is operating in rare air for All-Star 2005, as we're spending the weekend in the Mile High City. As part of the festivities around town, we'll provide you with behind-the-scenes coverage with our running blog. From Q&A's with players and celebs to first-person accounts to cool photos, the All-Star Blog will be your home for complete coverage from All-Star Weekend! All-Star 2005 Blog: Thursday
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The NBA's Getting Soph
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 12:15 a.m. ET

'Melo's in charge in the got milk? Rookie Challenge.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

No, not soft. Soph. As seen Friday night on TV, the 2003 NBA Draft class could be one for the ages. Only time will tell if this class will surpass the 1999 Draft or the 1996 Draft. We could even be goaded into saying the 2003 Draft may end up possibly matching the hallowed 1984 NBA Draft class, often considered the greatest in history.

I may get an argument over it, but you could see the collective talent of the 2003 class come shining through Friday tonight. And it was more than just the 27-point poleaxing they gave the Rookies. It was more than dunks and fancy passes. It was the verve, the vitality and the vision of this Sophomore class.

LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's exuberant and undeniable talent shined through. You could see it in MVP Carmelo Anthony and forward Chris Bosh as well. These guys aren't just potentially great players, but they are high-impact guys right now. Two of them -- LeBron and Wade -- will be playing on Sunday in the big boys' game. LeBron is a legitimate MVP candidate. Wade has pushed his stature through the roof with his stellar play this season.

And it's only a matter of time before 'Melo, Bosh and others join them in the Sunday classic and, I for one, can't wait. Yet, tonight will have to do.

As for this year's game on Sunday ... whoa, whoa, whoa. We still have All-Star Saturday to celebrate. And, of course, we'll be here in Denver, covering everything, from happenings around Denver to the pre-competition photo shoots (Will someone be working out again?) to the great contests themselves: Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk, the Radio Shack Shooting Stars and the PlayStation Skills Challenge.

Speaking of the Skills Challenge, check back around 7 p.m. ET Saturday night for a very special blog entry. You won't be sorry that you did. (I may be sorry, but that's the reason to check in.)

Sophs Romp, 'Melo Steals the Show
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:53 p.m. ET
Well, the Sophs ran away with it at the end, 133-106 as Anthony went for 31, Bron had numerous highlight worthy dunks, Bosh had 26 and 14, Wade had nine assists and the only 3-pointer Kyle Korver seemingly missed (he hit seven) was from 75-feet.

As we thought, 'Melo's 31 was enough to get him the MVP of the got milk? Rookie Challenge.

We'll have more in a moment.

Over 30
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:48 p.m. ET
'Melo leaves (we think) with 31. Will it be good enough to win the MVP or will voters go for Bosh's 26 and 14?

And the Soph's have this game in hand with a 20-point cushion with two minutes to go.

'Round the World
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:42 p.m. ET
Sweet behind the back drive by Andre Iguodala. Then, one Mav player rejected another as Josh Howard sent Devin Harris' layup attempt into Boulder.

More Saturday Night Preview?
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:40 p.m. ET
Korver, who is in the Foot Locker Three-Point Challenge on Saturday night has used this game as warm up. Nearly every 3-pointer he has taken has been true.

LeBron, getting some air
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:35 p.m. ET
'Melo leads all scorers with 24. Will we see a hometown fave win MVP? With 9:27 left in the game, the Sophs have opened up a 13-point lead on the Rookies, who are playing like, well, rookies. Lots of passes airmailed into the stands.

Also, twice LeBron has tripped over a cameraman on the sidelines, and twice I think I've head Paul Silas' heart skip a beat.

We're Back
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:23 p.m. ET
Thanks to 'Nique for dropping by. We'll have some highlights from the chat soon.

Meanwhile, the Sophs have taken a one-point lead with 15 minutes to go in the game. And 'Melo just slammed for a three-point lead.

Beginners' Luck?
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:55 p.m. ET
The Rookies have a 64-58 lead at halftime, with Luol Deng leading the way. LeBron has 14 for the Sophs and 'Melo and Wade have 12 points apiece.

