NBA All-Star Weekend Wrap-Up: Blame LeBron Edition

The NBA’s 61st installment of it’s annual all-star game has now come and gone. The weekend in the Orlando was full of its fair share of highlights for each evening. Friday night, Kevin Hart dominated the celebrity game taking home MVP honors. One of the evenings’ highlights came when Hart threw up an alley-opp to rapper J. Cole. Hart also managed to become the first ever player to be ejected from the game. See the video after the jump.

Saturday night is supposed to be the night of nights for the NBA. In a really good all-star weekend, Saturday’s festivities become defining moments that overshadow what occurs during the game Sunday. This year did not feature many Monday morning discussions of “Did you see (insert spectacular play from Saturday night).” In fact, the water cooler probably dispensed a better product than the NBA did. There is nothing wrong, nor fixable about the undercard portions of All-Star Saturday Night.

The Three-Point Shootout brought excitement with it’s tie-breakers, and with the added bonus that the competition came down to the last rack of basketballs (Hats off to Kevin Love for winning). The Skills Challenge saw Deron Williams hand Tony Parker the crown missing four 15-foot jump shots in the final round. The Shooting Stars competition saw New York’s finest in Landry Fields, Cappie Pondexter, and Allan Houston bring back the first piece of hardware that Madison Square Garden has seen since the Knicks made it to the Finals in the ’99 Lockout Season.

In the much unanticipated dunk competition, there were some pleasant surprises. Chase Budinger channelling his inner Woody Harrelson definitely kicked off a night of originality. Eventual champion, Utah’s last minute entry, Jeremy Evans was cleared for takeoff when he skied over teammate Gordon Hayward, while managing to jam home two basketballs in one swift motion. It is up for debate, but one can argue that Indiana’s Paul George had the dunk of the evening when he was able to successfully execute a 360-degree windmill dunk…in the dark!

Overall, while this year’s dunk contest did bring theatrics and originality, it lacked star power. And in a case like this, there is only person to blame…LeBron James! Reggie Miller said it best at the end of Saturday’s dunk contested when he stated, “All the greats at one time in their career participated in the dunk contest.” Fans have been asking for LeBron to participate in the dunk contest ever since 2009 when he said that he would do it the following All-Star Weekend in Dallas, Texas. Expectedly, he backed out of his unofficial agreement.

In case it’s not already known to the casual NBA fan, superstars only do these competitions when there is significant monetary incentive. So let’s just gather a large purse for this event then. Surely, the NBA can arrange to put up the necessary amount to make the dunk contest a truly star-studded event as it was in the early 2000’s. The perfect foursome for next year’s contest in Houston should be Andre Igoudala, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, and Jeremy Evans. It’s only fair to give the previous years’ champion the ability to defend his crown. If you pay them, they will participate. That’s the motto. LeBron needs to finally deliver and give the people what they want.

Fast forward to the waning minutes of Sunday night’s All-Star Game, and LeBron can be blamed for the East losing. At least that is what the realm of social media would lead a person to believe. LeBron made an ill-advised pass down the stretch but he is one of the two reasons that the East made a late rally to begin with; Deron WIlliams was the other East member responsible. But LeBron did what he does best, and that is carry a team back into a game single-handedly. Had his great pass to Dywane Wade not been dropped, he would not have been labeled as the scapegoat for this game.

All in all, it was a great weekend for the NBA to showcase its best and brightest superstars. Thankfully, the weekend was not overshadowed entirely by the latest rumors of the Dwightmare.

Jimmy Lips

To Lin-Finity and Beyond!

A Lin is a Lin is a Lin! … or something along those lines. It’s a lot of what Knicks’ fans have been able to say as their team has stormed back to a .500 winning percentage by winning 8 of their last 10 games. Even non-Knick fans have been singing a similar tune, due to one player, and he of course is Jeremy Lin.

