Living the Fantasy: All-Star Vibes
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
February 9, 2007
I like it more than the dunk contest because it's more competitive and dramatic, what with the clock constantly dwindling. And you never know who's going to get hot, stay hot, and win the darn thing. Show of hands...how many of you picked Voshon Lenard to win a few years ago?
Plus, the three-point shootout is more like real basketball. You shoot threes during a normal NBA game; you don't throw a lob to yourself from 30 feet away from the basket.
Don't get me wrong, the Main Event is almost always a good time. Some of the most famous moments in NBA history come from the Dunk Contest, including Jordan vs. Wilkins in '88, Jordan's lunar leaner in '87, and Spud being Spud back in '86. Those great moments notwithstanding, I get more fired up about dudes launching 24-footers for cash.
Which brings us to this year's lineup for the three-point shootout, and it goes a little something like this...
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: Not only is Dirk the defending champ, he's the best 7-foot shooter in the history of orange, and he's tied for 10th this season at 43 percent from beyond the arc.
Dirk barely won last year’s shootout, scratching and clawing his way to the final round where he beat Gilbert Arenas 18-16. This year he devastates the competition Bird-style.
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards: The man they call Agent Zero, Boy Wonder, Eastern Conference Assassin, or All-Star starter, depending on whom you talk to, is back for another shot at the chip. Through Thursday's work, Arenas was shooting a respectable 37 percent from deep, leading the league in attempts (383) and ranking second in makes (143).
It seems like it's Gilbert’s world right now, and he's great enough to run the table Fats Domino-style, but I just think the German Gunner is going to be a little sharper.
Mike Miller, Grizzlies: I can't wait to watch Miller in the shootout because all he does is hit cold-blooded jumpers. Miller currently leads the league in makes with 150 and he's second in attempts with 349. That works out to the 10th-best percentage at .430, which is pretty incredible when you consider the volume of hoists. Miller deserves this opp and I'm happy he's getting it. There will not be a bullet left in this gunslinger's chamber when the clock expires, I can promise you that.
Jason Terry, Mavericks: Jet 2.0 was in the shootout last year as well, but didn't fare all that well. However, he's coming off a fantastic playoff run and a first half in which he's shooting 42 percent from deep (tied for 13th), so I fully expect Terry to settle down and knock 'em down with greater regularity this time around. But like last year, he'll be rooting for his Maverick teammate in the final round.
You gotta love quotes like that, especially from a cat who's bounced around from team to team and in and out of rotations his entire career. At least a part of me will be cheering for the likeable Jones on All-Star Saturday night, but he will not send the TNT crew scrambling for b-roll of Joe Namath.
Jason Kapono, Heat: Here's your dark horse, ladies and gentlemen. Don't know how much Heat basketball you've seen over the past few weeks, but Kapono has opened my eyes with one of the most efficient and immediate releases in the NBA.
The third-highest scorer in UCLA history has come outta nowhere to lead the NBA with a .559 percentage from deep. Freaks, he's the only NBA player shooting better than 50 percent from deep, as Steve Nash is second at 49 percent. Kapono has 85 threes this season, which seems like a million when you consider he had 122 in his first three seasons with Cleveland, Charlotte, and Miami.
The pressure that goes along with the center-stage aspect of the three-point shootout will be good for Kapono. Either he'll flop and be able to use that as a learning experience for the playoffs or—far more likely—he’ll rise to the challenge and maintain the confidence he's been playing with all season. It's a good news-good news scenario for the Heat, who will come to rely on Kapono for kick-out threes in April, May, and hopefully June.
By the way, if you're still sleeping on Kapono as a fantasy player, you need to stop hitting the snooze button and get your (bleep) outta bed.
If you focus only on his three-cat line of 11.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, you probably want to vomit. (Wipe your mouth, that's disgusting.) That paltry line doesn't tell the story of Kapono, obviously, because this dude is all about the shooting categories, and he's getting better with each shot, each game, each month.
From December to February, his points have soared from 12.0 to 14.5 to 18.3, his field-goal percentage has climbed from .482 to .554 to .600, and his free throws have inched up from .850 to .889 to 1.000.
I saved the best for last, as his three-point percentage has swelled from .500 to .583 to .619. To put Kapono's February three-point mark of 62 percent into perspective, Amare Stoudemire's 61 percent from the field ranks second in the league.
The question with Kapono is—when is the other shoe going to drop? I mean, here's a no-name nobody for three years who finally gets a shot because of injuries and illness, and he's crushing threes at roughly 60 percent over the past five weeks. You gotta be kidding me with that.