And the Hawks' Josh Smith almost had this place in hysterics at the end of the half when he tried to two-hand windmill an alley oop. It clanked and a collective "Ooooohhhhhhhhhhh" went through the arena.

We're looking forward to the second half. Don't forget, 'Nique's joining us in a few.

Saturday Night Preview?
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:50 p.m. ET
Josh Smith reverse of an oop. Nice. A sign of things to come on Saturday?

Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:44 p.m. ET
Tony Allen did the same dunk as Iguodala. Copy cat.

Nice alley-oop from Harris to Deng, who caught the ball on the way down and brought it back to the rim.

Only Kyle Korver's three threes are keeping the Sophs in the contest.

More "Oh no!"
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:42 p.m. ET
Andre Iguodala's windmill off a pass from Devin Harris.

A 'Nique Chat Experience
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:38 p.m. ET
As I mentioned earlier, Dominique Wilkins will be joining us at the start of the second half.

Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:35 p.m. ET
Shaq, wearing a black fedora and a black overcoat, walked in with his wife to thunderous cheers. Immediately to Shaq's left is A.I. Five seats down? Kobe. Interesting ...

Oh so 'Melo
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:25 p.m. ET
At the first time out, 'Melo has six points, three boards and two assists. MVP numbers, so far. Dwight Howard has six to lead the Rookie.

It looks as if Rookies coach P.J. Carlisemo will be going with the platoon system as Josh Howard, Ben Gordon, Al Jefferson and Beno Udrih.

And oh, A.I.'s in the house, too.

First and Second "Oh no!" Plays
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:22 p.m. ET
That's "Oh no!" as in "Oh no he didn't!" "Oh no!" play No. 1: Tony Allen follow-up dunk. "Oh no!" play No. 2: LeBron one-hander off of Wade alley-oop.

First Nice Play
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:17 p.m. ET
Just a minute into the game, Melo corralled an outlet pass, flipped it behind his head to a streaking Chris Bosh who jammed it home.

The Human Highlight Chat
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9:10 p.m. ET
Join us at the start of the second half when two-time NBA Slam Dunk contest winner Dominique Wilkins joins us for a chat.

Veteran's Row
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 9 p.m. ET
Nice. Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, Quentin Richardson, Brandy and Joe Johnson are sitting on the baseline where the Rookies are warming up. Good show by the vets to make their presence felt.

Tip-Off is Near
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 8:55 p.m. ET
We're about 10 minutes from tip-off. Make sure to tune in on TNT as well. Back in a bit.

"Hey, Dwyane, the camera's that way."
(Tim Defrisco/NBAE/Getty Images)

Say Cheese!
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 8:55 p.m. ET
After resisting the urge to challenge Kyle Korver to a game of Galaga, which was released the same year Korver was born -- 1981 -- I headed for the Rookies and Sophomores photo shoot at the Nuggets' practice court, which is just above the Nuggets' locker room.

By the time I arrived, the Rookies had already gathered for the team photo. Jesse D. Garrabrant started clicking away and the arc lights flashed and popped. Click, flash, pop! Click, flash, pop!

Meanwhile, a familiar face in the weight room just off the practice court, pumped some iron and seemed not to notice the hubbub outside. And no one seemed to notice that it was Kobe Bryant working the bench press machine.

In a break between photos, the Bulls Ben Gordon started rhythmically dribbling the ball like that old Nike commercial -- ba-dum-ba, ba-dum-ba. And then, all of a sudden, Magic rookie forward Dwight Howard started clapping to finish the beat -- ba-dum-ba-clap! Ba-dum-ba-clap! It was subtle (no one seemed to make a mention of it), jazzy and very cool.

With the Rookies done, LeBron James was hustled upstairs to shoot a Jr. NBA/WNBA commercial.

"Quiet on the set!"

LeBron was given his lines and he nailed the four different readings.

"Great, cut!"

As LeBron was walking off the set, someone said: "He's a natural!"

The Sophomores then took their photos and filmed their promos for NBA TV. Then, it was Dwyane's turn to film his portion of the commercial. Wade nailed his lines, too. But LeBron, who had just finished taking an individual photo, walked by and playfully mocked Wade's reading. Wade laughed, and the Sophomores exited the practice court to meet the media downstairs.

