Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Afternoon at All-Star

Saturday's schedule didn't seem as jam-packed as Friday, when the Rookies (and Sopohomores) practiced and played, but lo and behold I've kept busy. It's 7:30 p.m. local time and the All-Star Saturday Night festivities are underway, but this is my first chance to blog.

The day started with All-Star pratices at the Jam Session at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. I took in the tail end of the East session, which by that point mostly consisted of half-court shooting. Joe Johnson ended a cold stretch by knocking one down from halfcourt.

At precisely noon, the media stormed onto the floor and took it over for a half-hour's worth of interviews. I wandered around a little bit, getting a feel for the craziness. I took some video of Seattle native Brandon Roy:

The level of craziness doesn't match Super Bowl media day, but there was a Canadian TV reporter walking around wearing a purple blazers, white leather shoes, beads and sunglasses.

Yesterday, I asked Roy about being the first player from this generation of Seattle NBA players to make the All-Star Game.

"I think it means a lot," he said. "We've come so far in such a short time. Now we've got our first All-Star."

Roy said he was still hearing from other Seattle products and his former UWA teammates.

"They almost couldn't believe it," said Roy. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar called me, all the players I played with.

"They said, 'You're an All-Star - do you know what that means?' I still don't fully understand."

After breaking for lunch (I highly recommend the Shrimp Po'Boy), it was back to the Convention Center for the D-League All-Star Game. I wanted to see Randy Livingston, Cory Violette and Lance Allred from the Idaho Stampede, the Sonics D-League affiliate. On top of that, Idaho Head Coach Bryan Gates, who worked with the Sonics coaching staff during summer league last year, was coaching the "Red" team in the game.

Alas, the Red squad struggled, shooting just 39.6% from the field as the Blue team pulled away late in the first half and won 117-99. Jeremy Richardson of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (who has spent time with two NBA teams this season) was named MVP after scoring a game-high 22 points.

It wasn't a big night for the Stampede trio. Livingston handed out seven assists and had five steals, but shot 1-for-8 from the field. Violette grabbed 10 boards and was one of two players with double-figures rebounds, but shot 4-of-13. Allred had the best game of the group with 16 points and eight rebounds, but even he shot less than 50% (6-for-14) from the field.

"It's not really my kind of platform," said Allred afterwards. "I need structure and development." The same could probably be said of Livingston and Violette, which makes them valuable to the disciplined Stampede but less so in an All-Star environment.

Still, Allred had fun, terming the experience "rewarding yourself."

There were some other Sonics ties in the All-Star Game. Jelani McCoy spent three years in Seattle and is now an All-Star for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Livingston has had two stints with the Sonics. Eddie Gill is a former Sonics camp invitee and Kaniel Dickens (who had two highlight dunks late in the game) and Keith Langford both have played for the Sonics in summer leagues past.

The other guy I really wanted to see was Rod Benson, blogger extraordinaire. And I can't wait to see how Benson explains blowing a dunk on a breakaway when he was all alone.

The scene around here continues to be crazy. Where else but the NBA Jam Session would you see 7-7 former Wizards center Gheorge Muresan and 7-6 Yao Ming on the same court at the same time?