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TODAY

Monday, November 18

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Airbags

Bulls in Five - Stars Abound
by Jason Maslanka

It's that special week where your very own superstar-less Bulls take a backseat to the NBA's finest. It's that week where mediocre shooters partake in a contest about shooting; players you've never heard of miss a Minnesota Vikings-sized boat-load of dunks; Magic Johnson looks miserable shooting the basketball, again; and Bulls' fans are reminded that we traded Elton Brand. Ugh. It's NBA All-Star Weekend!

One: Prior the Festivities...
Your Chicago Bulls did play some games this week, and in what appears to be now called Bulls' fashion, the Bulls played terribly inconsistently and went .500 for the week. In the first game, a five point lead evaporated in the final 2 minutes against the Kings and another 30 points from Ben Gordon went for naught as the Kings won 105-101 in overtime. So many scenarios have been thrown around this year for the Bulls to win games, and they all seem to include Gordon scoring and Tyson Chandler rebounding. Well, this game had that with Gordon's points and Chandler's 15 boards. Still a loss. A tough loss. In the bizarre universe that is Bulls' basketball, that tough loss was followed by a thrashing of the 76ers. Gordon lead six Bulls in double figures with 21 points in 25 minutes and the Bulls won by 33, 117-84. I guess that's what they call going into the break on a high note. That perspective probably depends on how they come out of it. Milwaukee, Detroit and Philly are the opponents this week — these rested Bulls need two of three.

Two: Welcome to the Circus
NBA All-Star Weekend occupies the number two slot on my list of All-Star games, but hold your praise... this is by default. Hockey isn't a sport, NCAA sports don't have all-star games, and the Pro-Bowl is the worst thing this side of the Blue-Gray game. Nothing can match the baseball festivities. Maybe they're just classic, or I really like baseball. There were a few things that really annoyed me about this weekend. The first, a performance by Andrea Bocelli. Honestly, I understand that the NBA could use a softer image, but this is too soft. I think the International Chess Federation turned him down as it was seen as too boring. Secondly, I don't need to be thanked by NBA players for watching. It doesn't make me feel better. Now, in old-school NBA Inside Stuff Rewind fashion... the weekend.

Threeeeee: Friday
Friday brings us both incredibly talented young people and terrifically untalented old people all in one exciting four-hour block. First was the strange phenomenon known as the celebrity game. Not to start a rant here, but the feminist in me is always disturbed by coupling the celebrities with WNBA players. Swin Cash, of the Detroit Shock, has more talent than Ice Cube, Nelly,and Donald Faison (of Scrubs) put together. It's an insult to women's basketball. With that said, I really liked Christopher Merloni's (of Law & Order: SVU) high post game. After the celebrities are done, it's time for the kids. The annual sophomores destroy the rookies game had three Bulls, Gordon, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni, against Chris Paul of the Hornets and a bunch of players less talented than him. Ben Gordon looked terrific in the sophomore's 106-96 win and it makes you wonder if he isn't the scorer the Bulls need down the road. Maybe he just needs a few years to be the man every night. On a personal note, when I was younger, I always wanted to date a point guard. Becky Hammon, of the New York Liberty, would be that point guard.

Four: Saturday
With not a game in sight on Saturday, the Skill Challenge kicked off the festivities. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and defending champion Steve Nash ran the never-changing obstacle course to determine, apparently, the most skilled player in the NBA. While the winner was Wade, one wonders where Tony Parker or Jason Kidd were. Where was Chauncey Billups? Mike Bibby? Wade is incredibly skilled, but to present a trophy based on beating four randomly chosen participants is a little much. Oh oh, I forgot about the Shooting Stars challenge where four teams of an NBA player, a WNBA player, and an ex-NBA player shoot from various spots on the floor in a timed competition. Now, based on that sentence, can you tell why I forgot? The star-studded team of Kobe Bryant, Lisa Leslie and Magic Johnson lost. I do remember that. The three point shooting contest featured a bunch of players who aren't really shooters and Ray Allen. Where was Kyle Korver? Peja Stojakovic? In a pretty uneventful session where no player had over 20 points, Dirk Nowitzki became the first 7-footer to win the contest. Then came the big daddy, the slam dunk contest. With a history so rich — Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb — who would be the next in the line of greats? 5'7" Nate Robinson. I'm around that height and can barely grab the net, and I find his hops to be majorly impressive, but everyone in that stadium knew that Andre Iguodala should have won. Featuring the only really impressive dunk of the night, Igoudala had Allen Iverson throw the ball off the back of the backboard, where Iguodala caught, ducked his head and reverse dunked. It was amazing. You should have seen it... honestly, reading about it doesn't do it justice. If I just think about that dunk, I'll remember really enjoying All-Star Saturday Night.

Five: Sunday
After all the goofy contests and strange performances, it was finally time for the event this whole weekend is named after: the All-Star Game. Before it started, though, I have to note how actually impressive the introductions were. The Houston Orchestra played classical renditions of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and it sounded wonderful. As for the game, Tracy McGrady tried really hard to win the MVP in his home city by taking every shot, but failed as the West lost after blowing a 21-point lead. Lebron James became the youngest All-Star game MVP in history and after over 10 hours of All-Star weekend, we're back to regular basketball.

Standings Update: At the break, the Bulls sit two full games behind Philadelphia for the final playoff spot.

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About the Author(s)

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he plans to execute a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions, and arguments to bulls@gapersblock.com.

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