3-point shootout: Stephen Curry stepped up Saturday and put on a show. The thing that impressed me most about Curry, even more than his 18 three-pointers in the first round, was the way he carried himself. He wasn’t nervous or intimidated by a fairly star-driven opponent lineup. He stole the spotlight in the first round from Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups, and the way he did it was fun to watch.
First of all, his jumper is so smooth. He not only performed well, but he looked good doing it. NBA fans who watched Saturday will remember that. Second, Curry had this cool swagger going, not a cocky arrogance or false bravado, but the kind of confidence that we see in star players. It’s hard to explain, but you could see it in his body language and his facial expressions — a look of contentment complemented by the constancy of a slight, self-respecting smile. Curry looked like a star out there; he looked like he belonged.
In the rookie game, Curry deferred too much to his teammates, something I wrote about here. But under the brighter lights of All-Star Saturday, the rookie guard was in his element. He was confident and despite coming up short against Pierce in the final, he stole a fair share of the spotlight against two established star competitors (Pierce and Billups). Curry has an aura about him unlike any other player on the Warriors’ roster. It will be interesting to see if Curry begins to wrest control of this team away from Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette, and if there will be a resultant power struggle. Curry is a player the Warriors can build around. Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to do shaping the roster around him, but establishing Curry as the alpha dog (yes, I stole that term from Bill Simmons) on this roster is the first step.
Dunk Contest: What a snoozer. I haven’t studied all the dunk contests over the years closely enough to determine where this year’s contest ranks on the list of all-time duds, but it’s got to be somewhere near the top.
I probably set myself up for disappointment, though. During the week leading up to All-Star Weekend, I watched old footage of the 1985 dunk contest (Jordan vs. ‘Nique) and the 2000 dunk contest (Vince Carter’s coming-out party). After watching those, Nate Robinson could have done a full flip in the air before dunking and I wouldn’t have been impressed (I have wondered if anybody will ever attempt that dunk. Is it even possible without a trampoline? Is it too dangerous?)
I’m not going to call for changes to the dunk contest just because of a down year, though. I think this was just a bad lineup. The NBA needs to more carefully select its competitors, but I can’t completely blame them either. I actually thought Shannon Brown was going to show us something great. Obviously I was wrong. Hopefully, the NBA does a better job with its selections next season.
All-Star Game: Honestly, I didn’t watch the entire game. I do get bored with the no-defense philosophy of all-star games and don’t have the patience to sit through the first three-and-a-half quarters to watch the final few minutes of the game, when the players finally start competing hard and defending. I was impressed by the turnout, though. A record 108,000 to watch an All-Star game is incredible. I know some of that was the venue (the new Cowboys Stadium is amazing), but I think it also shows that the NBA is more popular than it has ever been. I know that seems like blasphemy because most people will say that the NBA’s most popular stretch was during the era of Magic, Bird and Jordan. But I think the NBA has more star power now than ever before and considering the rising global popularity of the league, the NBA has never been bigger. It doesn’t touch the NFL (nothing does), but it’s a strong second and that’s impressive.