It's pouring rain in Los Angeles, but the NBA is hoping to heat up Staples Center with tonight's NBA All Star festivities. The NFL may be America's game, but at HifFix NBA talk dominates so we thought we'd give some love to the Dunk Contest, the 3-Pt shoot out, the Skills Challenge and, um, the Shoot Out (although we love those WNBA players). Plus, chances are Charles Barkley is gonna say something that will make Commissioner David Stern wince. Let's get started...
Full disclosure: You'll be reading this live blog through the eyes of a...Los Angeles Clippers fan (although I grew up a New York Knicks fan before moving to LA in the 90s). Yes, I've seen Griffin play in person. Yes, he's amazing (think Shaq's power with Shawn Kemp's athleticism). Yes, you should go see him if he hits your hometown. But, I actually don't think he's gonna win the dunk contest tonight. Too much hype, too busy a month. I'd place your money on DeMar DeRozan last year's runner up.
5:32 PM PST
TNT announcer Kevin Harlan just said "Academy Award winners" in the as they showed Andy Garcia in the crowd. Um, no...
SHOOTING STARS COMPETITION
In any event, it's time for that magical and uncomfortable moment where the NBA meets the WNBA! Ladies and gents, your Shooting Star's rundown tonight!
Team Atlanta: Al Horford (Hawks), Coco Miller (WNBA's Atlanta Dream), Steve Smith (Legend)
Team Chicago: Taj Gibson (Bulls), Cathrine Kraayveld (WNBA's Chicago Sky), Steve Kerr (Legend)
Team Los Angeles: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Tina Thompson (WNBA's L.A. Sparks), Rick Fox (Legend)
Team Texas: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Roneeka Hodges (WNBA's S.A. Silver Stars), Kenny Smith (Legend)
(Are Steve Kerr and Rick Fox really legends? I mean, they were nice parts of championship teams, but we're not talking Robert Horry here. I mean Tina Thompson is a legend, she has two Olympic Gold medals and four WNBA Championships...)
Team Atlanta is up! Are you confused yet? Lots of misses. Lots and lots of misses. If you were to tell me Al Horford was going to make the longest shot I wouldn't have believed it. Get that man out of the post Larry Drew!
Team Chicago! Lookin' great until they got till the end with the longshot. Isn't this what the WNBA player is for? Reggie Miller is right. That's a tad embarrassing Mr. Gibson. Too many airballs. Kerr mercifully ends their round by hitting the long range shot.
Gotta be honest. Stern's annual All-Star press conference was more exiting than the Shooting Stars competition. Save us Dirk Nowitzki!
Team LA! Rick Fox is holding the team back as Thompson and Gasol easily hit their three. Fox then redeems himself by hitting the long range shot to avoid elimination.
[Can anyone figure this point system out except the person who came up with it? Wasn't it better when they just played 3 on 3?]
Team Texas! Kenny Smith talks the talk and hits his first half court shot pushing Texas to the finals. We've got weeks to hear Smith brag about it on TNT's Inside the NBA. Sigh.
[We're getting tons of TNT's "Falling Skies" commercials tonight. Note to TNT: You might want to hold off on all this promo until after "Battle: LA " opens. Especially since "Skies" doesn't hit till June. Besides the logo they look pretty similar. Just sayin'.]
Team Atlanta vs. Team Texas for the, um, title.
Team Atlanta barely finishes without embarrassing themselves. It is hard to believe Texas won't win this. All they have to beat 1:10.
And somehow...Texas blows it at the big shot. Nowitski had more airballs in :30 than he'd had in two seasons. Atlanta wins! Atlanta wins! Obviously a trophy the Hawks will showcase in their arena. Perhaps a parade?
[Dear NBA: Can we go back to 3 on 3? Please? How about a Legends game?]
OK, we actually have a chance to have an interesting competition here. It's not as popular as its NHL equivalent,but it pits a number of top point guards against each other for a trophy they won't remember winning on Monday. But, they are playing for some kid who get a $30,000 scholarship if they win, can't knock that right? Your contestants:
Tough call, here, but I'm going with Curry or Rose.
Stephen Curry is first. He misses his first two attempts at a three which slows him down overall. His 1st round score: 34.1 seconds
Russell Westbrook is next. Misses his first bounce pass, but hits his first 3. He beats Curry with a 1st round score of 30 seconds.
