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: Friday All-Star 2005 Blog: Thursday
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Surprise, Surprise
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 20 2005 12:20 a.m. ET

J.R. Smith wowed 'em with the behind the back dunk in the first round.
(Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

In a slam dunk contest, one of two things are crucial: The element of surprise or anticipation.

When you pull out the chair and sit a 6-9 power forward on it about halfway down the lane, you've increased the anticipation. Or, if you show people that you're going to try an off-the-head alley oop, then you've definitely increased the "Wow" factor. But more important in a dunk contest, is the element of surprise. Or as Kenny Smith would say, "I want to see ... something I've never seen BEFORE!"

Tonight, we got a view of the new a couple times in the dunk contest. We also missed out on a few others.

For example, J.R. Smith's first dunk -- behind his back and through in one motion -- was incredible; and if the dunk contest had degrees of difficulty factored in, that could have been one of the greatest of all time. But when Smith skidded the first attempt across the rim, the surprise was gone. If he had flushed his first attempt, you would have had the NBA'ers on celebrity row clutching their hearts like Fred Sanford.

As it was, Smith nailed it on the third try. People were duly impressed, but not surprised, and the judges gave him nines on a dunk that, if successfully done on the first attempt, could have easily been a 50. The same with Amare's between-the-legs, under-the-hoop, over-his-head slam. Impressive, but not surprising after the first three tries.

(Granted, Amare and Steve Nash got a 50 after two attempts to nail the off-the-glass, off-the-head slam, but c'mon, that was off the head. Give it up for them!)

So, it was Hawks rookie Josh Smith, who nailed all of his dunks -- all impressive dunks -- on the first try, who deservedly won the title. Let's hope he's back next year to defend his title.

As for the rest of the evening, Phoenix ruled. With wins in the Radio Shack Shooting Stars, PlayStation Skills Challenge and the Foot Locker Three Point Shootout, Phoenix nearly swept the night like it's swept through the first half of the regular season. By far, they are the team with the most representatives here at All-Star Weekend -- seven.

Will either Nash, Stoudemire or Shawn Marion win the All-Star Game MVP on Sunday like Quentin Richardson predicted during his post-game interview after winning the Three Point Shoutout? Will the All-Star Game be as well done as All-Star Saturday night?

Well, you'll need to tune in to see (8 p.m. ET, TNT). Or log on and read's All-Star Blog. We'll be here (though, we won't be running through events) and we can't wait.

By the way, we have one last blog item for you. After the competition had ended, NBA TV's Gary Apple was set to interview Artis Gilmore. The cameraman said he couldn't get Apple and the 7-2 Gilmore in the frame. So, Apple had someone grab a folding chair and he did the interview at eye level.

Also, in case you missed it, we suggest that you scroll down to the "We Got Skills" entry to see how an NBA.commer did when he ran through the Skills Challenge course.

That's it from the arena here in Denver. We'll see you tomorrow.

Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:37 p.m. ET
As NBA TV analyst Peter Vecsey, who's seated in front of us, said just after Nash put it in the air with his foot, "Thank God for Steve Nash." True, very cool. But too many tries, and Amare wasn't going to win unless each judge gave him an 11. (This goes to 11! Celebrity Row sitter Rob Reiner directed This is Spinal Tap where the speakers go to 11. OK, I reached for that one.)

That's Mr. Smith to You
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:37 p.m. ET
The Hawks rookie just got another 50 with a 360 lefty.

So Tough
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:37 p.m. ET
It pays to hit your first dunk. If Amare had done the between-the-legs behind the head, he would have had a 50. But after three tries, the judges only awarded a 45.

You 'Nique
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:34 p.m. ET
First, Josh Smith takes 'Nique's jersey, then he does 'Nique's dunk. Yeah, that's a 50 (and points for the hommage).

Soccer To Me!
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:31 p.m. ET
Off the glass, OFF-STEVE-NASH'S-HEAD alley oop reverse. Oh! My! Goodness! One of the best. Celebrity row was up in arms over that one.

Even More Andersen
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:28 p.m. ET
Andersen likes his face time. Nice dunk, but again, too many tries. Only a 36 for Andersen.

