Garnett a reluctant hero on Jordan's special nightPosted: Monday February 10, 2003 2:31 AM
Updated: Monday February 10, 2003 3:03 AM
By John Hollinger, SI.com
ATLANTA -- Kevin Garnett didn't want to take center stage in Michael Jordan's final All-Star Game. In fact, he was so worried about it that early in the game, he asked West teammate Gary Payton whether he should back off.
"Kevin came over and asked me if he should he stop shooting," Payton said. "I said, 'No, shoot the ball. You know how to shoot it; you do it every day.' So he kept shooting and it started falling."
Payton's advice helped spur Garnett to game MVP honors. The Timberwolves forward made 17 of his 24 shots in the highest-scoring effort in an All-Star Game since Jordan scored 40 in 1988.
"I didn't want to be in a position where I felt like I was overstepping my bounds," said Garnett. "I wanted to come to a vet that I knew would give it to me straight. He was like, 'No, man, take your shots; just continue to be aggressive.'"
"I thought I drank too much Gatorade at the opening," he added, "but once I found my rhythm I was pretty much good. I was trying to be real conscious [of not dominating the ball]."
Garnett was at his most aggressive to begin the second overtime. He hit three straight baskets against Vince Carter to open up a margin the West would never relinquish. "They had Vince on me, so I took advantage of that," said Garnett, who has a six-inch height edge on Carter.
Oddly, it made Carter's pregame words prophetic. "We've got to outrun them," Carter said, noting the huge disparity in size between the East and West.
Garnett proved him right by making all three on post-ups over Carter.
Yo or Yao?
The interpretations of Yao Ming's comments during All-Star Weekend have been ... interesting. Selected gems include:
"I cannot pass the ball to Jordan because that would be an error on my part."
"I'm going to use the movements that you can't imagine" and
"I had very simple food last night, and there is only one purpose: that is to fill my stomach up."
So basically, either Yao talks like Michael Caine in real life, or there's a whole lot lost in the switch from Mandarin to English.
This and that
Both Nowitzki and Garnett said that Jordan started the trash talk once the fourth quarter began, telling Western players that it was his time to take over the game.
The unusual lighting in the arena wasn't to blame for the players' first-quarter shooting woes. "It was pretty bright," said Nowitzki, "But that's the All-Star Game. Once you shoot around in warm-ups a little bit, that shouldn't be a factor."
The Philips Arena scoreboard credited a band called the "BeeJees" while the arena sound system played "Stayin' Alive" during a commercial break.
Among the many celebs in the crowd were Denzel Washington, Lennox Lewis, P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg, L.L. Cool J, Bow Wow, Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy and all three members of Destiny's Child.
New format, same result
The players have spoken on the switch to a best-of-seven first round series. Some are in favor and some are against, but none expect it to make a big difference.
West coach Rick Adelman of Sacramento was the most outspoken fan. "Let me think how many years I've said that it should be a seven-game series," he said. "I've never understood the reasoning [for five]. You work for 82 games to get the first or second seed, and you lose one game in a five-game series, and you're not guaranteed coming home and playing. That just boggled my mind. Why would you do that to a team?"
Garnett liked the change as well, perhaps because his Timberwolves have lost in the first round for six straight years. "For myself, I think it is good," he said. "We've just got to figure out a situation to get out of first round. But the format's cool."On the other hand, Jermaine O'Neal of the Pacers was opposed. "I don't really like that. I think best-of-five is best for the first round. I think it may fatigue the teams," said O'Neal, who liked how the shorter series forced teams to begin the playoffs on their A-game. "[Best-of-five] puts a lot of pressure on you to do it right away," he said.
Dallas' Steve Nash agreed. "I thought [the change] was unnecessary," he said. "I thought five games was enough."
But the Mavericks, who could face the three-time defending champion Lakers in the first round, don't expect the change to affect their chances. "It doesn't matter," said Dirk Nowitzki. "The Lakers are a tough team. Once the playoffs come around it's going to be hard [either way]."
From the L.A. side, Kobe Bryant felt the same about a potential matchup with the Mavericks. "It doesn't matter either way," he said.
In the past decade, Atlanta has hosted the Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the World Series. But the city, already known for appalling traffic, was completely unprepared for the mess brought on by All-Star Weekend.
The gridlock situation was desperate nearly round the clock. Sunday morning at 3 a.m., traffic was still a mess throughout most of downtown, while during the day Saturday every major mall in Atlanta was forced to close due to overcrowding. One mall had more than 60,000 people jammed in -- or roughly three times the capacity of Philips Arena.
Police seemed to ad-lib the situation. Most notable was the officer late Friday night who was busily waving people onto a highway entry ramp when there was no place else for them to go; meanwhile, about 200 feet away, an intersection that had been left to the rule of the jungle sat unattended. Additionally, as a result of assigning so many officers to the traffic beat, the city's ability to enforce laws against prostitution suffered in a very obvious way.
The key? Unlike the other events Atlanta has hosted, this one drew hordes of scene-makers, jock-sniffers and other assorted hangers-on who swelled the city far in excess of those merely attending the All-Star Game. The grid was overwhelmed at night by huge numbers of destinationless drivers who were simply cruising, especially on Peachtree Street. In fact, the traffic was so bad that rapper Jay Z. no-showed at his own party Saturday night because he couldn't make his way through the swarms.
But the Lakers' Bryant had the best solution. He said he spent Saturday night in his hotel room.