All Star Sunday 2019

Ah All Star Sunday, the centrepiece in the NBA All Star showcase. The best players in the NBA this season as voted by fans, players and coaches.

In an attempt to introduce more competitiveness the NBA have moved from the East v West format to an old school captains pick their teams format. For the NBA this is a great move. It generates more media attention, they can televise the draft night and they can sell jump shirts in two different colours (as the jump shirts go on sale before the teams are finalised). The teams compete for charity to incentivise them.

However, we still end up with comically large score, defence feels like a token gesture and the players like to show off no-look passes and trick shots. Yes it is entertaining but it’s not exactly a basketball game.

This year featured some Steph Curry dunks (and some Steph Curry 3s), an Alley Oop between D Wade and LBJ, and Dirk Nowitzki with a smile that showed how much he was loving being there. Watching Steph on a different team from his GSW teammates KD and Klay Thomson was not just entertaining but potentially a taster of what will come next season given their impending free agencies.

I’ve been attending All Star for 5 years now, and the new format hasn’t really changes much. If you want to see some top NBA players have fun and show off the NBA All Star is a great game. If you want to see a really competitive game of basketball this is not the game for you.

All Star Saturday 2019

I think the All Star Saturday format may be broken.

I like the three point contest. I like the dunk contest. I like the skills contest. I dislike the frequent ‘entertainment breaks’ to accommodate the TV ads.

I have also found that the dunks are getting a little stale. There is limited creativity shown these days. This year I have heard comments that the dunks in the All Star game were better than dunks in the contest. I think I heard that last year too. Last year some of the dunks in the Rising Stars game were definitely better.

Part of the problem is that players known to be great at 3-points or dunks don’t want to risk making a mess of the contest and feel embarrassed on national TV. I understand that but even when guys do have a poor performance Any mocking is short lived. Much like the other elements of the All Star weekend perhaps the incentives to enter and do well in the three Saturday night contests need to be better to attract the most entertaining players for each option.

You don’t necessarily want to see the same players at each event over the weekend but I think that there are enough good players in the league to make sure that would not happen.

Rising Stars 2019

The Rising Stars game is an opportunity to see the best first and second year NBA players (or third year if we all agree to ignore the year that Ben Simmons didn’t play).

A few years ago, in a nod to the number of non-American players in the league, the NBA moved from an East v West format to a USA v World format. The players are selected by the coaches; there is no fan involvement in selection and they don’t sell replica rising stars jerseys. In a lot of ways this game is the poor cousin of the Sunday night All Star game.

This year, it was a member of team World who was tipped to be MVP – Luka Doncic. However, this is still an All Star game where players want to show off and it seems that no-one values defence so Luka had a less than inspiring night while other players seemed determined to keep the ball to make the shots (though not attempt any threes).

This game was fairly entertaining but as always in the last few minutes the players started mucking about going for dunks. Sure dunks are entertaining but I wanted to see a game. If the players could be incentivised to treat this as a game that matters I think the quality of the performances would increase and the fans would get more into the game.

Part of the issue is that you are not really supporting a team. You are supporting a player (maybe two depending on your NBA team) so you want to see that player do well, make the cool shots and generally increase the hype around him. That does not make for good team play.

With each year that goes by the price of the tickets increases making it increasingly difficult for people to afford which was apparent by the attendance on Friday night.

The Rising Stars game is a good idea but the format needs to force some real competitiveness to keep the fans interested.

Knicks @ Hawks

Thursday 14 February 

The Knicks decided to gift the fans a win for Valentine’s Day, but the draft lottery predictor now suggests we will get the 5th pick.

I had anticipated that this would be another Knicks loss. The Hawks have a better record this season and in their last game they had beater LBJ and the Lakers. 

The Knicks do have a habit of looking confident at the start of games only to fall asleep somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd so when they took an early lead I didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up. There was 7.33 remaining on the clock in Q101 before the Hawks scored. At home. The Knicks were up by 14. At that point I had some hope of seeing a Knicks win. 

