The NBA's weekend takeover of the Big Apple -- and it's notable ceding of the city spotlight during "SNL 40" -- should be considered a reasonable success, but I came away from All-Star Weekend thinking the experience could be even better. Before the memory of the weekend becomes too distant, here's a rundown of the major events coupled with my thoughts on what worked and what didn't.
Rising Stars Challenge
Team USA vs. Team World was perfect. It won't always work out that there are a roughly equal number of deserving U.S.-born and international rookies and sophomores, but this format should always be duplicated when it does. The international media members seemed thrilled with the results -- especially given that Team World won, 121-112 -- and what red-blooded American doesn't love rooting for the U.S.?
Man, this one must go. Not that I don't love seeing retired stars Scottie Pippen and Penny Hardaway once in awhile -- I really do. The problem is the event itself. Does anyone care which team can make a layup, a midrange jumper, a 3-pointer and a half-court heave the fastest? Too arbitrary. What's worse: There are two rounds to the event. If this event insists on returning, just cut it to one round and crown a winner.
I don't mind this event too much. Mixing talented ballhandlers with a gameshow-esque obstacle course can be fun. The problem? Event winner Patrick Beverley revealed the most glaring issue: Passing doesn't matter. Beverley failed to sneak any of his six chest passes through designated ring over the final two rounds of the event, but because the passing station has just three balls he simply kept going and took advantage of his opponents' struggles at making the 3-pointer at the end. Shouldn't this event reward passing skill? Shooters have their own event. Next year, the players should be required to make a pass the way they're required to make a shot.
This was the most dramatic shootout in a long-time thanks to a star-studded field and a best-case scenario finish. . Two of the three finalists were the Warriors' All-Star "Splash Brothers" combo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Thompson went last with a chance to top his teammate's record 27 points, but couldn't rise to the challenge. I do have two suggestions for the future, however. 1) Lose the moneyball rack and stick with the traditional format, and 2) make the ball racks slant a bit so the shooters don't need break rhythm reaching for the final shots at each station.
Slam Dunk contest
The first round battle between eventual winner Zach LaVine (Timberwolves) and Victor Oladipo (Magic) featured some of the most refreshing dunk contest moments in years, but the final round in which the two duked it out was anticlimactic. The simplest way to fix the event is to get rid of rounds. Instead of two turns in the first round to eliminate competitors and two turns in the final, each dunker would receive three turns with which to flex their best material. The low score would be dropped off, and the top two scores would determine the winner. (The low score could be used as a tiebreaker.) I've always wondered if some dunkers who were eliminated early were saving their best material for later, and this format would eliminate that fear. Plus, there's more drama and less penalty for trying and failing an incredibly difficult jam.
I'll steer clear of the pageantry -- other than to say it was fun to see Nas perform for a heartbeat or two -- and focus on the game itself. Very little wrong here, to be honest. The Russell Westbrook Show and the pursuit of the single-game scoring record was fun to follow, and these exhibitions are always good for a memorable moment or two (Curry's crazy scoop layup, the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki paying homage to Vince Carter after his rare alley-oop). The game was a little sloppier than usual (39 turnovers), but that doesn't happen every year. I wouldn't mind the NBA following the NHL and NFL with conference-irrelevant All-Stars and a fantasy draft to create teams, but East meets West still works if the NBA opts to keep it that way.