TCC Diary: NBA All-Star Weekend 2013

With February fast approaching, love is in the air… for the NBA All-Star Weekend, 2015. This year’s event will be held in Brooklyn, NY. Take a look back at TCC’s All-Star diary from Houston, 2013, including an exclusive VIDEO of NBA shoutouts to Irish Fans:

TCC are currently in Houston, Texas, for the 2013 NBA All-Star weekend. Andrew Sanders and Tony McGaharan will be going behind the scenes to bring you exclusive coverage from the NBA’s biggest event of the year.

Day Three:

So that is that.  The West defeated the East, with CP3 dominant (20 points and 15 assists, along with a nice nutmeg on Chris Bosh).  Kobe was giving LeBron the full 94 feet late in the game, emphasising that this showboat contest had become just a contest by the fourth quarter.

Highlights/lowlights include: Dwight Howard hitting a half court hook pre-game; Dwight Howard hitting a three, doing the Noah gun-holster celebration and promptly getting subbed; Tim Duncan throwing down hard during his limited minutes; Blake Griffin only missing two FGs because all he did was dunk; Paul George hitting some late threes to bring the East back into the contest; Garnett hardly playing in his “last” ASG; Kyrie not getting the chance to school his veteran opponents as he had Brandon Knight.

Two big disappointments were the lukewarm applause given to Bill Russell (again) and the fact that birthday boy Michael Jordan, who was reportedly in Houston on Saturday night, didn’t show.  If Michael had been spotted court side in a LeBron James jersey, my ASG experience would have been complete.  Or, if he’d snuck onto the East bench to play the last 2 minutes.  Or, if he’d dressed as a referee, taken the ball and gone at it one-on-one with any of the players.

Most disappointing was the fact that the game wasn’t full.  The Rockets struggle to get large crowds to their regular seasons games, which is crazy given how great they are at the moment, so it wasn’t really a surprise to see the lower bowl with plenty of space.  But it was the All Star Game.  I don’t know what restrictions prevent the Toyota Center from just moving people down to fill the lower bowl, but surely something could be put in place to allow seats to be given to someone else if a ticket holder hasn’t arrived by, say, the six minute mark in the second quarter.

All Star 2013 has been a great experience and TCC would like to thank our friends at ESPN and the NBA for facilitating our participation.  We hope to do it all over again in New Orleans 2014.

Keep it with The Courtside Collective for our video highlights of the weekend.  We have upcoming interviews with Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Luol Deng, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Coach Spoelstra, James White, Stephen Curry, Maya Moore, Tina Thompson, Chandler Parsons, Andrew Nicholson, Tyler Zeller and Anthony Davis.

Today is the main event: the 2013 All Star game.  TCC’s Houston presence has halved thanks to the premature departure of Tony McGaharan, but our man in Texas will be on the spot to report on tonight’s game.  In the meantime, here is what happened yesterday…

Day Two:

Day Two was another busy day for your roving reporters, always on the ball to bring you exclusive access to your favourite NBA players.  Unless your favourite NBA player is, like Carmelo Anthony’s kid, LeBron James.  It is almost impossible to get a question to this guy.  You’ve probably seen pics of TCC stood right next to him.  No luck.  I guess people are just determined to ask him about how he compares to Jordan.  He has to be sick of these questions by now.  The most frustrating this is that we had some really good, original questions for him about his foundation and his business interests.  Oh well…

First, another lesson from Day One…

Lesson Five: NBA players are young, man.  You watch Manimal on TV and he looks like a man.  Then you see him in the flesh and he just looks young.  Damien Lillard…young.  Kyrie Irving…young.  Anthony Davis…young.  Even the older guys are younger than me.  I guess it’s time to put that NBA dream behind me.  But maybe if Coach Spo could see me shoot a couple of J’s…

The crazy thing about watching these guys go at it in the Rising Stars game, or even during the walk-through practice sessions, is that they are just so good.  The funny thing is that there is not a huge gulf between the Americans who come to play in the UK and Ireland and the guys who make it in the NBA.  Luck definitely plays a part for some guys – let’s not forget that Reggie Evans and Joel Anthony play in the NBA.  But the main difference for many is simply that these guys do not miss.  You or I might never miss a lay-up, but the key difference is that these guys never miss open shots and rarely miss even when guarded by the enormous human beings who make up their opponents in the NBA.

