James World: Beware the all-star hangover

While losing game rhythm may not be much of an issue for Durant and James, it is for the rest of the league (Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP)

With 26 teams through the unofficial first half of the season, most eyes around the NBA have shifted to New Orleans. In this week’s column, former-Raptor Mike James offers a player’s perspective on All-Star Weekend.

The regular season is such a grind and it takes a toll on you. So, one benefit of All-Star Weekend is that it gives players the opportunity and the time to recover from all of the breakdowns—physical and mental—that come with every season. You need that rejuvenation period, and I think that tends to be especially helpful for rookies.

But make no mistake, All-Star Weekend can also be a disruption. You may be feeling good and playing in a rhythm, then you take a few days off and what happens? You let yourself relax, maybe you’re just hanging out on a beach chilling with your family. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not playing basketball.

That’s why I like what Damian Lillard is doing participating in all five events. That’s going to be a good thing for him, because he’s touching the basketball every day. The three-point contest helps him keep his shooting rhythm; the dunk contest keeps his muscles firing. He’s basically not taking any games off.

Sure, he carries a heavy load in Portland and you want him to rest, but you can’t fault him for wanting to touch the basketball every day and stay close to the game. Let’s face it, there’s a difference between training, practicing, playing games and those all-star events. Shooting contests, dunk contests—those aren’t strenuous on your body. If you’re in good enough shape, you can handle it. Plus, it’s fun.

I went to All-Star Weekend a few times to attend the Players’ Association meetings. Other than that, I usually take that time off to train. I like staying in the gym, taking those days to sharpen whatever I feel needs sharpening. But some guys will go the whole week without touching the basketball at all.

As a result, the first week back from every All-Star Weekend can be described in two words: ugly basketball.

Think about it: Some guys haven’t seen a ball for days, they’ve been partying and having a good time—New Orleans isn’t exactly a boring city, I’m pretty sure they’re gonna have some fun that weekend—and then they have to go right back to playing.

One day of practice and the next day you’re playing games.

Even though you get that practice in, you still don’t have your game-time rhythm and game shape—you’ve lost some of that. So that’s why if you look closely you’ll notice it takes about a week for the players to get back into the rhythm of the season.

At the end of the day, the weekend signals the unofficial halfway period. Once the all-star break is over, that’s when the season really gets serious. It’s everybody-jockeying-for-position time.

It’s time for the season to get serious.

Reader Question

Hey Mike! What’s your favourite memory of the All-Star Game? —Daria, Pembroke

To be honest, I don’t put too much focus into the All-Star Game. I’ve been to maybe five or six All-Star Weekends and I think I’ve only been to two actual All-Star Games. I’m not really there for the festivities and I don’t usually participate in Saturday Night—the dunk contest, three-point contest and those things.

I just like being around the game, even if I’m away from the game.

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