The NBA All-Star Game Went From Hot Mess to Somewhat Entertaining
Let’s start President’s Day the right way, with a recap of the NBA All-Star Game, a perennially useless exercise that we always try to talk ourselves into enjoying.
Last night was no different, but with a low bar to clear and a ghastly start to the broadcast, it finished with at least a modicum of entertainment.
It began with a bogus, mildly uncomfortable 30-minute introduction that invoked the Miss America pageant, with players standing atop a stage featuring curved staircases on either side, flanked by dancers and introduced by Kevin Hart.
Now, I know Hart is “one of ours,” or whatever, but I think we’re experiencing Kevin Hart overkill. Super Bowl, Philly parade, NBA games, etc. I need a Kevin Hart respite. A brief abeyance, if you will.
Anyway, the queasy introductions (the jokes weren’t landing) gave way to the Canadian national anthem, performed by… The Barenaked Ladies! I’m cool with the Barenaked Ladies, but I don’t think that selection “resonated” with the millennial NBA fan.
That was the precursor to Fergie’s best performance of all time – the sexy national anthem! Not sure if she was going for Amy Winehouse or Marilyn Monroe singing happy birthday to the president, but holy shit was it bad:
To ruin your Monday and your ears, here’s Fergie for you. https://t.co/R5t6guyE0H
— Alexander Thian (@aMrazing) February 19, 2018
Let’s see what people thought about that:
This might be the worst rendition of the star bangled banner I’ve ever heard
— wesmanchild (@wesmanchild) February 19, 2018
Serious question though— how much were we really expecting from Fergie?
— Violeta Yas (@Violeta_Yas) February 19, 2018
reddit's got this pic.twitter.com/njCRWDvorW
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) February 19, 2018
Draymond started cracking up while Fergie was singing the national anthem pic.twitter.com/3pMlgjGdYC
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) February 19, 2018
We had to ask:
Who did the better anthem?
Sounds about right.
Anyway, to the game, where we were looking forward to watching the first 76er perform in the ASG since Jrue Holiday back in the 2012-13 season.
Joel Embiid started on Team Steph Curry alongside Steph himself, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He scored the game’s first 5 points and did a LOT of running, probably the most back and forth we’ve seen him do all year. Joel hit a couple threes, got some looks inside, and did not look out of place at all for a first time All Star surrounded by juggernauts like LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Goran Dragic.
BY FAR, the most interesting sequence was Embiid hitting a three over Russell Westbrook then swatting him on the other end:
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 19, 2018
I enjoy the Embiid/Russ thing. I have no idea where it came from, but those combative Thunder games were two of most enjoyable Sixer matchups I wrote about this year. They genuinely seem to dislike each other, though Joel was diplomatic when asked about the play:
“I love the competition. I respect Russell and his game, but he’s not getting anything on me,” Embiid told David Aldridge during commercial break.
Joel finished with 19 points on 8-13 shooting and went 2-4 from three. He added 8 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He played 20 minutes and made it through All-Star weekend unscathed, so that’s obviously the most important thing.
There was a little bit of defense in this game. Not much, but more than we’ve seen in recent years. Team LeBron closed out the first half with a trap (!) to force a turnover and get an easy bucket at the other end.
That sort of came into play, the defense part, at the end of a close game, when it was back and forth down the stretch.
It was a rather ridiculous turn of events that began with 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It was 144-144 and Embiid drew Paul George 1v1, which led to this:
Reggie Miller: "They're going right at the mismatch with Embiid"
Embiid: *Swats Paul George at the rim*
— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) February 19, 2018
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) February 19, 2018
Surprise! – Reggie Miller was totally off-base again.
So, after the block, Mike D’Antoni takes Embiid OUT of the game for Draymond Green.
Team LeBron comes down and scores two buckets inside the paint and they win 148-145.
I’ll let this guy explain:
Let me get this straight..Paul George gets an iso at the top..embiid locks it up….and so the next time down on defense …dantoni subs embiid out so he won’t be a defensive liability…somehow dantoni managed to make a coaching mistake in an all star game..good luck Houston smh
— #1 ranked snitch ref (@DevInTheLab) February 19, 2018
Warriors in four.
Anyway, George jokingly admitted he wanted to hit that shot to avenge his OKC teammate, Russell Westbrook:
Paul George was “absolutely” trying to get Embiid back for Russ: “I was trying to finish that one” pic.twitter.com/MMtLGOo5ym
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 29, 2018
The final minutes were enjoyable. They really were. The rest of the game was whatever, but at least Embiid was involved in an interesting and mostly friendly storyline.
On a more serious note, think about how far he’s come since being drafted back in 2014. You’re talking about a guy who a lot of people thought might not even play an NBA game. He starts this year on a “minutes restriction,” isn’t playing back-to-backs, and goes through a rough December with more issues. Now he’s here in February slinging the ball with Harden, Steph, and Giannis. That’s pretty cool from a human standpoint, whether you like basketball or not.
It’s hard to improve a meaningless game, but I think a start is to televise the All-Star draft next year and trim down the weird introductions. This is supposed to be a showcase game, and I think there’s only so much you can do with it, but the team selection aspect was a new wrinkle this year that I think added something to the otherwise futile exercise.
On to the playoffs.