|After nearly missing the All-Star game, Allen proves vital to East triumph|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 18 February 2008 06:13|
Allen's three 3-pointers inside the last 3:14 helped the East, which had blown a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, pull out its 134-128 triumph over the West on Sunday night.
Allen, who finished with 28 points, scored 14 in the fourth quarter. He shot 10-of-14 for the game, 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
``I was supposed to be in the Bahamas this weekend,'' said Allen, who was not initially selected for the East squad but later added when Washington's Caron Butler decided he hadn't recovered enough from a strained hip flexor to play.
``The game was definitely one of the more fun games I've participated in,'' added Allen, now an eight-time All-Star. ``Overall, I would have to say it's probably been my best All-Star game so far.''
n favor of Toronto's Chris Bosh, a better rebounder, because the West had a bigger lineup in the game.
``Right before we were about to do it, Ray makes a 3, and I decided I think it would be smart to keep Ray in,'' Rivers said. ``You've seen Ray. When he makes one, there's usually two or three coming behind it.''
BIG STAGE: For a city that lives on tourism, hosting basketball's greatest stars for a game watched by millions in 215 countries was a boost in itself.
Organizers further capitalized on that platform by greeting viewers with a French Quarter-style facade, a New Orleans brass band and second-line dancing so contagious that even players couldn't help from bouncing to the rhythm.
The faux French Quarter streetscape, built in a lower corner of the New Orleans Arena and featured during pre-game introductions, forced the NBA to sacrifice nearly a full section of excellent seating close to the court.
The NBA has made the rebuilding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina the primary theme of All-Star weekend. So it only made sense that the league would give up a few hundred seats so the city could showcase cultural richness that has fascinated tourists for generations.
Local trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Troy ``Trombone Shorty'' Andrews delighted the players and the crowd, backed up by the Rebirth Brass Band, a popular draw at local bars and clubs for years.
y, some dressed in NBA jerseys and many wearing feather boas like those often worn by revelers on Bourbon Street.
The national anthem featured saxophone player Branford Marsalis and singer Stephanie Jordan, both New Orleans natives.
Then Hornets All-Stars David West and Chris Paul said a few words on the city's behalf.
``Your commitment to this great city has given us a tremendous boost,'' West said.
Added Paul: ``New Orleans is definitely back to being the city that the world knows and loves.''
The NBA reserved the halftime performance for a host of famous New Orleans musicians, including singer Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Davell Crawford, Art Neville, Ivan Neville, Jonathan Batiste and Ellis Marsalis, who is the patriarch of the musical Marsalis family and Connick's one-time teacher.
The pre-game and halftime entertainment featured the second part of a two-pronged message the NBA sought to send the world about New Orleans. On Friday, the league focused on the neighborhoods that are still reeling 2 1/2 years after Katrina struck. All-Stars joined 2,500 league employees on rebuilding projects.
But in addition to sending the message that New Orleans still needs help, commissioner David Stern said the league also wanted to remind the world that the cultural attractions that drive the all-important tourism industry here have endured.
Connick said New Orleans converted on the NBA's assist.
``New Orleans is known for its tourism, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and all that stuff. So to be able to present itself in such a positive way is really important,'' Connick said. ``A lot of people I know say, 'We've never been to New Orleans and we're afraid to go because it may not be back together.' So when they see this, they know hotels are back, restaurants are back. It's really coming around.''
RARE SIGHT: This year marked only the second time, and the first time in more than three decades, that black head coaches led each All-Star team. K.C. Jones and Al Attles coached the game in 1975.
This time it was the Celtics' Doc Rivers and the Hornets' Byron Scott.
``To me, it shines the light on just two very good basketball coaches. It's not so much about our race,'' said Scott, who once coached the East while with New Jersey. ``It's more about what we've done in our professions.''
Scott noted that both he and Rivers are only now enjoying the fruits of rebuilding efforts that involved a lot of losing in the last few seasons.
st have led the Hornets back to playoff contention.
``Doc has done a terriffic job. We've go something going pretty good here in New Orleans,'' Scott said.
FLASHBACK: Julius Erving had a sudden flashback as he strolled past a practice court set up in the Louisiana Superdome.
Dr. J, who including his years as a player has been to 37 straight All-Star weekends, played before a then-record setting single-game crowd of 35,077 in a game against the New Orleans Jazz in 1977.
``It made me think about not only that game, but the next day, Pete Maravich, Dick Cavett and I were the only ones in the building during the Dick Cavett show,'' Erving said. ``Those two days are etched in my mind, very special days, and it all came back to me.''
The Jazz played in New Orleans for five seasons from 1974 to 1979 before moving to Utah, playing their final four seasons in the Superdome. The Jazz never made the playoffs. But with Maravich, a former LSU star, making circus shots and passes, attendance in the dome met or exceeded league averages in three of those seasons.
SPECIAL STARS: Carlton Lockett had a surprise for Dwight Howard.
When the Orlando center, who won Saturday's slam dunk contest after donning a Superman outfit complete with a red cape, met Lockett, the youngster from Cleveland busted into his own ``Superman'' move made famous by Soulja Boy's popular ``Crank Dat'' song.
wed him how to do it,'' said the 15-year-old Lockett, a liver transplant patient who was a guest of the NBA and the Make-A-Wish Foundation at this weekend's All-Star events.
Lockett and three other sick youngsters got a chance to visit with all the players before Sunday's game. The biggest thrill for Lockett was when he got to meet Allen Iverson, his all-time favorite.
``He almost fainted when A.I. came around the corner,'' said his mother, Chabli. ``He's been an A.I. fan since he was four or five years old.''
``I told him I was his biggest fan,'' Carlton said. ``People back home give me a hard time about it.''
No doubt. A kid from Cleveland whose favorite player isn't LeBron James?
``He came along too late,'' said Carlton, who was sporting an authentic Howard jersey. ``LeBron's cool though. I saw him in the hotel lobby every day.''
The NBA and Make-A-Wish have teamed up for the past 12 years.