Caught in the Web: NBA All-Star weekend uninspiring so far
As if the NBA All-Star weekend didn't already leave a sour taste, what with these talks regarding a new collective-bargaining agreement not starting off great, the competition itself did very little to provide any excitement.
Obviously we're focusing more on the dunk contest than Friday's rookie challenge, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Boston's Rajon Rondo prolonged a game of H-O-R-S-E that almost ate into TNT's schedule, followed by a skills challenge and three-point shooting contest. The main event -- the dunk-off -- ended the night with a dud, most notably for Lakers fans, who expected theatrics from Shannon Brown. Instead, they witnessed dunks that would barely draw a pulse in an actual game, let alone a dunk contest.
NBA.com's Steve Aschburner described Brown's performance as "disappointingly ordinary." ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin compared it to the "Seinfeld" finale, the only time it's bad to be spoken about in the same breath as NBC's No. 1 sitcom in the 1990s. No one really gave the dunk contest the old Roger Ebert "Two Thumbs up," as Ball Don't Lie's J.E. Skeets grudgingly ranked last night's dunks, arguing the 2010 contest was among one of the worst in league history. Sports Illustrated's Frank Hughes said if it wasn't for Nate Robinson's alley-oop off the backboard that ultimately secured a third consecutive title, the contest would've been a total disaster. Instead it was just a disaster, period. And ESPN's John Hollinger pointed to the root of the problem: "If the biggest star you can get to participate is Gerald Wallace, it might be time to either up the prize money or rethink the contest." After all, Fox Sports shows through a photo gallery that there was a time when big-name stars participated in the dunk competition.
Some may think the main event -- tonight's All-Star game itself -- will save the day. Try telling that to Lakers fans, who may be happy Kobe Bryant is sitting out to rest his sprained left ankle, but have little reason to watch beyond seeing if any other All-Stars give Pau Gasol touches.
Even if Bryant was in the game, The Times' Mark Heisler rightfully noted that All-Star weekend has very little to do with tonight's game and more to do with sponsors, parties, parties and more parties.
And on that note, hopefully I didn't shoo away all potential visitors to the All-Star game live chat. In that case, this game is VERY VERY IMPORTANT.
More Lakers links (after the jump)
-- As the trade deadline Thursday approaches, Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears says the Lakers are trying to shed some of their payroll by getting reserve forward Luke Walton and reserve guard Sasha Vujacic off the books. That same report indicates the Lakers had tried talking to Portland about a trade, but didn't specify who they were trying to land.
-- The Riverside Press-Enterprise's Greg Patton argues that the team's played so well without Bryant and center Andrew Bynum that there's no need to make any moves before the Feb. 18 deadline. Writes Patton: "Additions? They'll be adding Bryant and Bynum from their inactive list."
-- If there is at least one cool thing that came out of All-Star weekend, it was that Lakers forward Pau Gasol got to hang out with his brother, Marc Gasol, of the Memphis Grizzlies y habla espanol (wish the blog had accent keys).
-- Add this to the "Are Kobe and Pau dissing each other?" category. Bryant's crystal ball says Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki will win this year's All-Star MVP. In reality, part of Bryant's assessment really had to do with the fact that the All-Star game is in Dallas.
-- As for the hometown hero himself, Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News' Brad Townsend that there was one huge reason why the weekend feels like sort of a downer: "Actually, it's kind of disappointing because some of my guys who came in from Germany wanted to see Kobe play."
Tweet of the Day: "I break Twitter silence to recognize Nate Robinson as the first 3-time dunk champion. Whoop dee doo." -- SI_IanThomsen (Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen).
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant enjoy Saturday night's All-Star festivities in Dallas. Credit: Ron T. Ennis / MCT.