John Wall is up. He has trouble with the passes - yikes. He might have the worst score of the night when its all over 39.3 seconds.
2009 champ Derrick Rose is up next. He took too long and came behind Curry with 35.7 seconds.
Chris Paul misses the layup! Eek! He's out of it before he gets half way through. 42.7 Great shot of his competitors laughing at the missed layup.
Your finals: Curry vs. Westbrook. Why do we think the latter was holding back on his first go around?
12-year-old Steph Curry is up first. (Just kidding, he's got to be at least 14). Curry has a much better round, he improves on his first time with a 28.2 seconds score.
Westbrook is dead by the time he misses his 3 pointer the first time. He finishes with 42.2 seconds.
Your champ: Stephen Curry of the Golden States Warriors. Look how happy the girl he played with for who got a $30,000 scholarship. Sweet.
Curry gets his trophy which looks amazingly just like the Shooting Stars trophy. Hope they gave him the right one. [Anyone notice Curry's voice doesn't match his face? It's like an older person is dubbing him.]
In order to drag the night out as long as possible until we get to the 3-PT shootout and Dunk Contest, Cee-Lo is on hand to perform "Forget U." He performed the same song with the Muppets and Gwyneth Paltrow in the same building just six days ago. To be honest, we'd expect this from the NFL or MLB, not the NBA. No disrespect to Lo, but wasn't Rihanna or Drake available? How about Katy Perry? Bieber?
[Note: After seeing a TV spot for "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son" we just realized if you stayed home to watch tonight's festivities you made the right choice.]
THREE POINT CONTEST
Yay! A real competition. This year's competitors.
*Nice boos from the Staples Center crowd for the LA native. Can't wait till Carmelo Anthony's intro tomorrow during the All-Star game.
Cheryl Miller asks Pierce why he's being booed. Pierce wants to know why his teammate Allen isn't being booed too. (Good question).
Charles Barkley has joined the announcers, but his voice sounds gone. Boo. Kenny Smith makes a good point about how flat foot shooters do better in this competition than jump shooters - usually. Barkley is going with Dorell Wright calling him a "Sleeper."
James Jones of the Miami Heat is up first. He's got three money balls. He ends up with 16. Reggie Miller correctly notes, "Not bad."
Daniel Gibson of the Cleveland Cavaliers is second. Ouch. He finished second in the 2008 contest, but he has a horrible start. He has a terrible round. 7. Yes, 7. I can't remember such a low score.
Ray Allen shows how its done with 20 points. 'Nuff said.
After a quick commercial break...we're back!
Kevin Durant is up. It's clear the 3 is not really his shot. And, wow, he scores a 6. That's lower than Gibson! Ouch. As Miller and Smith note, this is not how he normally shoots. Big difference.
Dorell Wright starts off strong, but gets cold very quick. He ends up with 11.
Pierce almost blows it! He gets 12 just barely knocking out Wright.
Paul Pierce is the first contestant in the final round. He is much better this time around with 18.
James Jones knocks out Paul Pierce with 20. Can Ray Allen beat his first round score and repeat?
Nope. He just gets 15 this time around.
Heat beats Celtics! Heat beat Celtics! Is this a sign for the outcome of the Eastern Conference Finals?
DeMar DeRozan Toronto G 6-7 220
Blake Griffin L.A. Clippers F 6-10 251
Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City F-C 6-10 235
JaVale McGee Washington C 7-0 252
Wasn't LeBron supposed to be a participant this year? Oh, well. At least the Nate Robinson/Dwight Howard circus is over.
Oh, wait...we have another musical interlude. Far East Movement ft. Miguel. Um, who are these guys? I'm either going to have to hit wikipedia or get HitFix's music mavens Melinda Newman or Katie Hasty on the phone.
Our first Carmelo update via Marc Stein on Twitter...looks like Carmelo Anthony met with the Nets today. No word on whether he said he'd sign an extension or not.
Back to the Dunk contest...
NBA has decided to do a whole hyped up intro for the Dunk Contest. Um, OK. This really wasn't necc. Blake Griffin comes out last with a #1 in the air.*
*Note, that's the largest cheer any Clipper has ever received outside of a Clipper game. History!
[Judging by Twitter, if Griffin loses this there are going to be a lot of disappointed bandwagon fans. No pressure Blake!]