All That ... and a Bag of Chips
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 8:05 p.m. ET
Once we arrived here at the arena, we were invited to the Rookies and Sophomores photo shoot. Our instructions were to find the Nuggets' locker room, go up the stairs and get to the practice court.

I almost didn't make it. Why? I was mesmerized by the Nuggets' players lounge, which is a virtual playland, complete with Ping-Pong table, pool table, leather couch and armchairs, a wide-screen TV, stereo sound system, buffet (from which the Raptors grabbed a huge deli-type sandwich and a bag of chips) and four arcade-type games including Madden, Tiger's PGA Tour Golf, Ms. Pac Man and Galaga, which Sixers Kyle Korver was playing before heading upstairs for the photo shoot.

Calmly sitting on a stool, sipping a soft drink was Sophomores and former Nuggets coach Doug Moe.

Moe, who coached in the Rookie Challenge in San Antonio, said he was looking forward to coaching in tonight's game.

"It's fun for the fans and I enjoy taking part in it," Moe said. "And this year, I think we're going to have a good game."

Tongue-in-cheek, I asked Moe, who played and coached in the ABA, if any of those old school locker rooms were like this.

"Not quite," he said with a huge smile. "We're a long way from those good ol' days. Indiana had one of the worst. Heck, the Celtics in the NBA in the old Boston Garden was horrible."

We've come a long way.

We're Here!
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 7:45 p.m. ET
We're here at the arena in Denver for tonight's got milk? Rookie Challenge between the Rookies and the Sophomores. As soon as we collect our notes, we'll tell you about the Nuggets' sweet, sweet, sweet players' lounge (Did mention it was sweet?), the Rookies and Sophomore photo shoot and LeBron and Dwyane filming a commercial.

We'll have more All-Star bloggy goodness in a few moments.

Ray and Rashard hang out backstage while LeBron faces a huge media crush.

Wrapping It Up
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:45 p.m. ET
Friday's All-Star Media Availability just wrapped up. We're heading over to the arena now, so we'll check in once we get there. Talk to you soon!

Overheard, Part Four ...
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:45 p.m. ET
Shaq, on his role with the younger players in the league: "I consider myself the godfather of the NBA." ... Iverson, on whether the Sixers need to make adjustments: "Everybody keeps talking about what guys we need to make our team better, what guys we need to add. We don't need anyone. I just need to play better." ... Shaq, on what he hopes to see in the All-Star Game: "Me in the middle, LeBron on the right and Vince on the left." ... Dwyane Wade, on whether he'd rather have a video game or a movie made about his life: "Aw, a video game. A James Bond-type game. I wanna be the hero." ... Ben Wallace, on how often he wears his huge championship ring: "I break it out on special occasions. I don't want [other players] to get too much gleam in their eyes. I don't want them to get too hungry. I don't want them mess my run up to get another one." ... Arenas on who he'd like to dunk on: "If I'm going to dunk on anyone, it's going to be Shaq. And then I'll retire after that." ... Shaq on Arenas' dunking plans: "That's never going to happen."

Seen on the Scene
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:30 p.m. ET
Shaq's interview table has so many reporters, it's spilling over into East coach Stan Van Gundy's area ... Shawn Marion was seen trying on Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly's (borrowed? replica?) Chicago Bulls championship rings, from 1993 and 1998. Marion liked the '93 ring better, which has the Bulls logo in red rubies in the middle, with diamonds around the insignia ... Suns veteran Elliot "Socks" Perry chatting in the hallway with Ray Allen.

More Arenas
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:27 p.m. ET
"Man, I was (picked) 31. I'm just happy to be here. Thirty-one? Second round!"

Overheard, Part Three ...
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:22 p.m. ET
Gilbert Arenas, on whether being named an All-Star eases the sting of being a second-round draft pick: "That's who I am, a second-round wonder. (Smiling) But I'm thrilled to be here. I've probably gotten 10 hours of sleep since being named a reserve." ... Vince Carter, on how he's playing now versus in Toronto: "I tried to play too perfect of a game in Toronto. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I wasn't the smiling, happy Vince Carter. Regardless of the name on my uniform, I'm going to give 110 percent."

