has touched down in Houston for All-Star 2006. 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!

A weekend fit for a King | Stars come out
Shoe comin' through | Tale of the tape

Saturday: Dunk win 4 the little guy, 'Nique talks dunk
Friday: Iguodala wows, a world record is set and things overheard at media avail.
Thursday: The players arrive in Houston; Sir Charles left speechless?

A Weekend Fit For A King

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Mon., Feb. 20 at 1:20 a.m. ET [ Permalink ]

T-Mac owned the first half, but James is the proud new owner of an MVP trophy.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Three years ago, in Atlanta, Michael Jordan left the game of basketball for a third and final time, saying, "I leave the game in good hands. So many great stars still in the game, so many great stars rising and playing the game."

Four short months later, LeBron James entered the league M.J. walked away from, and the comparisons immediately began. They're not likely to end after tonight's showing in Houston.

With the East squad in a sizable hole after two quarters, James and fellow class of '03 draftee Dwyane Wade fueled an early third quarter offensive outburst, leading to the team's 41-point quarter and, ultimately, its victory.

With James as the catalyst, the Detroit Pistons All-Star quartet used solid team play and tough defense, not normally seen in the showcase event, to motor the East past the West for the first time since the opening minute of the game -- a lead it would never relinquish. The 17-point halftime deficit the East erased was the largest margin in the game's history.

But while Billups, Hamilton and Ben and Rasheed Wallace anchored the team's comeback and outplayed a lineup of Western Conference superstars, it was James who shone brightest tonight.

James' 29-point outing in his first-ever MVP performance falls short of the 40 Jordan posted in front of the home crowd in 1988, but James might have been more impressive tonight if only because he earned MVP honors a season earlier in his career and at a much younger age.

At only 21 years, 51 days old, James became the youngest All-Star MVP ever. Oscar Robertson, the next youngest, was 22 years, 55 days when he won the award in 1961.

While the comparisons to Jordan are bound to continue -- he's the modern-day gold standard -- Robertson might be a more accurate measuring stick for what James is capable. The 6-8 playmaker can do it all -- score, rebound and pass -- just as Roberston was able. Robertson is the only player to ever average a triple-double for an entire season. It's not out of the question to think James could replicate the feat.

Where Robertson is the past, James is the future. And, we're pretty sure, Michael will agree, that future is in good hands with James.

Other noteworthy moments of All-Star 2006 included:

-- Vince Carter can usually be found around the rim on All-Star Sunday and today was no different. Carter, however, struggled today and could be the first player in All-Star history to blow two dunk attempts which caromed out beyond half court.

-- Tracy McGrady did everything he could to win MVP honors on his home floor. His 36 points is the fifth most in All-Star history, behind Wilt Chamberlain (42 in 1962), Michael Jordan (40 in 1988), Rick Barry (38 in 1967) and Kevin Garnett (37 in 2003). Barry, Jordan and Garnett all earned the MVP award. McGrady also put up 26 shots from the field, the second most in the game's history behind Barry (1967) and Jordan (2003), who each took 27 shots.

-- James and McGrady each shot 4-of-10 from three, one try short of the record for attempts set by Ray Allen last year in Denver.

-- Pau Gasol played in his first All-Star Game, but is still searching for his first points in an All-Star contest. Two of his three shots were blocked on the same possession by Detroit's Ben Wallace, leading to a shot clock violation.

-- Gilbert Arenas told us on Friday that if he got 20 minutes of burn, he'd win MVP honors. He played a game-low 9:51, going 0-4 from the field and scoring only one point.

So, that's a wrap from All-Star 2006 here in Houston. The crew is packing up and heading back to Secaucus, New Jersey, where we'll turn our attention to the trading deadline this Thursday; the battle between Detroit, Dallas and San Antonio for the league's top record; LeBron's quest to get his team to the Playoffs; the scoring race between Kobe, A.I. and James; and what cities we're headed to next for The Finals.

This blog wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of many NBA staffers incuding Paul and Marc Hirschheimer (for the photo shoots), Rob Peterson (lead editor) and the rest of the crew -- Chris Benyarko, Johannes Berendt, Adam Bloom, Bernard Boey, Brad Friedman, Mauricio Mendoza, John Schuhmann, Eric Weinstein, Matt Wurst -- who blanketed Houston for quotes, celebrity sightings and helped make the weekend a success.

Finally, thank you for reading along with us for the past four days.

