LAS VEGAS -- It's not just the NBA. It's the All-Star Game.
These aren't just NBA players. They're All-Stars.
It's not in just a showy city. It's Las Vegas.
We have been hearing for weeks that this is the biggest, baddest, tip-toppiest, hip-hoppiest, star-studdiest, most ridiculously fantasticalist game that could ever be imagined. If a regular NBA game was an eight out of 10 on the fan-pleasing scale, the way it was packaged (the Thomas & Mack is like an ant farm in which celebrities are the ants, coursing through every aisle and tunnel), this game here was supposed to be an eight million.
This was basketball writ as large as basketball can be writ.
So, um, was the 2007 NBA All-Star Game a good basketball game?
"No." Chauncey Billups didn't hesitate for a second. "I didn't like it at all. I loved being here. I loved being a part of it, but I don't like it at all. We need something to make the guys play a little harder, to compete against one another."
He's saying something that was blatantly evident from press row. This was not high-level basketball, and nobody claimed it was. This was a creampuff -- 99 percent air.
"If I paid my hard-earned money to see KG and Kobe and Wade, I want to see them really play. You know what I'm saying?" Billups said. "Not practice. I want to see them play."
Billups said he even brought it up with his teammates, imploring them to at least try to win the game. And he didn't buy the playing not to get injured approach: "I could get hurt just walking back here. There's nothing you can do about that. I'm not one to dive on the floor or take crazy charges. I don't expect that. But I expect that they'll at least compete against one another."
There are a million ingredients to this jambalaya of All-Star mediocrity. Throw in a slice or two of these-players-aren't-used-to-playing-together. You can sprinkle in that it's only an exhibition. A coach who they aren't used to. A tradition of All-Star hot-dogging. A league focus on sponsors and celebrities. Let that all simmer.
Then pour yourself a tall drink of this-game-is-at-the-tail-end-of-the-party-weekend-of-the-year.
"Just a regular All-Star Game," Billups says. "Guys are tired. Worn out a little bit from the weekend. Like myself ... and everybody. Yes, I think that everybody wants to win once the game gets going. But nobody is going to lose any sleep over it."
Henry Abbott writes TrueHoop.com.