BY DAVID THORPE
TrueHoop is more than a decade into reporting on a schedule that promises their fans will see exhausted and injured players when the games matter most in the playoffs. Henry Abbott wrote about it again this week. It’s very difficult to get billionaires to do much of anything approaching innovation, especially when it’s rooted in what’s best for players.
But there’s one thing we can quickly and easily fix: Cancel the NBA Rising Stars game.
For starters, the Rising Stars challenge has always been a sham. It’s not a game, because a game requires competition. This is playtime, with lots of cameras and noise. In 2003, I had different hopes. Udonis Haslem was in our gym getting ready for summer league stints with two different teams. I made an off-hand comment about “if you make the Rising Stars game, my wife and I will attend.” It seemed to be a low-risk promise, as he didn’t have a contract at the time. Of course, he made the game as a rookie for the Heat, which is why my wife and I flew to L.A. to watch him practice the morning before the game. I said to him “be who you are, play for keeps, get these guys to remember who you are.”
If you know UD then you know he embraced every word, and certainly didn’t need to hear from me that he was expected to compete hard. That night, after the game, the first thing he said to me was “I’m sorry.”
He admitted that he wanted to bring energy but the first time he bumped Carlos Boozer (whom he trained with for pre-draft the previous year), Booz looked at him like he was crazy. The game was nothing more than a walk-through that featured some uncontested dunks. A lot of them. UD said he would have felt like a fool had he acted like the game mattered.
After the game, Haslem called asking if we had room in our car to drive him and his friend home—a teammate on the rookie squad. I explained that we had booked a limo as a surprise to take him to dinner to celebrate, his girlfriend (and now wife) was already with us, along with my wife and UD’s agent—but we definitely had room for one more. We dropped the teammate off at the hotel and headed to Beverly Hills. On the way, my wife asked who that nice young man was. “That’s Dwyane Wade,” I told her. He had just scored 22 points in the Rising Stars challenge, but who was paying attention?
I have been to one other Rising Stars game. My son wanted to watch it when All-Star weekend was in Orlando. He ended up preferring the D-League All-Star game anyway. Since then I’ve read a few more articles, watched some tape, and decided not to bother anymore.
What a terrible use of Evan Mobley’s very valuable time.
Here’s what a well-rested Evan Mobley can do.
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