All in all, All-Star Weekend couldn’t have gone much better for the NBA. From Stephen Curry’s lights-out performance in the three-point shooting contest to Zach LaVine’s breathtaking aerial display to Russell Westbrook’s 41-point MVP performance, there was a lot to marvel at from this past weekend.
“I thought it was a cool celebration of the game,” CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “That’s what it’s supposed to be about. We get caught up in who’s starting and who deserves to be there and all this stuff. But really, it’s just a spectacle to say, ‘Hey, the NBA has had a pretty good season so far. We’re going to have a pretty good second half to the season and a good playoff. Here are some of the young guys that matter, here are the best shooters, here’s the best dunkers and here’s the best stars you guys should be watching.”
Indeed, this past weekend was a ratings bonanza for the NBA – in no small part because festivities were held at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center in the media capital of the world (AKA New York City).
“Yeah, it was a little crazy in terms of logistically getting people there in and out and knowing where things were going to be,” Harper said. “But it was nice being in two different buildings for the two different events. I thought Saturday was a huge win for the NBA. I mean, the fact that Curry – I think he hit seven in a row in the final round and then finished it off with like 13 in a row before missing his final shot. He went crazy. It’s those runs of shooting that really make the three-point contest fun. It’s almost like in the home run derby when a guy hits six, seven in a row.”
Curry scored 27 points in the final round, setting the stage for an unbelievable Dunk Contest.
“Zach LaVine was incredible,” Harper said. “He wasn’t Vince Carter, but he wasn’t far from it. He did three between-the-legs dunks and made them look like a double-pump for him. It was casually extraterrestrial in the way he did it. I thought it was just a really fun night.”
While LaVine stole the show Saturday, another UCLA product stole the show Sunday, with Westbrook coming within one point of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record of 42 points, set in 1962. Westbrook missed a lay-up in the final minutes that could have given him the record.
Still, some are criticizing Westbrook for his ball-hog tendencies. Westbrook took 28 shots in the All-Star Game – 12 more than any other player on his team – and had just one assist.
“I think the concept of team play in the All-Star Game is weird,” Harper said, downplaying the criticism. “Everyone’s supposed to go out there and show why they’re good. Some guys are good because of passing. Some guys are good because of shooting. Some guys are good because of dunking. Blake Griffin dunked like 13 times last year and ended up scoring 38 points. Russell Westbrook just attacked. He’s hitting pull-up threes, he’s strutting all over the place – he got to have fun. And I think this is the first time we’ve seen a genuine smile out of Russ. When he was holding that MVP trophy for the All-Star Game, he looked genuinely thrilled to be there and be a star on that stage. That’s fun. This whole thing is supposed to about fun – and I thought the weekend was fun.”