NBA captures All-Star events in virtual reality to bring courtside experience to fans


NEW YORK — We’re still in the early stages of virtual reality experiences becoming widely available to consumers.

But with the recent release of the Samsung Gear VR headset and the MilkVR app, the NBA is making sure to get in on the ground level by bringing its fans a virtual courtside experience — beginning with a full slate of the All-Star weekend events.

From the official release:

“The NBA announced today that it will capture the 64th NBA All-Star Game, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, Sprite® Slam Dunk and Slam Dunk Practice in virtual reality, bringing the courtside experience to fans.” 

“Highlight packages from each event will be available in the near future through Samsung’s Milk VR™ and will allow fans to view NBA action like never before – through a 360-degree immersive video experience.  Samsung’s Milk VR was unveiled at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.” …

“With basketball enthusiasts all over the world, it’s paramount that we explore new ways to bring fans even closer to the game,” said Jeff Marsilio, NBA Vice President of Global Media Distribution.  “Virtual reality delivers amazing vantage points like the NBA All-Star Game from a courtside seat or Sprite Slam Dunk from the baseline.  We’re very excited about the possibilities and look forward to rolling out the content to our fans.”

I got a chance to demo the experience at the NBA’s annual Technology Summit last week, and while in my opinion it’s not quite ready for primetime, you can certainly see the possibilities.

The demonstration video was a clip of about two minutes from the October 2014 Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Global Games matchup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You are essentially sitting courtside at center court, and can turn your head in any direction to view either end of the floor, or up into the stands.

The players appear to be somewhat three-dimensional, and the live action from that vantage point is definitely a unique perspective that most fans aren’t fortunate enough to get to enjoy in person. While the image quality isn’t quite yet close to what we’re used to seeing on our HD monitors, the immersive experience is worth the trade-off — if only for a few minutes at a time.

Right now, I believe the VR experience for NBA content will be best for shorter highlight packages, rather than complete games or events like the ones that went down over All-Star weekend. But as the technology continues to evolve, and after getting a glimpse of the device’s potential, a day where we might spend the duration of a live event watching with the headset strapped on doesn’t seem too difficult to envision.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points


Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.