Ahhhhh. Love is in the air. With Valentine's Day and the All Star Classic fast approaching, there's lots to be excited about in the NBA. Derrick Rose gets the nod to help the Eastern Conference All-Stars this weekend, "Vinsanity" surfaces again and the Lakers are still on top even without Kobe in the line -up. But we'll get to all that in a minute. First we need to address the ridiculous debate surrounding Hedo Turkoglu and his mask.
A History Behind the Mask
Aside from the fact that he is their 50-million dollar asset, wearing a faceguard is a small price to pay to protect a pre-existing injury before being allowed back on the basketball court. An injury that could possibly keep him sidelined or off the court indefinitely. Apparently he finds it too restrictive. Seriously? This is the same lame argument given for not wearing a neck guard or visor in hockey. I am surprised considering the history of these types of injuries in the NBA, there isn't some kind of document players are required to sign from their trainer or the league saying the mask is required before returning to play. He apparently did not wear one in practice on Monday and eluded to the fact he didn't need to wear it anymore. This worries me.
Consider this. I know many of you watched the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Championship Finals. Remember Richard "Rip" Hamilton's performance? Of course you don't because most of the hype from that game came from the clear plastic protective mask he had to wear because of previous fractures to his nose. Six years later, he is still enjoying his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. NBA bad-boy Bill Lambeer wore one and even our beloved Kobe Bryant wore a variation of one in his highschool days. Do you think for one second that if Hedo opts out of the mask even for one game he won't become a target if he isn't already? Defensive plays from Raptors oponents will look to zero in on his face. I know that is an unwritten rule but you know it will happen and has happened. Bill Lambeer, tough guy or no tough guy, supported wearing the mask and said it gave him the confidence to stick his face into any intense rebounding situation and not get hurt. Don't get me wrong, I am a big supporter of Turkoglu. But with the Raptors momentum as of late, they don't need to scratch him due to a re-injured orbital bone.
Who's in, Who's Out - NBA All-Star Weekend
Riding the injury train for a little while longer, Chris Kaman has been selected as an injury replacement to play in the All-Star game this weekend. This must be bittersweet for him after being passed over and it taking Brandon Roy to be scratched for him to relieve his itch to play (so to speak). David Stern's decision to add him makes Kaman the first Clippers all-star since Elton Brand in 2006. I sincerely hope his girlfriend is understanding since he will have to cancel on the Valentine's Day getaway weekend he planned for them.
So excited for Derrick Rose to get his chance to play among the All-Stars. He has really come into his own since overcoming injury and helping the Chicago Bulls get back to where they need to be. This means he won't get to square off against Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings in the Rookie All-Star game. Both hail from Memhpis at the guard position and it would have been great to see them play against each other. I like Tyreke's style of play - you just never know what game tool he'll pull out of his back pocket. What famous Lakers great does this description remind you of? Hmmm..a "magical" number 32? Too early to tell, but I definitely see parrallels.
Ok - so we know Brandon Roy is out and Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony are questionable for Sunday's game. But now Kobe Bryant may not be able to play in his 12th All-Star game. Honestly? This is not a big deal. He's listed as day-to-day but he missed the Lakers win over Portland on Saturday after playing in 235 straight games. This will probably mean he won't see much action in the All-Star game anyway even if he says he is good to play. I say he plays it safe - he's got his eyes on a much bigger prize at the end of the season, anyway.
Vinsanity Makes an Appearance
As a Raptors fan, you either love him or leave him. But whatever side of the fence you sit on, the fact that he scored 48 points against the Hornets the other night deserves at least a round of applause. I don't think he woke up that morning and said "I'm going to score 50 points today" but something needs to be said about being in the zone and running with it - all athletes have a story to tell about that moment. But what's sad about this accomplishment is the Orlando Magic needed almost all of them to beat the New Orleans Hornets 123-117. Where was the support from the rest of his teamates? It's amazing he drained that many (not the first time either -did it in 2005 for New Jersey against Miami with 51 points) but he shouldn't have to do that with an entire team around him. Tracey McGrady had an explosive game nearly six years ago on Orlando's roster too - except this time McGrady racked up 62 points. Don't get me wrong, as a fan of the game it is very entertaining to see a player reach new heights. But I think it says a lot about team depth and coaching when one individual player gets that much of a spotlight just for scoring. There, I've said my bit.