As I mentioned earlier, I had the good fortune to be credentialed at Staples Center through the weekend. After the jump, some thoughts on what's transpired thus far.
All Star Practice/Availability
The morning started with the All-Stars practicing at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Since it was incorporated into the all-day Jam Session, the place was packed. The stands were full, the ground was full, the walkways were full; I guess what I'm driving it is that it was very full. Interestingly enough, basically every All Star's respective team was represented in the stands. I saw a Hawks jersey, a Hornets jersey, and even, gasp, a Wolves jersey.
The players performed the usual hijinks- shot contests, half court contests, etc, etc, with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce getting loudly booed. I was "courtside," whatever that means, given that there were what seemed like 500 people on the court. After that came player availability. The media scrambled on to the court and swarmed over the players. The audience stayed in the stands, screaming for the players' attentions. And the PA announcer loudly and regularly warned people to get off the court despite the general lack of security or the like.
I stayed clear of media availability, and in a way, I think this session epitomized the difference between my Summer League and All Star experience. At Summer League, things were very open; you could strike up a conversation with basically anybody about anything. At All Star Weekend, unless you're a David Aldridge or similar or as transcendently hilarious as J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas, it's totally different.
Everything has a sort of corporate vibe to it. If you're in with the various sponsors- Nike, Kia, American Express, etc- you'll definitely have some ins. But overall, the exclusivity of All Star Weekend is what makes it All Star Weekend in the first place I suppose.
David Stern's Press Conference
I got to Stern's conference about an hour early and sat down smack in the middle of the second row (the first row reserved for NBA execs). An NBA friend of mine had advised me that Stern's pre-All Star availabilites were routinely awesome and served as a sort of "State of the NBA."
I got there with merely the intent to listen- no recorders, etc. Stern came in and gave his little talk. About halfway through, for whatever reason, I suddenly felt a strong desire to ask a question for no other reason than to christen my first Stern press conference with a (very possibly half-baked) question. So I formulated my question ("what was the selection process to choose Kevin Love as the replacement over guys like Aldridge or David West?") and so it began. My heart started pounding, my stomach started churning... all over the possibility of maybe asking a question. Eventually I steeled myself and caught the press guy's attention. He did a little nod thing and said I was next. And so I was ready. I was going to ask an awesome question and everybody would be all impressed at how this new random guy they'd never seen or heard of was able to ask such a hard hitting question at his first presser. The castles were not only built, but renovated multiple times over.
And... of course, I was passed over. The press guy moved in rapid succession to various reporters he (and most NBA fans/observers) knew on a first name basis and staunchly refused to make eye contact with me for the rest of the presser. And that was that!
Blake Griffin's Car
The saving grace that ensured my trip to the Staples underground wouldn't be a complete failure was Blake Griffin's dunk car. We'd heard a rumor earlier in the day that Blake would either (a) be dunking over a car or (b) be dunking over a choir. So when I saw a car parked at Event Level, gated off by.. gate things, and branded with the Dunk Contest logo, I knew I had to take a picture.
The SBN post resulting from that picture alone picked up more than 10,000 page views over the course of the evening. So my first act of anything moderately resembling journalism was not grilling David Stern on All-Star selections but instead, taking a dark, blurry camera picture of a car. Yep.
It was boring. The end.
Chris Paul... can we stop now?
I don't know if I've mentioned the lack of energy of the Staples crowd yet, but it was mildly ridiculous. I bring this up here because the first signs of life in the crowd manifested themselves in the form of vociferous boos for Paul Pierce (but strangely, not for Ray Allen). After James Jones proceeded to become the third Heat (Hoot?) to win the 3 Point Contest in 5 years, the crowd promptly proceeded to go back to sleep.
Remember J.R. Smith's behind the back dunk from 2005? I feel like DeMar DeRozan's second dunk tonight was similar. It was a non-prop (more on this next) dunk that we've never, ever seen before in a dunk contest. You know how rare that it is? When Smith's dunk went through, I feel like the commentators, fans, analysts, whatever didn't immediately realize its magnitude, simply because of how inundated we've become by all the crazy props and antics dunkers use these days. And it was similar with DeRozan. Sure, he got a 50, but I feel like the dunk was very under-appreciated. And Griffin making the finals over him was criminal.
Of course, Griffin was always going to make the final. Between the Los Angeles setup and the Kia sponsored car, he was a shoo-in.
It's kind of sad that a dunk contest that featured so, so many amazing and new dunks (didn't like McGee's three ball dunk but his 2 rim dunk was crazy good, Ibaka's free throw line dunk has been done many times but he was legitimately behind the line) ended up being mildly disappointing because of the way Griffin won it. Based on dunks alone, this may have had some chance of approaching Vince Carter and the legendary 2000 dunk contest. But the dunk rankings and the order of the dunks (the first round vastly outdid the final) took off some of the shine.
Anyways, back at you guys with more tomorrow. I'll have an All-Star Sunday open thread up around noon. Have a good one.