Who knew man could jump over a K-Mart?
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Our First 50
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:25 p.m. ET
To put a windmill on it after jumping over Kenyon, Oh! My! Goodness! that better be a 50.

Nice Shot J.R.
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:25 p.m. ET
Another 45 for Smith on a pretty decent dunk. The judges are tough tonight.

Another Classic
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:21 p.m. ET
Amare goes with a classic take it down, bring it back up double pump. Very Harold Miner.

Andersen A Lot
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:20 p.m. ET
Would have been a 50 if he did it the first time, but only a 41 for Chris Andersen. Or 50 minus nine attempts.

Smith From the Line
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:16 p.m. ET
Nice. A classic from the free throw line.

Oh! My! Goodness! No. 1
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:14 p.m. ET
Yeah, it took J.R Smith three tries, but Oh! My! Goodness! How hard is that behind the back dunk? Only a 45? Tough room.

Oh! My! Goodness!
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 10:10 p.m. ET
I wonder how many times we'll be saying "Oh! My! Goodness!" tonight during the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk. I hope more than we can count.

Also, it's pretty cool that they have the dunkers from the original contest -- Artis Gilmore, Larry Kenon, George Gervin, David Thompson and Dr. J -- judging this year's contest.

Still Golden!
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:54 p.m. ET
Q for 19 in the Finals for the win. And he hit the last nine shots. Nine in a row. Goodness! And Brandy's thrilled!

Q's win keeps Phoenix's streak alive tonight. Members of the Suns and Mercury franchise have won all three contests so far. Nice work by them.

So Money
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:42 p.m. ET
He hasn't played since the second week of the season, but defending champ Voshon Lenard hasn't lost his touch. He went for 17 to advance to the finals and hit every money ball (and he was getting a little bit off the floor).

Korver and Richardson, who had 14 points apiece, will join Lenard in the finals of the Three Point Shootout.

Tie 'Em Up
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:35 p.m. ET
Kids take note: If you're ever in a three-point shooting contest, tie your shorts tight. Because if you don't you'll be pulling them up as you run around like Joe Johnson was. His total? Seven points. See kids, tie up the shorts.

Cool as a Polar Bear's Toenails
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:30 p.m. ET
It's going to get chilly on as George "The Iceman" Gervin joins us on the site for a chat at 10 p.m. ET.

Sling and a Miss
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:25 p.m. ET
When the players are introduced for their contests, they take the cool All-Star basketballs and chuck them into the crowd. Seattle's Vladimir Radmanovic chucked it ... to us. (We gave it to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces sitting behind us.) We're three rows from the court. Let's hope Vlad Rad's aim is better in the contest.

Celebrity Row
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:22 p.m. ET
Everyone is here now, Shaq with his ever present black fedora, LeBron, A.I., K-Mart, Damon Jones (an All-Star weekend regular) and Rob Reiner (no, seriously).

More Shining Suns
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:20 p.m. ET
Steve Nash's 25.8 in the finals is a new Skills Challenge record, besting Baron Davis' 28.7 seconds set in the first round last year in L.A. Nice work, by Mr. Nash, who keeps the Phoenix winning streak alive tonight.

At the right they're going, you would have to think that either Q or Joe Johnson will do well in the Foot Locker Three Point Shootout or Amare Stoudemire will do well in the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk tonight.

Nash vs. Boykins
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:12 p.m. ET
OK, my 40.5 wouldn't have made this year's finals, but still...

Nice work by Steve Nash (31.4 seconds) and Earl Boykins (32.6). They'll clash into the finals.

As for the stats that only I keep, only Boykins matched me with hitting his first chest pass, and only Nash beat me with one bounce pass. I had two. Everyone hit their first shot, except for Arenas, who didn't hit any, hence his large time.

Let's see how Nash and Boykins do in the finals.

Nice Try, Mr. Arenas
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 9:08 p.m. ET
Gilbert with 51.7? Slacker.

Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 8:57 p.m. ET
Let's hope the Skills Challenge participants are accurate with their chest passes or they'll need to answer to Quentin Richardson. Brandy's sitting right behind the target.

