Keeping Score

Bieber, Bryant, ‘Melo’-Drama Rule NBA’s All-Star Weekend

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West All Star Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks during the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles, February 20, 2011.

REUTERS/Jeff Gross/Pool

Though the NBA’s All-Star weekend isn’t the cultural happening it used to be — sorry, I can’t get too geeked up to see JaVale McGee in the dunk contest, although his dunk of two balls into different baskets was pretty nifty — no sport manages to inflate the importance of the meaningless all-star exhibition better than the NBA.

And this year’s event, in Los Angeles, did deliver some entertainment. During Friday’s night’s celebrity game, former Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen played like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals, going so far as to stuff a shot from Justin Bieber. Not cool, Scottie. But Bieber got the last laugh, winning the game’s MVP award through a fan vote that clearly consisted of 12-year-old girls.

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Justin Bieber)

During Saturday’s dunk contest, rookie wunderkind Blake Griffin stole the show by flying over Kia before slamming it home. Los Angeles Clippers officials must have been thrilled when their prized possession chose this stunt; a slip would have sent him toppling over a friggin’ car. But Griffin took the relatively low-risk path of jumping over the hood of the vehicle, instead of the more elevated roof;  teammate Baron Davis tossed Griffin an alley-oop pass through the sun roof.

The All-Star game itself, played Sunday night, started out as the usual snorefest, lacking any pretense of defense. But a ticked LeBron James delivered a motivational speech to his Eastern Conference teammates, who trailed the West by 17 points entering the fourth quarter. The East made an inspired late-game comeback that fell just short. James finished with a triple double: 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists; Kobe Bryant won his fourth All-Star game MVP award, as he poured in 37 points for the West, who prevailed 148-143.

Still, one story, as tiresome as it may be, dominated the weekend, and will be the basketball buzz during the days leading up to the February 24 NBA trading deadline. For the past few months, rumors of a deal involving Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony have regularly bounced around the internet. A dozen different times, it seemed, a trade was imminent, but then talks fizzled. A month ago Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire playboy owner of the New Jersey Nets, held a press conference saying that his team was no longer interested in Anthony. That was a transparent bluff, as the Nets met with Anthony to discuss a deal this weekend.

At some point this week, Anthony will probably wind up in a Net or New York Knicks uniform. Anthony is a free agent at the end of the year, and doesn’t seem keen on staying in Denver. He has expresses a preference for moving to the New York area, where the entertainment career of his wife, former MTV VJ Lala Vazquez, can thrive.

If the Nuggets don’t trade Anthony now, they risk him losing him to free agency, where they’ll get little in return. But should a team like the Knicks mortgage their future for a player they may be able to sign after the season, without losing any of their young, talented players in a trade?

Who cares? The whole ordeal has been a boring game of chicken. Thankfully, it should end this week, with Carmelo in a different uniform, and the guys wearing Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat shirts still winning the games that really matter.

(More on NewsFeed: Watch Blake Griffin dunk 137 times)

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