All-Star Saturday Diary: Belinelli the lone bright spot in one hot endless mess

Ronald Martinez

That broadcast was just like the Oscars, but with Reggie Miller and Shaquille O'Neal prominently involved.

I recorded TNT's All-Star Saturday night broadcast and successfully managed to avoid all media, social and otherwise, so I went into it a blank slate, having no idea who won what or what I was in store for. The following is my diary watching the show from my PST DVR.

5:33 "All right! We've got Nick Cannon hosting this thing. Now I know we're in good hands and this will be top-of-the-line thrilling prime-time entertainment." - Nobody.

5:35 Oh cool, a Cliff Paul appearance. And here I thought this thing would be lame. Paul should really hook up his twin brother Chris with some health insurance for the next time he injures himself flopping.

5:39 I gotta go with Kenny Smith on this one, Team Curry has to be the favorite in the Shooting Stars competition. Plus I can pull for Becky Hammon, which at least gives us a San Antonio connec- okay this is so pathetic I'll just stop now.

5:42 Oh dammit-so-much I forgot about Reggie Miller. It hasn't been ten minutes yet and I already regret this diary.

5:43 They've cut the Shooting Stars thingy from six spots to four, a shining testimonial to how popular this event is. Why not just cut to the chase and go straight to the half-court shot since that's all it's gonna come down to anyway?

5:46 Durant swishes it at the 1:00 mark and Team Curry and Hammon are out. Even the lead anchor of Karl Malone in a pressure situation couldn't hold down the unstoppable freight train that is Kevin Durant. He really is something.

5:52 Oof. After 24 attempts, the younger Hardaway finally hit one to put us all out of our misery. His old man Tim just kept launching one scud after another off hard off the backboard, giving me flashbacks of LeBron in Game 6. Coincidentally enough, Tim Duncan wasn't on the court to rebound these misses either, so the Hardaways kept getting more chances to shoot.

5:54 Bosh nails his first bomb and they breeze through in 35 seconds. Meanwhile, Miller continues to act like the notion of a Shooting Stars team choosing to have their WNBA star take the 20-footer from the top of the key rather than the easy banker from 10 feet is going to singlehandedly advance gender equality 20 years.

5:59 Swin Cash swishes her third attempt in the Final and Team Durant is done in 43 seconds. Again, no thanks to Malone, who air-balled every shot and was getting hammered by Miller, who stopped just short of calling him a steroid monster.

6:00 Again, Bosh swished his first half-court attempt and his team won it in 31 seconds. Ironically, it took Bosh four tries just to make a wing three, but he went 2-for-2 from 47 feet. That's also two more made shots than he had in all of Game 7 of the Finals, not that I'm bitter or anything.

6:09 How is the Eastern team supposed to have a chance in this Skills Competition? The West squad is nothing but point guards and the East has Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those guys can barely dribble.

6:10 Okay, Sir Charles has a point. Cannon looks like he's wearing a pair of puppies on his feet. Did Mariah pick those out? Anyway, I'm with Shaq here, I got Reggie Jackson and Goran Dragic in this thing.

6:14 DeMar DeRozan and "The Greek Freak" finish in 45 seconds, thanks to the former's loafing and the latter's inability to throw a straight pass. Also, I'm pretty bummed they got rid of the bounce pass apparatus. We're not teaching our children the fundamentals anymore. Won't anyone think of the children?

6:21 Dragic bailed out Jackson who was hot-dogging through the dribbling portion and they managed to finish in 42 seconds. Miller is rightly calling out Jackson for being too cool for school.

6:23 Damian Lillard and Trey Burke breeze through in 40 seconds to get to the finals. Gotta admit, I couldn't be more delighted with how this event played out. Jackson looked like a gigantic doofus in front of 20,000 people and he's basically the goat of the skills competition.

6:28 Only 45 seconds for Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams, who both had all kinds of struggles with the "passing" and "shooting," part of the skills challenge. I don't think that's going to cut it.

6:30 Lillard and Burke win it by .1 of a second. I really hope this isn't the highlight of the evening in terms of drama. By the way, I just realized that I haven't come close to picking the winner of either competition so far, so I'm making a mental note to not pick Marco Belinelli to win the three-point shootout.

6:33 Without any context, here's play-by-play man Kevin Harlan: "Send over some Burrito Supremes, if you will."

6:39 Smith says he likes Belinelli as his sleeper, so blame him if this goes badly.

6:40 Barkley asks rhetorically if Kevin Hart shrunk again. So far Sir Charles is the MVP of All-Star Saturday and it's not even close. He's picking Bradley Beal by the way, while Shaq picks Kyrie Irving and Ernie Johnson taking Curry. Down on the floor, Steve Kerr makes a good point in picking Kevin Love, reasoning that he's the strongest guy in the competition so he won't fatigue down the stretch, while Miller sticks with the favorite in Curry. I'll side with Kerr and pick Love in the West and Irving in the East, with Love winning the whole thing.

