Here's my best and worst from NBA All-Star weekend in Houston:
Hitting the highs and lows
Worst no-call: LeBron against T-Mac. James's rake of McGrady's arm on the West's final shot was so egregious that he openly admitted to fouling afterward. "On his way up I got a piece of his arm and a piece of the ball, which made it short," James said. Making it worse was that McGrady was playing in front of the home crowd and making a bid for game MVP honors, and that the West would have tied the game with two McGrady free throws. "I guess it was a great defensive play, I guess," James sheepishly said afterward.
Best missed free throw: Shaquille O'Neal. Rather than merely throw up his usual brick, Shaq decided to go whole hog and give himself an alley-oop off the board for a monster dunk. The zebras waved it off, of course, but it was emblematic of the fun Shaq had all night -- running the point, posing after dunks, teasing teammates and opponents, and generally acting like the giant kid he is.
Worst time to get sick: Pau Gasol, Grizzlies. Gasol was the first Grizzly and first Spaniard to play in an All-Star game, but not the first Grizzly and first Spaniard to actually score in an All-Star game. A bout with illness left him hotel-bound for most of the weekend, and even though Gasol felt well enough to play by Sunday he was much less than 100 percent. It showed, too, as he went scoreless and had consecutive shots shoved in his face by Ben Wallace in the third quarter.
Best dressing room: Walter McCarty, Clippers. While the league's All-Stars were herded into a crowded locker room teeming with cameras and microphones, a little-used forward for the Clippers got a dressing room all to himself with a couch, TV and food service. McCarty's red-carpet treatment came because he sang the American national anthem before All-Star Saturday. "I need to be a singer," said teammate Elton Brand, who visited McCarty's lavish digs. "He got some special treatment."
Worst Mockery of a Once-Marquee Event: The Dunk Contest. The lunacy of the judging in Saturday's slamfest was the only low point in what was a generally well-received weekend. It consisted of two separate unthinkable happenings -- first, that somebody would break Chris Andersen's record for missed dunk attempts, and second, that the same person somehow would win. Nate Robinson, however, proved truth can be stranger than fiction, requiring 15 tries to complete a slam in the "dunk-off" and still leaving with a trophy.
Best B-List Celebrity Sighting: Harold Ramis. I was tempted to go with Sunday's Canadian national anthem singer, Jann Arden -- what, was Loverboy already booked? -- but Ramis takes the cake. After staying out of the spotlight for two decades or so, a star of "Stripes" and "Ghostbusters" was inexplicably brought on stage for an interview between events on Saturday. Best of all, the league immediately cemented his B-List status by calling him "Harold Ramous" on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Toyota Center fans ducked for cover in fear of an attack by the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man.
Best use of sarcasm: David Stern. An overwhelming favorite to take this category, the commish didn't disappoint during his state of the league address on Saturday. He was at his best when parrying questions about the eventual return of the Hornets to New Orleans, even including a bird flu reference for good measure.
Worst waste of a courtside seat: Fergie. Even by celebrity standards, the Black-Eyed Peas singer/eye candy was unusually disinterested in the proceedings. She spent much of the night facing away from the court to talk to various members of her entourage before leaving for good early in the fourth quarter.
Best use of an Ozzy Osbourne song by a symphony orchestra: For the Western Conference's pre-game introductions, the Houston Symphony decided to break out their rendition of "Crazy Train." It worked, too, even though they disappointed fans by neglecting to have the violin player bite the head off a bat.
Best interview: Gilbert Arenas, Wizards. The always-entertaining Washington guard kept the press entertained on a variety of topics in Friday's media session, from his continuing indignation over being the 31st pick in the 2001 draft to his habit of flinging his jersey into the crowd after a game. He also revealed he brought jerseys of all last season's All-Stars and had slowly been getting them signed throughout the season, finishing the last one just this week.
Best dance move by a 7-foot-6 Chinese guy: Yao Ming. We're not sure what to call that arm-waggle thing the Western starters did one after the other during pre-game introductions, but it was impressive that Yao finished the move with a flourish. "We didn't know if Yao was going to cop out on us," said McGrady afterward, "[but] he looked pretty smooth."
Best quality time: Tim Duncan. Apparently just because he's at work doesn't mean he can shirk his duties at home. While his teammates were warming up at halftime, the Spurs forward spent most of the break holding his baby daughter and chatting with wife Amy near the Western Conference bench.
