Monday, February 15, 2010

Party Like It's (the) 2003-04 (Rookie-Sophomore Game)

In the 2003 NBA draft, everyone knew there was going to be something special about that class, headlined by high school phenom LeBron James and the freshman from Syracuse who had one of the most transcendent seasons in college basketball history, leading the Orange to the National Championship.

Then there was the highly touted foreigner Darko Milic, the kid from Marquette who had just exploded onto the seen in his junior season to lead the Golden Eagles to the Final Four and a talented one-and-done power forward from Georgia Tech.

Fast-forward to the 2010 NBA All-Star game, and your top four scorers on the night are none other than the MVP of the game, Dwyane Wade (28 points), Carmelo Anthony (27), LeBron James (25) and Chris Bosh (23), also know as the No. 5, No. 3, No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the 2003 NBA draft, respectively. And the sixth pick that season, Chris Kaman, also suited up for the West last night. I'd say that class is doing pretty well for itself.

I do have to admit that even though the game was close throughout, the first three quarters bored me pretty bad, with the exception of the occasional great play here and there. But as always, the intensity went up a notch in the 4th, and no one stood out more than Wade.

Don't get me wrong, LeBron James is the best player in the world right now, but I've reached the point where I'd almost rather see him in the dunk contest and not even play in the All-Star game itself, because in my eyes, he never seems to stand out, always seems to play subpar in these things. Basically, the complete opposite of Allen Iverson, who has always thrived in the All-Star game.

Yes, LeBron scored 25 points last night, but he needed 22 shots to get there, shooting 10-22, and most of his buckets came early, not late in crunch time. He also went just 1-6 from three and grabbed just 5 rebounds despite playing over 32 minutes. Basically, he didn't stand out among his peers, and he didn't look sharp. At least by LeBron standards.

But Wade, well, he was absolutely the MVP of the game. Even had the East lost, he probably still deserved it, though it most assuredly would have went to Dirk, and understandably so. The big German playing in front of his home crowd had 22 points himself. Though he was nowhere near as awesome as Wade last night. No one was. Dwyane scored his 28 points on a ridiculous 12-16 shooting, he dished out 11 assists, nabbed six boards and swiped five steals, several down the stretch that really propelled the East to the 141-139 win. Every time the East needed something, a bucket, a great pass, a defensive stop, Wade was there to provide it. He was the epitome of great last night, reminding the world to not forget about him. After all, he is former Finals MVP.

Chris Bosh had a phenomenal game himself, posting a double double of 23 and 10, and Melo was by far the most aggressive Western Conference player, getting his 27 points on 13-22 shooting and joining Bosh in double-double land with 10 boards himself. And when push came to shove and the final 12 minutes loomed large, Bosh joined Wade with some clutch plays himself, including the game-winning free throws.

I thought that fourth quarter was one of the better ones we've seen in a little while, even if Deron Williams committed a boneheaded foul. George Karl, despite openly admitting and clearly displaying his bias toward his guys (Melo and Chauncey), did the right thing and cool thing by drawing up a three-pointer for Dirk with less than 10 seconds remaining and the West down by two. Though at the end, he probably could have gone to Dirk again instead of having Melo throw up a pretty bad look to lose. But still, classy move by Karl on that play where Howard fouled Dirk. And Dirk rewarded him by tying the game up, though he probably should have threw up a three and gotten three shots at the line instead of two, but still.

Overall, it was good to see just how far the highly hyped draft class of 2003 has come. Last night was their all-star game — no Kobe, no Iverson, no Shaq, and very little time for some mainstays like Garnett, Pierce, Kidd, Duncan and even Nash. It was a changing of the guard so to speak, one that's been going on for a little while, and they did not disappoint. LeBron, Melo, Wade, Bosh all put on a show, just as they did some six years ago in the rookie-sophomore game, foreshadowing what was to come.

It also reaffirms that Joe Dumars is nowhere near as good of a GM as everyone proclaims him to be. Free Darko.

BallHype: hype it up!

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