Welcome to the NBA All-Star Game, the annual assembly of the league's elite, a game that every NBA player hopes to be selected to play in — but few, it seems, actually want to play in any more.
Of course, Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams is one possible exception to the rule.
D-Will was chosen by the coaches as a reserve for the Western Conference team that will square off against their Eastern Conference counterparts tonight in Dallas — Williams' hometown — at Cowboys Stadium, where the biggest basketball crowd in history (between 80,000 and 90,000) will be on hand to watch what has become a dunkfest devoid of much defense.
And, contrary to the seemingly couldn't-care-less attitudes of some stars, Williams does want to be there and aims to prove he belongs there, especially because he was snubbed in the All-Star selection process over the past couple of years when he could've (and probably should've) been chosen to play.
There was a time when the NBA All-Star Game held great interest and was a source of tremendous pride for Jazz fans.
After all, Karl Malone (14 times) and John Stockton (10) earned a couple of dozen All-Star selections between them.
And, fittingly, they shared the game's MVP award in 1993, when the All-Star Game was played on their home court at the Delta Center (now EnergySolutions Arena). Malone was also named the All-Star MVP in 1989.
But nowadays, really, does anybody but the most ardent Jazz/NBA fan care about the game any more? Let's face it, if Williams wasn't going to play, would anybody in Utah even bother to watch tonight's game? Sure, some of the game's greatest players will be there — LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, etc.
But some of them — Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy (all injured) — won't. And, thankfully, some others who were selected (Allen Iverson, personal reasons) or were almost voted in (Tracy McGrady) and definitely didn't deserve to be playing in it won't be there, either.
The NBA All-Star Weekend has become a mixed bag of events that can be highly competitive (the Rookie-Sophomore Challenge), at times a little goofy (the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Shootout), often tired and worn out (the Slam Dunk Contest), curiously amusing (the Celebrity Game) and equally brilliant but boring (the All-Star Game itself).
Thanks to the NFL and NHL, the NBA All-Star Game certainly isn't the worst of such all-star matchups. But, let's face it, despite some dazzling dunks, spectacular circus shots and a few eye-popping plays, it's still in the bottom three.
Too many players, once chosen, beg off to help them heal nagging injuries or simply to take a break from the 82-game grind that is the NBA's regular season.
Too often, it seems that the NBA's biggest and best stars who are there seem somewhat uninspired and disinterested. It is, after all, just an exhibition game and thus doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things.
There are times when you get the impression that the NBA's brightest stars like the idea of having "All-Star" on their resume, just as long as they don't actually have to put out too much effort to play in the game itself.
After yearning to get there, however, Williams will likely do his darnedest in his allotted time on the court to show he should've been there all along.
But, to tell you the truth, I'd almost rather watch Dr. Oz, Mark Cuban and "Flight Time" Lang in the Celebrity Game than I would another edition of the lame All-Star Game itself.
And when it comes right down to it, I'll be watching tonight's opening installment of "The Amazing Race" instead.
That's one TV show where the contestants who are playing for big money actually want to be there — unlike sports All-Stars — and are willing to push themselves to the absolute limit just so they can stick around until it's all said and done.