The Houston Chronicles: Friday
I had to do a double take.
Back in December, the 26th to be exact, I received an e-mail from Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN and TrueHoop. Usually, these e-mails consist of who is interested in participating in the Daily Dime that night or letting us TrueHooper-s know of a new post on the site.
It was short, simple and to the point. The e-mail I received the morning of the 26th was something I had to re-read about 571 times to fully comprehend. Inside was an invitation to cover All-Star weekend on behalf of ESPN.com.
There are certain opportunities that have presented themselves in my 21 years of living, and I make sure never to take for granted any of them. This, especially, was one of them, and it took me approximately .08 seconds to consider it.
After a background check and chat with Arnovitz, I was approved. I would be heading to Houston, Texas to cover all the All-Star weekend festivities. Who was starting, who were the reserves and if the Warriors would be represented didn’t matter at the time. The idea of myself covering such an event, on such a national scale, was a blessing in and of itself.
The months, weeks and days pass slow. Yes, I’m still a student, going to class, doing other things. But since the day my credential was confirmed, that was really all I could focus on. I couldn’t concentrate on the six types of libel for my Media Law class or fully comprehend Governor Chuck Reed’s State of the State address for my Local Politics and Government class.
The months, weeks and days finally pass, and my flight to Hobby Airport in Houston (via Las Vegas) was awaiting for me yesterday.
Before I really traveled, I remember San Jose International Airport, or the Mineta San Jose International Airport as its now called, to be really lousy and unfit for such a big city.
With new terminals, parking garages and murals you can see from Vallejo, the airport is now well representative of the Silicon Valley and fitting for the tenth largest city in the country.
I grab my Orange-A-Peel from Jamba Juice, head to my terminal and turn up “All Falls Down,” which if you’ve seen the video, know why.
My flight goes smoothly, despite the woman sitting next to me who somehow needs to use the restroom three times during an 85 minute flight. I arrive in Las Vegas, where my layover was nearly two hours. I grab some food, sit down near my next terminal and post our latest edition of the podcast, all while successfully enjoying people wasting their money on slots.
I tried, my inclination was to play the slots one time, maybe twice, possibly more if I was winning. I resisted with no regrets. I still have yet to legally gamble since my 21st birthday last October, and I really didn’t want to pop that cherry during a layover. Instead, I decided to wait until July when I’ll be covering Summer League to roll my first dice, double down or go all-in.
Thankfully, time flies and I proceed to board a much newer, fancier Southwest plane. A slightly longer flight this time around, but we got more snacks and were offered refills of our drinks, so all went well. I cued up Illmatic, and although it’s one of the greatest albums (and widely regarded as the best hip-hop album) of all time, put me to sleep in about 10 minutes.
Here’s a tip for healthy travelers: if you have a young one, particularly one in the infant stages of his/her life, make sure she’s not a chronic cryer when choosing to purchase a plane ticket for that child. The last 20 or so minutes of that flight had everyone around me giving the kid and her parents the stank eye. Not a good look, or a good listen for that matter. I had to cue up “Bugatti” by Ace Hood (Google it if you are unaware of this greatness) just to hide the shrieks.
After the loud cries of Daughter Dearest, the plane lands, and my final destination is upon me. As you walk out of the plane and enter the main floor of the airport, you’re welcome by the sweet, distinct smell of McDonalds. Not just near the McDonalds, the whole airport. I’m pretty sure it was in my cab too, though that could’ve just been my cab driver.
After checking into my hotel and devouring my complimentary chocolate chip cookie courtesy of DoubleTree, I was off to the Toyota Center. There, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson were representing the Warriors in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.
Both Barnes and Thompson were drafted by Team Shaq, and Harrison was voted on by the fans to start the game. Barnes, like we’ve seen at times this season, seemed tentative on the offensive end. In an exhibition game, a professional pick-up game at that, I was expecting a more aggressive approach. The Black Falcon did soar a couple times, though not of the extravagant nature we’re used to seeing.
Barnes ended up playing just over 19 minutes, was 5-for-8 from the field (1-for-3 from three) and scored 12 points.
Klay Thompson, on the other hand, was the exact player we’ve become accustomed to this season. Open threes, contested threes, jump shots and even an alley-oop finish were all there for Klay’s taking, with the alley-oop slam being the highlight of the night for either Warriors player. He didn’t shoot it 20+ times like I had hoped, but that’s hard to do when you play the second fewest minutes on the team.
Thompson played 14:29 minutes, was 5-for-11 from the field (1-for-6 from three), 11 points and one turnover.
It’s still up for debate whether the “Team Shaq vs. Team CHUCK” narrative is the right one for this game. Personally, I much prefer the “Rookies vs. Sophomores” game over selected teams, even if the draft process is hilarious. Seeing Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard share the floor is not welcome, but I’d rather see them face off one-on-one then pass to each other. The game usually ends up being an isolation contest anyway, as we saw when Kyrie Irving decided to embarrass Brandon Knight with a vicious crossover in the second half.
Those are the moments that we remember from these contest. The end result doesn’t matter, the individual memories do. Irving’s barbarous crossover on Brandon Knight will be replayed for years to come. Besides the crossing up of Knight and Kenneth Faried dunking it 120481 times the night before the dunk contest, the long-term memories won’t be there. Still, the NBA’s future (even without Andrew Drummond) was well displayed Friday night at the Toyota Center.
Up next is All-Star Saturday night, a cumulation of four competitions, concluding with the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. One of my favorite musings of the season, the dunk contest has staled as of late. My first dunk contest memory was in 2000 with Vince Carter doing things normal human beings normally can’t do. Yeah, call me spoiled. Since 2000, we’ve seen everything from Chris “Birdman” Anderson to Corey Maggette to Nate Robinson to Jason Richardson to Superman to cupcakes to Tron-like slams.
Let’s just say the dunk contest has changed over the years.
There are no Warriors in the slam dunk this season, although you could make a good case for Harrison Barnes. There is a Warriors player participating Saturday night, and that is one of Stephen Curry in the Three-Point Contest. He’s the odds on favorite (as he should be), and the biggest name in the competition next to Kyrie Irving. Curry should win, especially after seeing him drain 27 points with ease in practice sessions.
It will be disappointing if he doesn’t win, but it will be great to see a Warriors player on the national stage regardless. Curry has a good track record with All-Star Saturday night (he’s won the Skills Challenge before), so we’ll see how he performs under the lights tonight.
As for my winners for the events, I’m going with Team Westbrook in the Shooting Stars competition, Tony Parker in the Skills Challenge, Stephen Curry in the Three-Point Contest and Gerald Green in the Sprite Slam Dunk.
Let’s have some fun tonight, shall we?