Tony asked the question “if you played in an NBA game, could you get a shot off?” which is very interesting in the context of actually sitting, watching these guys practice up close.  It’s not easily answered though.  If I came in late in a blow-out, I’m sure I could get an open look at a long jump shot.  Whether I’d make it is another matter.  If, however, I was starting and being guarded for 80 feet by someone like LeBron (with whom I actually share very similar height and weight numbers…the similarities end there sadly), then the answer is a very clear no.  I’d be pulled out of that game quicker than that fake George Weah who blagged a game for Southampton a few years back.

So, to the day’s proceedings…

We met up mid-morning and headed straight for the All Star Media Availability.  This time, we had all the All-Stars lined up in barbers chairs.  Interestingly, they sat in front of banners emblazoned with their names.  Like we couldn’t have done with those for the Rising Stars!

We camped roughly in between Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett, an interesting alignment of stars given the rumours about the latter potentially joining the former before this week’s trade deadline.  We ended up somewhat boxed out of KG’s crowd, but that only slid us across to the Paul-Blake Griffin area, which was of course absolutely fine.  KG was somewhat hostile to the early questions on his potential trade, but TCC did manage to get Chris Paul to comment on his co-All Star (video coming soon).  Chris Paul was a real gent and we got a few exclusive words from Little Chris as well.

We then slid over to Blake Griffin who, rather oddly, was sat silently.  I don’t know why people would camp in front of a player with no questions to ask.  TCC, ever alert, jumped right in.  We warned Blake, perhaps the most spectacular dunker in the game today, that the Rising Stars had been booed for declining to dunk on the fast break: “I don’t want to get booed at the All Star Game”…so if Blake puts one down with authority tonight, you know who to thank.

The advantage of this particular set up – with all the players in a long line – is that you are only really competing with four other people to get a question to a player.  At the Day One media availability session the players were at desks and therefore surrounded by a crowd at least seven or eight wide (and multiple persons deep), but here a little bit of good timing could get you right in front of a player.  We used this to our advantage and got straight in front of Carmelo Anthony, who spoke a little bit about the experience of working with St Galls’ legend Dave Hopla as well as his views on the All Star experience.  I have to say, I genuinely did not expect Carmelo to be as cool as he was.  We then swooped in to talk to Dwyane Wade.  Who was as cool as I expected.  Our time at the media session ran out before we could sneak in to talk to LeBron.

Afterwards it was the D-League All Star Event, which was reasonably competitive and featured some former colleague greats like Dajuan Summers, Henry Sims and Chris Wright (Georgetown), Shelvin Mack (Butler), DJ Kennedy (St Johns), Marcus Landry (Wisconsin) and eventual MVP Travis Leslie from Georgia.  The dunk contest, at half time of the D-League All Star game was impressive in parts, particularly in hindsight after the relative disappointment of the “proper” dunk contest.  It was won by Tony Mitchell of the Mad Ants, although the dunk of the contest may have been Dar Tucker’s windmill OVER 7-foot team-mate Jerome Jordan.

Following this event, we retreated to the media workroom, deep in the bowels of the Toyota Center.  We met with TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott (our exclusive chat with him is forthcoming) before taking our seats in the Media Section for the Saturday night “skills contest”.  This took the form of an overall East vs West contest, with points accrued (along with individual prizes) for the Shooting Stars contest, the Skills Challenge, the 3 point contest and the dunk contest.

The interesting thing about the media section was that we didn’t actually have seats.  We are eternally grateful for everything that ESPN and the NBA have done for us, but we were not allocated seats in the arena to watch the event.  That’s seats plural, we were allocated a single seat in the upper deck between the two of us.  So, taking our chances, we met up with our buddy, and former Belfast resident, Jeff Lind from Salt City Hoops (http://saltcityhoops.com) and “borrowed” some empty seats.  The media section never filled up at any point over the course of the evening, thanks largely to the fact that it is located behind the video wall and so your view is frequently obscured.  Tony was very disappointed to miss Ellie Goulding’s performance.

