LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 18: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards and the Rookie Team hangs on the rim in the second half during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at Staples Center on February 18 2011 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Tonight All-Star Weekend shifted gears, moving from its informal meet-and-greet phase to actual events shown on TV. The fan-interactive Jam Session kept on rolling and, despite mucho heavy rains in Los Angeles, seemed pretty well attended. But the main attractions were the celebrity and rookie-sophomore games, and straddling the two was a press conference from Derek Fisher and union rep Billy Hunter. They spoke about a meeting held this afternoon in Beverly Hills between league owners and about two dozen players, concerning the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Do I have to tell you that the celebrity game is completely pointless? Frankly, it's hard to imagine a better way of expressing pointlessness than to put the words "celebrity" and "game" right next to each other. But in person, it wasn't even that fun as a guilty pleasure. In fact, I suspect it's one of those events that's way less enjoyable in person than it is on the tube.
I mean, look, no reasonable person can expect a game involving Justin Bieber, Scottie Pippen and the guy from "Chuck" to be anything less than ridiculous. But it's all in the presentation. If you're the NBA, you've got to let something like this breathe. Don't oversell it. Allow it to be the goofy, disposable appetizer that it quite obviously is.
Instead, the league went with the "more is more" approach. There were spotlights swirling constantly, ear-splitting techno music and an MC who just couldn't stop yelling at you to MAKE SOME NOYEEEEZ!!! Attending it was like being trapped inside the brain of a coked up, 15-year-old club kid. I didn't stay that long, but I did get this righteous pic of the Bieb Dawg guarding Trey Songz in shootaround. Feel free to use it as wallpaper or on your 2011 holiday card.
The rookie-soph game at Staples was a more relaxed, enjoyable affair. Not very well attended, though: I'd say the stands were maybe half full, and a good portion of those present were schoolkids bused in for the occasion. But there were lots of dunks and no one got hurt, which is pretty all we ask from this event. Here was the high point, courtesy of eventual MVP John Wall and local darling Blake Griffin.
And this, if you're wondering, is the view from SBN's assigned seats in the press box.
I got lost, like, nine times before I found my spot. Seriously, the bowels of Staples Center are a rat maze. It's a massive building that houses an unbelievable amount of infrastructure, and if you don't know where you're going you'd better ask someone, because trial-and-error will only make things worse. Before the rookie game I literally almost wandered onto the court by accident before a dyspeptic security dude damn near tackled me. After the game I got lost again and was beginning to despair when Jrue Holiday walked by. I followed him not because I wanted to talk to him, but because he looked like he knew where he was going. And he did!
About the Fisher press conference: Kurt Helin has a good write-up here. The basic story is, the meeting today was amicable but no real progress was made, and the players are ready to sit out next season if they have to.
Tomorrow Stern speaks in the late afternoon, and from there it's a classic All-Star Saturday night, with the dunk contest, three-point shootout and the like. I'll be there, assuming I don't accidentally lock myself into the Staples Center boiler room.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.