Ball Don't Lie - NBA

This was easily the best NBA All-Star Game that I can remember. Though it may not have been as close as the 2003, 2001 and 1993 versions, it was by far the most entertaining run of the last 20 years.

In any other NBA season, we'd wonder just exactly who paid the Turkish Union dues necessary to inspire a spirited bout of exhibition pro basketball from the outset, but in the end, this sort of makes sense: the East was still ticked over its pitiful 2007 showing against a Western squad missing Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Allen Iverson and Carlos Boozer; and Doc Rivers' crew played up-tempo, inspired ball from the beginning.

This isn't to say the West took a night (or a half, or a quarter) off. Far from it. In fact, the West was as interested as we've seen them in years. The whole game was - and this is a bit of a shocker for those who only started watching NBA All-Star games a few years ago - damned interesting, and quite yelp-worthy.

In a re-charged league, flush with a title that is up for grabs and a series of blockbuster trades made with hesitation, tears or hearts breakin', the ASG finally revealed itself in what it's always supposed to be: a showcase of the NBA's best.

There's something to be said for that. Last year's game appeared - and we're only using a general phrase here, we swear - a bit hungover. This version was giddy at its own possibilities; and even if the result was a 20-point win by either side, that attitude adjustment was enough. That was a hell of an exhibition.

From ‘ere, we'll have to head to the bullet points, but it's necessary for those who didn't have the time or those who weren't around the computer this weekend to take a look at Skeets' work from the Big Easy during the last four days. This handy link will send you to all sorts of awesomeness. Please read.

• The East took over early due to a series of WC turnovers, but you couldn't call this a case of the West pissing one away: LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Dwight Howard were working towards a win from the get-go. Dwyane Wade probably was too, but the guy barely looks like himself anymore .Forget trying to tank games, Miami needs to sit this guy before his body breaks down like the Elwood Blues' car towards the end of The Blues Brothers (7:20 into this clip).

• Hopefully this sort of game can be the final nail in the coffin for the argument that some people (including those who we respect to no end) can't stop talking about: the idea that the NBA should go to an America vs. Everyone Else format. Stop it. The NBA already has enough All-Stars who had to sit home (Manu Ginobili, Jose Calderon, Baron Davis, Shawn Marion, Deron Williams), and it doesn't need a contest that puts players like Andres Nocioni, Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw or Andrew Bogut on the roster.

• I hated harping on a deserving All-Star in Brandon Roy in order to pump up what should be a pretty obvious case for Manu Ginobili (you know the drill: check out their per-minute stats), and Roy (18 points, nine rebounds, five assists) had a great game. Good for Roy. Doesn't mean he should have been there before Manu, or Baron Davis.

Ray Allen shouldn't have been there either, and as an objective fan of the game, I'd rather see him head to somewhere warmer over the All-Star break in order to rest those ankles, because I want to see the Celtics at their best this June. That said, he had a brilliant game. That said, so did Jamaal Magliore in 2004. Doesn't mean he should have been there.

• LeBron James was the MVP, and he was the deserving MVP. I hate having to denigrate Ray Allen's appearance, and performance, but Allen hit threes, and a good deal of those threes were wide-open threes. For those of us who have been worried about his health and ability to rise all season, it was great to see. But the man had 28 points (three of which came in late-game fouling situations), two rebounds and one assist. LBJ had one less point, with nine assists, eight boards, a pair of blocks and a pair of steals. Even without that late-game dunk, this was your MVP.

• This is also the best player in the NBA. He's been that way for a while. Maybe now people will stop calling Kobe the game's best player merely because he used to lead the league in scoring.

• Appreciate Kobe's competitive fire. The man would tear a ligament in his pinkie if it meant a win over the Hawks, but he should have stepped aside. Let Baron Davis play. Let Manu throw up a few step-back threes. The fans voted him in, and they were right to do so, but KB has to learn to take it easy from here on out. Kobe, we want to see you at your best in June, so chill.

• Reggie Miller is a college graduate and 42 years of age, and yet he struggles to go 25 words without throwing in a double-negative or 2nd grade-level foul-up. There is absolutely no reason for him to be on national TV. I'm not going to point out embarrassing, blow-by-blow accounts of how little this man thinks of his audience, but TNT can do better.

• The NBA and TNT could have taken the easy way out, but they deserve major plaudits for passing on using whoever won last year's American Idol in favor of a series of New Orleans pianists. And though his heart is usually in the right place, Harry Connick Jr. can be pretty annoying, so it was nice to see him step aside and let the good Doctor Mac Rebennack, Allan Toussaint, a pair of Nevilles and a solid backing take over the halftime show. It wasn't quite a Wild Tchoupitoulas reunion, or a funked-out Meters show, but it was fun.

• To anyone who isn't familiar with any recent strains of New Orleans music, start here. Play it loud.

• Something any NBA fan drools over: an interested Amare Stoudemire. Taking in tonight's game, and Shaq's impeding arrival, it's worth salivating over.

• I wondered, going into the game, if Chris Paul was the sort of point guard who could take over All-Star games. Sometimes even the best point guards (Steve Nash, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson) have issues dominating these sorts of games, but Paul done near took things over in the second half tonight a la Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson. A bright All-Star future for this one.

• If Rasheed Wallace wants to come out, play half-hearted defense and take a series of left-handed shots ... great. I'd rather see Josh Smith come out, take a series of left-handed dunks off of lobs and play great defense. But that's just me. I'm a "hatah."

• Dwight Howard is a special, special cat. I'm glad I'm around to see a player with his mix of humor, skills, size, intellect, and savvy. It only gets better from here.

Such a night. Such a weekend.

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