Despite Denials, NBA Adds Jeremy Lin To All-Star Weekend's Rising Stars Game Roster
Knicks G Jeremy Lin Thursday was added to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend despite Commissioner David Stern saying earlier in the week that Lin "would not participate" in the event, according to Zillgitt & Shuster of USA TODAY. TNT's Kenny Smith, serving as "'commissioner' of the Rising Stars Challenge, added Lin and Miami Heat guard Norris Cole to the pool of candidates" prior to the player draft Thursday night. TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, who is coaching one of the two teams, selected Lin with his 2nd pick, behind Clippers F Blake Griffin (USA TODAY, 2/17). The AP noted Lin's breakout came after the original "pool of 18 players was selected, and the NBA was pressured to add him after he scored 136 points in his first five starts." TNT's Charles Barkley, the game's other coach, "praised the addition, saying it was 'really stupid the NBA denied him in the beginning'" (AP, 2/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Freeman writes, "Kudos to the league for getting it done." All-Star Weekend is "often discussed as if it were primarily intended as a merit-based reward for players, but it's more sensible to think of it as a showcase for everything that makes the NBA interesting" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/17).
I NEED A HERO: In Orlando, Brian Schmitz notes the NBA, lacking household names for All-Star Weekend's dunk contest, on Thursday announced a "new gimmick" for the Sprite Slam Dunk contest -- fan voting for the first time "entirely will determine the dunk king during all-star weekend, via social media." The four competitors -- Rockets F Chase Budinger, Pacers F Paul George, Knicks G Iman Shumpert and T'Wolves F Derrick Williams -- all making their first appearance in the event, and Schmitz writes the league "couldn't sweet-talk or coerce any of its stars to enter, apparently." It surely "couldn't have put together this bunch on purpose." Schmitz: "We've watched the dunk contest rapidly decline over the last decade since Vince Carter -- who we've heard of -- won it in 2000. Thankfully, Dwight Howard got in on a lark later and dropped jaws while entertaining us with props." For some time now, the "big names have been above it all, finding it cooler NOT to be in it, just sitting back and chest-bumping each other" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/17). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said of the new dunk contest format, “I’m buying the format change. It used to be way too long and it went on forever." However, he noted, "It’s not a great lineup. I’m mostly interested to see what Jeremy Lin does out there to try to help Shumpert.” Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, “I’m absolutely buying. It’s all about social media now. We don’t need guys sitting there with placards hanging them over their heads. This is all about what the fans like so very god for the NBA to include the fans.” But ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said she is "selling” the new format. MacMullan: “Why don’t we just give the trophy to Shumpert right now. For one thing, he’s going to have Lin next to him, and for another thing he’s from New York, where everybody’s going to vote for him. ESPN’s J.A. Adande said “You can’t have Twitter determining anything. You got a bunch of people out there that can’t tell the difference between ‘you’re’ the contraction and ‘your’ the possessive, and now they’re going to determine the dunk contest champion?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/16).