The 10 Biggest Winners From All-Star
For an All-Star Weekend Warrior has the power to change things. The power to elevate his team back home to greatness.
Kobe, Shaq and Michael all won All-Star Game MVPs in seasons where their teams won NBA titles--so who knows what knowledge they may (or may not) have picked up in games of All-Stars past.
With that in mind, HOOP decided to look at the 10 biggest winners of 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston to see what victors will collect what spoils in the weeks and months to come.
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CHRIS PAUL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS ALL-STAR POINT GUARD: You had a feeling a Clipper was going to win the Kia All-Star MVP award when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin brought Lob City to Houston with two passes for dunks in the game's first 63 seconds. Then when Paul hit a 3 and set up both Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker for buckets shortly thereafter, you began to see how CP3 would win this MVP trophy. And sure enough--with 20 points (on 7-of-10 shooting ) and 15 assists--Paul won the award after contributing via pass or shot to more than a third of the points in the West's 143-138 victory. Now expect Paul to carry this momentum through the 2012-13 regular season. And if the Clippers should be able to make a run at the Spurs and Thunder for best record in the NBA, you can probably count on Paul being in the regular-season race for MVP, right alongside LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
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KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER ALL-STAR SMALL FORWARD: KD got 30 points in 31 minutes at All-Star and kept his rep as the best scorer in the game, even playing amongst the best scorers in the world. He likely finished second in the MVP balloting, but this is not why he was a biggest winner this weekend. KD is here because he finally got a win over LeBron James after six straight losses in Thunder-Heat games (four in the 2012 NBA Finals and two in the 2012-13 regular season). Hey, I know I am stretching here, but a win over LeBron is a win over LeBron. Anything to snap that streak! Now Durant has three mounting challenges before him: 1. hold off the other new-and-improving team, the Clippers, in the regular season and playoffs; 2. beat the mighty, mighty Spurs again--even without James Harden on the OKC roster--should the two Final Four squads meet up once more in the Western Conference Finals; 3. beat LeBron's Heat. Durant got a 2012 Olympic gold medal with LeBron. Durant got a 2013 All-Star Game victory over LeBron. Now to truly gain revenge for the 2012 NBA Finals loss, he has to ride this wave of winning through June and beat LeBron when it truly counts.
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CARMELO ANTHONY, NEW YORK KNICKS ALL-STAR POWER FORWARD: Carmelo Anthony has been to one conference finals in his NBA career. It happened in the 2008-09 season, which followed Melo's gold-medal summer at the 2008 Olympics where the forward was USA Basketball's leading scorer. Melo took that winning experience--playing with better, unselfish all-around players--and fused some of that into his game, having the best all-around season of his career, using Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus as the measure. When I told Melo this summer, I thought that 2008-09 season was his best year, he agreed. Well, Melo is doing it again--once more following an Olympic summer--posting a similar RAPM score with the Knicks. After his dazzling 2012 Olympic gold-medal experience where he scored 130 points in 142 minutes on .711 true shooting percentage for USA Basketball, his play with the 2013 Knicks has shot up to the same all-around level of play as he played with the 2009 Nuggets. I'm expecting another conference finals finish for Melo in these 2013 NBA Playoffs. His play at the 2013 NBA All-Star Game--26 points (8-of-12 shooting) and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes--lets you know he knows he belongs. We really didn't need an All-Star Game to confirm our thoughts and I'm sure he didn't either. But it doesn't hurt.
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TERRENCE ROSS, TORONTO RAPTORS SHOOTING GUARD: Toronto may have written out big checks to Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Landry Fields the past seven months, but lottery pick and fellow Raptor wing Terrence Ross was the one who cashed in big this All-Star Weekend, with his Canada-captivating winning performance in the Slam Dunk contest Saturday. The 22-year-old defensive standout who has struggled to find his shot in 17 minutes per game at Toronto definitely showed he can score in a wide assortment of ways in the slam-dunk range. The 6-6, 195-pounder, who was the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, put so many 360-degree dunks together, he made everyone dizzy. Most notably, Canadian native Drake, who was so happy Toronto had another slam dunk champion--13 years after Vince Carter--that he loaned the young Raptor his chains for the final round. Oh, Canada! It's so nice to have you back on the basketball map.
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KYRIE IRVING, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS ALL-STAR POINT GUARD: We knew his uncle has incredible game and that Kyrie Irving himself may have been one of the NBA's greatest teenagers ever last year and that his handle was the NBA's sickest since ill became an '80s adjective for the word good. But on All-Star Saturday--despite a warning from Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry--we found out that 20-year-old Irving just may become the NBA's best shooter too. His 23 score to win the Three-Point Shootout was something to behold and something we may never see again from a player so young. After all, this is a contest mostly made for oldheads and yet Irving put up a finals score that has only been beaten by Jason Kapono and Mark Price in the event's 27-year history. However, those won't be the names that will always be associated with Irving when people talk about 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend years from now. No. Uncle Drew fans might even forget the fact that Kyrie won the three-point shootout. After all, the lasting image that I'm sure we'll all remember from this weekend is Irving putting Brandon Knight on skates in the Rising Stars game, breaking Knight's ankles and turning him into a Washington General not once, not twice, not three times ...