What a Finish!

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:38 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Even when Vince Carter misses it's pretty. Look no further than his blown dunk at the buzzer off a lob from A.I. The East had the game wrapped up, though, thanks in part to a possible mental lapse on the other end of the floor. When Kobe was stripped of the ball, K.G. picked it up under the rim and looked to be wide open to go up with the ball and tie the game. Instead, he kicked it out and the ball was swiped, leading to Carter's dunk try.

With the East taking the game for a second straight year, and LeBron James leading the East's comeback during a strong third quarter, James was named the game's MVP. At only 21 years, 56 days old, James becomes the youngest All-Star MVP ever. Oscar Robertson was 22 years, 55 days when he won the award in 1961.

We're off to get the players' take on tonight's game, but we'll be back to recap the night's action and the rest of the weekend's activities in a short while.

Way To Go Wade

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Jason Wade is feeling good, exclaiming, Two in a row for the East. Jason proved correct with his initial LeBron MVP prediction, but credit the Pistons defense for making a major impact in the East's comeback victory, he said. It's all about the hometown players, Jason said, looking at T-Mac's final point total and figuring Kobe didn't really assert himself offensively knowing T-Mac was on a roll, until the dramatic three-pointer to tie the game at 120. By the way, Jason told us that Lifehouse hits the road this summer and plans on recording new material in the Fall. Thanks, Jason.

To The Wire

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:20 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Can it get any more exciting? We've got a four-point game with under a minute to go. Make that two, as Kobe Bryant just flushed one home for the home team.

Lucky Ones

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:17 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We were stunned to watch the excitement of the Rockets mascot Clutch as he took an official All-Star 06 basketball down celebrity row to get it signed. Jay-Z, Destiny's Child and P.Diddy were gracious enough to ink the souvenir. The mascot's excitement, however, was nothing compared to the fan who came down the the ball when it was then heaved into the crowd, quite possibly still damp. A fan literally dove over seats to get to the ball.

While we don't recommend diving over seats here to get the autographs -- yes, there's security -- you can still take home one of those Spalding balls as your own souvenir.

Prelude to a Finals

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:07 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The Mavs and the Pistons are two of the best teams in the league and it's feasible the two could meet in the Finals this year. Drumline teams from the respective cities are here, having a friendly little showdown on the court during a timeout. If you've ever seen the movie Drumline, you know what we're talking about. Unlike the movie, we didn't have a clear winner, with a draw being called. Fortunately, if the two should meet for the title, the same result can't be had.

Look out below.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Does Anybody Have A Spare Rim?

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 11:02 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The West is taking a beating right now, but not nearly the kind the rim just sustained. Pulling down an offensive board, Shaq brought his 325 pounds -- that's what the Heat says he's listed at -- down with such force, you could see the rim screaming, "UNCLE!" As if that's not enough, Shaq did a chin up. Only in the All-Star Game ... Only in the All-Star Game ... Any other night, that's a technical. Tonight, it's a highlight.

Did You Vote?

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:56 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Did you vote? Did you change your vote? It's okay to admit it, unless you're from Houston, of course. If the East can hang on to the lead, James could take home the trophy. The score is tied at 101, but remember the old adage: The first team to 100 wins. The East led 101-99 ...

Of course, Chauncey Billups, who's been mentioned in conversations for the regular season MVP, could take the game's top honor, too. While James and East teammate Wade spearheaded the East's comeback, it's been the four Pistons who've pushed the East over the top and are currently out-dueling the West. Guess that helps get us back to our earlier debate.

Miracles Anybody?

Posted by John Hareas: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:50 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

King James is showing why he's going to win MVP if the East can win this one, said Lifehouse's Jason Wade. This game reminds Wade of the 2001 All-Star classic when A.I. won honors as the East came from 20-something down. Good memory, Jason.


Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:45 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

With any live event, you never know what you're going to get. The same can be said for Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx. Here at the Toyota Center, they did a feature where a player acted out the line from a popular movie and a celebrity had to figure out which movie it was from. Foxx was that celebrity. His answer: "Unpredictable, the album, is out in stores!" he said, promoting his new album. And no, he never did answer the question.

Away Team Is Back

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:42 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Who says defense isn't exciting? Ben Wallace just blocked Pau Gasol twice from about 15 feet out to force a shot-clock violation. The fans in Houston loved it, but then again here they're used to Jeff Van Gundy's brand of basketball, so of course they'd love a little hard-nosed D.

