STATESIDE: An NBA All-Star cast but the show is falling way flat

Steve Brenner 08:30 28/02/2017
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No protection: Anthony Davis gets to the rim during his record haul of 52 points.

Who wants to watch an NBA training session? Well, simply find a repeat of the All-Star game, kick back and experience the best basketball players going through the paces ad nauseum.

The annual jamboree is supposed to be fun, a welcome respite in the middle of a mentally tiring and physically demanding season. Everyone is smiling. Fans woo their heroes. It’s backslap and high five central.

The All-Star concept is a nice one – the general public voting for who they want to be representing the East and West. Imagine if La Liga or the Premier League did something similar. It’d be great.

Though that’s unfortunately where the interest ends because the action – if you can call it that – is so uncompetitive it makes me shooting hoops against my 18-month-old daughter in the garden seem all blood, guts and thunder.

There’s zero defense. Barely a sweat broken. Just a shedload of crazy dunk attempts and Steph Curry aiming to hit three pointers from so far downtown he’s in the suburbs.

Yes, it’s great for the crowd – in this case the good people of New Orleans – and those watching at home to see LeBron James, Curry, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade Carmelo Anthony et al share some court time.

Yet give it five minutes of everyone ambling around like lost puppies who’d rather be snuggled up at home and you’ll soon lose interest.

For the record, and because everyone has already forgotten, the final score was 192-182 to the West. The MVP was Anthony Davis, the only New Orleans Pelican on show and owner of 52 points. Fancy that.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Davis. For you maybe, but what about the poor souls who paid decent money to witness a glorified game of ‘you score, I score.’

Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry.

Davis’ tally smashed Wilt Chamberlain’s 55-year-old record of 42 though I bet the Philadelphia legend played in clashes which were unrecognisable to the nonsense served up last weekend. Indeed, these games used to be competitive.

Players of a different era were more physical, less friendly and intent on making a mark. In 1987, Hakeem Olajuwon was, incredible to think, fouled out of the game. Would that have happened this time around?

At halftime, no player had more than one foul to his name. The result? There were 189 points scored. Why bother with opponents? Where was the aggression and dynamism on show every night in the NBA?

Well, unfortunately, it has been shut away in the locker since the time in 2012 when Wade smashed Kobe Bryant’s nose. No one wants to see players injured ahead of the crucial final run-in and being named as an All-Star is certainly a great honour.

Few expect a wild, hell for leather encounter. But something needs to be done. Personally, I believe the most interesting action precedes the main event.

Saturday night’s festivities include the skills challenge as well as the three point and slam dunk challenge. Admittedly, it all fell a bit flat this year. The dunking was awful while the shooting lacked serious drama.

At least, however, it’s something different – players seem to take it reasonably seriously as the spotlight burns on their particular skills set.

There are so many matches across the season, who needs another one? NBA bosses surely have to mix everything up. Perhaps just play two halves and put the dunking and three point competitions in between.

Maybe decree that the winners will ensure home court advantage for the Championship finals. That’s been used, admittedly controversially, in baseball for the last few years.

If, for example, the American League wins, their representative will get four World Series home games instead of three.

It’s a dodgy concept with more than a few flaws but there were enough players on show from the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and other teams sure to be fighting it out at the end of the season to make that a viable option.

What else? Double the pay packets on offer to the victors? USA v the Rest of the World? LeBron v Steph in a cage match? Stage it in the pre-season? Don’t stage it at all? Do something. Anything. The best in the world are on show yet the end product is meaningless.

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