By Max Sass, Sports Editor
NBA All Star Saturday night is an event I personally feel is underrated, so in order to show you how much I enjoy it, here is a running diary of the event.
7:57 TNT is preceding the bigger events with the GEICO Horse competition. Not a bad idea, but they are kind of making a joke out of it. I think it has the potential to eventually replace the Haier Shooting Stars challenge which is really just there to make sure everyone knows that their heroes of yester-year are now fat, old and washed up.
This year's even featured Kevin Durant of the Thunder, Rajon Rondo of the Celtics and Omri Casspi of the Kings. Casspi has just been knocked out and the cheering section of the Israeli rookie is extremely disappointed.
This should not even be a competition. Durant is a player who spends all year being the best player on his team who makes difficult shots for his team. Rondo is an extremely talented player and a deserving all star but he spends big games setting up better shooters to hit bigger shots. This should never even be this close. Durant is going to hit every shot he needs to because he is that much better.
Shootout. Rondo misses, Durant makes (thanks to a friendly bounce). Rondo hits, Durant matches. Rondo hits again, Durant matches again. Rondo is just delaying the inevitable.
Rondo misses (has H-O-R-S), Durant hits (again).
8:00 Durant is now 7 for 7, and TNT is certainly, as Charles Barkley has made a point of saying, sweating time.
Eight of eight for Durant.
Eight of nine (H-O-R).
Rondo finally misses one more, has H-O-R-S-E. Durant wins for the second year in a row.
Durant says, "It feels like a game seven of the playoffs." He then adds, "Even though I haven't been there."
On that note, why are people not hopping on the Thunder bandwagon? Is it because Scotty Brooks is not a known commodity? Is it because they are a young team? The Thunder have a legitimate superstar in Durant, who can score 30 points every game and carry a team on his back over a long stretch of time. They have good supporting talent in Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Jeff Green. Lastly, they have an excellent perimeter defender in Thabo Sefalosha, one of the more underrated players in the league and could nullify one of the better guards in the West in the early rounds of the playoffs. Not only will the Thunder make the playoffs this year, I personally believe they will win a first round series.
8:12 Kevin Mchale joins Ernie Johnson and Barkley on the set. Mchale had more low post moves than anybody ever to play the game, which makes you wonder if he would have been good at HORSE. I say no because he would not have been able to shoot outside of the lane like Durant was.
8:13 Barkley is gushing over the Mavs/ Wizards trade. I wonder if he is going to say of the trade, "It rocks, it rocks like the five buck box."
8:14 Mchale is joining Barkley in praising the Mavericks for their trade with the Wizards to acquire Caron Butler. Before he said that, I thought the Mavs got a steal. Now I am just trying to figure out how this is going to backfire in Marc Cuban's face. Let's not forget that Mchale is the guy who traded Kevin Garnett and handed the Celtics a championship. The guy won how many titles for the Celtics as a player, and then he won them another as an executive…for the Timberwolves!
8:20 Johnson and Jason Terry and autotrader.com gave a family with muscular dystrophy a van that will be accessible for wheelchairs. Nice moment. It is a shame Mchale didn't give that car away, he is used to giving things out for free. Ok, enough Mchale jokes. I wonder if he knows Matt Millen. Ok really enough.
8:23 It is announced that Derrick Rose will not be in the Skills Competition due to an injury. Thunder guard Westbrook will replace him. What a shame, I was picking Rose to win. Rose has just an incredible skill set and has been starting to score more often. I don't know whom to pick now. I just know it will not be Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings is a great player, but I don't believe he has thrown a pass all season so it is hard to pick him to hit that difficult outlet pass.
8:26 TNT previewing the dunk contest. As a Knicks fan I would love to see Nate Robinson again, but I still cannot get over the fact that he missed all those dunks that one year. Chris "Birdman" Andersen is the guy who is infamous for missing dunk after dunk in the dunk contest, but if everyone were not rooting for the short underdog then he would be just as infamous. Can't pick Robinson.
8:33 Not to analyze the Shooting Stars competition (my least favorite even of the night) but I think the Atlanta team has an awesome shot to win. Often times it comes down to the veteran hitting a difficult three point shot. Steve Smith looks likes he's still got it. Team LA will not win, because I don't see Pau Gasol hitting that three pointers. I am not picking Sacramento, I just do not see them winning for some reason, even though Webber has a decent shot. Team Texas has a decent shot. I love Becky Hammon. She has to be one of the best female players still playing. Dirk is great too and Kenny Smith has a shot to hit the three. Of course none of my analysis matters because it just comes down to who hits the half courter. My pick: Team Texas.