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DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: Commissioner Stern deserves a mention here for wrapping up his final All-Star Game press conference so nicely like gift wrapping, topped with a pretty bow, which he presented to his successor and longtime support man, Adam Silver, who joined him on stage for questions. At the swan-song All-Star press conference, Commissioner Stern pointed out the financial health of NBA franchises, how the new collective bargaining agreement is working in leveling out the playing field, helping small-market teams compete against big-spending teams who are now cutting back and how that CBA will kick into a higher gear when the more-punitive luxury-tax penalties go into effect during the 2013-14 season--Stern's last in the NBA, where he will leave after 30 years on February 1, 2014. Stern also answered questions regarding the Sacramento Kings/Seattle Sonics moving controversy. But all in all, it was a drama-free zone in a feel-good state-of-the-union address. After the contentious 2011 NBA lockout and the compressed 2011-12 season, it was a nice change of pace to see everything getting back to normal once again, allowing Commish to go out on a high note with his legacy intact, less than a year from now.
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DEREK FISHER, NBA PLAYERS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT & FORMER (?) NBA PLAYER: After the lockout battle with NBA owners, Fisher may have had a more contentious civil war afterwards with the NBAPA's own executive director, Billy Hunter, as the two had a yearlong power struggle that may have reached a conclusion Saturday, when NBA player reps unanimously voted to oust Hunter as union head. I use the word "may" because Hunter alludes in the aforementioned link that this fight is not over. But for all intents and purposes, it seems that Fisher has greater support than Hunter in this behind-the-scenes battle, with a new executive committee belong elected Saturday during All-Star Weekend. Now that this matter is settled for the moment, perhaps the 38-year-old vet--who has bounced around from the Lakers to Rockets to Thunder to Mavs the last two seasons--can find himself a new team to play on before the 2013 NBA Playoffs begin. Either that or Fish can team up next season with Michael Jordan or Phil Jackson. Or both. One can only hope for such dream storylines.
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MICHAEL JORDAN, CHARLOTTE BOBCATS OWNERS & FORMER (?) NBA PLAYER: It was a Michael Jordan 50th birthday party all week long at All-Star, as the NBA and its partners celebrated the legend of Air Jordan with a much-hyped NBA TV special, Sports Illustrated's 50th MJ cover and one of the best-accessed, insightful stories into Jordan's life today. But perhaps the best revelation of the week was the rumors of a comeback, ignited by not only his longtime, legendary trainer Tim Grover, but also by his 19-year-old first-round draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who admitted Jordan recently beat him in a one-on-one game. Now we all are anxiously awaiting the next three-world press release to hit our emails: "I'm back ... again."
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CHARLES BARKLEY, TEAM CHUCK GENERAL MANAGER & TNT "INSIDE THE NBA" PERSONALITY: OK. I know this is the fourth suit in a row that I've placed on this list, but I cannot help it. All-Star is a corporate event and sometimes the biggest movers and shakers may not still have gravity-defying hops or killer-crossover dribbles. (Just be thankful I didn't list more suits here, with all the trading-deadline talks going on in Houston). That said, it's time to move to the Rising Stars Challenge Friday to break that event down. I am friends with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal so I feel kind of bad divulging company secrets to the world, but I got to let Shaq in on a little secret. Hey Shaquille. Chuck is abusing you. For two years now, he has used the same unspoken strategy on putting his Rising Stars Challenge team together and both times he blew your team out of the galaxy. Here's the secret: He drafts second-year players. Last year, he took six sophomores, you took three and he beat you, 146-133. This year, he took six again and you only got three again, and he beat y'all, 163-135. Think about it this way: In the other 12 Rising Stars Games in the 21st Century--back when you guys didn't draft teams and the sophomores played the rookies--the sophs ended up winning eight of the 12 games. After playing in the Rising Stars game as a rookie, they know what to expect a year later when they're playing as sophomores. Both times Chuck's teams got up on you big by halftime because they knew what to expect. So next time, Shaq, draft nothing but sophomores and see if that doesn't help you some. Because I feel ya, the last thing any of us want to hear is a bragging Barkley on TNT for the rest of 2013.
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KENNETH FARIED, DENVER NUGGETS POWER FORWARD: The Manimal went from cult favorite to mainstream hero Friday when he rocked the Rising Stars Challenge with a rocket-fueled, out-of-the-world performance, scoring 40 points on 18-of-22 shooting, drawing a portrait in paint that should be hanging in a museum somewhere. The TNT crew raved about Faried's non-stop hustle--as all Manimal maniacs were already aware--pointing out his non-stop desire to also play defense in an All-Star-like pickup game where that style is frowned upon. Nobody, however, frowned upon Faried's ferociousness in leading Team Chuck to an ultimate 163-135 victory over Team Shaq in Houston. If nothing else, expect George Karl, who has done a great job coaching up the raw, energetic prospect in two seasons, to give more playing time to the 6-8, 228-pound 23 year old who was averaging an 18.96 Player Efficiency Rating in 29 minutes per game. Faried is showing us all that he is built for future All-Star Games to come.