6:45 Love went first and got 16, but made only one of the five money balls from his chosen rack on the left wing. That's probably where I'd choose mine too, if you cared. I too am a wing shooter, just like Miller was. A bit less accurate, perhaps.

6:47 And... Love is already eliminated, with Lillard notching 18 points, faring far better on his money rack. Man, I'm really good at this. Gonna be tough for Marco to top that.

6:48 Belinelli is choosing to put his money rack dead last, in the opposite corner. It's a risky strategy because he could run out of time and not even get to all the balls. It's not like Marco has the quickest release to begin with. I don't know about this...

6:49 WOW! Such an epic finish I don't even know where to begin. Belinelli missed his first four shots, including an air ball, causing Miller to snort, "Which idiot up there picked him to win this thing, what it Charles?" He did make the money ball to snap the slump though and then made four of five from the left wing, and three of five from up top, before again going cold on the right wing and missing the first four of those. Again though, Belinelli made the money ball on each of the four racks, so he had 13 points even though he hit just nine of his first 20 attempts. Still, with two more misses on his final money ball rack, it was looking hopeless for him, but out of nowhere he swished the final three to get to 19 points and pass Lillard up. All that stands between him and the final is Curry, the best shooter on the planet.

6:50 The cameras catch a bewildered Belinelli telling Lillard that he couldn't believe he just shot two air balls, followed by Lillard muttering something in response.

6:51 Belinelli's through to the Finals, Spurs fans. Curry was looking really dangerous there for a second and got red hot in the penultimate rack, making four in a row, but he missed the money ball there and then four of five on his money rack in the corner, the same one Marco chose. Fatigue definitely set in for Curry and it was all he could do to get the ball up by the end. I did not see this coming at all, but I'm ecstatic for Rocky. That's back-to-back years we've got a Spur in the final of this thing, right?

6:58 Um... did anyone tell Joe Johnson that this event has a time limit? That was awkward. He barely shot one ball one the final rack before the horn sounded. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone have four balls left before. The only way that would've been funnier is if that was his money rack. Anyway, ol' Joe finished with 11 points and I think it's safe to assume we've seen the last of him.

6:59 Miller: "The same way Johnson shot the basketball is how Brooklyn started the season. Very slow." Okay, that wasn't bad.

7:01 Finally... Beal is the first guy who looks remotely like a shooter, and he finishes with 21, getting an emphatic hug afterward from the rapper Nelly, who, I'm guessing, has bet something like my yearly salary on Beal winning this.

7:02 Harlan makes a lame "It's getting hot in here" reference and gets soundly shouted down my Miller and Kerr. That was painful.

7:03 Irving never got it going and wound up with 17, so it's going to be Belinelli and Beal in the Finals, Smith's pick versus Barkley's. Meanwhile, Miller dropped the nugget that Nelly used to babysit Beal in St. Louis where they grew up. I don't think it's exaggerating to suggest this might be the best broadcast of Miller's career.

7:10 Another 19 for Belinelli! Marco wasn't quite so hot on the money balls this time around but did make two more singles than in the previous round and once again nailed three of his last five on the money rack. Also, no air balls this time, which was nice. All the pressure is on Beal now.

7:13 Unbelievable. Nothing is ever easy for the Spurs, not even an exhibition skills competition. Beal had only 11 points through his first 19 shots but drilled his final six to get to 19 and we're going to a bonus round to settle this thing. Again, this is what happens without Duncan on the floor to rebound.

7:15 Marco Belinelli is a cold blooded gangster. 24 points in the bonus round -- despite another air ball! -- including 6-of-9 on the money balls and a perfect 5-for-5 on the fourth rack. I'm gonna be absolutely gobsmacked if Beal beats him now.

7:16 Beal has another solid round with 18, but it's nowhere near enough and we've got a San Antonio Spur winning a skills competition. Shockingly, it wasn't the dunk contest but rather the three-point shootout. Anyway, well done, Marco and here's hoping you shoot like that in the playoffs.

7:18 (Another unexpected bonus of Belinelli winning is that my adrenaline has shot through the roof now to the point where I think I'll be able to make it through the interminable bore that the dunk competition has turned into.)

7:20 "Marco, what was your thought process to win the three-point shootout?"

"Shoot the ball."

Thanks, Nick Cannon.

7:25 Ooh, a Kendrick Lamar performance.

/fast-forwards through Kendrick Lamar's performance.

7:31 There can't be more than eight people in the entire country who understand what the hell Ernie Johnson is talking about right now. Can these rules be any more convoluted?

7:37 "I'm glad they've got you here to read all those rules." - Barkley to Johnson, summing up everyone's feelings. The Chuckster has Harrison Barnes winning, while Smith picked John Wall. Shaq, a part-owner of the Kings, took Ben McLemore, and Barkley immediately made fun of his "nappy" hair. I'll take Terrence Ross to repeat, because hell, I don't know.

7:45 This bon mot from Cannon: "Six of the world's most ferocious slam dunk artists and one very frightened rim."

