Billups: Fix the All-Star Game Now
Thank you, Chauncey Billups for saying what I, and just about every real basketball fan, wanted to say after the worst All-Star Game I've ever witnessed in person. "I understand guys don't want to get hurt, but I just wish they would somehow put some rule that these cats have to play," the Detroit Pistons point guard told reporters last night after the Eastern Conference was embarrassed 153-132 last night. "I want to win."
If we call out players for not playing hard, we just sound like crusty, cranky sportswriters. Since you, Chauncey, an actual all-star, said it, your words carry more weight. When you do it, you're telling the truth. That was not a show last night; that was a sham. Or in the words of that beer commercial, "a traveshamockery."
Once you get past Cirque du Soleil doing those acrobatic tricks, Wayne Newton, Toni Braxton and Christina Aguillera singing, a couple of showgirls parading around and Gilbert Arenas' between-the-legs dunk off the trampoline, the true entertainment had nothing to do with the actual basketball game.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was careful not to offend his players after the game for that uninspiring effort, mostly because he's a class act but also, possibly, out of fear of getting retribution in the second half of the season from the likes Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James. I wasn't expecting him to go ballistic the way Doug Collins did after coaching the 2004 Rookie-Sophomore Challenge, which turned into a lame dunk-a-thon involving James, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire ("It was sort of virtual reality basketball," Collins said after that game nearly caused his head to explode. "There's nothing you can do. You start pleading, 'Can you please guard somebody?' ")
Billups, however, didn't care yesterday. He lit into his Eastern Conference teammates who didn't show up at all and appeared to be completely partied out. The Strip, with its luring bright lights and casinos obviously sapped them out of more than just money from their wallets. It also took away their competitive drive. The West, however, had Kobe Bryant, who actually was upset that his team's 30-point lead was reduced into the 20s.
Granted, this was an exhibition game and no one will care once the real games are played tomorrow but give me a break. I mean, seriously, could there have been at least two minutes of competitive basketball? "The reason I don't play in charity games is because I want to play for real," Billups said. "If I paid my hard-earned money to see (Kevin Garnett), Kobe, Wade, these guys play, I want to see them really play."
Upper, upper deck - touch-the-roof-with-your-hands - seats for that game cost $400 at face value. But I'd want a refund for forking over that kind of dough for that kind of (or lack of) effort. People who paid thousands of dollars for tickets - and those who likely didn't like Prince - were actually walking out before the game ended. Does that make any sense? Heck, Allen Iverson wasn't even on the Western Conference bench in the fourth quarter.
"I think they need to come up with something that would put a little defense in the game," East forward Jermaine O'Neal said after the game. "I heard Chauncey Billups says they should give the winner home-court advantage in the Finals, like they do in baseball. I think that's a good idea."
That's a bit extreme. Last night wasn't nearly as upsetting as the 2002 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, when the teams ran out of pitchers and it ended in a 7-7 tie. But something needs to be done before the game becomes as irrelevant as the NFL's Pro Bowl, the most dull and forgettable all-star showcase of the big three sports. Who was the MVP of that game this year?
Maybe they need to raise the award money. I am totally against the concept of an international showcase - the USA against the World - because frankly, no matter how much people clamor for it, there really aren't enough international stars - and I mean real stars, not role players - to warrant what has been done in hockey. You could have a team with Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. But who would be on your bench? And would those reserves really be better than the American players who would have to take a backseat? I don't think so.
The NBA All-Star Game doesn't need to be taken too seriously. It has to be fun and exciting. It needs silly Shaq dancing and smooching. It needs Vince Carter dunks. It also needs players who give a flip. I'm not asking for hard fouls and technicals. I just don't want to have to sit through anything like last night again. Any suggestions?
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