My All-Star Saturday


PHOENIX – All-Star Saturday 2009 will ultimately be remembered for KryptoNate Robinson leaping over Superman in a single bound, but that’s not all that went down Saturday in downtown Phoenix.

From standing with the fans watching the inaugural edition of HORSE to getting my ass kicked by a 10-year-old in NBA Live 09 to end the day, it was a hell of a Valentine’s Day for me.

A slice of H-O-R-S-E history

Kevin Durant isn’t usually one for dolls, but he’s going to cherish the toy horse he received for winning All-Star Weekend’s first rendition of HORSE, I mean GEICO (don’t want to piss off the event’s sponsors).

“I’m going to keep this trophy in my room for a long time, maybe pass it on to my son or daughter,” Durant said, smiling. “It was a fun weekend, and now I won a horse. It’s probably the best basketball award.”

It was a landmark day for HORSE players everywhere when Durant squared off against O.J. Mayo and Joe Johnson on an outdoor court at the All-Star Block Party across the street from US Airways Center. Block Party fans jammed the perimeter to see a piece of history.

There was Mayo nailing shots from the crowd, Johnson missing a shot from the TNT makeshift studio set up behind the basket and Durant hitting shots well beyond downtown. All three contestants at one point drilled a one-handed three and Mayo showed off a fine left-handed shooting stroke.

If this competition was based on style points alone, Mayo would have been the runaway winner. But after trailing the entire game, Durant used some hot conventional shooting to take down the flashy rookie from USC from behind.

“It’s something like an All-Star Game,” Durant said. “You play around in the first half, the second half you start to get serious, and that’s what I tried to do.”

All in all the game was a success, and I’d like to see HORSE, GEICO or any five-letter word in between played at future All-Star Games.

However, I wasn’t exactly blown away by anything that happened like I am when watching Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson dunk or Jason Kapano shoot racks of threes (well, not this year). Durant in particular went conservative, whereas this event should be more about trying crazy stuff that draws oohs and ahhs from the crowd without caring about possible misses.

Like Johnson spinning the ball on his finger, then trying to make a layup that he missed twice but was really cool and something that would never happen in a game of HORSE between my buddies like standing around hitting threes might.

Second, my dream HORSE lineup would be Steve Nash (imagine what he could do with his soccer skills), Gilbert Arenas, and taking an idea from Reggie Miller, a retired shooter. Because Reggie, suggested it, let’s throw him in there.

Would you watch that? I know I would.

The D-League All-Star Game

I caught about the last 10 minutes of the first half of the D-League All-Star Game at Jam Session before going out to secure my spot for HORSE.

Courtney Sims, who the Suns signed to a second 10-day contract on Friday, earned co-MVP honors with 15 points, eight boards and four blocks, as his Red Team beat the Blue Team, 113-103.

I still don’t see him ever getting off the Suns’ bench unless they’re shorthanded due to an Amare trade, but I was impressed by his shot-blocking instincts. The guy goes for everything.

I was also surprised to see him splash a three in his defender’s face being that he’s a 6-foot-11 center, so he’s got a bit of range.

All of you Arizona fans would have gotten a kick out of seeing Marcus Williams himself running around in this game.

Williams went from being an unassuming freshman to a sophomore who walked into the first day of practice thinking he was “The Man” a few years back at U of A, leading to a lack of team chemistry on that squad in large part due to Williams’ attitude problem.

If Williams had stayed in school he’d be a senior leading an upstart Arizona team that’s now won seven in a row after spanking No. 6 UCLA.

Instead he came out early and is now an All-Star.

A D-League All-Star.

(Let that be a lesson to all you kids out there. Stay in school).

A protest on a T-shirt

I just had to talk to Kevin Brumit when I saw him in the food court area of Jam Session sporting a white T-shirt reading, “Keep Amare,” the only visible sign I saw of a Suns fan protesting the current state of the team.

“I think a lot of the problem’s they’re having now is coaching, and to blame it all on Amare is ridiculous,” Brumit said. “He’s a big. How mangy friggin’ All-Stars bigs are you going to have that you just want to give away?”

All-Star Saturday Night a letdown, except Krypto-Nate

All-Star Saturday Night is one of my favorite sporting moments of the year, but I was kind of disappointed in tonight’s action – which I watched on a big screen at Jam Session with what ended up being about 100 fans – before that epic showdown between Krypto-Nate and Superman.

First off in “Shooting Stars,” at least the Los Angeles or San Antonio teams didn’t walk away with this thing, but let’s be honest, the odds were stacked in Phoenix’s favor.

The hometown squad featured shooters in Leandro Barbosa and Dan Majerle and a Mercury player who looked to be a decent shooter in Tangela Smith that no other team could match.

They made all five of their shots in the final round after winning the first round, but an inability to hit the halfcourt shot led to a Detroit victory.

A talented Phoenix team falling short at US Airways Center, where have we heard that story before?

Nobody seemed to care in the Skills Challenge, least of all the eventual winner Derrick Rose, who seemed to sleep walk through the event before that emphatic slam to cap off his victory. It’s amazing how smooth that guy is, as he looked like he was just out for a morning jog through the course.

You know the 3-Point Shootout bombed when Daequan Cook was the runaway winner. This was the worst Shootout that I can ever remember watching.

Nobody tore off a memorable run like Jason Kapono did last year (nobody even hit for 20), and the only intrigue came when Rashard Lewis hit his last four shots in the second round only to see Cook do the same to tie him and force overtime for the win.

Then Lewis completely bombed, and the guy better known for being Greg Oden and Mike Conley’s teammate at Ohio State took home the crown.

I did think it was kind of funny to see Danny Granger and Roger Mason in this competition after each hit a game-winning triple at the buzzer from one of the spots to beat the Suns earlier in the year. Neither player advanced to the second round.

Granger hit his first four shots from the top of the key before missing the money ball, the same shot he beat the Suns with on Jan. 7. Mason hit just two from the corner from which he beat Phoenix on Christmas.

I thought Rudy Fernandez was victimized by some Russian judging from a Suns judging panel featuring Tom Chambers, Majerle, “The Mayor” Kevin Johnson, Cedric Ceballos and Larry Nance.

But he can only blame himself for picking Pau Gasol (who I now know from yesterday is from Barcelona, not Madrid) for the partner dunk. I’m sure B-Roy would have thrown a better pass. I may have even thrown a better pass.

This dunk contest won’t be remembered for any ridiculous new dunks, but it’s got to be among the best for showmanship.

First, Howard rolls out his own 12-foot hoop and hops into a phone booth to become Superman. That was crazy, but a windmill instead of a strange two-handed dunk would have been that much better off a Jameer Nelson backboard toss.

Howard’s eventual final dunk taking off a bit inside the free-throw line wasn’t bad, but it was kind of a disappointment in comparison to the creative stunts he’s pulled in the past.

Good thing KryptoNate was there to save the day.

TNT’s announcers speculated Robinson may have injured himself when he ran off the floor before the final round.

Nope, he was just changing into an all-green attire complete with a green Knicks jersey, green shoes, green sleeves and a green ball to become KryptoNate to Howard’s Superman.

When he jumped over the 6-foot-11 Howard to complete the shtick after earlier in the evening jumping on the back of teammate Wilson Chandler on his way to the rim, the fans rightly voted Robinson the champ.

Amazingly Robinson gained support of a crowd I expected to be pro-Howard all the way after last year’s display. Maybe it was the Superman move from the Soulja Boy dance he threw in after dunking over Superman.

Imagine how cool this moment would have been if the Suns never traded Krypto-Nate away.

(Rudy Fernandez, too, for that matter.)