Posted Feb 9 2011 11:07AM
The NBA's annual fit of spectacle, All-Star Weekend, is just around the corner. Some of the most entertaining and impressive people, sights and sounds will be on display in Los Angeles and at the Staples Center for three days of excellence and excess.
Much of what we like about the league will be there. Some of what, however, we like will not. Somewhere in between all the criteria applied to the various events -- All-Star starters picked by popularity, reserves chosen according to their team's won-lost records, participants tabbed for the sideshow competitions based on their proximity to L.A. that weekend -- some of the NBA's best stuff will get overlooked.
For our purposes here, I'm dubbing this the NBA's "Most Watchable" list. It's a gathering of people and things that help to make the league so compelling, so much fun. The beauty of a list like this is that everyone can have his or her own, and none of them is right or wrong. It's a personal thing.
This one is mine. Readers surely have their own. Send in some of the highlights from yours and we'll find a way to get them posted in the coming days.
Blake Griffin: In a season crammed with watchables -- including the Clippers now because of this guy -- Griffin has been must-see mayhem of 2010-11 for his array of dunks and the "Who he?" attitude that he seems to exude when pitted against proven NBA stars. Frankly, Griffin's status as "the other" -- a rookie, a newbie to the fraternity -- makes me wonder if we'll get a little All-Star Weekend friction. Similar to what Michael Jordan went through in 1985 or what Shaq experienced in 1994 when other players went out of their way to make things tough for the then-Next Big Things.
Derrick Rose with the ball: He isn't built like a bowling ball but nobody goes through the lane disregarding pins quite like Rose. He routinely splits two pairs of defenders when they converge, then contorts himself to avoid getting squashed while spinning in an improbable reverse layup.
John Wall or Russell Westbrook with the ball: And a stopwatch, please, to figure out which one is faster.
Kevin Durant with a hot hand: A clinic in butter, on satin sheets, ablaze.
The fans in Oklahoma City standing till the Thunder score: So what if it's rah-rah? It beats the jaded and the late-arrivers down low in other arenas' bowls.
Kevin Love as a shot goes up: His numbers are formidable and reliable, so it's fun to forensically work backward to see how he positions himself -- and his foes -- to claim so many errant shots. It's all about instincts, timing and horizontal air space, and you can almost hear the newsreel projector chattering as you watch Love's throwback style.
Andrew Bogut's Squad 6: This is like finding one plaid square on a chessboard, the way these spirited folks stand out -- in look, in sound -- from the crowd at the Bradley Center.
Knicks rookie Landry Fields: The guy to watch for most of the 38 players drafted ahead of him last June. None of them has played more, or certainly earned more, minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki flicking in 3-pointers: The rest of the league uses pebble-grain leather. Nowtizki uses Nerf balls.
Paul Silas' shirts: The Charlotte coach looks to have stuff in his closet that can challenge Knicks legend Walt Frazier in sheer apparel audacity.
Josh Smith on a breakout: It's just a question of how high, how fast and how hard as the Atlanta Hawks' forward finishes.
The first three minutes of the fourth quarter of a Cleveland Cavaliers game: Either you'll be intrigued by the possibility that the Cavs have themselves a winnable game, or you'll get a few guilt-free moments to gawk at the train wreck.
Gregg Popovich's, Doc Rivers' or Scott Skiles' teams coming out of a timeout they called to set up a late critical possession: More often than not, you'll wonder if 27 other teams simply use their timeouts for bathroom breaks.
Popovich doing a first- or third-quarter quickie standup interview when the sideline reporter isn't a former player: Oh, the one-word replies. And the look in his eyes.
Phil Jackson's high chair: And the poor soul who paid VIP prices to sit right behind him.
Earl Boykins: Twelve NBA seasons at 5-foot-5. So what's your excuse again?
When Kobe Bryant is doing that underbite thing of his: It's scarier than Kobe with the ball and nine seconds left. Is it more Alien, Predator or "Jaws" from the Bond movies? A real black mamba's fangs protrude from the roof of its mouth, y'know.
