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A common condemnation on the NBA has been the cry of "No defense!" from critics who claim the Association's style lacks the tenacious resistance of the rim found in the amateur ranks. This conviction is not one refuted by the play during the league's annual All-Star Game, as the two conference squads light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree.
Because of the laissez-faire nature of the performance, the NBA All-Star Game has taken a backseat to the rest of the weekend's activities. The Three-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Contest, the Skills Challenge, even the Shooting Stars Competition has taken precedent over Sunday's showcase. (Ok, maybe not the Shooting Stars Competition, but still.)
Will the state of play improve during this weekend's All-Star gala? Maybe, but this assembly of All-Stars has an unparalleled aura of excitement surrounding the event. With stimulating subplots and storylines the scene at the Staples Center will become must-see TV this weekend. Here's a breakdown of several of the narratives that will be pumping adrenaline into this weekend's All-Star activities:
The Blake Griffin Show
Not often do 21-35 teams find themselves the focal point of Sportscenter, but the Clippers have become a nightly institution on sports telecasts thanks to the aerial stylings of the rookie Griffin. The former Sooner will have the opportunity to own the weekend, as Griffin will be partaking in the Rookie-Sophomore showdown on Friday, the Slam Dunk contest on Saturday and the All-Star Game on Sunday. Of course, Griffin is a Clipper, so it's well within the realm of possibility that Griffin tears every ligament in his body attempting a throwdown.
Or Will Kobe Control the Conch?
The term "facilitator" has never been in the Black Mamba's vernacular. One would be misguided in prognosticating Bryant allowing Griffin and other stars to steal the spotlight this weekend, held in his hometown no less. Expect Kobe to be gunning, literally and figuratively, for the game's MVP trophy.
Don't think the universal vitriol will disappear simply because the game's a glorified exhibition. However, this type of format suits Miami's Trio just fine, as their respective games flourish in an open-floor forum. Case in point: James has brought home the All-Star MVP hardware twice, Wade was last year's award recipient, and Bosh has a career average of 14 points in his All-Star appearances.
The Young Guns
The league is stockpiled with young talent across the board, and this year's game strives to illustrate that sentiment. Griffin, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook are players 25 or younger that have reached the league's upper echelon. This abundance of aptitude has correlated into the league's deepest and stiffest competition amongst teams since the mid-1980s. Better yet, the majority of these players are amicable and approachable athletes, a vital asset for the league as it continues to bounce back from the moribund years after Michael Jordan's second retirement, as well as the train wreck that was "The Decision" this summer.
Tim Duncan's Swan Song
The big man's presence is attributed more to the respect Duncan commands around the league rather than his season's performance. His 13th selection to the NBA's showcase will probably be his last, as Duncan's body and game are deteriorating rapidly. In a league where hype and highlights are seemingly more newsworthy than wins, Duncan's foundation was cemented with defense, teamwork, and fundamentals. How someone can win four titles in relative anonymity is anyone's guess, but Duncan quietly carved out a career as the greatest power forward to ever play the game. The league will be worse off in his absence.
Boston's Four Reserves
Personally, I find this storyline overemphasized, as we've seen this come to fruition in varying forms throughout the years with other squads. However, it would be intriguing to see the four Celtics on the floor at once if they froze out the fifth Eastern Conference teammate, especially if it was LeBron or Amar'e.
Thanks to the WhatIfSports basketball simulation engine, we were able to "play" this year's All-Star Game, with the Western Conference coming out on top 59 percent of the time. Durant is the projected MVP, averaging around 20 points per contest. Kobe and LeBron are also candidates for this honor, with a mean production of 18 points per game. Bosh does not live up to his All-Star resume, as the Miami forward is consistently held in check by Duncan and Pau Gasol. Orlando’s Howard is another that is underwhelming, failing to average 10 boards across the simulation.
That said, the engine predicts a relatively low-scoring affair, a forecast that some may claim is unlikely to come to fruition. Will the game showcase an utter disdain for defense? Maybe. But with the congregation of offensive firepower in Hollywood this weekend, I think it’s a denunciation the league is ok with.
2010-11 NBA All-Star Simulation
Joel Beall is a Content Writer for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.