8:38 Angel McCoughtery misses like five shots in a row for Atlanta. Good thing I did not pick them.
8:39 Steve Smith hits the half courter. Atlanta turns in a disappointing time of 1:47.
8:40 Gasol cannot hit the three. Bad decision to keep him there, another reason LA will not win.
8:41 Brent Barry hits the half court shot at one minute flat. That is a pretty good time. Gasol got bailed out. Difficult time to beat, but I am sticking with Texas.
8:45 Sacramento is up. Evans takes three tries to hit a banker. Webber struggles from the top of the arc. He used to be a terrific shooter, wonder if the knees and age are even worse.
8:46 Nicole Powell hits the half court shot at 1:46 to eliminate Atlanta.
8:49 Smith hits the half-courter for Texas. It took them FOREVER to hit that shot after breezing through the first five. LA vs. Texas in the finals. Sticking with my pick.
8:54 Texas gets to half court in 18 seconds. Impressive and Dirk follows that up with a dagger from half court at 34 seconds. Unreal. LA should not even bother.
8:56 I win, one for one on the night. LA posts an impressive time of 55 seconds, mostly thanks to Pau Gasol hitting the straight away three in just his second try.
8:57 Cheryl Miller interviewing the winning team. Can we just dispense of these shenanigans. Miller was a great player and a good announcer too, but there is just no need for her or anybody to do what she is doing tonight.
9:02 Skills challenge about to start. LOVE Brandon Jennings' flat-top (this is him in high school). I do not think he can win though. I like Westbrook, but for some reason I am not high on him. Nash is the guy I am leaning towards but I feel like he is just such a veteran that he does not want to put in the effort and thinks of this as a joke in a way. I do not love picking Deron Williams, because he is a big point guard not a speed guy, but by process of elimination and because he has won once before, he is the pick. What it comes down to is who can hit that long chest pass after the foul shot.
9:05 The commercial with Lebron's puppet is on for the second time. It is the one about his complicated handshakes. Zydrunas Ilgauskas comes into the barbershop and they do a handshake, but Z has such a ridiculous voice. Is there any chance he is voicing his own puppet? Lebron and Kobe are not, so why would he?
9:08 Westbrook hits the pass on his second try and slams down a dunk with authority to finish at 44.8 seconds. Excellent run by Westbrook, except for the fact that he could not hit that top of the key jump-shot.
9:10 Incredible run by Jennings with one exception. Took him four tries on the long chest pass. If he hits that on the first try he may have had the course record.
9:11 Nash takes over first place with 35 seconds flat. Maybe he is motivated. Is he doing it for Canada? Does he know he cannot win an Olympic medal here?
9:13 A bit too casual by Williams for my liking, but he advances and shows why he has the course record and why he should win. Notice how the two guys who hit the long chest pass on their first try were the ones who advanced?
9:18 Nash gets under 30 seconds. Impressive. Suns owner Robert Sarver is shown applauding. Is he applauding because he knows that this is the only thing his team has a chance of winning because he is potentially one of the worst owners in sports?
9:20 Nash wins. Williams was absolutely killing it until, guess what? The long chest pass. Took Williams five tries, otherwise he would have annihilated Nash's time. I am one for two on the night.
9:21 Cheryl Miller again asking bogus questions. Nash answers very humbly. He impresses me very much, a great player and a good person. An executive from Taco Bell delivers Nash the trophy. Do we think he asked if Denise from the commercials could give it to him, because he feels more comfortable with her?
9:35 Three point competition is about to start. I do not think Paul Pierce or Chauncey Billups are going to win, I see them more as off the dribble scorers rather than spot up shooters. Defending champ Daequan Cook has been shooting something like 20% from three-point land this season so I cannot pick him. Channing Frye is a center and while that may be a nice story, I do not think he can really shoot those threes one right after each other consistently. Gallinari and Stephen Curry are the other two competitors. I want to take Gallinari because everyone else is taking Curry, but I just cannot see a Knick winning. The pick is Curry. Wait, Robinson has won the dunk contest. Scratch my Curry pick, he has many wins ahead of him. My pick is Gallinari. For real this time.
