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The bizarre dichotomy of the NBA All-Star Game

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Sunday night, 24 players will amble into the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Many of them will be hungover, sleep-deprived, or both from a night of partying at all the hot spots during the biggest nightlife year for the NBA universe. They will casually go through the media requirements, slowly get dressed, do some casual shooting, talk with a lot of friends and acquaintances.

They will play a game, of sorts. There will be no defense. There will be very little effort. There will be some ooh and ahh moments, a few dunks, some neat passes, and a general giggly sort of feel to the day. It will be presented with lots of flash and pageantry and have no effect on anything, nor should it. It shouldn’t decide homecourt advantage in the Finals, it shouldn’t impact playoff seedings, it’s an exhibition and should mean absolutely nothing.

Those players were elected to play in the game either by fan vote, the same fan vote which routinely ignores any and all evidence to who has been good or not good throughout the season and is primarily decided based on either the presence of an overwhelming voting block (in the case of Yao Ming), or the player’s station as a member of one of the big three teams (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls), or by coaches’ decision, which is often done using impact from assistants or video editors and which can often be attributed to recognition of a lifetime event or influence from what they “should do.”

To sum up, today’s NBA All-Star Game is a completely meaningless exhibition in which you will barely remember anything outside of who wins MVP and who was on roster, and was constructed using completely meaningless, bogus, and largely flawed methods of election. Saying the All-Star game is stupid isn’t really a stretch, even if it’s a bit much for something that’s just supposed to be fun for fans. Fun things can be meaningless, like cartoons for your four-year-old or appletinis (say hey, LBJ).  There’s no harm in that. This is not advocacy for eliminating the All-Star Game. The Game is a tradition, a nice PR tool for the league, and a fun experience, if exhausting and boring for players after about their third time.

No, what this is is a study in contrasts. Because while this game is constructed nearly without meaning, entirely arbitrarily, its relevance expands beyond this day, this season, this year and into a much greater context. That’s the real dichotomy of the All-Star Game. It’s both meaningless and crucial.

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When evaluating the resumes of players listed for the Hall of Fame, the criteria is complex, but it’s like any other resume. When you list your resume to an employer, are you able to encapsulate on a 1-2 page document why that job you were at less than six months didn’t work out? Can you describe the thriving success you experienced at the position you were at for four years without a promotion? Can you give context to why one award granted meant a lot and was well-earned while the other was simply the result of your relationship with the awarding board? No. You just fill in the lines. I can do X, I have done X,  I want to do X. That’s it.

The All-Star resumes are no different. Stats, a specific anecdote, perhaps, championships most importantly, and then there’s that which is most often the first thing listed.

X-Time NBA All-Star.

That line holds relevance in history. When we debate the relative merits of a player for inclusion in the Hall (and don’t get me wrong, we can say a lot of the same things about the Hall of Fame that we say about the All-Star Game; in fact, the Hall is probably a bigger disaster than a game which is voted for online), that measure is used to distinguish. Being a six-time NBA All-Star? That’s more than a half-decade of being one of the elite players in the NBA!

Some six-time All-Stars in the Hall of Fame: Tiny Archibald, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Artis Gilmore, Tommy Heinsohn, Jack Twyman.

Pretty impressive, right? Some active six-time All-Stars: Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson.

Joe Johnson is a six-time All-Star.

(Note: I’m one of the few people left on the planet who doesn’t punish Johnson for his contract relative to his performance. The Hawks have made the playoffs each year since 2008, haven’t been an abject embarrassment in them outside of the Bucks series which they won, and gave Atlanta a run. Johnson, for all his moderate efficiency, is a huge part of that and is constantly underrated for his defensive work. My point is more about how we look at things now versus how we will look at things later.)

When we look back at Johnson’s career, the contextual stuff about the disgust over his selection or the mockery of his production relative to his contract will get lost. Someone’s going to be perusing Basketball-Reference in ten year who has never seen Joe Johnson play a second of basketball, look at his per-game stats during his peak, look at that six-time All-Star streak, find the YouTube of his work in the Boston series 2008, and think of him as a pretty great player, when currently, he may be the most derided All-Star selected, and Chris Bosh is on the team for crying out loud (again, I don’t have an issue with Bosh, he’s actually been great this year, but for the most part people hate him).