That D, along with an offensive explosion by LeBron James, has led to the East's 39-point quarter to close the gap at four points with under two minutes to go in the third.

Fun and Games Are Over

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:35 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Okay, so the game isn't over, and the fun for the players and fans probably isn't either, but the tone has gotten much more serious now that the East has started to close the gap on the West. LeBron James is stating his case for MVP consideration, taking the ball to the basket on nearly every trip down the court, en route to 25 points. The players are also arguing every call on the floor. And Flip Saunders and Avery Johnson have been on their feet actually coaching.

Sneaky Saunders

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:31 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Flip Saunders may be thinking ahead to the next two months, more so than the next 18 minutes. His players -- Billups, Hamilton and the Wallaces -- have combined for 29 minutes in the game. When you consider Dwyane Wade has already played 23 and LeBron James has tallied 20, you can deduce that Flip isn't about to wear out his players here today. The Pistons and Cavs play a back-to-back set one week from today.

Three, Three-Oh

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

T-Mac just dropped a triple to move his total to 26 for the game -- and we've still got eight minutes to play in the third quarter. The record for points in an All-Star Game is 42 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. Only Kobe Bryant has went for 30 -- he had 31 in 2002 when he won the MVP award -- since Michael Jordan did so in 1993. It's safe to say, McGrady is the front-runner for the award right now, but you never know who'll get hot over the remainder of the game.

Party Like It's Feb. 19, 2006

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:14 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

As the players took the court to warm up for the second half, Fefe Dobson did a quick Q&A with Raptors forward Chris Bosh, to see what ails the East squad. She said she saw Bosh at the NBA Players Association party last night and wanted to know if maybe the team was sluggish from too much partying. "There's never too much partying," Bosh said. Judging by the atmosphere in here, I'd say much of the Toyota Center crowd would agree.

The players are getting in on the partying spirit right now, too, coming over to the sidelines to exchange pleasantries with the celebs. We just saw Chauncey Billups and Chris Tucker clasping hands, while Vince Carter claimed space over by Jay-Z and Beyonce.

East Needs Miracle, Says Wade

Posted by John Hareas: Sun., Feb. 19 at 10:05 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Unless LeBron scores 18 in the third, there's no way the East is winning this game, says Jason Wade. It's T-Mac's award to lose. The Rockets fans can use some good news after a disappointing first half of the season. By the way, Jason said Lifehouse is looking forward to playing two gigs in Jamaica in March. He's watching his Cavs on NBA League Pass Broadband on to follow his team during that stretch.

Best Seat In The House

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:50 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

How'd Bill Russell manage to get those seats? They're so good, I think they asked Flip Saunders to slide down a few chairs. It helps to be the most decorated player in NBA history, I suppose; Russell has more championship rings than he has fingers.

We're at the break, with the West holding a 70-53 edge. Coming up for in-arena entertainment are performances by John Legend and American Idol's Carrie Underwood. Can't see the performance at home? Not to worry, will have the video later this evening for you to watch as much as you'd like.

Careful There Fellas

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:44 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We don't want anybody to get hurt. Oh, wait, it might be too late, as Vince Carter was seen holding his right wrist after the missed dunk you're sure to see a time or two on the highlight shows. Carter tried to throw down with such ferocity, the ball sprung off the back of the rim, took one bounce and landed down by P. Diddy down at the other end of the court.

Carter's cousin Tracy McGrady converted on a lob for the reverse dunk at the other end. With 17 first-half points and playing in front of the home crowd, you've got to believe T-Mac's the favorite at this point for the MVP. It's still early though, so anything could happen.

That's Gotta Hurt

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:36 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

On the big screen here in the arena, they just showed a video of the Rockets Clutch Bear's hi-jinx at Jam Session this weekend. The inflatable version of the team's mascot would stand perfectly still, then jump at unsuspecting passers by or shoot silly string at them. One reaction by a fans was a Mike Tyson-esque right hook. A toddler decided it was better to cry. Still, a kid of about 10 years old got the biggest laughs from the fans when he kicked the bear between the legs. The man behind the bear: Tracy McGrady -- or so the video would have us believe.

Bosh to Carter, Back to Bosh

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:29 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Did you see the dunk Vince Carter threw down over Ray Allen off the lob from Chris Bosh? Or for that matter Bosh's monster left-hander of his own, in traffic, on the next trip down the court. That's why it's an All-Star Game folks. We'll take more of that, please.

