Just fun and games

BILL HARRIS, IN DENVER

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The All-Star weekend highlights everything there is to love and hate about the NBA. The love?

Superlative athletes doing superlative things, an overall positive vibe, plenty of parties.

The hate?

The various all-star events have names like the "Got Milk? Rookie Challenge," the "989 Sports Skills Challenge," the "Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout" and the "Sprite Rising Stars Slam-Dunk Contest." Those word combinations roll off the tongues of only the most shameless of corporate weasels.

NO SHAME

Taking into account both the good and the bad, here are some of the more colourul things we saw, heard and observed during all-star weekend, which wrapped up last night in Denver:

- When you gather so many NBA media members in one place, it becomes obvious very quickly just how cartoon-ish a reputation the Raptors have around the league these days. The most common comic queries to Toronto reporters:

"Has Sam Mitchell beaten up anybody today?"

"Is Rafer Alston still nuts?"

"Is the Vince Carter trade now officially the worst trade in NBA history?"

Yuk, yuk, yuk.

- The Raptors didn't get any respect on the court, either. Chris Bosh had every right to be disappointed that he was not named the MVP of the sophomores-versus-rookies game on Friday, given his 26-point, 14-rebound performance. MVP Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets did score 31 points, but Bosh probably would have been rewarded had the game been held anywhere but the Mile High City.

- More Raptor-bashing: When someone asked Bosh, "What are you looking forward to in the second half of the season?" one Toronto reporter whispered to another Toronto reporter, "Eight wins."

- Obscure "Get Smart" connection Part 1: For comedic purposes, Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat spent much of Friday and Saturday walking around with a giant shoe phone. It wasn't just a prop. It was one of his monstrous sneakers equipped with a real phone.

- Obscure "Get Smart" connection Part 2: During a media scrum with Bosh, a reporter from overseas kept holding his watch close to Bosh's face. Apparently there was a microphone, or a camera, or both, in the tiny watch. Max and the chief would have been proud.

- The slam-dunk event was entertaining for a change, with Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks emerging as the deserving champion. Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns had the most original dunk, however: He threw the ball off the backboard and Suns teammate Steve Nash headed the ball soccer-style back toward Stoudemire, who executed a 360-degree move and slammed it home.

As good as Smith, Stoudemire and Nash were, pity poor Chris Andersen of the New Orleans Hornets. His multiple failed attempts to execute his pedestrian slams threatened to drag the entire evening to a screeching halt.

Can't the smart people who work in the NBA come up with a format that will allow the dunk contest to have some pace and flow? Two suggestions: Add at least two more competitors (there were four on Saturday) and give everyone a maximum of three tries to complete each dunk.

As of this morning, the 2005 all-star weekend is a thing of the past. It's back to mundane reality for 30 NBA teams, including the Raptors.

Then again, the Raptors' first post-break game is tomorrow night in New Jersey against that Carter guy. So maybe you can count on the all-star-style circus atmosphere continuing for at least a couple more days. 


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