So, to the evenings “events”…

The shooting stars contest is considerably less interesting in person than it is on television.  The skills challenge is considerably less interesting in person than it is on television.  The 3 point contest is cons…well, you see where this is going.  All Star Saturday is an event that you are far better off viewing from the comfort of your own home.  Unless, you happen to have acquired a seat somewhere in the vicinity of Fall Out Boy, P Diddy, Chris Tucker, Drake, Ne-Yo, Queen Latifah and Bill Russell (who, rather oddly and disappointingly, received less applause from the audience when shown on the giant video screen than any of the other “celebrities”).

The 3 point contest was somewhat surprisingly won by Kyrie Irving, a man who is having an incredible All Star weekend, beating Matt Bonner and Steve Novak, not to mention Stephen Curry.  Irving’s final round 23 ranks among the all-time greats and only reminds us all what a frightening talent the second year man out of Duke (remember when we all thought that his half-season college career might damage his pro-prospects?  How foolish we all were) is.  I can’t wait for him to take his talents to South Beach.

The dunk contest was interesting enough, but we have to own up to extreme disappointment that TCC favourite, James White, was knocked out early.  He just missed a Michael Jordan-free-throw-line tribute dunk (complete with “flight” crew – geddit?) first time around and his second attempt was from a few inches over the stripe – 45 points.  Gerald Green and Terence Ross both scored 50 first time round, making James’s second attempt all the more important.  He could put down a highly complicated dunk attempt (nor could Green, who went to the effort of cutting down the net only to make the final effort which did not count!) so Ross advanced to face Jeremy Evans in the final round.

Oh, and we also met Chris Mullin…

James White – Sprite Slam Dunk Contestant – EXCLUSIVE TCC Interview

Tonight sees what would be the highlight of the All Star weekend for many: the Dunk Contest.  While few All Star Games tend to stick in the memory, most of us remember the specifics of several historic dunk contests.  Michael Jordan and Dr J going from the free throw line (not at the same time of course); Vince Carter’s…well take your pick, really; Dwight Howard dressing as superman; Nate Robinson leaping twice the height of himself.  The game itself can often flatter to deceive, with players often reluctant to go all out in the midst of a hectic season, but you can never deny that the players involved in the dunk contest are giving their all.

Go to youtube, click on the search bar and enter the following: Unbelievable Free Throw Line Dunks.  There, you will find James White.

White has had an interesting career, playing in the D-League, Russia and Italy before recently settling with the New York Knicks.

Tonight, he will compete against holder Jeremy Evans, Gerald Green, Terence Ross, Eric Bledsoe and our new favourite player, Kenneth “Manimal” Faried.

He is represented by former Belfast Tropic, Daniel Curtin, who had such a good time during his year in Belfast that he hooked TCC up with an interview with arguably his most famous and fleet-footed client.

Also, check out the aforementioned “unbelievable” dunk here:

Day One:

BBVA Rising Stars Game

The first game of All Star weekend is the former Rookies vs Sophomores game, which now takes the form of a game between sides composed of both first and second year players, selected on the basis of a draft system by the two “head coaches” (in reality the two are more like GMs, but little coaching ever takes place), Shaq and Chuck – Charles Barkley.  The game was somewhat interesting throughout, thanks largely to the intensity of Denver Nugget Kenneth “Manimal” Faried and the athleticism of he and his fellow competitors, but mid way through the second half, a real battle broke out between childhood friends and opponents, Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons.

This contest led to this:

The game was notable for Faried breaking 30 points for the very first time: Manimal totalling 40 points, including a series of showboating dunks late on.  TCC caught up with Irving the following day to ask him about this:

Well that was interesting!  We are just out of our first NBA All Star Media Availability session and what an experience it was.  The day started with a quick look at the Rising Stars Team Shaq practice session before ducking round the back into the Team Chuck media availability.

Lesson 1: make sure you know what guys look like.  When it comes to the Rising Stars, a few of the players were very obvious.  We got a good chat with Anthony Davis along with Bradley Beal and Andrew Nicholson.  We also had a couple of moments with Isaiah Thomas, who seemed to be getting grilled on the possibility of returning to Seattle with the potentially sold Sacramento Kings.  We also got a good, um, look at Ricky Rubio, but the Rubio interview was our first taste of the reality of media sessions at these events.  Namely, the biggest stars are practically inaccessible.  The other guys, the guys you’ve heard of but can’t put a name to…you really need to know who they are.