Ebb and Flow

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

So much for this. The West opened up a 39-32 lead, making us wonder what Flip Saunders will draw up in the timeout. At least it gave the Miami Heat Dancers a chance to show their moves.

Wade Weighs In, Again

Posted by John Hareas: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:21 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Jason Wade said his first MVP pick, LeBron James, is looking good with 10 points even though the crowd wants T-Mac to win it. LeBron should take it to the hole all the time, Wade says, nobody can stop him. Jason says no more jump shots, LeBron.

Yeah, They're Good

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:17 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Remember us asking if Detroit was the best team out there? Against a squad featuring Tony Parker, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol, Detroit closed out the period with the teams knotted at 28. That's 8-4, advantage Detroit.

The sides are the same to open the second, so let the debate continue.

Hey, Your Coach Isn't Here ...

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:12 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Is Tony Parker really dribbling it out for the last shot of the quarter in an All-Star Game? I guess Gregg Popovich really does have command over his team.

If Only Tayshaun Was Here ...

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:08 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Yep, Paul Pierce isn't a bad choice for any team, including the Detroit Pistons. Pierce is the fifth player on the floor for the East, joining Billups, Hamilton and the Wallaces. For all of Pierce's scoring ability, however, you've got to believe his defense isn't sitting pretty with East coach Flip Saunders -- even if this is an All-Star Game. Pierce failed to put a body on Pau Gasol, letting the Spaniard grab an offensive board. You see, if only Tayshaun was here. Okay, that's the last time you'll hear such thinking from me.

Shaq's FT% could be higher if he could try every free throw like this.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Fashion Statement

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 9:03 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

All-Star Weekend usually brings out the latest fashions and flashiest dressers. In this year's case, it's caused some to rethink their fashion stylings. So far, we've only seen one player wearing the full-length tights -- Dwyane Wade.

Speaking of statements, did you see the thunderous windmill jam by Tracy McGrady? Yeah, the home fans liked that. Maybe Avery didn't; T-Mac's on the bench.

Off the bench for the East is all four Pistons. Paul Pierce joined the Pistons in the lineup with a little help from O'Neal. Pierce wasn't going to be allowed to relieve O'Neal until the next dead ball, because O'Neal was at the free throw line. So O'Neal tossed the charity attempt off the glass, chased it down and dunked it home. While fun to watch, it wasn't technically legal. But there was a dead ball opportunity. So now the score is 24-20 in favor of the West. Let's see if Detroit really is the best team out there ...

T-Mac for MVP

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:56 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Thinking of casting a vote? In the second half, we'll give you the opportunity to say who you think should be the game's MVP. You vote counts in choosing the award winner.

An in-house sample of fans -- by our highly unscientific methods -- think it'll be Houston's own Tracy McGrady. Of course, that's the obvious early choice, given his eight points including a slam he fetched off the glass. Earlier, we were saying it could go to the hometown player(s).

Be sure to check back at to cast your vote.

Just A Bit Too High

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:53 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We know Andre Iguodala can jump and now we're thinking maybe he can a little higher than the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Allen Iverson has thrown away two possessions, both being far too high, with the second sailing out of the reach of LeBron James. Yikes.

East 2, Texans 4

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:51 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

LeBron James got the East on the board first, but Yao Ming took a feed from fellow Texan -- ironic, neither was born in the States -- to even the score. After a few trips up and down the floor, the West holds an early lead, with T-Mac, Yao and Duncan -- all Texans, by our count -- each dropping in a hoop

Behold the Sights

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:48 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Miss the national anthem, when Houston's own Destiny's Child reunited for their final performance? You're in luck. We're going to have the video for you to watch over and over again, right here on A link will be posted here soon.

It's Time To Dance

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:39 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Did you catch the introductions of the Eastern Conference All-Stars? Aside from being raised up and emerging from behind a huge video wall, the starting five broke out into a little dance number we're hearing was actually choreographed during rehearsals -- when Ben Wallace nearly fell off the risers trying out moves he just learned from Gilbert Arenas.

The West walked to the tune of Crazy Train, which may not have been as easy to dance to but was clearly better suited for a robot-like wave. If you've ever thought Yao looked a little stiff or robotic out on the court, you should've seen how fluidly he took the move from Tim Duncan, standing to his right.

