The All-Star Skills Challenge was underway for DeMarcus Cousins for just a couple of dribbles and then ... oops.
Cousins dribbled the ball off his leg.
“That wasn’t my fault,” the Kings center joked during All-Star Saturday Night at Air Canada Centre. “I think somebody shot my basketball. That wasn’t me. ... Somebody had to do something to my basketball.”
Cousins lost in the semifinals to Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns, who beat the Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the final and became the first big man to win the competition.
When Towns made a three-pointer to win the obstacle course, Cousins led the rest of the event’s big men in congratulating Towns by giving him a huge hug.
Cousins beat the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis in the first round before losing to Towns.
“I never thought I’d be in that situation, but I enjoyed myself a lot,” Cousins said. “Nervous of course. You never want to go out there and make a mistake. It was all in fun, too. We made a statement. That was a good thing.”
That statement: Big men have just as much skill as any other NBA player.
“This is a moment that hopefully the NBA can cherish for a long time to see the transition,” of bigs not only having to play in the post, but also handling the ball and shooting threes, Towns said. “So I think this moment was much bigger than myself, but it shows that bigs are translating into a new facet of their games.”
In the Three-Point Contest, the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson beat teammate and defending champion Stephen Curry and Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker in the final round.
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine repeated as the Slam Dunk champion in a dunk-off with the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon. The two had six consecutive perfect scores of 50 in the final round before Gordon received a 47 and LaVine a 50 on their final attempt in the dunk-off.
Nervous of course. You never want to go out there and make a mistake. It was all in fun, too.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, on competing in the Skills Challenge
What the hack? – At his annual All-Star Weekend news conference, Commissioner Adam Silver indicated the league might take measures to respond to the increase in the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy, in which teams intentionally foul bad free-throw shooters.
Silver said the tactic is being used 5 1/2 times more than it was last season, meaning games are slowing.
“I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said. “And that comes in response to conversations with our network partners. It comes in response to fan data that we look at. We’re constantly surveying our fans to get their sense of what they see out on the floor. I’m talking to players and general managers and our owners, of course.”
Lately players have even begun jumping on the backs of big men like the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond to draw attention to the fouls. Besides an injury concern, Silver said players can be assessed a flagrant foul for doing that. He also said there have been no firm proposals on a rule change, which would require approval from 20 of the 30 teams.
No center love – This is the fourth All-Star Game without a center designation on the ballot for fan voting.
“I’m not sure if it’s been good or bad for the league,” Silver said. “The change was generated by the fact that it seemed unfair to a certain group of players that there was a special center designation, and in years there were seemingly better players who were frontcourt players but not designated centers that they were unfairly being left off of the All-Star team.”
Cousins, Drummond, the Chicago Bulls’ Pau Gasol and the Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford are centers in this year’s All-Star Game. The coaches added Cousins and Drummond as reserves, and Gasol and Horford are injury replacements.
Cousins believes centers should be on the ballot rather than being designated as frontcourt players, a scenario that usually leads to no centers in the starting lineup.
I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, on the league’s response to the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy
“Shouldn’t disrespect the center position,” Cousins said. “We work just as hard, and I don’t think it should be discredited. … I think the center position is very much alive.”