Somewhere Stu Scott raised his glass toward the TV. Game respects game, after all. Can we get this over with please?

7:47 Smith, on the opening "freestyle" salvo from Ross, Wall and Paul George: "Oh this is nice. That's nice. That's nice. That's nice. That's nice. That's nice. That was nice."

(Five seconds pass.)

"That was nice, that last one."

7:50 Okay, Lillard has some serious hops. He just did a between-the-legs lob dunk that was by far the best of the freestyle round. McLemore showed some skills too. Not at all impressed with Barnes, who doesn't look like he has any ideas out there. Smith remarked that Lillard "has a lot of bounce for a young dude," as opposed to a 48-year-old, which we all know is when dunkers traditionally hit their peak.

7:52 I don't really know why Magic Johnson, Julius Erving or Dominique Wilkins are here, and I don't think they do either. Hey, remember when Bill Simmons strongly denied the accusations reported on Deadspin.com that he pushed Magic and Mike Wilbon off the NBA studio show and how he responded that he'd have Magic on his podcast right away to clear up any misunderstandings? Yeah, the season is like 2/3 over and we're still waiting. Also, I'm sure it's just a gigantic coincidence that Johnson made an appearance on a TNT broadcast and not an ESPN one.

8:00 Lillard pulls off a pretty sweet one-pump 360 off a lob. Meanwhile, Ross, a Raptor, has Drake in tow for his dunk. Did NOT see this coming, you guys.

8:02 On his third attempt Ross takes the hand-off from Drake at waist level and dunks after putting the ball between his legs. Ross won the split decision with the judges predictably voting along geographic lines (Magic for the West, Doc and ‘Nique for the East). I'd have probably gone for Lillard, since it took him fewer attempts and he didn't have Drake involved, which is an automatic ten point reduction in my book unless you slam the ball off his face or something along those lines.

8:08 Barnes had some electronic device in his shorts so that gamers could immediately miss the same lame dunk in "NBA 2K14" that he did, twice. Barnes had all the charisma of a can opener. George also missed his first two tries, but he pulled off a reverse 360 between the legs and really it's no contest here. A clean sweep for George, with Dr. J painfully trying to sound like someone a third his age, saying, "Sick is sick, and the last ball I saw go through the hoop, was sick."

8:10 Oh for crying out loud. Poor McLemore has been goaded into wearing this ridiculous royal cape while a dope in a town crier costume reads some lame message about "Shaqramento now being known as the land of Shaqlamore." While O'Neal is putting on this horrifically lame shtick, McLemore looks like a 6-year-old being dragged to his sister's dance recital.

8:11 Shaq is sitting on a throne, right below the basket, facing the backboard. Obviously, McLemore is supposed to jump over him on his dunk. Barkley, echoing everyone's sentiments, says, "I hope he kicks him in the head and knocks some sense into him."

8:12 Barkley: "You know what's interesting about Shaq sitting in the lane? That's exactly how he played defense. He just sat there in the lane and didn't do anything."

8:13 McLemore dunks it over a seated O'Neal on his second try but sadly does not kick him in the head. Worse, he has to take a knee and bow to O'Neal, who places a crown upon his head. Needless to say the adrenaline from Belinelli's win is long gone.

8:14 Wall leaps over a mascot, takes the ball from his raised hands, pumps and finishes with a reverse dunk on his first try. This has to be another clean sweep after that embarrassing Shaq mess.

8:15 "That was a big, blank, check." I have no idea what the hell Dr. J is talking about. The check TNT paid him to be here?

8:19 Well, that was... anticlimactic. No dunk-off or anything. Just a fan vote through social media and I guess they announced that Wall was the winner. (Actually, he was seventh place, behind write-in votes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant and, of course, Justin Bieber, but higher than any of the other competitors). Even better, Harlan oafishly gave away the winner, telling everyone that Wall was the winner about 20 seconds before Cannon announced it to the crowd. A perfectly appropriate way to finish what had to be the dumbest dunk contest ever conceived, with the competitors each doing just one meaningful dunk apiece when it was all said and done. What a catastrophe.

8:21 Smith informs us that Wilkins told him that "the dunk contest is back!" and that he agrees, adding that he had his doubts about the format but wound up really liking it except for the part where he wished there'd be another round. Barkley, cutting through the nonsense, replies that of course you need another round because people here only had one dunk. We do this every year with the dunk contest, with the people broadcasting declaring it back and then cooler heads prevailing the next night and calling it a crushing unsightly bore that's outlived it's usefulness. My prediction is that for next year either Adam Silver will find some way to convince LeBron James to do it, whether it takes a lot more money or a rigged vote to ensure that he's the winner or they'll just cancel it outright. This was just an embarrassing nonsensical mess.

As always, your MVP of All-Star Saturday was Barkley, but Belinelli definitely was second place. Let's just pretend the final hour didn't happen. Also, this is my last ever post on PtR as Aaron Stampler and from now I'll be posting under my actual name because it's more professional and stuff. See y'all Tuesday.

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