Jeremy Lin is the newest lin-sation of the NBA, his image has overshadowed all over the past few weeks, including Miami’s Big Three, Lob City in LA, those other purple and gold guys from LA, and whoever else you can think of. Lin was cut by two teams this year, the Rockets and the Warriors, and almost the Knickerbockers. Carmelo Anthony, looked at Coach Mike D’Antoni during the Knicks game against the New Jersey Nets on February 4th and told him to give the kid a shot. Needless to say the “kid” erupted for 25 points, 7 assists to and 5 rebounds, much to the chagrin of Deron Williams.

Lin has thrived since averaging, 23.9 points and 9.2 assists. His turnover’s have been an issue, as he is averaging over 5 per game through his run as the newest Knick starting point guard. Most in New York overlook this factor, but his nay-sayers pinpoint on that statistic. The turnovers must come down, and have started to with the return of Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo knows that the entire city is behind this kid now after he was for a brief moment during the Nets game. Melo must mold back in as they seem they might be able to, and a good test will be the game against the Miami Heat. But, back to Lin here.

Lin is humble and plays his heart out every game. He has been averaging over 35 minutes per game, and that number has been dragged down because of the beating the Knicks put on the Kings, when the starters were able to rest most of the second half. Lin has no regards for his own health or body, as he constantly drives to the basket toward bigger defenders. This is what New York needs, it is after all a basketball town, and will only become a bigger one when the Nets move into Brooklyn. Lin has put life into the Garden and into the prices of tickets as they have skyrocketed over the past few weeks. Lin is great for the NBA, because after a debacle of an off-season and stand-offs between owners and players that resulted in a shortened season, where good ankles are a hot commodity, he has provided a spike in publicity and excitement. Not only that, but the Asian population is clearly paying more attention now than ever before, even when Yao-Ming was peaking during his career.

Lin has not slowed down as many expected throughout his run, and we shall all see and witness how can he run D’Antoni’s offense for the rest of the year as both superstars are finally healthy, and the Knicks have added more pieces in J.R. Smith, Baron Davis, and Steve Novak. Landry Fields, only seems to be playing better with Lin, and Tyson Chandler has benefited from great passing as he is shooting an astounding 70% from the field. Rookie, Iman Shumpert, a somewhat of a combo-guard has some of the quickest hands in the NBA and is perfecting his on ball defense. The Knicks, if all things click, could be a force in the East hoping to contend with the likes of Chicago and Miami.

Those are my two cents … cash em in if you wish!

T-Catz

Dwight Night at the Rock

Similar to Monday night’s game against the Knicks, it’s safe to assume Deron Williams and company have had tonight’s game circled on their calendar all season. Soon to be free agent center Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic are coming to the Prudential Center tonight. It is sure to be a very unusually festive and welcoming environment for the visiting Howard. Superman may very well get the vibe that it’s an extra home game for him.

Brook Lopez will also be making his second start of the season since returning from his foot injury that kept him out one game short of half the season. Lopez said over the weekend that facing Howard would be a good test for him to measure where he is at in terms of returning to his normal play. The underlining story here is that in a little over three weeks, this matchup of the leagues top center’s will take place with the possibility of Howard and Lopez wearing opposite jerseys.

It is no secret that the Nets want Howard, and according to his representatives, the potential partnership has mutual feelings. On December 9th, Josh Robbins, of the Orlando Sentinel, broke the news of Howard requesting a trade to the New Jersey Nets.

Since then, Nets fans have been ecstatic with the sheer thought of being able to have both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard on the same team headed for Brooklyn.

Nets brass has used subtle hints to suggest their strong interest in adding Howard to their franchise. Back in January, the team placed billboards throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn which read, “Believe The Hype” and “Welcome to Brooklyn ’12.”

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As tonight's game drew closer, the Nets even reduced the cost of tickets for their Loud and Proud section to $12.

These aren't coincidences. They are subtle hints to show the basketball world that the Nets are serious in their pursuit of the Magic center. Sources say the Nets feel very optimistic, if not borderline confident they will get their man whether through a trade before the March 15th deadline, or in July when free agency starts. And they have every right to be.

