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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Superman Takes Over New Orleans

Here is the link to my third All-Star Weekend report for HoopsHype.com:

Superman Takes Over New Orleans

I had quite a busy day and not everything that happened made it into that article. Here are some other news and notes from my experiences on Saturday:

LeBron James has repeatedly said that Kobe Bryant is the league’s best player—a stance that James reiterated at Friday's media availability—but Bryant had an interesting take on who he thinks deserves the award this year, Chris Paul: “His maturity is kind of a throwback to the old school style of play. He distributes the ball and makes his teammates better. He’s a good defensive player. He’s doing two or three different jobs for his ball club. I enjoy his competitive spirit. He plays hard and he wants to win by any means necessary. Nowadays, a lot of players sugarcoat that or try to disguise or hide how competitive they are but he’s not one of them; he goes for it.”

After the All-Star practice on Saturday, I went back to the French Quarter to try to track down Jude Acers, the chess master who famously holds court at the Gazebo on Decatur Street. I just missed him on Thursday but his time I was very pleased to see him sitting at his chess table wearing his customary distinctive red beret. When I got closer it became apparent that he was giving a chess lesson to a young student, so I sat down quietly and watched for a few minutes. During a break in the lesson, I inquired about playing a quick game against Acers after he finished the lesson. He normally takes on all comers for $5 a game, so I thought that he would appreciate the business but suddenly he got all skittish and started packing up his stuff, gruffly telling me that he would not play a game. I’ve never heard of him acting like that, so I tried to calm him down by congratulating him on his fine performance in the recent World Senior Championship and telling him that I had traveled quite a distance to cover the NBA All-Star Game and would really enjoy having the opportunity to play a quick game against him. I asked when his lesson would be over or if it would be better to come back at a different time but he refused to even say when he would be available. That is hardly a good way to either promote the game of chess or his business and I found the whole encounter not only disappointing but also simply bizarre. He told me that I would have to leave, apparently failing to understand that (1) I have every right to stand wherever I want to on a public sidewalk and (2) I had no intention of staying there to engage in more fruitless dialogue with him. Although it would have been cool to play a game against an American chess icon, in light of his rude behavior I certainly will not seek him out again, nor could I recommend in good conscience that any other visitor do so.

After that waste of time, I headed back to the Marriott and then took a shuttle bus to the New Orleans Arena. I got there in time to take advantage of the wonderful media hospitality at the Superdome. It seems surreal to eat dinner at roughly where the 50 yard line normally is in the building where, among many other things, William “Refrigerator” Perry scored a touchdown in the Chicago Bears’ 46-10 Super Bowl victory in 1986. I enjoyed a wide ranging basketball conversation with several journalists from Turkey and ESPN’s John Hollinger and Chris Ramsay.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:38 PM

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At Sunday, February 17, 2008 4:25:00 PM, Anonymous engin said...

As a Turkish basketball lover,i wonder who were the Turkish journalists you talked to.Kaan Kural is a cool-and a very cultured-guy,for instance.Other than that,it's a shame for Jude Acers to behave in that way.

As for the all-star challenges,i think that Kapono,rules permitting,can win the 3 pt. shootout in the next 2 or 3 years, too.And for me,he didn't really dunk with the Superman costume(it was just a layup), but his tip dunk was amazing enough to win the competition.

 
At Sunday, February 17, 2008 4:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Engin:

Khan Kural was indeed one of the journalists at the table. I don't know everyone else's name. Khan, Hollinger and I did most of the talking (in that order).

I'm not sure what you mean by "rules permitting" in terms of Kapono continuing to win the 3 point contest.

I didn't publish any predictions this year but it's just as well because I would have been wrong about everything. I always think that Dirk will win the 3 point shootout but most years something goes wrong. I thought that Moon would win the dunk contest. I thought that CP3 would win the Skills. I didn't give a lot of analytical thought to Shooting Stars but probably would have picked Detroit to repeat since Laimbeer is so maniacally competitive. One thing that I noticed in warmups was that Laimbeer's shot looked terrible and that pretty much carried over into the event itself (sometimes you can warm up poorly but shoot well--or vice versa--but in this case he played just like he practiced).

I have read/heard that Howard's Superman dunk was not really a dunk but, since I was in the arena, I probably have not seen the replays that other people have seen; it was replayed on the scoreboard monitor but I guess I was not watching the ball so much as his hangtime and extension. I'll watch the tape when I get home. Even if it was a "rub in" and not a true dunk, Howard definitely stole the show, although Green, Gay and Moon each had their moments; their dunks were overshadowed somewhat by Howard's off the charts performance.

 

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