Wow, the All-Star Game was actually good

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all star wade.jpgThe NBA got what it wanted — more people than ever watched a basketball  game live, setting a new world’s record in the new Cowboy’s Stadium. Sure, a bunch of the 108,713 people basically watched the game on the world’s largest television, but it’s a really cool television so the record stands. And will stand, at least until the Final Four comes there in a few years.

Those fans also got an entertaining, competitive game. Yes, a competitive All-Star game. One worth watching. Tied several times in the last minute all the way down to five seconds left. The East pulled it out, 141-139.

Dwyane Wade was your MVP, with a game-high 28 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals. Why does he always seem to have his best games when it’s supposed to be Dirk Nowitzki’s night?

This is the rare All-Star Game recap where one can actually write about the game.

The drama got intense with 43 seconds left and the game tied, The West had the ball and the East played a little defense — how often do you see that in an All-Star game — but Chauncey Billups found an open Deron Williams, who passed on the open three and tried to drive, only to be stripped by Wade. Wade then brought it up and was fouled by Williams, who thought his team was behind and he had to foul. Oh, he is going to hear about that from teammates for a while. Wade hit both, East by two.

Out of a timeout, West coach George Karl drew up a play for Nowitzki — the hometown hero and host of the weekend — to take a three to win it. But Dwight Howard came out, so Nowitzki pump faked then drew the foul driving into him. Nowitzki hits both free throws, game timed at 139-139 with 7.7 seconds left.

East coach Stan Van Gundy then drew up a play for LeBron James — who else? — but he was double teamed (again, defense in an All-Star game, Larry Brown was smiling somewhere) and hit Chris Bosh, who was fouled driving to the hoop. He hit two free throws, putting the East up two.

The West’s final play was a Carmelo Anthony isolation three — he had been the guy on the West trying to take charge of the game all night — but LeBron was focused and up in his face, and Anthony missed and that was the ball game.

Early in the second half it looked like the East might pull away, as they started the third quarter the East started out on a 14-5 run and we finally got the Dwight Howard, LeBron dunk off everybody had wished they had watched on Saturday. LeBron had four reverse dunks by my count (not an officially kept NBA stat — but it should be) .

The West actually made it close again, thanks to a bench lineup of Billups, Pau Gasol, Kevin Durant, Williams and Zach Randolph. Game was tied with 6:30 left to play when that group was done.

Then the end of the game became the Summer 2010 Free Agent Showcase — James, Wade and Chris Bosh took charge.

Kobe Bryant: “The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people,” make playoffs

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Lakers fans are not known for their reasonable expectations or patience, and LeBron James coming to the team has only enabled those tendencies. However, around the team a lot of people are tamping down expectations, with some even suggesting the Lakers will miss the playoffs.

Kobe Bryant is a Laker fan, and he is tamping down nothing.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with The Undefeated, Kobe addressed his expectations for the Lakers this season.

“The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people. Rob [Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager] has smartly built a team of physical players. Big, versatile, fast, physical players. He understands that if you want to challenge Golden State, you can’t challenge them with shooting. That’s what they do. You’ve got to beat them somewhere else. You have to beat them with size. Chippiness. Feistiness. Strength and speed. And he has a team that has that. He has a mixture of vets that are still in their primes and young kids that are hungry and open-minded and willing to learn. A team that can compete and challenge. That is a dangerous mix.”

So, Kobe, we’re talking about a playoff team?

“Oh, God, yes. C’mon.”

I predicted the Lakers as a playoff team, somewhere around 47 wins. They are going to be good, I like the young core with Brandon Ingram (who will have to be the No. 2 option this season), Lonzo Ball and the rest. The young players are going to have to step up, and the veterans — particularly Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee — can help.

But the margin for error is slim, as it is with every team in the West playoff hunt not in Houston or the Bay Area. A slow start and it’s fair to ask questions about the Lakers. Injuries will play a role in the West no doubt. The Lakers should be a playoff team but they are no lock.