My point is, this stuff matters.

Going to the All-Star game means nothing, but it means more than the All-NBA teams, which receive so much less scrutiny and criticism. Being an All-Star means something to your career. It puts you into that level. When people in non-NBA contexts introduce you, they introduce you as “NBA All-Star.” It’s a designation that represents being something greater, not just currently, but within the massive flow of players that ebb in and out of the league. Stars rise and die in weeks in this league (take heed, Jeremy Lin), and these players selected are above. Paul Pierce is a nine-time All-Star. Nine. He’s probably going to wind up with a decade of All-Star appearances.

Jermaine O’Neal is a footnote in the NBA, and he’s pretty much only mentioned in reference to how slow he is or his injury issues.

The guy is a six-time All-Star!

And there are certainly debates about the quality of stars in the league relative to these eras. But they’re only mentioned in relatively recent context. We ignore how many fewer teams there were in 1980 and before, when some of the biggest legends exist. And no, no one’s going to be talking about Joe Johnson or Jermaine O’Neal as all-time greats, but there is a fondness that develops as a man’s career passes, a remembrance of when he was best that comes to overshadow the fading years of age. The same will happen with Jason Kidd, with Kevin Garnett, the same has already happened with Gary Payton.

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So today is a day for lazy skip passes, a few off-the-backboard alley-oops. Kobe will shoot a lot and if he’s feeling it will score a lot and make everyone shake their head, grin and go “Oh, Kobe.” LeBron may have one of those days… you know what, no, James has never taken this event seriously, probably never will. Blake Griffin will do some stuff. But none of it means anything, and the process of their respective assemblies is obviously flawed, subjective, invalid and largely a joke. But the fact that they are there (or in Joe Johnson’s case, there in spirit) does resonate. It does reflect something about their position in the context of this game, of sports, of culture.

Having been an All-Star means something, even if being one doesn’t.

Kings’ point guard Darren Collison arrested on domestic violence charge

Darren Collison, Ronnie Price
Associated Press
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Darren Collison, the Kings’ only point guard under contract for next season, has been arrested on charges of domestic violence and driving with a revoked license.

CBS Sacramento broke the story, noting Collison was arrested in Placer County, which is north of Sacramento.

Collison, 28, was booked into Placer County Jail on one count of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant and a bench warrant of driving while his license was revoked.

The Kings released this statement:

“We’ve been made aware of the situation. The Sacramento Kings condemn violence of any kind. We are gathering additional information and once all facts are known we will take appropriate steps.”

The NBA, along with other professional sports leagues, has come down harder with fines and suspensions on players found to have committed domestic violence in recent seasons. For example, the Hornets’ Jeff Taylor was suspended 24 games. Both the Kings and the league will let this criminal investigation and process play out longer before jumping in, but Collison likely will get more than just a slap on the wrist if the charges are true.

Collison is under contract for $5.2 million for the Kings next season, and is in line to see more minutes next season (depending upon free agent moves). Sacramento is an organization looking for a fresh start — they have a new coach in Dave Joerger and are moving into a new arena in the heart of the city next season. They want to turn the page on a turbulent, playoff-free past decade. Incidents like this certainly do not help with that perception (even though the team wasn’t involved).

Reggie Jackson tweets smirk emoji after Thunder loss

Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Three minutes after the Thunder lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to the Warriors, former Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson tweeted:

I’m generally reluctant to interpret vague tweets by a stranger, but it’s hard to believe Jackson was referring to anything but the Thunder losing.

There’s plenty of history here, from Jackson’s ugly Oklahoma City exit to disputes in both Pistons-Thunder games this season. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have shown they aren’t fond of Jackson, and the feeling is clearly mutual.

If Jackson is referring to Oklahoma City’s loss – and I think he is – he’s being petty. But that’s fine. There’s room for pettiness in sports – especially when both sides will face each other on the court.

Durant and Westbrook surely aren’t thinking about regular-season games against the Pistons, but I bet Jackson is ready for the matchup. Considering how much better the Thunder are than Detroit, Jackson probably needs that extra edge to compete – though now Durant and Westbrook can also use this tweet as motivation (at least if Durant returns to Oklahoma City).