When Team Shaq came out, we went straight for my lost identical (ten years younger) twin, Tyler Zeller.  He was a really cool guy, answered a bunch of our questions, no matter how silly they were and took a picture for posterity.  Know who else was a lovely dude?  Chandler Parsons.  I’d let him date my daughter.  If I had one.  He could date my son, but there are a lot of assumptions inherent in that offer.  We got a few questions in with Kemba Walker (who bizarrely was being grilled on Isaiah Thomas as well).

Lesson 2: the rookies and sophomores are a little more genuine than the real stars.  They aren’t as “media savvy” and it’s a good thing. That however suggests that we didn’t get good chats with the “real” stars, which isn’t completely accurate.

We then went to the opposite end of the convention center where we met with former Irish international Marty Conlon (entirely by accident!) who we will try to hook up with tomorrow for a proper chat.

From there, it was into the adjoining hotel for the Saturday participants media availability session.  We had a really good chat with a genuine WNBA legend, Tina Thompson and Maya Moore, who is also a really nice person.  Feeling fired up, we decided to pass on the scrum around Jeremy Lin (see below) and went to talk to Robert Horry and Sam Cassell.

Lesson 3: Some journalists are just plain rude.  I was all set to follow the convention and jump in with a question as soon as Big Shot Rob finished the previous question only to be shushed by some douche.  Like he had some sort of divine right to ask as many questions as he wanted.  If you hear about a journalist at the All Star game mysteriously falling down some stairs, please be ready to give me an alibi.

The real shame is that Horry seemed to be a phenomenal interview.  Ah well, lesson learned.

From there, it was the “big” stars.  We have some incredible footage from these two sessions,

Lesson 4: sometimes, it pays to be lucky.  We were standing by an empty table, working out our plan of attack, when the NBA media person changed the name card from Kevin Durant to Lebron James.  We therefore had prime position for Lebron, but got shouted out of a question by Heat TV…another irritant given they must get the chance to talk to him multiple times a season.  Lebron was talking about the issue of rings, something which I find rather odd given it has the inherent assumption that winning championships is somehow easy.

Final highlight for the morning/early afternoon session.  I met Mike Wilbon.  What a nice dude he is.

Linsanity

Linsanity

Steph Curry

Steph Curry

Everyone was all about Kobe

Everyone was all about Kobe

TD

TD

The Basketball Jones' (TBJ)

The Basketball Jones’ (TBJ)

Perhaps, one of my favourite moments of the day... Rick fox poking fun at Kobe for sitting in the wrong spot... "Can Kobe not read?"

Perhaps, one of my favourite moments of the day… Rick fox poking fun at Kobe for sitting in the wrong spot… “Can Kobe not read?”

Andy's doppelgänger?

Andy’s doppelgänger?

Lopez was in Belfast this past summer - stay tuned for interview video

Lopez was in Belfast this past summer – stay tuned for interview video

The Courtside Collective

The Courtside Collective

Pre-Game – Background of the ASW

The first NBA All Star game was held at Boston Garden on 2 March 1951, using the convention of a fan vote for the starting lineups and a “coaches choice” for the reserves – a system still adhered to in 2013.  The origin of the idea was a meeting between then-NBA President Maurice Podoloff, its publicity director Haskell Cohen and the owner of the Boston Celtics, Walter A. Brown.

The basketball world had just been rocked by the points shaving scandal in college basketball and the three men felt that something was needed to draw fans back to the league.

Modeled on the All Star Game in Major League Baseball, the best players from either conference (rather than the respective leagues in baseball) met with the Eastern Conference triumphant by 111-94.

Despite low confidence in the event, Brown was fully committed and his commitment was rewarded with a crowd in excess of 10,000, nearly treble that season’s average attendance.

To date, the Eastern Conference has won 36 games to the West’s 25, although the West, arguably the stronger of the two conferences, has won the last two games.  The last seven All Star Game MVPs all feature this weekend in Houston (Lebron James twice, Kobe Bryant thrice, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant) along with the MVPs from 2000 (Tim Duncan) and 2003 (Kevin Garnett).

While some have questioned the merit of a meaningless game (in baseball, the triumphant conference secures home advantage in the World Series) in the middle of a busy season (the NFL Pro Bowl is post-season), there is no questioning the spectacle of the event, particularly thanks to the fireworks of the Saturday night dunk contest.  TCC will be “courtside” (geddit?) to fill you in on all aspects of the weekend.  Stay tuned!

 


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