Sunday, February 17, 2008

NBA All-Star Game preview

By Rick Morris

I should admit my bias at the outset and note that I am one of these curmudgeons grumbling about the good old days of the '70s and '80s in regards to the NBA All-Star Game. I loathe the dumbed-down, streetball elements that have run amok in recent years, such that the deployment of any actual defense whatsoever is regarded as a discourteous and unwelcome interjection in what seems designed to be an endless and tiresome run of SportsCenter-brand alley-oops.

So, having said that, I don't have nearly the level of analysis to bring that our Senior Editor Jason Jones displayed in his show-stopper coverage of All-Star Weekend. Nonetheless, I do have a few predictions for tonight's event:

^ I agree with the conventional wisdom that the West's status as a better and deeper conference is reflected in the strength of the respective All-Star teams. KG's absence due to injury further drives this point home.

^ One element that the East might embrace to try to overcome the talent gap would be to steal an idea from Team Canada in international hockey. They utilized the Detroit Red Wing combo of Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey in place of more gifted players, using their capacity for teamwork and defense instead of trying to win solely on having the best players. Now, quite by coincidence, the East team has a few members of the Detroit Pistons (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace) who are not at the freakishly-gifted level of teammates such as Lebron James and Dwight Howard. But maybe, just maybe, if these three get some significant minutes together, they can make the chemistry that has put them near the top of the East every year to use in neutralizing the better players on the other side. Look also at how USA Basketball keeps losing to "worse" teams every time out in international competition.

^ In the end, I see the West pulling away based on the fact that their combination of players can dominate at any style of play. I'll say 132-121 West, with the MVP going to Chris Paul on his own court inasmuch as the Marketing Mafia that controls the NBA loves success stories in the hometown and this emerging Hornets megastar is quarterbacking an incredible run for his team this year. Look for him to rack up something insane like 16 assists en route to the honors.

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