All-Star Saturday changes are easier said than done


In the wake of one of the worst All-Star Saturday nights in NBA history, fans, players, and league officials can only be left dreaming of improvement. They hype had been replaced with an incredible hush, as the participants of Saturday’s dunk contest silenced the crowd at the American Airlines Center in the worst possible way. The three-point contest was competitive, but doesn’t have the built-in suspense to carry an entire night. The Skills Challenge may get some undeserved criticism, but at its core, it’s still an event based on a professional basketball player throwing a ball through some rings, dribbling around nonexistent defenders, and shooting open shots. The Shooting Stars competition is the Shooting Stars competition.

We know all of the problems, and the manner in which Nate Robinson, DeMar DeRozan, Shannon Brown, and Gerald Wallace capped off Saturday’s festivities should instill everyone involved with the All-Star institution a sense of urgency. How do you fix events that have tumbled out of control, to the point where making a highlight reel out of a highlight fodder event (like the dunk contest) would be next to impossible? How do we “take back” All-Star Saturday?

Truth be told, I’m not sure it can be done. Though the NBA has been reasonably progressive in regard to changing up the All-Star events if need be, the events themselves are so static in nature to force a reboot through institutional change. You can tweak the dunk contest, but slightly modified rules won’t make Shannon Brown anything but a complete flop. The other events are equally self-contained; how and why would you change the three-point shootout?

None of the formats are perfect, and I’m sure the NBA will be looking into all kinds of potential changes after this past weekend’s let-down. But tweaking the structure won’t save the event, and neither will transcendent talent (sorry LeBron). It’s spectacular performances that have and always will make for intriguing Saturday night competition. The NBA doesn’t necessarily need high-profile A-listers to headline every event, though I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt viewership or the bottom line. But these events need better incentives for the players to participate, better selection for the event fields, and an artificial stimulus that will make the contests more important and more relevant. Hype is a funny thing, and if All-Star Saturday is drained of it after this year, it could take some serious work to get it back.

Look, you don’t need Jordan and Dominique to have a great dunk contest. A young up-and-comer named Vince Carter, a limited player named Desmond Mason, and a quasi-star named Jason Richardson happened to do just fine running the damn thing. It’s more than just getting the right players — the NBA needs the right dunkers.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.