Sunday, February 14, 2010

NBA All Star Game - Effort with a Lower Case "e"

After getting home from my 7 year old's Saturday morning basketball game - a game in which he asked out of the game for a break because he couldn't breathe from running so hard - he asked me to play basketball with him.  Looking at my swollen knee from the last time we played basketball (I completed a beautiful spin move and dunked it over his head - fine, it was an 8 foot hoop and maybe he IS 7 years old, but the move was still the move), I suggested that we WATCH basketball instead.  My hope being that he would watch some desperate college teams hustling after loose balls and playing tough denial defense and learn good fundamental basketball.  That lasted for about 10 minutes until his buddy came over - all of sudden I was relegated to watching the Winter Olympics with only passing greetings from all of the children.

Later that night came the renewed request to play basketball outside.  Looking at the thermometer reading of 28 degrees and the lone lightbulb illuminating our driveway, I passed on that request as well, but with a compromise - go to bed early tonight and we can all stay up to watch the 2010 NBA All Star game tomorrow night.  If my boys were going to learn good fundamental basketball consisting of crisp passes, strong rebounding and strong team defense, the NBA All Star Game would be the place.

8:30pm.  Convincing my 5 year old that we are not rooting for the Celtics tonight is proving to be difficult. 

"But there's Rajon Rondo and KG!" he tells me.  "I want the Celtics to win! Do you Dad?"  "Why are they wearing blue instead of green?  Did they change their uniform colors again?"

"No the Celtics didn't change their colors.  Yes.  I want the Celtics to win."  I gave up trying to explain what an "All Star Game" actually means.  I'm too distracted by the Eastern Conference All Stars trying to dance in sync with one another during the player introductions.  I hope that he doesn't ask me about what just happened there or the fact that it's 8:40 and the game still has not started...too late.

My seven year old just tells me that Ray Allen should be in the game too.  "I'd put Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo on the team, but not Paul Pierce."  He's a tough judge.  Later on, he continues, "He's putting baby powder on?" about LeBron James' pregame ritual.  I don't bother touching that one either.

As the game starts and the Western Conference All Stars take the early lead, I hear the boys say things like "Bad pass!" "Why isn't he playing defense?" "East is doing horrible!" and the best one "Why isn't that guy running very hard?"  I don't have a very good response when they ask me why they don't want to win.  East takes the First Quarter, 37-34.

As the Second Quarter starts and continues, the teams trade interesting plays - no-look passes, fake passes that turn into keepers, alley oops and a strange bounce alley oop attempt by  Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo - all punctuated by my seven year old proclaiming "Why aren't they playing defense?  There are two guys standing right there!"  It makes for entertaining, if not fundamentally sound, basketball, I suppose.

In an open mic moment, we hear Lebron James exclaim that Paul Pierce is the best shooter in the history of basketball.  I know Pierce won the 3 point shot contest and all, and I put him in the top 10 of all time Celtics, but the best shooter of all time?  LeBron, sensing a playoff battle in Round 2 of the Playoffs, apparantly is amping up the hyperbole.

While the teams trade baskets and leads for the majority of the Quarter, the Eastern Conference goes into half time leading 76-69.  Craig Sager and his shimmering red tie approve.

As I explain Shakira's appearance (the TV channel couldn't be changed faster) and I break up a wrestling match, the Third Quarter mercifully starts.  A lot more of the same.  Alley Oops, uncontested coast to coast lay ups, bad passing and awful defense.  By this point my 5 year old falls asleep and my seven year old and I are getting bored.  Even a thundering dunk by LeBron James  at the 8 minute mark doesn't stir anything from us but a couple of sniffles - and that might have been the fake fireplace kicking on more than anything the all stars did.

Halfway through the Third Quarter, he exclaims after yet another LeBron James dunk, "They aren't playing any defense.  They're like, you're gonna get it in so whatever."  Do you sense a theme of this game and our reaction to it?  Even Kobe admits that this is "The greatest pick up game in the world."  I wonder what the schmoes who paid $5,000 a ticket think about his assessment?  The East ends the Third Quarter ahead 118-109.

Fourth Quarter.  While lasting longer than I thought they would, both boys have finally fallen asleep.  I think they will both be saying "shoot it!" and "block it!" in their dreams tonight.  While watching the Fourth Quarter by myself, I do have to admit that the quality of play has improved.  No more ridiculous bounce pass alley oop attempts (one was enough, Rajon) and players actually started going to the floor.  The intesity level reaches new highs as well, particularly when Chauncey Billips makes a little 15 footer to tie the game at 137 with 45 seconds left in the game.

After a couple of spotty fouls - come on it's the All Star Game! - the West has the ball with 5 seconds left trailing by 2 points.  Carmelo Anthony takes the inbounds pass and clangs a 3 pointer off the back of the rim, giving the Eastern Conference a 141-139 win.

Looking back, the three of us decided that the All Star Game was not an appropriate venue to learn basketball basics.  Defense was lacking, effort and hustle were sporadic at best and rebounding consisted of whomever picked up the ball from the ground after a missed shot.  Personally, I'd rather watch my seven year old's team battle it out on Saturday mornings.   They don't know alley-oops and behind-the-back passes, and I hope they never learn.

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