(Kurt Thomas, left, taking out his prejudices against Virgin Islanders)
While I’m still trying to take in all the highlights from two apparently terrific games I missed last night —-New Orleans’ double OT win via Shaq-less Phoenix and Utah’s overtime win at Denver (Deron Williams, 29 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds), the Guardian’s Mark Woods unveils his plans to carve up what Michael Wilbon has called Black Thanksgiving. “It’s time to perform surgery on the format,” advises Woods. “Ditch the traditional East v West face-off and replace it with one that pits the US against the Rest of the World”.
Fielding a United Nations squad would be no problem. Three MVPs born outside the States – Canada’s Nash, Virgin Islander Duncan and Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki – would be automatic starters, with Chinese giant Yao and Frenchman Tony Parker completing a first choice quintet that would be a match for anything the ‘hosts’ would provide. Although depth might be an issue, who would want to lose? Nobody.
“It would be a tough game because there are so many tough foreign players in the league,” says Phoenix Suns’ French forward Boris Diaw. “It would probably make it more competitive than it is now. Now it is fun but everyone would be trying to win it.”
Ultimately, that may be the concept’s downfall. The players invited to participate in All-Star Weekend are coming to New Orleans to enjoy themselves, to savour the late-night frolics on Bourbon Street and relish a welcome break from the grind of cross-country road trips and the 82-game slog. Diaw’s team-mate Nash, voicing an opinion that will be mirrored by many of his contemporaries, believes the last thing they need is for the NBA to turn a vacation into a busman’s holiday. “I don’t think it needs fixing,” he insists.
Maybe we should just accept All-Star for what it is: A-List entertainment both on the court and off it. But as a contest, it remains very much less than stellar.
Though I’d be more interested in watching Woods’ proposed All-Star Game than the one currently on offer (can we have a US Against The World Celebrity Game on the Saturday, too? I really wanna see Carrot Top get dunked on by Michael Barrymore), it should be stressed that Tim Duncan is very much a U.S. citizen, as are all natives of the Virgin Islands.