NBA All-Star Weekend is here, but what about the Wizards? “The team needs a break,” writes owner Ted Leonsis on his blog. Nowhere does he mention the media (professional or those with day jobs) needing a break. Nor, more importantly, does he mention fans needing a break. So, the players may be getting much needed (but not much deserved) rest, but Wizards fans… they really just get a reprieve from bad basketball. “With the season over in two months..the rest of this season really has nothing to do with this season,” writes @WorldWiEdWard on Twitter. Exactly… so you gotta wonder if this Wizards franchise will have the balls to start making significant adjustments in the second half of the season, predicated on the disastrous first half, to better set themselves up for the future. Who knows. But let’s not take all the fun out of NBA All-Star Weekend 2012, one in which a single Wizard is participating — John Wall in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge as well as in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. To discuss this weekend’s festivities in 3-on-3 fashion, including the Rising Stars Challenge which is tonight at 9 pm, we have TAI’s Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis), Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) John Wall (Team Chuck) is at 9-1 odds to win the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge MVP, behind Jeremy Lin (Team Shaq, 5-1), Blake Griffin (Team Shaq, 7-1), and Kyrie Irving (Team Chuck, 17-2). [Full odds listing below.] What are Wall’s real chances (factoring in him becoming miffed at being taken 12th in the Barkley/Shaq draft, or Barkley’s hared of the Wizards)? If not him, who you got?
McGINNIS: Las Vegas bookmakers earned their nickname of “Wise Guys” by having the Wall ranked much higher than he was selected by Barkley or Shaq. Wall was the best player in his 2010 draft class during his rookie season, has a national Reebok shoe campaign featured in Foot Lockers across America, and he is reigning MVP of this Rookie-Sophomore game, but TNT’s lack of coverage around Wall has declared him an afterthought. Wall will play extremely well as his pass-first and fast break game is suited for exhibitions like this one, and he will be fired up more than normal. However, I expect Jeremy Lin or Kyrie Irving to win the MVP. This is what NBA wants and TNT employees will be sure to deliver it for them.
MOBLEY: John Wall didn’t need to be miffed with his snub in the “draft” or motivated by Barkley’s distaste for his team to do well in this game. We know from his record 22 assists in last year’s game, and his dazzling summer exhibition performances from 2011, that he can easily stand head and shoulders above his peers. That being said, my vote is for Ricky Rubio. The Maravich in him will be unleashed.
WEIDIE: Wall called the game “a joke,” but that doesn’t mean his pride wasn’t hurt in being taken after so many others. Nonetheless, to win MVP of the game, he actually has to play… And something tells me that “coach” Charles Barkley will screw Wall a bit with less playing time, perhaps because Chuck has a grudge against the Washington franchise. Why? Well, likely because the Chuckster didn’t take too kindly to how his pal Michael Jordan was “treated” by Abe Pollin. Has Barkley bashed the Bobcats hard lately? Doubt it. But in reality, I don’t think Barkley will not play Wall as much because he doesn’t like the Wizards, but more because he doesn’t know better and will forget about the player he selected after five others. My MVP call is either Rubio or Griffin, with the dunker being the one who takes the crown. [NOTE: I probably should've noted that Mike Fratello and Mo Cheeks are the coaches of "Team Chuck."]
#2) Wall, again, the only Wizard participating in All-Star Weekend in Orlando, is also taking part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. The odds to win that: Stephen Curry (3-1), Deron Williams (7-2), Russell Westbrook (7-2), John Wall (4-1), Kyrie Irving (11-2), and Tony Parker (11-2). For one, who you got? For two, is this event even that interesting? Would you do anything to change it?
McGINNIS: Although the basketball world would not miss this event if it were cancelled, the NBA needs time filler, and the Skills Challenge gives certain stars more face time. This contest is only compelling if you’re looking for which players actually try and which just go through the motions. Wall struggled on the bounce pass station last year and was quickly eliminated. I would like to see the NBA add a trick shot competition because fans would be entertained to see how good these players are at making wild attempts. Due to good betting value, I will take Tony Parker.
MOBLEY: I want to say Deron Williams is the favorite, but since Jeremy Lin isn’t in this competition, I’ll doubt he’ll be sufficiently motivated. Steph Curry has foot issues, so he won’t go full speed, and Westbrook and Wall are lightning quick, but careless, so I could see them misfiring on their bounce passes. My vote is for Tony Parker over the rookie Kyrie Irving. I’d change this contest by having them dribble the length of the court three times. The first time, they’d simply dribble from baseline to baseline. The second time, they’d pull up for a foul line jumper, and the last time they’d pull up for a three pointer. All three of these activities would be timed, and for the last two fullcourt trips, they’d keep going until they made the shot. If you’re scoring at home, there’s speed, endurance and shooting accuracy involved.
