Palsgrove’s Points

Man, that was rough. I’m writing this with the stink of that game (if you can even call it that) radiating off me in waves after watching three hours of that hot garbage that Adam Silver wants me to call the NBA All-Star Game. The two teams combined took the most threes and scored the most points in All-Star history, but that game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen and made me want to never watch an All-Star event again.  

Congrats to the East and Damian Lillard and whatever; I guess they scored more points than the other guys, so they get the shiny new trophy, but that trophy means nothing. It means they tried one infinitesimal percentage point harder than the West. Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic have the right idea. They’re both there just to have fun and seem to enjoy themselves, unlike some of the guys there just to pretend to care and shoot a few threes (*cough* KD, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, Kawhi Leonard *cough*).  

I was planning on bringing back my winners and losers bit like last week, but I’m so fed up with this gosh darn event that we’re starting with something else. Let’s talk about how to fix the All-Star Game, and then I’ll talk about my winners and losers from this weekend.  

Now buckle up, and let’s go.  

Loser: Aaron’s Sanity 

I actually feel bad for Adam Silver. The poor guy has been trying to put out a watchable product on ASW for nearly a decade now, but he’s trapped in a league that, for better, or in this case, for worse, is run by its players. The idea of player empowerment is a lovely one; it gets guys paid more, and they earn their fair share of the revenue as the sole reason for the sport even happening. But it’s on weekends like this that those ideals of player empowerment, load management and, you know, caring, rear their ugly heads and ruin what used to be a beautiful product.  

Cause that’s the main issue, isn’t it? Caring? The problem with the All-Star Game is that the players competing in it no longer care about the outcome of the game or their performance in it. So how do you fix that? There’s no good answer, but I have a few ideas Silver could throw at the wall and see if something sticks.  

Number one, get rid of the game. I’m serious. I know that would break over 75 years of tradition and yadda yadda yadda, but it’s got to go. The players don’t care, and if the players don’t care, why should we? So, what should the NBA replace the game itself with?  

A one-on-one tournament. Fans have been asking for this for years. It’s the game of basketball in its simplest form: you guard me while I try and score, and then we swap. Figure out a way for a bracket-style tournament with 16, 24, or heck, even 32 guys, and see what happens. And if you can somehow make it so players can call each other out like knights at a duel? Even better.  

Option two is to run it back but increase the prize money to where it matters and remove the 3-point line. I want to see what these trigger-happy guards and forwards do without their precious painted arc. Does the game get more aggressive at the rim? Do the coaches try to draw up interesting plays? Will they try? Who knows, but I’m down for anything.  

Option three: add a playoff-based incentive. Whichever conference wins the game, East or West, gets an automatic home-court advantage in the finals. So, if the East wins and the Celtics or Bucks make the Finals, their records don’t matter and they automatically get games one, two, five and seven on their home hardwood. Will they try harder with more on the line than a trophy they don’t want and money they don’t need? I’d have to imagine so.  

The rapid decrease in entertainment values of All-Star-type events across the three major American sports has been a tragedy, and all three leagues are having to adjust. The MLB has it the easiest because the home run derby is still awesome, but the NBA, a league whose theme for the past 15 or so seasons has been “players first, money second, fans third,” is getting hit with the All-Star bug worse than anyone, and Sunday was just another nail in the coffin.  

Phew. I think I got that off my chest, so let’s get to some of what I actually enjoyed from this weekend.  

Winner: Stephen Curry and Sabrina Ionescu … but mainly Ionescu 

Women’s basketball is in such a cool spot right now, and it’s all because of two superstars who are virtually unstoppable right now — Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Ionescu. If you haven’t heard what Clark is doing at Iowa right now, I need you to call me so I can bring over a forklift and some dynamite to get rid of that rock you’re living under.  

Ionescu, in her four seasons in the WNBA, has turned the league on its head for the better. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2020 has become the only WNBA player to record a triple-double in under three quarters and the only player to record 500+ points, 200+ rebounds and 200+ assists in a single season. And to remind you, this is just her fourth year in the league.  

Ionescu is a superstar, and so is Curry. One of the goals the two of them had was to compete, obviously, but also “to open people’s eyes” about the competitiveness of the WNBA and women’s basketball as a whole. For years, there’s been this stigma that’s surrounded women’s basketball. People (mainly annoying NBA fans) say the women’s game is boring, that it’s slow, that no one cares and so many other incredibly stupid things.  

The goal of the Steph vs. Sabrina showdown was to show the world that to hold the men’s game above the women’s is lunacy. Ionescu showed the world that there isn’t a competitive drop-off or any sort of entertainment drop-off by proving that the superstars of the WNBA can compete with the literal best shooter ever in the history of basketball.  

Oh, and Sabrina scored an insane 26 points in the competition, which would’ve advanced her to the final round of the men’s 3-point shooting contest that came earlier that night.  

Loser: Kenny “The Jet” Smith 

The Curry-Ionescu shoot-out was the coolest thing we saw all weekend and one of the most unique things to happen in ASW since the Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon Dunk Contest overtime in 2016. Somehow, it managed to remain that way despite the best attempts from TNT’s Kenny Smith to taint the excitement of the competition. The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand said it best in his column Sunday morning.  

“The simple problem with Kenny Smith’s comments on TNT during the best moment of All-Star Saturday was they didn’t make any sense. … Shooting from the farther NBA 3-point line, Curry, considered by most the greatest shooter of all time, barely beat Ionescu, 29-26. 

“‘She should have shot from the women’s line,’ Smith said immediately after Curry’s clutch shots. ‘That would have been a fair contest.’ 

“Reggie Miller, TNT’s other analyst on the event, tried to bring the broadcast back on the rails. 

“‘Why are you putting those boundaries on her? She wanted to shoot from there,’ Miller said. 

“Smith kept going, adding, ‘She should have shot from the line. There is a women’s tee in golf and there is a men’s tee for a reason.’” 

It’s as if Smith couldn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening in front of him, which was a statement about the truth of men’s and women’s basketball and the surge of talent that’s infecting both leagues for the better.  

Winner: Mac McClung 

Somehow, McClung got robbed and still won back-to-back dunk contests after his win on All-Star Saturday Night. The G-Leaguer walked into the Pacers arena and reiterated what he showed the world at the last Dunk Contest — talent and height don’t always equate to dunking ability.  

I mean, the dude is 6-foot-2 (which might be generous, but hey, that’s what all the sites say) and has played in a total of four NBA games, but he’s got bunnies for days and the creativity and discipline to put together a 50-point dunk routine.  

He did a new dunk! To see a splash of originality in a competition that for the last few years has just been about jumping over tall humans was cause for celebration, but to watch McClung let the ball go, pull it out of midair and slam it home while hovering over Shaquille O’Neal? Pretty sick.  

Loser: Jaylen Brown 

This isn’t going to be a long point like the above ones, but if I didn’t make fun of Brown, I feel like I might explode. How often is it that one of the 30 best players in the NBA has to wear a glove and prove to people that he can use his left hand to dunk a basketball? Utterly hilarious. And what’s even better is if you go back and watch that clip again, he doesn’t even dribble with his left; he dribbles right then switches to his left to put the ball in the basket. 

Man, I’m so glad he didn’t win; he didn’t even deserve to advance to the final round for that showing.  

Palsgrove is the asst. sports for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

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