New Grizzlies coach David Fizdale: ‘I didn’t leave Miami and that beautiful beach and all that water and good stuff to come here to lose’

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17:  (L-R) NBA players LeBron James, David Fizdale, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Erik Spoelstra accept award for Best Team onstage at The 2013 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for ESPY)
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for ESPY
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) David Fizdale left no doubt about his intentions in the longtime assistant’s new job as the Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach.

“I’m here to win,” Fizdale said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “That’s the best way to put it. I didn’t leave Miami and that beautiful beach and all that water and good stuff to come here to lose. I came here to win. And I came here to be a big part of this community, a big part of the people here. I’m going to be out and about, and I’m going to be involved in everything.”

Fizdale replaces Dave Joerger, who was fired May 7 after three seasons and three playoff appearances. Joerger has since been hired as the Sacramento Kings’ coach.

In Memphis, Fizdale takes over a team with the NBA’s third-longest postseason streak at six straight seasons, behind only San Antonio (19) and Atlanta (nine). But center Marc Gasol is recovering from a broken foot, while point guard Mike Conley hits free agency in July.

“The goal is to win a title, no doubt about it,” Fizdale said. “With the pieces that we have and the pieces that we’re going to put together, with us working together in collaboration, I see no reason why we won’t have an opportunity to take that run.”

Although this marks Fizdale’s first NBA head coaching job, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace cited the longtime assistant’s background as evidence that Fizdale is “uniquely prepared to lead the Grizzlies into the future.”

Fizdale was an assistant coach with Golden State in 2003-04 and the Atlanta Hawks between 2004 and 2008. He started coaching as an assistant at his alma mater, the University of San Diego.

He also spent a season as Miami’s video intern in 1997-98.

The Grizzlies gave Fizdale his first head coaching opportunity during an offseason when many other teams went with NBA head coaching veterans such as Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, Nate McMillan in Indiana and Frank Vogel in Orlando.

“I feel very confident that I’m ready for this. … I’m going to attack this job,” Fizdale said.

Memphis wrapped up its selection process less than three weeks after dismissing Joerger.

He Grizzlies also considered former Grizzlies and Nets coach Lionel Hollins, Charlotte assistant Patrick Ewing, Portland assistant Nate Tibbets, Spurs assistants James Borrego and Ettore Messina as well as Vogel.

Now that they’ve found their coach, the Grizzlies can concentrate on personnel matters.

The Grizzlies are waiting for Gasol’s foot to heal after his season ended in February. Conley is due to become a free agent after left Achilles tendinitis ended his season in early March. Memphis also has to decide whether to exercise the option on Lance Stephenson and if they should keep Vince Carter, JaMychal Green and Xavier Munford.

Report: Most insiders consider Kevin Durant signing 1+1 contract with Thunder most likely

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The summer of Kevin Durant has arrived.

What will the superstar do in free agency?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

File this under: Do they know something? Executives around the league are sometimes better positioned to gain and share inside information, but sometimes, they’re supposing just like the rest of us. The possibility of the former makes this noteworthy, but don’t rule out the latter.

Durant signing a two-year contract with a player option would make a lot of sense. He’ll be eligible for a much higher max in 2017, because he’ll have 10 years of experience and the salary cap will continue to skyrocket. He could also spend another season with an excellent Thunder team that just beat the Spurs and pushed the Warriors to a Game 7. Plus, his next free agency would coincide with Russell Westbrook‘s in 2017. That way, Durant could stay with this team that should compete for a title next year without getting trapped in Oklahoma City if Westbrook leaves.

It’s easy to assign our values to this situation and then say what Durant should do, but this is about what matters to him. How important is money? How much risk is he willing to take on a short contract? Does he want to stay with Westbrook and his other teammates? Does he believe other teams offer him a greater chance to win a championship?

There are so many issues for him to weigh, and he’ll surely give teams an opportunity to pitch him come July. He’ll gather more information before signing.

That is to say, if Durant is leaning one direction – and I’m not sure he is yet – so much  still stands between now and him signing.