Overheard, Part Two ...
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 4:11 p.m. ET
Steve Nash, on being an MVP candidate: "It's a great thing to be mentioned for MVP. For a guy who wasn't even offered a college [basketball] scholarship, to be mentioned as an MVP candidate is beautiful." ... Yao, on whether he was surprised to have received the most votes for the All-Star Game: "I've discovered that the power of the Internet is really, really great."

All Dressed Up
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 3:44 p.m. ET
White sweatsuits: Yao, KG, Shawn Marion ... Grey sweatsuits: Tim Duncan ... Best dressed: Kobe with a velvet, midnight-blue jacket and white checked shirt ... Lookin' cool: Rashard Lewis in jeans and a dress shirt, standing in front of his interview table ... Hilarious: Gilbert Arenas in a Buckwheat T-shirt ... Old-school: Chris Andersen in clean, white Nike high-tops.

Overheard ...
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 3:34 p.m. ET
Phoenix's Joe Johnson on why the Suns don't seem to get tired: "I'm 23 years old; I can go all day. That stuff doesn't bother me." ... Seattle's Ray Allen, who just sold his house in Milwaukee, was asked by the Denver media about the possibility of him signing with the Nuggets as a free agent, especially with George Karl as coach. "George is not George when I last dealt with him," said Allen. "When he's at his best, he's a little fiery."

The Buzz on the Hornets
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 3:24 p.m. ET
J.R. Smith thinks he can pull off the Jordan double of participating in the Slam Dunk and the Three-Point Shootout. "Anything's possible," he said. Would you want to? "Oh, definitely." Fellow dunker, and Hornets teammate, Chris Andersen is most excited about seeing Smith in the Dunk Contest. "I've seen some of the stuff he's been working on," said Andersen.

Live From Media Availability
Posted by Randy Kim ( on Feb 18 2005 3:13 p.m. ET

Kyle Korver meets with the media on Friday.
Greetings from Denver! We're here live at the NBA All-Star 2005 Media Availability. ESPN has a live set to our left, NBA TV cameras are all over the place, ESPN Radio reporters are running around trying to track down stories, newspaper writers are jockeying for position with one another, and the players are seated at their individual tables to talk about what they expect from this weekend and what they think of the season so far.

A bunch of players will be stopping by to chat, so check back on this page often. We'll be running photos, interviews and cool observations about all of the crazy media proceedings here in the Mile High City.

Skywalker Checks In
Posted by John Hareas ( on Feb 18 2005 11:30 a.m. ET
You can’t look ahead to the Slam Dunk contest without talking to the man who cultivated legendary status in the Mile High City for his gravity-defying moves. David Thompson, a.k.a "Skywalker," was chilling in the green room Thursday night, awaiting the call for the Legends 3-Point Shootout at Jam Session when he dropped some knowledge on this weekend’s lineup. “I think they have a great field," said Thompson. "They have a lot of young players and I don’t think there is a clear-cut favorite, unless LeBron decides to enter. I’ve seen Josh Smith and J.R. Smith this season throw down some great dunks. Those guys can really leap. It’s great having the dunk contest in Denver, a place many consider as the Birthplace of the Dunk.”

Skywalker also talked about the evolution of the dunk. “There’s always been good dunkers in the game but there is more of them today. Guys have added some twists over the years, adding to the creativity.”

Who is the best dunker today? “Vince Carter, until someone dethrones him. He still throws down some spectacular dunks. I also like Jason Richardson in Golden State."

So, is the story really true, Skywalker, did your really grab a quarter off the top of a backboard?

“Yeah,” said Thompson. “But I couldn’t leave two dimes and a nickel.”

You Never Who You Run Into
Posted by John Hareas ( on Feb 18 2005 10:47 a.m. ET

Mike O'Malley is ready to talk hoops. Anytime. Anywhere.
(Michael Levine/NBAE Photos)

Time for a brief pit stop after checking out the wheelchair game on center court. You never know who might run into at Jam Session. Sure enough, Mike O’Malley of the TV show Yes, Dear, was on his way out when he stopped us and wanted to talk some hoops.