Here's the deal, freaks. Some of you may think Kapono is a borderline player who is simply feeling it right now. I, on the other hand, interpret Kapono’s story to be that of apprentice morphing to master quicker than anyone expected.
If he were a 7-footer, we'd be calling him ManChild...or phenom. If he were a coach, we'd trot out the cliché about him being one of the brightest young minds in the business. If he played piano for a living, we'd be calling him a prodigy.
Freaks, it's not like Kapono is plopping threes at 45 or even 50 percent, which would be mighty impressive. We are talking about a dude who shot 58 percent from deep over an entire month (35 for 60 in 15 games)!
Sorry, but that is not a fluke—and neither is Kapono, who will give Dirk a run for his money in the shootout.
I felt good about Melo making it when Stern invited Nate Robinson to defend his slam dunk championship despite his 10-game suspension for the scuffle at MSG. Melo, who lost 15 games for his punch during the melee, was contrite and remorseful about his actions, and he did not appeal his suspension. Plus, Melo is a heckuva guy, and that all led to the NBA's leading scorer finally making the big game.
-- In watching the Hornets' double-overtime victory over the Bucks on Thursday night, I was reminded of Desmond Mason's embarrassing free-throw technique. He looks down and almost closes his eyes with the ball teetering around his waste, and then he quickly brings the ball to eye level before snapping it towards the rim.
Freaks, Shaq has a better looking free throw stroke than Mason, who missed five of seven against the Bucks and is shooting .353 from free in five games this month. Somewhat surprisingly, Mason is shooting .654 from the line this season.
-- Most of you probably heard about Tyrus Thomas big-timing the slam dunk contest earlier this week. And most of you probably heard about the Bulls fining him $10,000 for such arrogance and disrespect.
Well, it doesn't always happen this quickly, but the Basketball/Karma Gods exacted their revenge on the Bulls' punkish rookie in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game when Thomas turned his right ankle during takeoff for an uncontested dunk.
The rookie collapsed in a heap on photo row and stayed there for a while before making his to the bench. Thomas returned to the game later in the quarter, but the egg remained on his bald head.
I don't want to be too harsh on the kid because he's only 20 years old. That said, he's in a man's world now, and it's time to act like one.
-- Lastly, I have a few predictions for All-Star Weekend. I’m going with Gerald Green in the Sprite Slam Dunk because he is the most explosive and dynamic athlete in the competition. It’ll be cool to see what power dunks Dwight Howard breaks off, but I fear a letdown from Lil’ Nate and there’s no way the Basketball/Karma Gods are going to let Thomas take home the hardware after telling a reporter he’s in it only for the free money.
-- The T-Mobile Rookie Challenge will be dominated, yet again, by the Sophomore team, which includes the triumvirate of point guards, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Raymond Felton. Final Score: 200-100. D Williams adds fuel to the debate between he and CP3 and strengthens his MIP case by winning MVP honors.
-- The West was best before Allen Iverson got traded from the Sixers to the Nuggets, but now the West is by far the best, and they will snap a two-game losing streak with a 140-138 victory over the East. That said, Dwyane Wade will win his first All-Star MVP award despite the loss, making him the first losing MVP since Magic Johnson, who scored a game-high 22 points in a 130-113 win for the Eastern Conference in 1990 at Miami.
The leading scorers for the East were Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley with 17 apiece, but seven Eastern Conference players were in double figures that day, making Magic’s line of 22-6-4 the most impressive from an underwhelming midseason classic.
I see the same thing happening with this year’s vintage, as the West is so loaded that it’ll be tough for one person to run away and hide from the rest. Meanwhile, D Wade has been in me-against-the-world mode all season, and it’ll be more of the same on Sunday night. Wade will lead all scorers with 31 points.
That’s it, freaks. I'm off to live the fantasy for four days in Las Vegas. Countless pinch-me moments are on the horizon and I encourage you to join in via NBA TV and NBA Radio (Sirius Satellite Channel 127) all weekend long. The broadcaster with perma-grin will be me.
Enjoy All-Star Weekend, stay karmic, and keep tweaking that fantasy team. Peace>>>
Rick Kamla is NBA.com's resident fantasy expert. Rick Kamla will be here all season long to give you his insider analysis on the fantasy basketball world. Kamla is the heady host for "NBA Fantasy Hoops Presented By Toyota," a seven-nights-a-week, one-hour studio show that has become the ultimate guide for NBA fantasy basketball players.
Check out: Fantasy Article Archive and Schedule