Why in the name of Spiderman's balls did you want it?
When I found out Iverson had been voted in, the first thing I thought was he may be the worst NBA All-Star, well, pretty much ever. Worse than B.J. Armstrong, Chris Gatling, Dale Davis, Jamal Magloire...I had to do some serious digging to find somebody I honestly think was less deserving of an All-Star nod than this season's version of The Cancer. I found one. One guy. His name was James Donaldson. He was a backup center (behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) on the West team during the 1988 All-Star Game.
Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Donaldson. I was obsessed with the NBA in the 80s, and I had no idea who he was. During his sole All-Star season, J.D. averaged 7.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 1.3 BPG with a Player Efficiency Rating of 12.4. According to John Hollinger's reference guide, that PER puts Donaldson somewhere between "scrounging for minutes" and "in the rotation." By the way, in 1988, teams averaged over 108 PPG, which makes his meager 7 PPG average seem even more depressing.
Mind you, the coaches selected Donaldson. At least Iverson has the excuse of being voted in by the fans. Fans are stupid. Coaches are supposed to know the game. (Eddie Jordan, Mike Brown and Vinny Del Negro notwithstanding.) The only thing I can figure is that Donaldson's little girl had terminal cancer and her dying wish was for her daddy to make the All-Star team. And that's all imma say.
On the bright side, the David Stern did some last-minute ballet stuffing to make sure Steve Nash, and not Knee-Mac, got the second starting guard spot on the Western Conference team.
The Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are the reigning NBA champs. Do you have any idea what that's like for me? Let's just say I can totally understand what Superman felt like when stopping a volcano sent him to a parallel universe full of evil Super Friends:
On Christmas day, the Lakers were humiliated on national TV by the Cleveland Craboliers. It was a particularly humiliating defeat, not only because they were blown out at home, but because L.A. was outplayed and thoroughly outmuscled by what may be the only team capable of dethroning them in June. The regular season provides relatively few true single-game measuring sticks of a team's ability to contend for a title, but that was one of them for the Lakers.
Fortunately for them, they still had the opportunity for a rematch in Cleveland. Unfortunately for them, they lost that one too. The Lakers wasted a golden opportunity, too, because Mo Williams -- Cleveland's starting point guard and second-leading scorer -- missed the game with a shoulder sprain. (Williams will be out for at least a month.) L.A. started out hot, owning the boards and the paint, and taking a 27-18 lead after the first quarter. But after that, the Crabs got physical and slowly pounded the Lakers into submission.
Remember, this is the same Lakers team that got beaten down by a more physical Celtics team in the 2008 NBA Finals. Last season, they weren't forced to face an elite physical team in the playoffs. If they face the Crabs in the Finals, it could be a problem. Especially if Cleveland wins homecourt advantage, which will be easier now that they've swept the season series with L.A.
After the game, Kobe Bryant questioned his team's toughness: "The mentality has to change a little bit playing against [Eastern Conference teams]. These teams are physical, tough-minded, hard-nosed types of teams. That's not part of our DNA. We have to step up and match that and still play skillful basketball."
Of course, it's worth mentioning that Mamba was out-superstarred by King Crab. Bryant finished with a team-high 31 points, but he shot 12-for-31 and finished with more turnovers (3) than rebounds (2). James, on the other hand, had a game-high 37 points (13-for-25 from the field, 10-for-13 from the line) to go along with 5 boards, 9 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. LeBron wasn't perfect -- he had 4 turnovers and went 1-for-8 from downtown -- but he made a convincing argument for Best Player in the League status. And, more importantly, he also illustrated pretty clearly that Ron Artest isn't going to slow him down. Nobody is. He's that good. Imagine what he'd be like with a real coach who ran actual plays.
Kobe bristled at the idea that the Lakers and Crabs have a rivalry -- "No," Mamba said before the game, "not at all." -- but Cleveland has taken seven of their last games against The L.A. Team. You know that has to get under Bryant's skin. Speaking of which...
Kobe Bryant, quote machine: When asked whether he was going to talk to his team about the loss, Mamba said: "They know I'm pissed. I don't have to say anything right now." He also "joked" about strangling "every single one" of his teammates. Again, he shot 12-for-31. I'm just sayin'.
Update! Pau Gasol, the Spanish Marshmallow: As Anish noted in the comments: "how can you not mention Pau's buckle at the end of the game. He couldve tied it up, but decided to miss both free throws and on the next Lakers possession, Kobe passes it to Pau for an almost uncontested layup and manages to get blocked. Quality sequence from the big man in the fourth quarter." Cortez described Gasol's performance thusly: "He was playing like a sheet of damp (with urine) 1 ply toliet paper in the late stages."
Pictured: Kobe blaming his teammates.
The Cleveland Cavaliers: Before the Crabs (and the media) get too happy about this win, somebody should pose the following question: If the hometown Crabs won the rebounding battle and held L.A. to 38 percent shooting, why did the Lakers still have a chance to steal this game going into the final minute?
Mike Fratello, unintentionally dirty quote machine: Submitted by a hammered BW in Cleveland: "Pau doesn't get it up strong enough."
The Los Angeles Clippers: Despite pulling out a close win over the Bulls at home on Wednesday night, Thursday night's 105-85 loss to the Nuggets in Denver proved that the Clippers are indeed who we thought they were. Actually, this was probably a case of the dreaded back-to-back syndrome. The Other L.A. Team kept things close through the first two quarters -- they were actually up by a point at the half -- but got outscored 34-17 in the third quarter. That was pretty much the game.
Mind you, the Clippers were playing without Eric Gordon (sprained left big toe) and Sebastian Telfair (groin), both of whom got injured during the Bulls game. Not exactly the situation you want going into a season-long eight-game road trip.
Weird fact: The Clips went 1-for-17 from three (tired legs) but outscored Denver 48-28 in the paint. The Nuggets went 11-for-22 from downtown and had a 37-19 advantage in free throw attempts, which I'm sure had nothing at all to do with home cooking.
Lacktion report: Phil Jackson singlehandedly ensured Chris would have some lacktion to report:
Lakers-Crabs: Sasha Vujacic climbed up the Deadly Towers for a 13 second Mario, while DJ Mbenga countered a board with a foul and turnover for a 2:1 Voskuhl in 1:34.