NBA Players Give Spirited All-Star Game Effort, But New Dunk Contest Format Underwhelms
The East prevailed in the NBA All-Star Game with a 163-155 victory, but "both teams gave inspiring efforts" with a "non-stop showcase of high-flying dunks and quick-strike scoring," according to John Reid of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Despite the "dazzling show put forth by the players, the most moving moment came after the first quarter when Magic Johnson had the crowd sing 'Happy Birthday' to Hall of Famer Bill Russell, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday." All 24 All-Star players "marched over to shake Russell's hand" (NOLA.com, 2/16). In Baton Rouge, Scott Rabalais writes it was a "very cool moment" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 2/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Chris Herring notes the 318 combined points between the teams "blew away the previous record of 304 points" set in '87 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/17). In N.Y., Fred Kerber writes of the game, "If you defended, you were almost an outsider" (N.Y. POST, 2/17). In Chicago, Mark Potash writes both teams "at least played extremely well offensively" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/17). The 21-year-old Kyrie Irving won the MVP and in Boston, Gary Washburn notes, "What we saw Sunday at Smoothie King Center was a transformation to a new NBA generation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17). In Detroit, Vincent Goodwill writes under the header, "New Generation Makes Its Mark In Thrilling NBA All-Star East Victory" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/17). The ADVOCATE's Rabalais notes Irving has gone "from All-Star Weekend Rising Star MVP to All-Star Game MVP in two short years." Irving "embodies the NBA’s youth moment of budding superstars just over a month shy of his 22nd birthday." On hand to witness the NBA ASG were LSU football coach Les Miles, actor Chris Tucker and entertainers Drake, Nelly, Ludacris, and Earth, Wind and Fire (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 2/17). The AP's Brian Mahoney wrote under the header, "Changing Of The Guard In 2014 All-Star Game" (AP, 2/16).
ROOM FOR EVERYONE? In New Orleans, Ron Higgins criticized the feel of the sold-out event and has "a suggestion" for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Higgins: "How about the NBA caring for the average fan as much as it fawns over the corporate dollar? You remember average fans don’t you, Commish Silver?" They are the "same people who were disguised as empty seats all over Smoothie King Center." There were "gaps all throughout the upper deck and even in the lower bowl." Even with "about 2,500 seats removed near one basket to fit the stage for the vastly overproduced event, even with two sections in the upper deck reserved for the media, even with a reduced amount of tickets for sale, there were empty seats." Higgins: "Blame it on sheer NBA greed where face-value ticket prices apparently started at $500 to watch this glorified pickup game." More "middle-income fans might have shown up Sunday had the game been played in the Superdome instead of in a broom closet" (NOLA.com, 2/16).
DUNK CONTEST UNDERWHELMS: Reviews continued to come in on the new-look format of Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest. In N.Y., Tim Bontemps writes the new look "was no slam dunk." It was an "attempt to breathe new life into the longtime headlining event" for Saturday night of All-Star Weekend, but the format "left a lot to be desired." The first issue was "no one inside the arena seemed to understand the new format." Fans "mostly sat on their hands instead of cheering because they didn’t know when to do so." The other issue was it "wasn’t clear when the competition was going to end." However, the players "seemed to be in favor of the new look" (N.Y. POST, 2/17). In DC, Michael Lee wrote the "revamped contest ... left fans confused and craving more" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/16). SI.com's Ben Golliver wrote the '14 Dunk Contest will "go down as confusing, boring, underwhelming, frustrating and -- worst of all -- a logistical mess that undercut a very strong group of dunkers." Golliver: "What really, really bothers me is that the contest’s priorities were so out of whack" (SI.com, 2/16). In L.A., Ben Bolch wrote it was "hard to tell what shocked fans more, the NBA's new dunk contest rules or a performance by Vanilla Ice." Maybe contest organizers "should think twice, twice baby." The new format "left fans and other NBA players fighting mad on social media" (L.A. TIMES, 2/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore wrote the Dunk Contest "was weird." The NBA debuted its new team dunk format and in a "shocking turn of events, the internet hated it." But "worse than hating it was the reaction in the Smoothie King Center as most of the audience reacted as if someone had dropped Benadryl into their smoothies." It "was dead." The dunks "wound up pretty great, the format was confusing, and they need a finale" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/16). On Long Island, Al Iannazzone wrote the new format "took most of the excitement out of the event" (NEWSDAY, 2/16).
BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR: ESPN.com's Michael Wallace wrote the contest "played to mixed reviews because of a new format that left many fans -- and even players throughout the league -- confused by what was actually going on at times." It is clear that the NBA is "beyond desperate in its attempt to repair what is broken with the night's marquee event." The format "got in the way of some phenomenal dunks." But among the "encouraging signs for the godfather of the modern dunking era was the fact that more of the league's more recognizable players are now vested in the survival of the contest again" (ESPN.com, 2/15). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Devine wrote the problem "wasn't with the dunkers." The problem, as "some feared in the run-up to this year's contest, was with the shuffling." Everything was "clear as mud." Devine: "We're going to see either another new format or (cross your fingers) a return to the plain-and-simple" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/16). In N.Y., Frank Isola wrote the Dunk Contest was "a confusing competition." The "hottest rumor" of the weekend was that Heat F LeBron James was "going to make a surprise appearance in the slam dunk contest" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/16). In Boston, Steve Bulpett writes, "No matter how much we whine about the demise of the Saturday night events ... the NBA will continue to stage this highly staged event and somehow it will survive the slings and arrows and snark from a thousand media keyboards." The league has "learned to keep its eye on the ball, and it knows full well that things will be fine as long as it can deliver stars to its broadcast partners" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/17).
ADVERTISING MALFUNCTION: In Akron, Jason Lloyd cites a source as saying that the LED ad signs behind the backboards "short-circuited just before midnight on Thursday ... leaving league officials scrambling to replace them prior to Friday’s Rising Stars challenge." The only replacement boards "that could be located were in Atlanta." They arrived "on a commercial Delta flight just before 4 p.m. Friday, leaving workers little time to get the boards assembled and tested prior to the doors to the Smoothie King Center opening to the public" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 2/17).
OFF THE RADAR: The BOSTON HERALD's Bulpett reported there currently are "no plans for the Celtics to pursue" the ASG. Celtics President Rich Gotham said, "We haven’t talked about it recently. On our list of priorities, it’s not at the top." Bulpett noted the "obstacle to a game in Boston appears to be more the fact the community -- business and otherwise -- has yet to get together on the project" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/16).