless you were a hotel guest (luckily I was). Highlights of that day include sharing an elevator with Kevin Garnett & Tim Duncan, watching Kenyon Martin take shots of patron by himself at noon, observing Greg Oden take pictures with tons of children not knowing if his knees will ever let him play again, and asking Josh Childress (whom no one seemed to recognize) if he had any regrets about the time he spent in Greece playing professional basketball (he didn’t). Considering the current Euro banking crisis, I’m sure he might feel differently had he gone just a few months later.

My most telling encounter of the weekend however was with Javale McGee, who I approached in the lobby and asked him how excited he was to be a part of All-Star weekend, specifically the dunk contest. He shrugged and didn’t respond to my question as I had anticipated. It was as if he had already lost, or he already knew he would lose. Granted, Blake Griffin is a beast, but no Goliath by any means when compared to Javale (7’0″, 250 lbs., 7’3″ wingspan, 33-inch vertical leap). Javale finished 2nd in the dunk contest despite using three balls at one time (Guinness World Record for the most number of basketballs dunked in a single jump). Blake Griffin’s deal with Kia motors was signed before the dunk contest, and there were whispers in the hotel lobby all afternoon that his plan was to jump over a car, just no telling in what fashion.

My predictions for tonight’s game:

  • I’ll take the Eastern Conference, 148-143.
  • MVP: Dwight Howard (duh, it’s rigged…and the Magic will send him packing and trade him to the Nets)
  • Biggest stat-lines: LeBron James (had a triple-double last year, could do it again), Kevin Durant (expected to go toe-to-toe with the King)
  • Most likely to surprise: Kevin Love (at least three 3-pointers for the newly crowned champ), Russell Westbrook (will he cuss out his teammates mid-game? his speed and quickness will definitely be on display)
  • Coming out party: Roy Hibbert (great season so far, hopefully gets more recognition)
  • Most likely no-shows other than Joe Johnson: Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Most spectacular dunk: Blake Griffin (see video above)
  • Most assists: Deron Williams (see quote above)
  • Most turnovers: Andrew Bynum (pressure to out-play Superman, or be traded for him)
  • Least minutes: Dirk Nowitzki (still gassed from world tour during offseason)
Favorite All-Star Game quotes:

“Where can you find good links in Minnesota in February? I’ve gotta have a chat with David Stern. He’s gotta start putting these things in Phoenix, L.A., or Florida. So I can golf 36 holes.” –Charles Barkley, complaining about location of 1994-95 All-Star Game

“I’ll always be number one to myself. The legend just won’t be there. I guess I’ll go home and watch my own videos.” –Moses Malone, after not making all-star game roster after twelve consecutive appearances

PS: This is what post-All-Star Game hotel lobby bar riff-raff looks like…what a weird scene

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