Halfcourt Bling
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 8:50 p.m. ET
With the exception of Andre Miller's cold shooting from three, Denver did pretty well. Becky Hammon hit the halfcourt shot and as she turned, her diamond earings blinged in the arena lights. Has anyone ever sported diamond earing and hit a halfcourt shot? I think not.

Well, L.A. couldn't defend their title (or hit a shot), as Phoenix ran away with the competition.

OK, PlayStation Skills Challenge is up next. Scroll down to the "We Got Skills" entry and see what standard Nash, Boykins, Ridnour and Arenas must live up to.

Detroit's Up First
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 8:40 p.m. ET
Detroit threw up a lot of bricks, finishing in 1:18, but the Phoenix crew, was dare I say it, hotter than the Valley of the Sun, with a time of 28.0 seconds. Nice work by the Matrix, Thunder Dan and Diana T.

Clarkson Starts It
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 8:32 p.m. ET
Kelly Clarkson has started things out here. Following her performance, we'll get the Radio Shack Shooting Stars on the floor. As to what's cool about that particular contest? I dig the halfcourt shots.

Click and Smile
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 8:20 p.m. ET
First, just want to give you an idea of our position here at All-Star Saturday night. We're on the same end as the dunkers will be, three rows from the floor, which, of course, is so cool I'm embarrassed to blog about this. Let's just say we have good seats. For instance, Brandy's sitting in front of us and just to her right is Donald Faison of Scrubs (which I'll admit, is one of my favorite shows of all time.)

But, back to business. We ventured backstage for the photo shoot and saw the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi filming another part of the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA commercial they've been filming all weekend. She made about five different line readings and was done. Some of the crew, who have been working hard all weekend, took a well-deserved break and grabbed some of the balls set up for the Foot Locker Three Point Shootout and started shooting around.

As for the Three Point Shootout, we caught a glimpse of defending champ Voshon Lenard launching long range shots. I noticed Lenard, who tore his left Achilles' tendon the second week into the season, looked good, but wasn't leaving his feet. Good luck to him. He's going to have a challenge, as long-distance shooting is mostly done with the legs.

We ran into Taurasi down in the locker room and we chatted before a TV crew sauntered over and asked to talk with her.

"Let me kneel before you!" said the interviewer. Flattery will get you everywhere.

Also, it's always interesting to see Denver's Earl Boykins, who's in the Skills Challenge (Can he beat 40.5 seconds?) interviewed by people who are taller than he is.

We Got Skills
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 7:20 p.m. ET

Photographic evidence that, yes, it really happened...
(Mike Allen/NBAE Photos)

Remember the "Very Special Blog" entry I talked about last night? Well, here it is.

I'm sitting here courtside at the arena watching Gilbert Arenas, Luke Ridnour, Earl Boykins and Steve Nash go through their walk-throughs for the PlayStation Skills Challenge and thinking to myself, as each bounced their first couple bounce passes off the target, "Heh, the bounce pass is harder than they thought."

I'm here to tell you the bounce pass is harder than people think. From first-hand experience

"Whatchoo talking about Willis?"

About 30 minutes after Kelly Clarkson's sound check, I was shooting, dribbling and passing my way through the PlayStation Skills Challenge course the players will run through later tonight.

Yes, we wanted to do something interactive this year for All-Star Weekend and blog about it. Considering that they don't do a run through for the Foot Locker Three Point Shootout and they weren't going to pull out a trampoline so I could dunk, the only logical event for one of us to run through is the Skills Challenge as its focuses on the fundamentals of basketball. Immediately, I volunteered myself.

We made the pitch to NBA Entertainment's Kevin Dobstaff, whose staff developed the Skills Challenge competition and whose crew makes sure everything on the floor runs smoothly for All-Star Weekend. Sure, he said. Be here at 3 p.m. and we'll let you run through it.

"We really like this event," Kevin said. "I think it really shows off the skills of our point guards."

I agreed. So, I grabbed the rules and visualized myself running through the course. I knew I wasn't going to set any records, but I didn't want to embarrass myself, either.