9:39 Just got the game notes from Hofstra's win over UNCW tonight. Headline was "Vines three-point barrage leads Hofstra past UNC Wilmington." Is that a sign that I got that just as the three-point contest was starting. Hopefully that was a sign that Gallinari is going to win. Am I just grasping at straws? Probably, but Vines has struggled badly all year so good to hear he had a good game (ties school record with seven three-pointers in one game) and wanted to give him a mention.
9:42 Smith just said, "Pierce is a scorer not a shooter." Why am I not broadcasting this event? Pierce finishes with 17, which is actually a pretty good round to start off with.
9:45 Billups finishes with 17 as well. Started out hitting his first four and then missed the money ball. Stephen Curry is up; let's see if the hype is right.
9:46 Curry looks good. He has a very pretty shooting stroke and nice rotation on his shot. He finishes with 18, but only hit one money ball out of the five. Let's see if he can settle down in the second round. I am already regretting picking against him.
9:52 Gallinari eliminated after he only puts in 15. Darn it. I should have picked Curry. I am one for three on the night.
9:56 Daequan Cook and Channing Frye are both eliminated. I appreciate that the league is trying to bring in a new breed of young stars, but why is Ray Allen not in this competition? The guy can still shoot with the best of them.
10:01 Pierce puts up 20 in the tiebreaker round. While he was shooting the announcers are arguing over whether or not Pierce is one of the ten best players in Celtics history. Pierce is one of the 10 greatest Celtics.
10:05 Pierce wins the three-point contest. I really did not think he was going to be able to do it, but he proves me wrong (maybe I need to stop giving him motivation). I wonder what unnecessary questions Cheryl Miller will ask this time.
10:06 She asks what Kevin Garnett said to Pierce before he shot. Pierce gives a generic answer. I was hoping Garnett said, "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
10:12 Dunk contest is about to start. Nate Robinson is looking to become the first ever three-time dunk contest champ. All of these guys are high-risers and can really get up. Like I said before, I do not think Robinson will win it. I cannot get all those misses out of my head. The other thing about Robinson, is that he is not a great story anymore. The first time he was just a little guy and the under dog. Then he came up with the Krypto-Nate thing and it was good, but I do not think a gimmick will work this year or even if he has a gimmick left. Demar Derozan got in through last night's dunk-in against Eric Gordon. I wonder if Derozan has anything left or if he is going to be out of great dunks. Gerald Wallace is an incredibly athletic leaper and is young enough and talented and creative enough to win. I cannot pick him though, because I cannot pick against Shannon Brown. Brown is just too athletic and creative to lose. The other thing is, I cannot get his 2003 McDonald's high school dunk contest out of my mind. He was just crazy good then. My pick is Brown.
10:20 The announcers just said Derozan dunked for the first time when he was 11 years old. Darn, he has a 9-year head start on me, seeing as I am 20, but I will eventually get there. Derozan gets his dunk down. Pretty good dunk. I liked it a lot, but I am not sure if there was enough emphasis on the throw down. I give it a 9 out of 10. Judges give it a 42.
10:22 Here comes my guy Shannon Brown. Incredible idea on the one hand 360 but he cannot finish it. Very similar to high school. Second try he switches hands mid-air and dunks with his left hand. I give it a 7. Judges give it a 37.
10:24 Gerald Wallce, the Charlotte Bobcats' first ever all star put in a nice dunk. Not great, I would give it a 7. Looks like he was trying to do the dunk Dominique Wilkins did where he puts the ball down low then reverse dunks (fast forward to the 45 second mark in here) but it was not nearly as effective. All three guys who have gone so far have needed two tries to complete their first dunk. Judges give it a 38.
10:25 Good idea for a dunk by Robinson as he tries to do a self tossed two handed windmill. Takes him three tries to complete the dunk, which took a lot away from the dunk. I give it an 8. Judges give Robinson a 44.
10:30 Shannon Brown picks Kobe Bryant as his partner to help him complete a dunk. Why would you pick Kobe? Why wouldn't you pick someone who regularly has practice passing, AKA not Kobe. Brown completes a pretty standard alley-oop. Great hand time, but I am not sure what was so special about it. I give it a 6. Judges give it a 41.
10:32 Where is the creativity? Gerald Wallace does a decent dunk but nothing special. I say 7. Judges decide on 40.
10:33 Derozan is being assisted by Sonny Weems. Who? Is that Cher' s ex-husband?