Jason Wade for Life

Posted by John Hareas: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We ran into Jason Wade of Lifehouse, who are taking a break from the road playing their best-selling, self-titled CD. Jason told us look out for LeBron James tonight to take home MVP honors. We asked Jason if he selected LeBron because the Cavaliers are his favorite team. He says, yes, that had something to do with it. After scrutinizing the rosters, he later changed his pick and said look for the West to win, with Kobe taking home his second MVP trophy. We'll try to check in with Jason again after the game tips off to see if he's on track.

When Stars Go Out

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:20 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We're hearing a number of celebrities are going to be in the house tonight for the big game. Some of the names we're hearing: Jamie Foxx, P. Diddy, Nelly -- who we've just spotted wearing a special All-Star 2006 leather jacket --, Ice Cube, Master P, Harold Ramis, Deion Sanders, Russell Simmons, Snoop Dogg, Gabrielle Union and President George Bush Sr. Considering Tony Parker's playing for the West, we're thinking an Eva Longoria sighting is in our future as well. You can see the celebs courtside by tuning over to TNT now.

Smile for the Camera

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Earlier in the day, the players went through the motions of posing for All-Star portraits on the Rockets practice court. There were a variety of stations to visit for individual and team photos. After NBA Entertainment photographer David Sherman finished snapping a few pics of Detroit's Richard Hamilton, he reviewed the shots and said to Rip, "These are really sweet." We sneaked a peek at the snaps and we had to agree. Keep an eye out, we'll have those photos forthcoming.

Meanwhile, moments later, Shaq and Chauncey Billups were overheard discussing their expected arrivals -- both baby girls. Billups told O'Neal his wife was expecting in July, which is why he would be required to skip the World Championships this summer if invited to the USA men's team. "I've got three girls, man," Billups said to O'Neal with a smile.

Shoe Comin' Through

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 7:10 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

It's a plane. It's a train. No, it's a Dunkman remote-controlled shoe.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Welcome to the Toyota Center. The fans are filing in heel here for tonight's showcase and the players are getting ready to put on a shoe show.

In case you can't tell, we've gone shoe crazy and you can blame it on the athletes -- mostly Shaq. With a throng of reporters already huddled around his locker waiting for a precious soundbite from O'Neal, Shaq walked in, preceded by a honking shoe. Yes, honking. Last night you saw Shaq wielding a camera-shoe, today it was a remote-controlled shoe, complete with four wheels, spinning rims and a pendant flag sticking up out of the heel.

I have to admit, a shoe this versatile seems a bargain when you can purchase it at Payless. Somehow I doubt you can get them customized like this at the footwear retailer. Regardless, it's a brilliant way to promote his affordable Dunkman line.

Elsewhere, we've seen versions of new shoes being worn for the first time. Each year, a number of players current and past -- Michael Jordan -- debut footwear when the most cameras are trained on their every move.

Arenas is wearing customized kicks, too.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images
Tracy McGrady was donning a mostly-gray version of his newest sneaker, while Chauncey Billups is testing out a white, red and blue version of T-Mac's adidas. Ray Allen is wearing the new Jordan XXI shoes in red. Allen Iverson is donning his 10th Reebok sneaker, while Kobe Bryant has a new sneaker out by Nike.

As for the eccentric Gilbert Arenas, not all is happy in sneaker-land.

"I'm in like a little rebellion mode toward my shoe company," Arenas said. "I don't think they've been fair to me so I decided I've got to protest a little bit."

His rebellion looks to have involved athletic tape and a red Sharpie, which he used to fashion homemade patches that cover the adidas logo on the tongue and heel, as well as the forward-most stripe on the sides of the shoes.

Want to see some of the shoes? We'll have a photo gallery later tonight. Be sure to check it out.

We Be Jammin' - And Pau Be Too

Posted by John Schuhmann: Sun., Feb. 19 at 1:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We headed over to Jam Session this morning in order to appease our wives and children (back home in Jersey) with gifts for the lack of contact over the last few days. We ended up following a group of celebrities who were heading to Center Court for a three-point shooting competition. The group included DJ Clue, Flex Alexander and Carlos Bernard from 24. We followed them all the way to the court, which had just seen an overtime thriller between a local Jr. NBA team and a team of kids from China.

As the Celebs took the court, we kept on moving through Jam Session. We picked up some schwag at the NBA Store where our boss, Rob Peterson, ran into his old boss, Bucks GM Larry Harris. No, Rob didn't play with the Bucks, but he was a video editor with them in the early '90s.