And then I made the mistake of looking at last year's times for the first round:

-- Stephon Marbury, 36.4
-- Earl Boykins, 34.9
-- Derek Fisher, 31.6
-- Baron Davis, 28.7

Uh ... 28.7? Let's have an understanding here, no one in my family is fast, quick or agile. I know I wasn't going to set any records, but goodness, 28.7? I'd be lucky to run baseline-to-baseline in under 28.7.

So, I arrived about 15 minutes before three o'clock, with gym bag in hand. I introduced myself to Kevin and he said we'd be good to go after Kelly Clarkson was done with her sound check. And that's when I noticed I had butterflies and sweaty palms. Nerves were taking over. I was to be the first non-NBA or non-WNBA player ever to run through the Challenge. Gulp!

Moments after Clarkson finished, I changed and headed for the court. I walked through the course once to guage the distance for each pass. And then Kevin pulled me aside.

"OK, let me walk you through this."

And we were off. The assisted walk-though started off smoothly with the layup and dribbling around the pylons, until I hit the chest pass station. It's a 22-foot pass, one you make all the time when you play hoops. Clank. Too short. Clank. Too high. Clank, too short again. Darn! Again, too high! Finally, on ball No. 5, clean through.

We then sauntered to the bounce pass. Too short, then way too high. Then, off to the right. Then short again. Finally, on ball No. 5, I was good. I nailed the second shot and whistled the 26-foot outlet pass through on the first try. I grabbed the ball off the stand, and dribbled through the "speed" (quotations when I go through) dribble and headed to make my layup. I T-Rexed (short-armed) it.

"C'mon, Rob. Gotta make your layup," Kevin encouraged. I did and it seemed like the walk-through took 28.5 minutes. Great.

"All right, now you can do the Challenge with the music."

Music? Big time! The lights in the arena were low, thankfully. After the walk-through showing, I wasn't sure my skills were ready for full arena lights. I headed for the starting station. The rest of the crew had gathered on the sideline, cameras and stopwatches ready. The music started, and I was off.

I felt like I was flying. The layup was cake as my adrenaline was pumping. Maybe it was the Mile High air, but I swear I almost grazed the net on the way up. I weaved my way through the crossover dribble obstacles and headed for the chest pass.

Pass No. 1, clank. Crap. Pass No. 2. Bull's eye! (Awesome!)

Then, it was on over to the bounce pass. The first one clanked, as did the second (Damn you, bounce pass!) found the mark. (Excellent!)

I made my way to the shooting rack. The first shot was up and ... swish. Just like dad taught me.

I slid down to the outlet pass. I let fly. If this were an archery contest, Robin Hood would have finished second.

Again, I was off through the "speed" obstacle course, and then, I was flying (at least I think I was) to the hoop where I made the first layup. An NBA TV crew goaded me to go left-handed on the last layup (and I knew I should have), but I stuck with the right hand on the left side and I was done.

I sheepishly waved to no one in particular and headed to meet with the crew.

"Nice job; 40.5 seconds."

What? Really?

"Yeah, you beat Tony Parker! And Stephon Marbury!"

I did? I checked the media guide. Wow, I did. The first year in Atlanta, Stephon finished in 41.9 seconds and Parker finished in 45.5 seconds. I was shocked. I think most everyone else was too. I wouldn't have made either of the finals, but I was thrilled. Maybe there's a 10-day contract in it for me. Or maybe not.

Still, I can talk a little.

So, en garde, Tony and step off, Steph. For one night only, there's a new point guard in town.

(Big thanks to Kevin Dobstaff and Eric Weinstein for setting up this experience.)

At the Arena
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 5:05 p.m. ET
We're here at the arena in Denver and American Idol Kelly Clarkson is running through her song "Since You've Been Gone" in preparation for her performance tonight. Gotta admit, the song's catchy, and she sounds and looks good.

While she does that, technicians and photographers are setting up their cameras behind the backboard for All-Star Saturday Night. They're also prepping for the Play Station Skills Challenge, which we'll see as the second event of the night.