At the end of the first the Knicks still has a 15 point lead. During the second quarter the Knicks did start to slow down as expected.  The sloppy mistakes were creeping in and they ended the period with only a three point cushion. 

The third quarter didn’t start well for the Hawks who got in to foul trouble early with four fouls in the first three minutes. They did manage to keep the score close for a good section of the quarter. However, the Knicks managed to finish the quarter ahead by 11. This was not because the Knicks were playing so well, it had more to do with the mistakes being made by the Hawks.

The Knicks managed to maintain a comfortable lead throughout the forth to bring home the v-day win. It would have been nice if they had managed to do this in fron of the crowd at MSG but the Knicks fans in attendance in Atlanta were definitely happy.

State Farm Arena – Atlanta Hawks

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Getting there 

Atlanta is a beautiful but small city. If you are staying in Atlanta you will be able to walk to the game. If you are a bit further out there is plenty of parking available right next to the venue and a little bit further away if you don’t mind a short walk. 

The Venue

This a is a nice big modern venue. It’s well signposted but they have plenty of staff around who can help if you need them. 

Seats

Looking around it seemed that you would get a good view from all seats. The have a massive jumbotron as well. 

We paid to sit fairly near the front not realising that this meant we would have access to the players club. If you are in Atlanta and you can afford it you should definitely check this out. The seats are padded and comfortable, although not necessarily wider than other seats. With your ticket you get access to an area with a large bar and two food stands. From there you can see the players make their way to the court and you can watch the post game press conference. You don’t need these elements to enjoy the game but as they were unexpected perks for me they really added to the game day experience. 

Concessions 

Typical of what you will find at most NBA venues in terms of bars, food and merchandise stands. The food options include more than just hotdogs and burgers – I saw crab cakes and shrimp on offer. The prices are reasonable too. We got two hotdogs and fries for $22. 

Final tips

If you can pay a bit more for your seat to get to Players Club or one of the other, similar experiences then you should at least once. 

Don’t forget to check out Atlanta itself – there is plenty to see and do including Coca-Cola world, the civil rights museum and CNN. 

Knicks v Sixers

Wednesday 13 February

Last night at MSG the New York Knicks took on the Philadelphia 76ers. This Knicks team has the franchise record for consecutive losses and they were playing a 76ers team with multiple All Stars. The result was never in doubt. 

As a Knicks fan it’s hard to see the team lose so often, the end result might be a high lottery pick (there is no guarantee of a number one pick) but that feels like a very long way away from now. 

I have a very real concern about player development. Last night’s game showed some moments of great play from Kevin Knox (rookie), Damyean Dotson (rookie) and Dennis Smith Jnr (2nd year). However, the constant losing can’t be good for morale and there is more than enough evidence of sloppy mistakes to make you question how much they are focusing on the fundamentals. 

At times it almost felt that the will to tank was so strong it was effecting the 76ers (many of whom have experience of tanking or ‘trusting the process’ as they euphemistically referred to it). At certain points in the game the most effective element of the Knicks defence was the 76ers offence. The 76ers have talent on the team but the second night of their back-to-back (which started with a loss to the Celtics) seemed to leave them tired and a little bit off their usual form.  

The MSG crowd, that only four nights before had been chanting for Zion, were getting energised by the moments of good offence and good blocks and was really willing the team to finally win a game. 

The Kevin Knox dunk over Ben Simmons is definitely my highlight play of the year and Mitchell Robinson’s double double was encouraging. However, DeAndre Jordan had a poor night (compared to his previous games as a Knick) and Kevin seemed to struggle against the 76ers defence. 

Knicks @ Cavaliers

Monday 11 February 

Another day, another Knicks loss. 

Assuming that both teams would be satisfied with a losing record this season to ensure a good draft pick, which of course both teams are denying, this could have been billed as a must lose game for both teams.  We were not the only Knicks fans in attendance and it was nice to see that others had come out to support the tank.  

The home crowd were vocal in their support of the team, aided by the humungotron and the piped in chants. It was clear that they valued a win and it was only towards the end of the game that I heard some Cavs fans realise that a lose would help them, more than a win, in the draft. 