After the Store, we crossed through the FedEx Global Village, where we were happy to see Pau Gasol (who missed yesterday's West Practice) wrapping up a clinic. Mauricio Mendoza was there with Pau:

Pau Gasol seems to be a lot better after an entire day off. He stepped up to lead a clinic at the Fedex Global Village this morning, spending an hour teaching the fundamentals of basketball, and he did it with a lot of energy. "Im feeling much better now, so I decided to do my best for this clinic. Actually this was like my only training before the game," Gasol said.

More Gasol quotes:

"I was disappointed with this situation, it really hurt to miss yesterday's practice. This is my first All-Star and I just wanted to enjoy it all. I took a long rest. Im not a 100% but I wish it'll be a beautiful game for all of us."

"I won't try to be anything like being the top scorer of the game. I just want to enjoy that moment, shoot the ball and have fun."

Before we headed back to office, we passed by NBA legend David Robinson, who had stopped to pose for some photos with fans, and Tina Thompson and Katie Smith, who were signing autographs. Then we we walked back with Kendra Wecker, congratulating her for being the only women to hold a current "NBA record".

Quite a busy 30 minutes over at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Tale of the Tape

Posted by Brad Friedman: Sun., Feb. 19 at 1:15 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Smith's false move may have cost him the contest.
In the first round of the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk competition last night, nobody quite understood why Josh Smith marked the floor with tape several feet past the foul line extended only to take off from the charity stripe instead. So we enlisted the help of Josh's former AAU teammate, Dwight Howard, who was hanging out in front of the NBAE offices this morning.

Dwight confirmed Josh originally intended to use the tape as a marking point for his dunk, although the Orlando Magic pivot said his childhood buddy was going to leap from just inside of it.

So why did Smith change his dunk at the last second?

"He didnt have enough of a running start and didn't think he could make it," Howard said.

It's hard to believe any type of running start would allow for such a dunk, so we asked Dwight whether he knew if Josh was capable of completing the feat.

"I don't know if he could have made it, but if he did it, they should have stopped the dunk contest right then and there," Howard said laughing.

Video: Dunk Contest Recap

Stars Shine Tonight in Houston

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Sun., Feb. 19 at 12:45 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Wade's won a trophy already. Could he take home two on the weekend?
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
Welcome to All-Star Sunday in Houston, where today we'll witness the world's greatest athletes take the stage in the 55th annual midseason classic. And what a classic it could be, says seven-time All-Star and MVP of the 1994 game, Scottie Pippen. In his preview of this year's game for, Pippen says that because of what Kobe Bryant's done this year, "There is great anticipation that he will do something special on Sunday and since he relishes the big stage, I really dont think hell disappoint."

Bryant enters the game with the highest All-Star Game scoring average among all active players at 20.1 ppg, nearly 61 points below his season high mark vs. Toronto. If he only goes for his average, expect somebody else to step up in a big way. Who? Well, there's a long list of possibilities, but what about Houston favorites T-Mac and Yao? In the last 20 All-Star Games, five players have taken home the MVP trophy on their home court -- Shaquille O'Neal (2004), Karl Malone and John Stockton (1993), Michael Jordan (1988) and Tom Chambers (1987).

Chambers, in '87, was "the replacement player," a guy we'd be remiss to overlook this year if for no other reason than he continues to tell us so. On Friday, Gilbert Arenas again said he's going to take home the MVP trophy -- a similar prediction didn't pan out last year -- and we have to believe it's possible. Arenas has made a living, literally, out of proving people wrong.

In college at Arizona, Arenas wore the number 0 because that's how many minutes some said he'd play for the Wildcats. Then in 2001, he was a second-round draft pick, selected after players such as Rodney White, Kedrick Brown and Jeryl Sasser. To add insult to injury, the 14 head coaches not named Eddie Jordan didn't pick Arenas for this year's list of reserves in the All-Star Game, despite him being the fourth leading scorer in the league.

Arenas has strong company, however, as nine of the top 10 scorers -- including all three guys averaging more than 30 a night -- are here, too.

And while we're looking forward to seeing all these young superstars -- the future of the league -- doing what it is they do best out there on the court, we're also looking forward to the farewell performance from one of the biggest female acts ever, Destiny's Child, who'll grace us with a rendition of the national anthem.

So, get ready for the 55th annual All-Star Game tonight on TNT (8 p.m. ET) and join us here on the blog on

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