WEIDIE: The fashionable picks might be Curry (2011′s winner) or Williams (2008′s winner) – since they can both shoot and pass – and not so much John Wall. But my gut feeling is that Wall might take this opportunity to show the world the slight improvement he’s made to his jumper, so I’m picking him to take the crown. As far as the entertainment of the event itself? Total snoozer. But what do I expect? Lane slides and box jumps? It might be nice if there were a one-on-one component to the skills competition, however.
#3) JaVale McGee tweeted that we should mark his words in that Jeremy Evans will win the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Competition — the odds: Paul George (3-2, Pacers), Evans (11-4, Jazz), Derrick Williams (3-1, Timberwolves), and Chase Budinger (4-1, Rockets). Is McGee right? If not, who you got?
McGINNIS: J.E. Skeets of The Basketball Jones has been pushing Jeremy Evans as the best dunker in the league, and he is flying under the radar because he barely gets any run for Utah Jazz. Now that Shumpert is out and the Jeremy Lin Knicks factor is no longer involved in the voting, the contest is wide open. I was always partial to the “Human Highlight Film,” Dominique Wilkins’ dunks in the 1980′s, so I am going with Paul George as the winner due to his recent in-game double-pump reverse slam. Also check out this Paul George dunk while he was at Fresno State.
MOBLEY: Dominique Wilkins is my favorite dunker of all time. He wasn’t graceful like Jordan or Dr. J, creative like Cedric Ceballos or Dee Brown, and he didn’t have props like Blake Griffin and JaVale McGee. Dominique was all about brute strength, whether it was in the actual dunk, the takeoff with both feet, or the wind in his windup I’ve seen Budinger, Derrick Williams and Jeremy Evans knock my socks off with dunks this year and in year’s past. But Paul George has the Dominique trait in him (tell me you didn’t think of Dominique when George did this) which has empowered me to type this biased paragraph, and say that he will win the dunk contest. I’ll drop one more link right here for good measure.
WEIDIE: Screw it, I’m going with the white dude, Chase Budinger — even though JaVale McGee should be participating instead of him. The last time some white cat participated was in 2005… the embarrassment of Chris Anderson. Bonus: Budinger is the clear underdog. Second Bonus: dude is so pasty that he’s beyond white. Can you believe it? A ghost might with the dunk competition.
BONUS: Perhaps like Major League Baseball, should something be done to make NBA All-Star Weekend more meaningful, i.e., the winning conference gets home court advantage in the NBA Finals (or something else)?
McGINNIS: MLB implemented that rule in reaction to 2002 All Star game ending in a 7-7 tie. There is little proof that giving the winning league home field advantage in the World Series has increased fan interest or on the field competitiveness. I have always been okay with knowing that NBA All-Star game is a glorified pick up game. If you wanted more defense in the game, I would suggest upping the payouts of the winning teams substantially as way to incentive because even wealthy NBA players can be motivated by money. Even in Orlando, those VIP service club tabs add up.
MOBLEY: If the Miami Heat finish this season with the NBA’s best record, lose one game in the playoffs en route to the NBA Finals, and then relinquish home court advantage because Kobe Bryant dropped 50 points in the All-Star game to win home court for the West, that hardly seems fair. My solution is get to Apple involved, since clearly they have money to burn. The players from the winning conference of the All-Star game should get a hefty cash prize from Apple, along with first dibs on upcoming products. Who won’t play hard for at least half (instead of just the fourth quarter) at the chance at that? And if this idea catches on, perhaps the blogger who first suggested it, will get in on the fun, too.
WEIDIE: The game is probably fine as it is, but it might motivate some if the losers had to pool their money to take the winners out for a nice seafood dinner and then never call them back. But no, don’t mess with NBA Finals home court advantage… it’s silly that they do that in baseball.
>>Odds to win the 2012 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Most Valuable Player (all odds via www.bovada.lv/)
Jeremy Lin (Shaq) 5/1
Blake Griffin (Shaq) 7/1
Kyrie Irving (Chuck) 17/2
John Wall (Chuck) 9/1
DeMarcus Cousins (Chuck) 10/1
Ricky Rubio (Shaq) 12/1
Landry Fields (Shaq) 15/1
Greg Monroe (Shaq) 15/1
Brandon Knight (Shaq) 18/1
Kemba Walker (Shaq) 16/1
Evan Turner (Chuck) 16/1
Paul George (Chuck) 18/1
MarShon Brooks (Chuck) 18/1
Gordon Hayward (Chuck) 18/1
Kawhi Leonard (Chuck) 18/1
Norris Cole (Shaq) 20/1
Markieff Morris (Shaq) 20/1
Tristan Thompson (Shaq) 20/1
Derrick Williams (Chuck) 20/1
Derrick Favors (Chuck) 20/1