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Scott Howard-Cooper

Magic President Bob Vander Weide and David Stern announce Orlando as host of the 2012 All-Star Game.
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Orlando All-Star will shine despite any lockout hangover

Posted Nov 30 2011 10:39AM

Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer recently said his city should receive a second, compensatory All-Star weekend in a couple years because the February 2012 event could not be, because of the lockout and all that accompanied it, what it was cracked up to be.

It's an easy stance to take for the mayor. Sticking up for wronged locals against the big, bad players and the big, bad owners gathers support without risking a thing. It's straight from the Politician's Handbook.

In reality, if the season had been canceled and the 2012 All-Star Game had been lost, Orlando would have been awarded another game soon enough, probably as early as 2014 (after 2013 in Houston). And it's probably entitled to nothing more. Or at least nothing more than thousands of others around the country whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by the lockout.

(Come to think of it, the thousands of others have a better claim. They are innocent victims. Orlando asked to host and won the bid at a time everyone knew a lockout could crash into 2011-12. If civic leaders didn't see this coming, it's only because they weren't paying attention.)

Dyer went on a radio show hosted by Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi and said, "I would think they [the NBA] would have a moral obligation to give us a second All-Star Game since we wouldn't be getting the All-Star Game in the fashion that it was promoted to us."

Moral obligation? In the fashion that it was promoted to us?

"Dyer wanted a guarantee that the game would arrive with pixie dust and humming, 'It's a small, small world?' " Brian Schmitz correctly noted in the Sentinel.

What Dyer did not say: People of Orlando, if you feel shorted by hosting in 2012, blame leaders that let you down with poor foresight. We got caught up in the excitement of the first season in the new Amway Center arena. We should have known a lockout was possible, since every other human being on Earth did, and bid for the 2013 game. Or if we really wanted this season, we should have committed ourselves to making it into a positive: The NBA Came Here to Feel Better.

If anyone has had the All-Star world break right for them before, it's Orlando. The last time the circus came to town, in 1992, Magic Johnson's return to the court about three months after testing HIV-positive made the weekend memorable and the game historic. It remains one of the more remarkable NBA moments of the last 25 years.

This time, it's hard to imagine that Central Florida will pay for the choppy lead-in anyway. The arena will be sold out. Current and former players will fan out for community events. Hotels will be busy.

The emotions are tougher to predict. Maybe it will be an uneasy time, with remnants of a contentious fight. Or maybe the sides will be determined to use the three days of major media focus as an opportunity to start a necessary league-wide comeback. Either way, Orlando will have the marketing moment, the spotlight on the extravaganza that, Schmitz reports, will drive an estimated $100 million into the local economy.

But, Bianchi writes in the Sentinel:

"Keep your All-Star Game, NBA. We don't want it. At least not this year. You've already ruined the mood and killed the buzz."

Of course, this is the same story that includes the statements, "Let's face it, no other city in the league will be more impacted by this year's lockout than Orlando, which quite possibly could see its long-awaited All-Star Game and its most-beloved sports star -- Dwight Howard -- disappear in one foul feud over basketball-related income," and "The city and county invested $500 million for a new state-of-the-art arena because, in part, we were led to believe that Howard was staying in town and the All-Star Game festivities were coming to town."

Taking those points, in order:

1. New Orleans and Sacramento are hustling in a lockout and a bad economy to find fans to buy season tickets and generate hundreds of millions of dollars to build an arena, literally staring at the possibility the Hornets and Kings could be moving. Orlando isn't close to being the city that would have been most impacted by a lost 2011-12.

2. If Howard leaves, the labor dispute will have had no impact.

3. If the city and county invested $500 million for a new state-of-the-art arena because, in any part, they were led to believe Howard was staying, that's on them. If that happened, getting the next five All-Star weekends won't solve Orlando's problem.

There are a lot of feelings coming out in Orlando. All-Star weekend is a big deal. Anything that diminishes that, real or imagined, can hurt.

But All-Star weekend will go on as scheduled. In the end, we may not even feel the bump of the past five months.

As for the future, Orlando could get another chance at an All-Star Game soon, regardless of a "moral obligation" that anyone may feel. Florida in February will always hold an appeal.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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