AllStar Game 2006

The AllStar game this year was lacking. For some reason the big name players did not bring their game. Allen Iverson, T-Mac, among others did not impress, and while Vince Carter’s missed dunks were hilarious, the game just dragged on mostly. Last years game was better and seemed more team oriented than this year’s game. It did however signal the changing of the guard from old-time players like A.I., Shaq, and T-Mac to the new stars like Lebron, Wade, and Marion. The East coming out with four Pistons, made up of Chauncey, Rasheed, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Wallace did impact the game and although Chauncey tried a couple of unneeded three-pointers, he did manage to impress and get props for being one of the best guards in today’s league.

It was strange to see Shaq and four Pistons playing together on the same team, but the best combination of front court power was when Lebron and Wallaces played together, they had length, speed, defense, and offense. It was an incredible combination. Surprisingly Lebron showed some defensive skills and his winning of the MVP award was definitely justified. He has a great game and it will only improve with time. Best offensive play goes to Lebron too, but a very close second would have to be Kobe’s fade away three point shot. Say whatever you want about Kobe, he is still one of the top five players in the game right now. I’ll even give Tony Parker some slack for his driving to paint score; he did drive through three defenders and somehow hoisted up the ball for a score. My favorite hustle play though goes to Wade for his tip in in the final minutes to put the East back up. Hey, we’re both from South Chicago, so I have to love Wade’s game, regardless.

As for the West, as usual they never integrated Yao into the game. Timmie was his usual dependable self and managed to get his shots in. Nash tried to integrate everyone, but timings were a little off for the other players, and some great passes became turnovers.

Now as to who I think are definite AllStars this year…. well my pick for number one player is Shawn Marion. I love his energy on the court and his attitude. You always see Marion having an effect on the game on both ends and he doesn’t quit at all. Definitely agree with Barkley that Marion is the most underrated player in the NBA right now. As to the best guards, my vote goes to Chauncey for his strength and Motown moves and to Nash for his incredible passing and vision of the game. For superstar talent, Lebron and Wade are developing each year more and more and they are definitely the face of the new NBA.

But not to leave out the great players that still dominate at the end of games, props would have to go to Jermaine O’Neal who is having a tough year with injuries, Rasheed Wallace who is having his best year ever and who is even better than Timmie, Carmelo Anthony who did not make the AllStar selection but who is flourishing this year, and of course Detroit’s Prince, who is an astute student of the game and the Piston’s best kept secret.

So now that the AllStar break is over, it’s time to get down to playing some real team basketball and hopefully some competitive games.

Rasheed Wallace Is The MVP

Perhaps you have missed it, or maybe you just have not seen it, but Rasheed Wallace is having a great year and in both games with the Spurs, Rasheed is practically unstoppable. He can out play Tim Duncan and other big men in the league easily, and unlike Shaq, Rasheed can actually score a three pointer! In the post, he can dominate offensively, and his defense is without a doubt terrific. So please, no more talk about Tim Duncan and his fundamentals, the truth is that Tim has problems matching up with Detroit’s Rasheed on both ends of the court.

Now I know the league is trying to make Chauncey’s head bigger by saying he is the man and all and I don’t want to talk away from that, but let’s face it Detroit is winning easy by going to Rasheed in the post. Once he draws the defense, it frees up Chauncey and Hamilton to go motown the rest of the game.

Intelligence On The Court

The Ron Artest story is interesting not because Artest is all that interesting (or dare I even say not even that great a player), but because it proves the point that great athletic potential is only possible because of a higher intelligence. Michael Jordan was one of the greatest players on the court not just because he could dunk over his opponents, but because of his intellectual advantage over most of his counterparts. I am not saying that Jordan was the smartest person ever, what I am saying is that being intelligent can and does give you an edge on the court. We may not completely understand it, but there is something more profound about players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Too quickly we dismiss the intelligence of athletes, thinking that they only possess better physical abilities, however the better athletes are indeed students of the game.

This brings me back to Artest. No matter how much you think Artest is a good defender, he undeniably is not a great player. He lacks the intelligence advantage which great players have. In today’s league, there are good players and then there are great players. Tracy McGrady is a great player. He knows the game very well and knows his opponents weaknesses. On the other hand Lamar Odom is a good player. The fundamental difference between good players and great ones is that great ones can make their own shot. They can adapt, and do it in ways that their opponents can not imagine. You can see this in Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Shaq, and others. Basketball is a team sport and even if you are not a great player, and do not have the advantage of greater intelligence, you can still be very successful on the court. You just have to outwork your opponents and hustle more than any other player. You can see this every time you watch Spurs and see how Ginobli beats his opponents with sheer effort. In the case of Ginobli, he is not the fastest, nor the tallest, yet he is the most dynamic player in the game and more valuable than Tony Parker.

In the case of Lamar Odom, he most likely will never be successful with the Lakers. He is a good player and one which the Lakers have been unable to propel to the next level. I blame the Lakers. Odom would be a star on any other team, and my favorite fit for Odom would be the Pacers. He would be very successful and needed in Indiana, where he could be partnered with Jermaine O’Neal and become an offensive threat in an offensive game that needs more quickness at the moment. In the Lakers, Odom’s game is too difficult. It is hard to score when you are given less possessions and when you are given the ball too late.

So can Artest be successful, I really do not know. I am not totally convinced that he is even a good player. His defense may not be all that great either. One has to remember that defense works better when it is done as a team, and perhaps we may not see how good Artest is until he plays for a weak defensive team.