We're gonna move around the arena and see what we can get behind the scenes. Back in a bit.

Prepping for A Good Evening
Posted by Rob Peterson ( on Feb 19 2005 2:55 p.m. ET
Well, we're about five hours away from the beginning of All-Star Saturday Night and we're getting ready for some great competition.

Here are some of the things we're looking forward to:

Denver's Earl Boykins racing his way through the Play Station Skills Challenge
The Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, complete with two Suns, two Sonics, a sizzling hot Kyle Korver, who was 7-10 from long range in the got milk? Rookie Challenge on Friday
We're also interested to see how defending champ and Nuggets guard Voshon Lenard, who's been injured this season, holds up in the Three-Point Shootout
Josh and J.R Smith flying through the air in the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk

To get you ready, we have previews of Saturday night: Stars | Skills | Shootout | Dunk

Of course, we'll be everywhere at the arena on Saturday night. Watch on TNT (8 p.m. ET) and join us on the blog. See you tonight.

Hanging with Wayman Tisdale
Posted by John Hareas ( on Feb 19 2005 1:15 p.m. ET

Tisdale's quite possibly the tallest jazz bassist in the world.
(Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images)

Walking through a hotel lobby an hour ago, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to say hello and pay homage to Wayman Tisdale, who was sitting amongst friends. The man is certainly entitled to a little R&R after for putting on two scintillating performances at NBA All-Star. Tisdale and his band packed Club NBA on Thursday night and had the masses grooving again last night at an NBA Welcome Reception at the Colorado Convention Center.

"It was a party, man," said Tisdale. "This is where I got my start, playing the NBA All-Star Weekend. It was a great crowd, big crowd. We love to play."

Watching Tisdale bouncing around on stage, playing the bass and you forget that this is the man who once scored 61 points in a game as an All-American at the University of Oklahoma or that he played 12 years in the NBA and scored more than 12,000 points. I asked Wayman if he had a few minutes ….He said, sure … Well, since he had the time, I had the questions ….But first …

You're a natural up there …..

Tisdale: "I was born to entertain. I just love people and feel like entertainment goes right in line with my personality. Whether it's on stage or playing basketball, it's just what I've been called to do on this earth."

Q: What are the parallels between basketball and music?
: "Team work. Even though I'm an individual artist, we're all a team up there. I can't play everything and I'm passing it around just like passing the ball. You get the same butterflies, you get the same anxiety but you feed off the crowd. It's really a great thing when the crowd really gets into it."

Q: Who are your musical influences?
: "My influences came from Stanley Clark, Marcus Miller, a lot of the funk bands, like the Gap Band. I listened to a lot of old school funk stuff and I got right in between and I found my niche and I just really like it."

Q: You miss playing the game?
: "I don't miss it at all. I really feel like I got it out of my system. I played my 12 years, I had a great time but when it was time to go I'm blessed that I had something else to go to and that was to play music and take it to the next level.

Q: Do you still follow the game?
: "I still follow it. The game has changed so much. I like it. It's a lot more one on one. It's nontraditional but there is a great group of young players that I enjoy watching."

Q: You follow one of your old teams, the Suns?
: "I love them. They're one of my favorite teams. I love them to watch Amare and Shawn Marion. He's always moving."

Q: What do you think about their playoffs chances?
: "I think they will make a great run this year. I don't see them winning a seven-game series against a team featuring a serious legitimate big man. Not yet, any way. Once they get that player, one that can plug up the middle and take the pressure off of Amare, than I think they'll be championship material."

Q: You do quite a bit of traveling, performing any where from 60-70 shows a year.
: "The more I perform, the better I get. I don't do a lot of practicing at home, this is a natural gift. This comes more natural to me than basketball but the more I perform, the better I get.

Q: You have six CDs under your belt, the latest titled Hang Time. What is your ultimate goal as a musician?
: "My ultimate goal in the industry is to win a Grammy. I'm going to strive until I get there. That's not to say when I get the first Grammy that I'm going to quit.

Thanks, Wayman.

Tisdale: "John, one last thing. Playing music is a lot easier on the knees."