By Gabi Marrese
New Orleans hosted this year’s NBA All-Star weekend. The weekend kicked off with a televissed media day on Friday Feb. with the Hall of Fame Announcements and a practice before the competitions later than evening.
This years Hall of Fame Announcements included one referree (Huge Evans), four players (Chris Webber, Sidney Moncrief, Tracy McGrady, Tim Hardaway), seven coaches, one team (Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball) and one contributor (Rebecca Lobo). The seven coaches include Robert Huges, Rollie Massimino, Bo Ryan, Bill Self, Rudy Tomjanovich, Muffer McGraw, and Kim Mulkey. These finalists will be announced at the Final Four in April but their ceremony will be Sept. 8 at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachussetts.
The first event on Saturday was the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Last years winner Karl-Anthony Towns set the stage for the big men of the NBA to take contorl of the competition. This year, Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks and Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz were tied going into the last round. Porzingis pulled ahead by sinking his first 3-pointer attempt. This threw Hayward’s game off a little and he took a runner up after missing his attempt. Porzingis, the tallest player in the NBA, took the trophy for the skills challenge.
Allowing bigger players to compete in the skills challenge has changed the competition, as seen in the past few years.
“Porzingis is the epitome of the new NBA big man. He can stretch the floor, take it off thedribble, and is quite mobile. With the speed of the game increasing and having the 3-point shot be a huge factor, NBA forwards and centers have changed in recent years to adapt to the game,” senior Zach Miller (Los Angeles, California) said.
The night continued with the KBL 3-point ocntest. This year they went with two rounds isntead of three. In the championship round, Kyrie Irving of the leveland Cavaliers sent a score of 20. Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets made the competition go into a bonus round to break the tie. Gordon finished with a score of 21 while Irving finished with 18. He became the first Rocket to win the contest.
The final competition of the night was the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. The players definitely keep things interesting including Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic having a ball dropped from a drone soaring high in the air. This years social media icon, DJ Khaled and his turn tables made an appearance as DeAndre Jordan leaped over him to complete his dunk. The winner was Glen Robinson of the Indiana Pacers.
“I liked Robinson’s first dunk when he skied over two guys, it set the tone for the competition. After watching all the dunks again, Glen Robinson deserved to win that night because he was consistent and his difficulty level was pretty high. However, I think on any other night Aaron Gordon or Derrick Jones would have won,” Miller said.
The weekend concluded with the 66th NBA All-Star game on Sunday night. Some memorable moments of the night included Giannis Antetokoumnpo of the Milwaukee Bucks participating in his first All-Star game as the youngest palyer in the game. Antetokoumnpo dunked on veteran Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors in the third quarter off a rebound. On a breakaway later in the game. Antetokoumnpo approached Curry in a one on one situation and Current decided to lay on the loor instead of challenging the 6’11” small forward to battle at the rim.
Anhony David scored 52 points in his 32 minutes in the game. This set a new all-Star game-high by beating the previous record of 42 points, held by Wilt Chamberlain. Davis took the MVP award and helped the western Conference beat the Eastern Conference by ten points.
“I do not mind Anthony Davis trying to score 50 points. The All-Star game has become less fun in recent years because of the lack of defense,” Miller said.
After the All-Star break, the players and the coachg get back to business to focus on finishing out the season strong to get a spot in postseason. Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the top spot in the east and the Golden State Warriors in the west. This might come down to the rubber match in the final as Cleveland and Golden State are 1-1 in the final the last two seasons.
“I am not a Warriors fan, but they have two of the top five players in the league in Durant and Curry. Not only are they an offensive powerhouse, but they are statistically the best defenseive team in the league. Of course the palyoffs are very differnt than the regular season, but the Warriors have playoff experience as does Durant. Also, the Western Conference is not as deep as it’s been in the past, so they don’t have too tough of a road to the finals,” Miller said.
Golden State had a season-high 73-win last season but are only projected to win 69 games this season if they stay at their current pace. The Los Angeles Clippers are de dealing with a few injuries to key players. This might be the last year for a playoff run as Blake Griffin’s contract has one year remanining and Chris Paul has an early-termination optino approaching. The Houston Rockets are a team to watch out for as they make their postseason run. They are on track to break the record for most 3-pointers as well.
The Eastern Conference has more competition as the Boston Celtics are within three games of the Cavaliers. the Celtics have also gained the best scorrer and rising star in the league, Isaiah Thomas (Who is from Tacoma). The Toronto Raptors are making their move as well aby acquiring Serge Ibaka before the trade deadline. They have built their bench to be steady contenders during the entire game. The Philadelphia 76ers look to be out of the postseason even having Rookie of the Year favorite Joel Embiid on the team.
“I believe the Warriors will make it to the finals again. They clearly have the best team in the west that includes our All-Stars. I also think the cavaliers will hold onto the top seed in the east. They are the best team right now, however I also think the Boston Celtics led by Isaiah Thomas can give them a run for their money,” Jackson said.
The NbA regular season ends on April 12 and the playoffs begin right away on the April 15 so we have about a month to see what happens.