Worst bus ride: A shuttle carrying media members took nearly two hours to get from a nearby hotel to Friday's rookie game when the driver departed late and then got lost, barely delivering the passengers before the game started. Those same media members were relieved to learn afterward that nobody much cared about the rookie game anyway.
Best mystery: Tracy McGrady. What's the personal problem that he's dealing with? Is it back trouble? Girl trouble? Money trouble? A vast conspiracy involving T-Mac, David Stern, Dick Cheney, and the dunk contest? Whatever it is, he's not telling, but inquiring minds want to know.
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They've let bygones be bygones. Shaq and Kobe were enjoying themselves in Houston. So there's hope for mankind.
Shaq and his "young ninja" (Dwyane Wade) joined the NBA on ESPN Radio for a candid and comical conversation. Shaq talked about his various weird injuries, dealing with hack-a-Shaq, why Wade is an MVP candidate, and how Miami's slow start doesn't concern him.
"It's not how you start the date, it's how you finish it sir. A lot of people can, you know, start the date with flowers and candy, but if you don't finish the date you know what I mean (laughs)." Wade spoke about the team meeting after their recent brutal loss to Dallas, the honor of being voted a starter and his relationship with Shaq. ... Heat duo
I don't think the Sixers could move Allen Iverson before next Thursday's trade deadline even if they wanted to.
But I do think they're thinking hard about what they do want to do.
I think so because a Sixers insider whom I trust unflinchingly tells me that the club is indeed investigating its pre-deadline Iverson trade possibilities.
AI himself has described such speculation as an annual media production that he's learned to live with every February, but such rumbles -- at least in my memory -- have never seemed so loud and, well, real. That's undoubtedly because the Sixers are not only fading in the standings with that high payroll, they're also struggling at the gate more than they ever have in the Iverson Era.
The All-Star Game was looking like a West showcase. Then Pistons-led East awoke ...
East Wins, 122-120
Sue Ogrocki /AP Photo
LeBron James passed here when confronted by Kevin Garnett, but it was his scoring that helped push the East back into the game.
Quote of the Day
-- LeBron James, on how the broadcast views of the candid Chuckster inspired the East team to a second half comeback.
-- Andrew Ayres
It's time for the NBA to go back to math class. Or at least to learn what constitutes an anomaly.
"Anomaly" has been the league's buzzword of late in defense of its indefensible playoff seeding structure, one that has the Spurs and Mavericks headed toward a second-round showdown despite owning the two best records in the Western Conference. League vice-president of operations Stu Jackson referred to it as anomaly earlier in the week, and deputy commissioner Russ Granik mentioned "anomalies" in how playoff matchups pan out again on Saturday.
But this is no anomaly.
To see why, let's walk through the logic for a minute. There are 15 teams in each conference, and five teams in each of the three divisions. That means that there's a 4-in-14 chance that the team with the second-best record will be from the same division as the team with the best record. Multiply that probability by two conferences, and there's a 49.0 percent chance -- basically, 50-50 -- in any given year of a Mavs-Spurs situation happening. And in 8.1 percent of the seasons, it will happen in both conferences.
A one-in-two chance isn't an anomaly, people -- it's a coin toss.
Tracy McGrady scored 36 points in 25 minutes in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. On a points-per-minute basis, it was the greatest scoring performance in the history of the game. The previous high among players on the court for at least 10 minutes was Michael Jordan's 40 points in 29 minutes in 1988.
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Farrakh (New York) : Do you think LeBron would make a better sidekick with Shaq in Miami?
Chris Broussard: Good question. I'll say this, if I had to choose between the two, I would take LeBron. If I had to start a team and had to take a perimeter guy, I would take LeBron over Kobe or anybody else. It's really splitting hairs with Wade vs. LeBron but I just think LeBron is such a unique player and great passer. Wade is by no means a selfish player but LeBron is even more unselfish than Wade.
Russ (Dyersville): What's with the ugly unis?
Chris Broussard: Yeah, I have to admit, they have a little 70's ABA type thing going on. I'm not feelin' it. I understand where you are coming from. I do like the headbands. I do kind of like the V-neck thing and the warmups but I'm not likin' the actual jerseys.