”I grew up outside Boston and I’m a huge C’s fan," said O'Malley. "The ’86 team ranks among the greatest of all time."

What made them a great team?

"Any one of their starting five could win the game for you -- Bird, McHale, Parish, Ainge, D.J. Every one of those guys wanted the ball at the end of the game. And how many of those guys are in the Hall of Fame -- Bird, McHale, Parish plus Bill Walton. What about D.J.? You can certainly make the case that he belongs and I think he does. Look at the Bulls of the ’90s -- Jordan and Pippen are locks. Anyone else? Even the great Lakers team of the ’80s had Magic, Kareem and Worthy."

O’Malley was in the Mile High City for Spike TV, interviewing legends and current players. “We want to spread the word about Spike TV and give the viewers a birds-eye view of what goes on at NBA All-Star. For me, growing up a sports fan in Boston, it’s great to be here talking to my heroes.”

And who was O’Malley’s favorite player growing up?

“Bird, without a doubt. I loved McHale, too. I loved their irreverence, I loved their sense of humor. I was talking to George Gervin, Wayman Tisdale and Walton and they all said that Bird was the worst trash-talker -- ever! That’s what was so great about him, he backed it up. I live in L.A. now and I absolutely hate the Lakers. I root against the Lakers almost as much as I root against the Yankess. I’m glad they’re having some struggles now.”

Back at Jam Session
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 18 2005 10:13 a.m. ET
NBA Jam Session, this year at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, presents a conundrum from me. On one hand, I know I'm there to work for On the other hand, I like it, as the kids say these days, like a fat kid likes cake. Every time I walk into it, I fight the urge get in lines and chuck up free throws or 3-pointers or go dunking (OK, it's a nine-foot... all right, eight-foot rim).

Last year, I was fortunate enough to get to play at Jam Session as work. Last night, I again found myself at NBA Jam Session. I wasn't there to play this time, but to cover a lucky contest winner (more on that later).

As usual, Jam Session was packed with families enjoying themselves. I made my way to Center Court and caught the Legends 3-Point Shootout featuring 1976 All-Star MVP Randy Smith, George "The Iceman" Gervin, Jo Jo White and defending champ and local favorite, David Thompson. Smith, with four points and Gervin, with seven, were eliminated after the first round. As a matter of fact, as Thompson made his way through the second rack, Smith was slipping on his sweats in resignation.

Thompson would put up a fight for his title with nine points in the Finals, but White would go on to win with 11 points. What else would you expect from a guy who had "Jo Jo White -- Automatic" embroidered on his sweat pants?

As for good celebrity sightings, we were able to get a moment with Kenny Smith, who was doing work for TNT from Jam Session. We presented him with the results to our Best Dunk Contest Dunk features. Out of 32, we asked him where he thought his between-the-legs, off-the-glass reverse ranked.

"Well, name recognition is important," Smith said, looking over the list.

We mentioned that Jason Richardson had the top two and that his between-his-legs behind his head dunk was No. 1 and that his off-the-glass, between-the-legs was No. 2, Smith disagreed.

"Oh, no, the off-the-glass is No. 1," Smith said.

But, where did your dunk rank, Kenny?

"About 17th."

Close, Smith's dunk, which he said he practiced, ranked 18th.

Smith also had a hand in another Jam Session event. Smith filled in for Clippers rookie Shaun Livingston in a 3-point shooting contest with Jeff Hisaoka, who filled out an All-Star Ballot at Foot Locker, and lo and behold, found himself and his dad, Tadao, shooting 3-pointers against Smith in front of 2,000 people on Thursday night. In addition to draining four 3-pointers from true NBA range, Jeff and his dad will attend all the All-Star Weekend events, courtesy of Foot Locker.

After the competition, Smith walked back toward the TNT green room, Charles Barkley appeared and looked as if he was going to needle Smith about the contest (which Smith naturally won), but Nuggets forward Nikolos Tskitishvili walked by and he and Charles greeted one another as Kenny slipped back into the green room before Charles could make a comment.