This game marked Kevin Love’s return from injury – to the delight of the home crowd and supporters of the Knicks tank (which of course they absolutely are not doing). Love was happy to be back on the court and taking charge for the Cavs.  Arguably the best Cavs player of the night was Larry Nance Jr. 

For the Knicks it was another double double for DeAndre Jordan and Kadeen Allen was hot on the bench for 25 points. There was definitely a feeling that the Knicks could win this game especially after a three point shot from Kornet with under a minute to go drawing the Knicks to within one point. The remainder of the final minute went largely scoreless until foul by Allen sent Colin Sexton to the line for two giving the Cavs a three point cushion.

Again, this was a close game and it really looked as though it could go either way until the final twenty seconds or so. There are signs that the Knicks have the talent and ability to win games, making this losing streak even more frustrating.

Knicks v Raptors

Saturday 9 February 

The Raptors fans were loud and proud at MSG on Saturday night. Clearly a good number had made the efforts to get to the game. They were rewarded with a good game for the Raptors. 

The Knicks entered this game on a losing streak and it was the second game of a back-to-back. The players didn’t seem overly affected by either of these things. 

The minutes were shared pretty equally among the 9 Knicks players who took to the court. Kevin Knox was the Knicks highest scorer (20 points) and DeAndre Jordan got a double double. On occasion though Jordan appeared to lose concentration and almost forget he was playing. 

Looking at the game stats you can see that the game was close and actually the Knicks look like they matches up well. Which makes the lose even more frustrating. 

It was disappointing to hear the Knicks fans be out chanted by the Raptors fans in attendance but there was a lot of them and it does get hard to keep cheering on a team that seems to be focusing on losing. 

Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland Cavaliers

Getting there

The Quicken Loans Arena is located in downtown Cleveland. If you are staying in that area you can easily walk to the venue. Cleveland has a good bus system if you are not staying downtown. There is parking but there is construction on the ourside of the arena which is restricting access in the areas so public transport or walking will be easier.

The venue

The Quicken Loans Arena, also known as the Q, opened in 1994. As mentioned they are doing work to the outside of the building and I hope those plans extend to the inside. This feels like an older NBA venue but once inside the seating area you can forget that and just focus on the ‘humungotron’.

Seats

Despite the aging feel of the building I really like the seats at the Q. You don’t get a huge amount of space but then find me a NBA venue that does have wide seats. The seats have good padding and support. We were in the upper bowl and had a great view (and we had the humungotron). Looking around it seemed that all seats would have good sight lines. 

Concessions

I was a little surprised  by how few concesession there were, there were a few merch stands and you could buy the usual basketball fare but the selection was more limited than other venues in the NBA.

Atmosphere

We went on a Monday night in earlier Feb to a game that could arguably have been described as a ‘must lose’ game for both teams (assuming that they want a top draft pick) so the venue wasn’t full. I could hear pockets of fans making noise and the hype squads were doing their best but this was not the best venue for atmosphere.

Final tip

Don’t miss the ]opportunity to grab food/drinks on East 4th street.

 

English Institute of Sport Sheffield

Sheffield Shark

Location – The Sheffield Sharks play in the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, next to iceSheffield. It’s about 10 minutes from Sheffield City Centre and less than 5 minutes from Centretainment. This means that there is a good range of places to get some food or drinks nearby and there are two hotels (Ibis and Premier Inn) a short walk away.

We drove up from London but the venue can also be accessed by public transport – buses and trams both stop near the venue. If you are travelling to an away game I advice checking train/bus times carefully to make sure you can get back after the game.

The Venue

The Venue is a good size. It’s a slightly interesting layout as you enter the seating area through a corridor where you collect your tickets and can purchase a programme or some snacks.

Concessions

The usual range of soft drinks, beer and snacks are available.

Seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There is seating along both sides of court – away fans are seated behind the away team bench.

Atmosphere

On my recent visit to the Sharks the venue was not very busy but you could hear some of the home fans cheering.