They will be moving into a brand new state-of-the-art arena in downtown Brooklyn next season, cap space to sign both Dwight and Deron to max contracts, and the richest owner in sports. Howard and Williams would have New York City in the palm of their hands creating a much anticipated rivalry with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

But they wouldn't be the New Jersey Nets if there wasn't a potential obstacle or two standing in the way. This comes in the form of the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Over the last few weeks, the Lakers have begun to fall out of the conversation for Howard due to a lack of cohesion in the front office. Reports from HoopsWorld writer Alex Kennedy have stated that during a conversation between Kobe Bryant and Howard, Kobe told him he would not be the first or second scoring option on the Lakers.

In addition to this, it is said Bryant went over how it would not be Dwight's team if he came to Los Angeles. Howard was reportedly turned off by those notions. The emergence of a healthy first-time All-Star in Andrew Bynum certainly makes the Lakers organization reluctant to part ways with him in favor of Howard.

This leaves the Dallas Mavericks as the only true threat to the Nets superstar foundation. Mavs owner Mark Cuban has gone out of his way to slowly position his franchise to sign both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard this offseason. The Mavs let 3 of their championship pieces in Tyson Chandler, Jose Juan Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson go to other teams during the abbreviated free agency period to clear cap space for next season.

The next moves get tricky. Dallas must amnesty Brendan Haywood, waive both Vince Carter and Lamar Odom, allow Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to leave the team as free agents, and then after all of that is done trade Shawn Marion in exchange of another small, expiring contract. If there is anyone in the NBA that can pull this off, it’s certainly Mark Cuban.

Even then, the Mavs would not be able to offer both Williams and Howard max contracts since Dirk Nowitzki's current contract pays him $20 million dollars per season. But whose to say they wouldn't take a pay cut to play with one of the best power forwards ever? That alone is a significant threat the Nets have to worry about should they not be able to trade for Howard before the deadline.

Jimmy Lips

(picture courtesy of http://www.brooklynfans.com)

Another Jeremy Lin Story

Where does one begin to describe the overnight success story that is Jeremy Lin? He’s Lincredile, all he does is Lin (8 out of 9 games), and even Grammy winner Adele says that Jeremy has Knicks fans RolLINg in the Deep right now.

His story is amazing and no one can deny that. He graduated Harvard University, went undrafted, then went on to be cut by two NBA teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.

The Warriors organization, including point guard Steph Curry have said they don’t regret the move. In an ESPN interview which aired during the recent Warriors/Blazers game, Curry went so far as to state that Lin would have never seen time on the court with Golden State. Who is Curry kidding? Even if Lin stopped playing at this high level today, chances are slim that the back-up guards in Golden State are going to go on a Lin-esque run and contribute this immensely anytime soon. Also, Lin contributes more to the Knicks than Nate Robinson presently does for the Warriors. In fact, most intellectual basketball minds would probably choose Lin over Robinson.

Head coach Mark Jackson said he did not have any regrets cutting the 6’3″ point guard. In Coach Jackson’s eyes, they are set at the point guard position for years with a backcourt presence starring Steph Curry and Monta Ellis, both of whom can run an offense. Jackson is not the general manager so he cannot lament over not having a particular player on his roster. This is where the Warriors management comes into the picture.

Lin was cut to make room for the potential signing of restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan. The Warriors successfully accomplished two things this off-season: They drove up the price for the Los Angeles Clippers to re-sign him and managed to give away February’s likely choice as the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for nothing.

The Rockets organization did not hide their feelings towards releasing Lin. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was upset over the decision. On Twitter, Morey told the world how he felt when he tweeted, “We should have kept [Jeremy Lin]. Did not know he was this good.” Should he have anything to regret?

The Rockets are very deep at the point guard position with Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Johnny Flynn, and Terrence Williams who showed glimpses of being able to run the point during his tenure with the Nets. With those guys, Lin wasn’t going to see much, if any time at all, and the Rockets need for a big by the name of Samuel Dalembert superseded any reason to keep Lin on the roster.

Even the Knickerbockers should be counting their blessings. Jeremy Lin was on the verge of being cut by the Knicks too. The Knicks came into the game versus New Jersey on the culmination of a back-to-back-to-back. Their starters were tired and showing signs of fatigue. D’Antoni was left with no choice but to give Lin playing time. And the rest, is LINstory.

Jimmy Lips