Jerry Sloan's flex system: It's like April 15. You know it's coming, you can prepare all you want and it still hurts every time.
"Quick Change": OK, this wacky couple in the colorful garb might not be the most talented NBA halftime act -- I'm partial to the cereal-bowl gal on the unicycle. But like most magic acts, the allure is trying to catch the sleight of hand. Or in this case, sleight of wardrobe.
Chris Andersen: Rodman revisited. I wish he'd stand still, though, because trying to "read" his tats is like watching a subtitled movie on an iPad on horseback.
DeMarcus Cousins: Admittedly, the Sacramento Kings rookie is gaining on maturity in the great race toward adulthood. So this might not be 100 percent fair. But the potential for blowups, skirmishes or other sideline theatrics remains, at least a while longer.
The Boston Celtics' half-court offense: Or their half-court defense, for that matter. It makes me want to crouch down and slap my floor, too.
LaMarcus Aldridge getting the ball on the left block: It's a joy to see a talented player grow into his game. And in Aldridge's case, into his role as a Trail Blazers' anchor.
Stan Van Gundy, miked at halftime: He's not going to yell some more. Is he?
Manu Ginobili: At both ends, for sheer entertainment value and for impeccably timed clutch plays.
LeBron James' chase-down blocks: These might be going the way of Roberto Clemente's outfield assists (opponents so feared his arm, they stopped running on him).
Dwyane Wade's ingenuity in traffic: And the and-one-ness of what he usually concocts.
The Lakers' Hollywood-style introductions: The Alan Parsons music in Chicago still raises goosebumps for its ability to evoke the Jordan era. The historical clips at TD Garden in Boston are a quickie walk through NBA history. But the drama and scale of the Lakers' instant floor-to-rafters "movie screen" sheets is unsurpassed and perfect for excitable clippage in the show biz capital.
Ray Allen, tireless at age 35: Better yet, let's all watch Allen's defenders as they try to keep up with him through a slalom of screens and arrive within, oh, three seconds of when the Celtics sharpshooter catches and releases.
JaVale McGee throwing an alley-oop dunk attempt off the back rim: Or swatting a shot into the fifth row, only to give up a backdoor layup once the ball is inbounded again. No one embodies the Wizards' raw potential and lack of savvy more than this freakish athlete who is far from a finished NBA product.
Monta Ellis: Most creative offensive player in the league, in terms of getting that shot off at that size.
The hecklers in Oakland: Most creative fans in the league, with a few leather-lunged smarties always audible and clever.
The Phoenix Suns' dance -- : Er, I mean, the Phoenix Suns' Gorilla mascot.
Chris Paul or Steve Nash, dribbling near the top of the circle: Eyes scanning, gears whirring, Terminator-like visuals in their heads as they dissect the possibilities. This is a pick 'em pair.
Luis Scola: You'd swear he just beat your pickup team last week at the YMCA.
So-ugly-they're-pretty shooting forms: We're thinking Juwan Howard's "Cobra" jumper and Joakim Noah's "tornado," as far as unorthodox deliveries. Marcus Camby's slow-and-slower windup qualifies here too.
Glen (Big Baby) Davis: It's the nickname. It's the upholstered physique. It's the abandon with which he plays. It's the 39 charges-taken he had at the start of this week, compared to 43 for all of Boston's opponents combined.
Kevin Garnett: There's still a chance, before the hyper-intense Boston forward is done, that he will actually chew off his own foot to win another ring. There's also a chance, as his crazed-cranky legacy grows, that some rival who's on the side of the angels will coldcock him one of these days.
Mikhail Prokhorov's next press conference: The last one, smart or not in serving the Nets' long-term ambitions, was precisely what so many of us wanted to say regarding all the Carmelo Anthony misinformation and yammering. Nyet! Plus, his interpreter that day would be a pretty nifty Bond girl/villain.
Washington at Cleveland Feb. 13: 'Nuff said.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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