It's All Star Weekend! Let's Rejoice! AllStar Weekend is past us and we now look towards the second half. Before we take a look at the headlines to kick off the second half, let’s recap on the weekend behind us. The Good The three point shootout, shooting stars, skills challenge, and rookie challenge were all decent as expected. However the AllStar game was a huge success as this looks like the start of something beautiful. Mark Cuban earlier this month promised that the game would make the Super Bowl look like a bar mitzvah. I don’t know if that was accomplished, but this game certainly received much more attention than ever before with a record crowd of 108,000 in attendance. I fully endorse this type of atmosphere and hope the NBA makes this a new trend. The Bad I love the idea of the HORSE contest. I think it’s a solid event to include in the festivities. However, it took way too long and ended up with Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo shooting three’s until they got all their letters. It wasn’t all terrible however and with a little tweaking can be a highly anticipated feature of the weekend. The Ugly This year’s Slam Dunk Contest was one of the worst in recent history. The silence that could be heard for the majority of the event says all that needs to be said regarding how exciting the dunk contest was. The commentators were as appalled as the fans with the colorful commentary provided by Sir Charles himself. Nate Robinson was the lone bright spot, but essentially what it comes down to is the lack of star power. Of all the festivities, this contest struggles most to get big names yet it is the most anticipated. Maybe we can get LeBron to come out of his shell. I don’t think anyone was impressed with Shannon Brown’s ability to switch hands or DeMar DaRozan’s ability to take off eight feet from the hoop. Will the big name high flyers please stand up? 2nd Half Headlines Trade DeadlineWith the trade deadline less than 48 hours away, there are a few names that remain in limbo. Over the break we saw Dallas make a splash by acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood in an effort to better their chances. The Blazers finally filled their gaping hole at Center with the acquisition of Marcus Camby. Names such as Amare Stoudemire and Antawn Jamison continue to be mentioned in trade rumors to several teams, notably Cleveland and Miami. The Tracy McGrady talk continues as talks with New York continue. The CBAA damper on the weekend, the players and owners didn’t make any strides to coming closer to a new deal. There doesn’t seem to be anything to work off of as both sides continue to stand firm. One idea that did come out of the discussions impressed me and it came from none other than Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien suggested a playoff between teams 815 in each conference’s standings to determine the final playoff spot. I love this idea as it would eliminate late season tanking to a larger extent. Often teams have nothing to play for towards the end of the season and this would change that completely. An appearance in the playoffs would be enough for owners from the revenue it would bring. Then players and coaches not only have incentives in their contracts, but an opportunity to make some noise, even if it will likely end in a first round exit. What about that team that struggles early on and makes huge strides late in the season, but misses out on the playoffs? That, “Watch out for this team next season” becomes relevant that season. I look at it like the MLB’s wild card spot. That change has done wonders for the league.
Playoff PushWith less than 30 games left for most teams, the playoff push begins. Teams four through eleven in the West are separated by five games leaving plenty of room for a shuffle in the standings. The East is not as competitive with an above .500 record guaranteeing a playoff spot. Somehow, Toronto is only four games back of Boston for the division. I expect the Celtics to win the Atlantic Division, but it’s definitely something to watch. I expect all the home teams in the East to advance past the first round, but how the big four (Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta) end up in the seeding will be significant as all these teams are dominant at home.