10:34 Awesome dunk by Derozan combines a lot of elements and finishes with a windmill. First 10 of the night from me and I could not have been more wrong about Derozan. Not only is not out of tricks, I bet he has a bunch more left in the bag. I am switching my pick to him. Well, according to my rules that I created I cannot switch, but know that Derozan will take home this trophy. Judges give him 10's across the board for a 50.
10:35 Another Kobe situation. Nobody on the Knicks knows how to pass. All they do under D'antoni is shoot. I like Robinson's dunk and I give it a 9. The Judges give it a 45. Derozan vs. Robinson in the finals. Should be interesting to see who brings out the big guns. Someone is going to have to jump over something. I hope it is Derozan who does it.
10:42 Ok, Nate has another gimmick. He is bringing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders out on the floor. Tries a dunk and gets rejected by the rim. Why are the cheerleaders here? -- USE THEM! Jump over them or something. Robinson decides he cannot complete his original dunk and changes it up. I say 7. Actually, I am taking another point off for teasing us with the cheerleaders. He gets a 6 from me.
10:43 Derozan is my new favorite player. Well at least for tonight. Not only did he jump over someone, he did it after an alley-oop. Unfortunately TNT decided to cut to Gerald Wallace's face while he was finishing the dunk. I say it is a 10. Scratch that, replay shows that his passer ducked. I say 9.
10:45 Nate throws it off the backboard and reverse slams. Pretty good dunk for someone his size. Robinson then goes and takes the cheerleader's pom-poms and celebrates. I give it a 9, but I am taking one point off because the celebration was not original (does this look familiar? – go to 1:39 in). Robinson gets an 8 from me.
10:47 An average dunk from Derozan gets a 7 from me. My vote goes to Derozan. I will keep my fingers crossed.
10:51 Cheryl Miller asks Derozan and Robinson a few questions. I learned absolutely nothing.
10:52 Robinson wins with 51 percent of the vote. Close vote, but Nate just did not do it for me tonight. See what happens when you trust fans with a vote? Just overall, not a good show tonight for the NBA in terms of dunking. I want Lebron. They need him to spice it up next year after tonight's lackluster showing.
10:54 Just got a text from a friend. "Who would win a dunk contest between the guys on the Hofstra basketball team?" Good question. Since you asked, I can answer.
Let's do this by process of elimination. Paul Bilbo, Mike Moore and Brad Kelleher have yet to step on the floor, so they cannot win. Matt Grogan has yet to show me he can get above the rim, he does not win. I am going to eliminate Cornelius Vines. He is purely a shooter and does not look like a guy who can fly. Miklos Szabo is also a no-go and I should not even need to explain why to you. David Imes has been hurt and does not look like an above the rim guys either. That leaves Chaz Williams, Yves Jules, Charles Jenkins, Nathaniel Lester, Halil Kanacevic and Greg Washington.
Kanacevic can definitely dunk hard and he is a powerful dunker. I think he would be able to maybe hold his own, but I have trouble seeing him being able to do anything artistic or creative. He seems like more of a power dunker and unfortunately that will not win my contest.
Greg Washington can definitely throw down and throw down hard. He would have to be a Dwight Howard type dunker and I am not sure if he has it in him. He has the long arms and body but does he have the hops? I say Washington may have one or two great dunks but cannot compete with the little guys.
Charles Jenkins probably could win anything he wants, he is that good. I am disqualifying Jenkins though, because the team would be completely lost without him so I am taking him out of my contest (no matter real or fake) to prevent and injury.
Lester is a guy who you just are not quite sure what you will get from him in a contest like this. He definitely has the hops and the athleticism along with the power to do it, but I wonder if he has the creativity. I feel like Lester would struggle to do something great instead of just good, plus while he can jump I am not sure he can compete with Jules and Williams who can jump out of the roof. I say Lester comes in third.
Jules is a guard who leaps like he is on the moon. He knows how to get airborne and can certainly create in the air. He has the ability to throw it down hard and I think he would definitely put on a great show. I think he comes up just short though because of Williams.
Williams is a little guys (so a great story and the underdog) and I feel like what separates him from Jules is the attitude. Williams just had that tough guy persona that makes him so much more dangerous and exciting as he is flying through the air. He would throw down hard and would certainly spare no one on his way to victory. Williams is my champ.
11:00 I am angry about the dunk contest. Hopefully tomorrow night's all-star game will make up for it.