If they do fall short, Kobe will not be the only disappointed fan asking questions.

NBA revamps website dedicated to providing officiating info

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA is trying to get even more transparent about the calls its officials make.

The league has revamped its nba.com/official website, adding video archives of plays that merited reviews as well as detailed breakdowns of the responsibilities of officiating crews working each game.

A daily injury report is a new addition to the site. That injury report will be updated three times per day.

Other features of the new site include a sortable digital rulebook with video breakdowns of what makes a certain play legal or illegal, as well as the continued postings of the detailed reports breaking down all calls made in the final two minutes of close games.

 

Steve Kerr on military displays at games: “Sometimes, it’s really inspiring… sometimes it feels like we’re being patronized”

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Things changed in sports after 9/11. The national anthem had always played before sporting events, but in the wake of our national tragedy American sports leagues turned to patriotic and military displays before games as a way to help unify fans. In a small way, some sporting events helped heal the country after that life-altering event.

However, those militaristic displays have continued on 17 years later, with some leagues buying in more than others, and not everybody in the sports world is comfortable with that.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, never someone shy about speaking out about political and social issues, was asked about the displays at sporting events as part of a wide-ranging interview with Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, which can only be seen in full on the new NBC Sports My Teams app, but we have a clip.

“Sometimes, it’s really inspiring. You see a mother and daughter or a father and son reconnected after a tour of duty, and everybody gets emotional. And sometimes it feels like we’re being patronized. Like this is being used. We’re just playing a sport here, and it feels sort of nationalistic, if that makes sense. So we are kind of wandering down a dicey path on this front.”

Kerr speaks out on politics — usually to bash President Donald Trump — and likely will do more of that with the midterm elections coming up. However, don’t think he takes that step lightly, or that he thinks it’s for everyone. Kerr has a nuanced view and understands the risks of what he does.

“First, you have to feel comfortable with what you’re talking about and what you’re discussing. So if you’re not comfortable with speaking about social issues, then I don’t blame anybody for not doing so. But there’s also a sense, when you’re in a job like this, that you’re working for people. You’re working for a league. You’re working for an owner. You’re working for an organization. And almost everything you say is going to be looked at two different ways. You start to worry about offending people. You start to worry about ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ ‘Am I going to get fired?’ ‘Am I going down the wrong path?’ ‘And I really like this job and I like coaching basketball and I just want to coach. So you sort of leave that alone. I’ve got no problem with that.”

Kerr can speak out because he’s in a secure space (same with the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich). For a lot of coaches, the backlash from speaking out may not be worth the hassle, not from just fans but from within the organization.

Kerr also teamed with Rock The Vote to try and get more people to use their voice at the ballot box. Kerr also knows his megaphone is larger than that, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Did Suns deserve all 35 of their assists? (video)

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The Suns had 35 assists in their season-opening win over the Mavericks last night.

That’s their most assists since… their final game last season, when they also dished 35 assists against Dallas. But the Mavericks were tanking hard. Before that, Phoenix last had 35 assists with Steve Nash at point guard.

How did they Suns do it?

They moved the ball well and knocked down shots.

They also appeared be quite generous in scorekeeping.

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

Would you say all four of these assists led directly to a basket?

Many scorekeepers systematically award assists if the shooter took two or fewer or dribbles after receiving the pass. Those above plays are not egregious in league-wide context, though maybe a couple of them should be.

But this Deandre Ayton pass really stretches the limit (hat tip: Carter Rodriguez of Fear The Sword):

Again, maybe we just have to live with a hard-and-fast two-dribble rule. Even though Josh Jackson turned and hesitated a couple times while using both dribbles, this technically falls under the threshold.

But then explain this Trevor Ariza assist to Jackson, who took three dribbles:

That looks like more of an assist than some of the two-dribble plays above. So, maybe the standard is fitting the spirit of the definition OR a player shooting within two dribbles. That casts quite a wide net.

But remember, don’t cast stones at the Suns from inside a glass house. They’re not alone in their loose assist-granting.