NEW ORLEANS — The NBA All-Star Game is supposed to be a star-studded exhibition, and not one necessarily aimed at the core of basketball fans. Sort of like the Super Bowl, the goal of the All-Star Game is to suck in the casual fan to watch both great athleticism and the show around it — The Roots, John Legend and on down the line. In the city the weekend of the event, it’s as much about showing league sponsors a good time as it is basketball.
Let’s be honest, the basketball itself isn’t good. From the Rising Stars challenge through the All-Star Game itself, there’s matador defense and cherry picking all game long. The defense was so bad Stephen Curry was literally laying down on the job.
Kyrie Irving would like to see that change, and he speaks for at least some players.
“For me, I would love to play in a competitive game,” Irving said. “I know we play in competitive games in the summer, pickup games, but I think going forward, the All-Star experience will probably get a little harder in terms of defense going forward.”
Will it? Guys are trying not to get hurt and — like the entire weekend itself — are focused on the fun off the court far more than anything on it.
“It’s all in good fun, but I definitely think that, if we want a competitive game, guys will probably have to talk about it before the game,” Irving said.
The onus to change this falls to the players, something. West coach Steve Kerr echoed.
“I think that in the past, at least generally in the fourth quarter, guys have picked it up. That’s what I was expecting. It didn’t happen (Sunday),” Kerr said. “I would like to see it more competitive. I’m not sure how to do it. It’s up to the players really.
“As a coach in the All-Star game, you ever seen that movie ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’? They might as well just bring a couple dead bodies on the sidelines. We’re not doing anything up there. Just prop us up.”
To get guys to play harder, the league is going to have to find an incentive to motivate the players. Currently, the winning team’s players get $50,000 each, the losing team $25,000 — while that extra $25K would make a big difference in your life or mine, for All-Stars with eight-figure annual salaries it doesn’t matter as much as staying healthy and getting some rest.
“It would be good to possibly incentivize the guys somehow, Kerr said. “I don’t know if you can maybe get their charities involved or winner-take-all type thing, but I think it’s possible to play a lot harder without taking a charge. We know what silly is out there, if you’re undercutting guys, but it’s almost gone too far the other way where there’s just no resistance at all. I think there’s a happy medium in there somewhere.”
There is, but until the NBA comes up with a new plan we’re not going to see it All-Star Weekend.
DeMarcus Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, but that hasn’t stopped members of the Sacramento Kings organization from taking shots at him as he walks out the door.
In the team press release announcing the trade on Monday Sacramento GM Vlade Divac said, “Winning begins with culture and character matters.”
Meanwhile, the team’s play-by-play announcer Grant Napear went scorched earth on Cousins minutes after the trade was announced. The Twitter thread is pretty dang straightforward:
There’s definitely a contingent of Kings fans that were fed up with Boogie’s attitude — 7 years is a long time to wait for your franchise center to not consistently get kicked out of games — but it’s not a good look to flame the dude on his way out.
Saying you don’t think they could win with him is one thing, but saying he’s a “dark cloud” and that most of his teammates hated him is borderline. Plus, coming from a team-affiliated it’s just a weird thing to do.
Napear has had his issues with Cousins in the past, so perhaps it’s understandable we see this reaction with the big man now in a new uniform.
Add this to Divac saying he had a better deal lined up two days ago, and the Kings look even moreso like an organization without a direction.
One of the New Orleans Pelicans mascots is a Pelican. His name is Pierre, and after a makeover he’s looking pretty normal these days. But the Pelicans also have a second mascot of sorts. His name is King Cake Baby — named after the Mardi Gras pastry — and he’s horrifying.
So when you have an NBA All-Star Game in town, what do you do? Trot out a giant baby mascot to mix in with the league’s elite, of course.
Or at least have him bother Charles Barkley on his birthday:
Ok it’s actually weirder that Kenny Smith wanted to see what was under King Cake Baby’s bib. I can never unsee that.
The DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans just gets weirder and weirder.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sacramento Kings GM Vlade Divac said that he had a more appetizing deal on the table for the All-Star center. Why didn’t they take it?
Divac would not say:
Perhaps even more confusing is that Divac said that owner Vivek Ranadive did not have input on the trade process. That seems highly unlikely, given how hands-on Ranadive has been in the past regarding keeping Cousins, killing Cousins trade talks for years.
“[Ranadive] didn’t have any idea,” Divac said of the trade. “I just told him what I was going to do.”
Let’s cut right to the chase here: this makes no sense.
First, because ownership in the NBA always has some kind of contact on trades, if only as a heads up. When it comes to franchise players, I’m hard-pressed to believe Ranadive wasn’t involved.
Meanwhile, what explanation could possibly be given for not pulling the trigger on a deal Divac admits was better than the one he got from New Orleans? There is one possible reason:
Cousins’ agent was very public in saying the star big man would not re-sign with the team that traded for him, some saber-rattling to try and scare teams off because Cousins didn’t want to be traded. Once traded, Cousins was no longer eligible for the Designated Player contract, meaning he would lose out on at least $30 million in his next deal.
Maybe a team pulled back because of that?
If not that, it’s hard to think of why the Kings would have not moved on a better offer.
That’s a lot to unpack.
Then we have to get to the Kings and their press release, which takes an unsubtle potshot at Cousins with regard to his character:
“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization, said Divac. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward.”
Ah, ok. Couple that with Kings play-by-play announcer Grant Napear going nuclear on Cousins moments after he was traded and you’ve got an extremely confusing, bad looking coming out of Northern California.
The Kings are a mess.