Historical note: Griffin would not be the first Clipper to win an NBA Slam Dunk contest. That would be Brent Barry back in 1996.
Griffin as sly and witty as he can be tells Cheryl Miller Kenny Smith hasn't done anything to help him.
Your judges: Clyde Drexler, James Worthy, Brent Barry (former Clipper!), Dominique Wilkens and, of course, Dr. J.
Up first: DeMar DeRozen.
Misses first time.
Misses second time.
Misses third time.
Fourth time. Goes off the backboard extension and through his legs and puts it down. Unfortuately the crowd was out of it.
Brings out NBA Africa banners and flags. He then does the free throw dunk. Impressive he got it in, but barely. He took off behind the line which is impressive though.
Reasoning: Just not powerful enough.
Looks a bit nervous. Webber comes out and brings out a higher basket to have McGee dunk on a higher stand? No, it looks like he's gonna dunk on two separate baskets. He's gotta have really long arms to pull this off.
He misses the first time (?). Needs both balls to go in.
He misses the second time.
He misses the third time.
He tries a different tactic and misses the fourth time.
He finally gets it on the last take. Impressive. Especially in slow motion.
He misses a 360 the first time.
He misses a 360 the second time.
He makes the 260 the third time.
Oh, me, oh, my.
Barkley is right, it might not have been the best first round ever.
DeMar DeRozen #2
"The showstopper" according to Daryl Dawkins.
On the first try, DeRozen does a bounce left handed reverse dunk. Tough, tough, tough to pull off.
Overall score: 94
Serge Ibaka #2
A little kid comes out and says his toy is stuck in the basket. Ibaka says he's gonna go get it. Ibaka goes from behind the basket. He grabs the toy with his mouth, but misses the dunk. Time is wasting as the toy has to be put back up. Oh, wait. They stop the clock (strange rules here). Taking a long time to put the toy up.
Ibaka gets it on the second attempt.
Overall score: 90
Blake Griffin #2
Kenny Smith says no props or bunnies for Griffin. Baron Davis is out there for an assist though.
He misses his attempt to dunk off the side three times. Sigh. The first two were a 360. He misses five times. Baron is giving him bad passes.
He misses a seventh time!
He gets it the 7th time. Will he make the finals?
Overall score: 96
JaVale McGee #2
He's doing a three-ball dunk. And here comes his mom, Pam McGee! She brings him a red, white and blue ball.
His mom gives the judges hugs and kisses. Did Dr. J go a bit too far?
John Wall is on hand to help him get the third ball. He misses the first two times. This is complicated.
He misses a number of times. He gets it at the end, but did he hold on to the rim?
Overall score: 99
Finals: Blake Griffin vs. JaVale McGee
Yes fans, feel sorry for JaVale McGee because he's tall! Uh, no. Love how Barkley can't stop laughing at that comment. But the champ is up to you to vote for!
Blake Griffin #1
Dunks with the ball off the basket with a lob and puts his whole arm in the rim! Ouch! We got 30 more games to play Griffin
JaVale McGee #1
Misses the first time. Goes under the basket and throws it down. Impressive.
[I think Kenny is gonna lose this for Griffin.]
Blake Griffin #2
Here comes a KIA car...that Griffin will dunk over? Egad. The fears of Clipper Nation! Now, the Crenshaw Choir comes out. My lord...literally. The choir is singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly."
And Griffin dunks over a car. TNT almost missed it.
The tough part about it? If Baron missed the pass he would have had to grab the rim.
JaVale McGee #2
Can McGee top Griffin's last? It's your choice fans. Vote here.
So, he did a 360, but they say it wasn't a dunk? Ref says, "no."
He changes his dunk and bounces it off the glass and dunks it.
Hmmmm. What do you think?
And the winner is...with 68% of the vote from around the world...Blake Griffin. Not. Even. Close.
I love Griffin, but that's NBA marketing power at work! It's faaaannnnntastic.
Griffin dedicates this to his best friend who passed away last Wednesday. "I hope I made him proud."
I'm sure Wiz and OKC fans will say their men were robbed, but they weren't as consistent throughout the night.
And that's it! Enjoy the All-Star Game tomorrow. Chances are some defense will be played in the fourth quarter.
What did you think of tonight's All-Star Saturday night overall? Share your thoughts below.