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Rockets tweak Dallas & Mark Cuban by landing NBA All-Star Game three-peat with bold bid, stadium dig

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For the Toyota Center, this will be it's second NBA All-Star Game in seven years. Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Blake Griffin rim
NBA All-Star Game Dallas
David Stern
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News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

There were Rocket Power Dancers, a row of Houston Rockets legends, prideful speeches galore, even a section of fanatical fans let into the stands.

The only thing missing was the owner of the team.

Leslie Alexander didn't show for NBA commissioner David Stern's grand, anticlimactic announcement — that Houston will indeed host the 2013 NBA All-Star Game — at the Toyota Center. He's traveling for business, Rockets CEO Tad Brown said when asked about Alexander's absence on Wednesday.

"He felt it was more important to make sure (the announcement) worked with the schedule of the commissioner and the mayor," Brown told me in a 1-on-1 interview after the main press conference. "Mr. Alexander put that above himself being here."

 "Call us old fashioned, but we think that basketball is best enjoyed in a basketball arena," Rockets CEO Tad Brown said. 

Plenty of people won't completely buy that of course. It looks funny when Alexander and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey both no show a big NBA event in Houston, considering how irate they are with Stern for blocking the trade that would have brought the Rockets Pau Gasol — the type of player that actually makes All-Star Games.

CultureMap and other outlets reported that the 2013 All-Star Game would be held at the Toyota Center way back on Aug. 10. In reality, the wound of the rescinded trade is much more fresh than the All-Star thrill, no matter how much gyrating and clapping the Power Dancers put into Wednesday's NBA TV show.

"I'm well aware of that," Stern said simply when asked if the Rocket higher ups' furor over the trade reversal reached his ears.

In the end, it doesn't really matter that Alexander and Morey stayed away from the All-Star party — or whether their reasons for doing so are innocent or pointed — though. What's important is that Alexander pushed to make sure Houston pulled off another sports hosting coup.

That's exactly what this NBA All-Star Game represents. In some ways, it's an even sweeter one because of who the Rockets out Texas two stepped in the process. By landing another All-Star Game just seven years after Toyota hosted the 2006 game, the Rockets will become the first Texas city to host the NBA's showcase three times. And as Brown himself made sure to point out on the stage, the Toyota Center will be the first building in Texas to host the NBA All-Star Game for a second time.

And Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones thought that Cowboys Stadium — and that 108,713 All-Star Game crowd — completely changed the game.

"Call us old fashioned, but we think that basketball is best enjoyed in a basketball arena," Brown said when asked on the side if the Rockets ever considered trying to bring Reliant Stadium into the NBA All-Star Game mix in the wake of the supersized stadium craze. "This was always a Toyota Center bid for us.

"The Toyota Center is the place where we can put on the best experience."

There may be flashier newer arenas, just like there are flashier cities than Houston, but Toyota Center is the place that will have hosted two NBA All-Star Games in its first decade. Houston keeps pulling in major sporting events — last year's Final Four, this year's Olympic Marathon Trials, the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, the 2016 Final Four — surprising those who live in New York and LA who've never visited. And more than a few folks in Dallas who have, too.

"Why Houston?" Mayor Annise Parker said. "Because we know how to do this. Houstonians understand sports. We know how to do major sporting events."

All true. But none of that matters without a push from Alexander to think outside of the box.

Charging Through An Opening

Conventional wisdom dictated that this was too soon for the Rockets to have a real shot at hosting another All-Star Game. No franchise hosted two All-Star Games in a decade in the 1980s or 1990s. Everyone wants these things and the league needs to spread them around.

 There may be flashier newer arenas, just like there are flashier cities than Houston, but Toyota Center is the place that will have hosted two NBA All-Star Games in its first decade. 

But Brown sensed an opening while in Los Angeles for last year's NBA All-Star Game. League officials quietly told him that it actually looked like there would be more cities in the mix for later upcoming years, that the better chance might be sooner.

Brown — who says he's been asking the league about another All-Star Game regularly almost since the final buzzer of the last one in Houston in 2006 — didn't need to hear much more.

Alexander pushes his executives to seize unexpected opportunities, to not assume anything is off the table.

"(Alexander) talks a lot about the need to try and do great things for Houston," Brown says. "Because Houston's been so great to us."

Now, the Rockets — a franchise without a single clear All-Star player (sorry, Kyle Lowry is not at that level) — get to bring the best of the best, the LeBron James, Kobe Bryants, Kevin Durants, Chris Pauls, Derrick Roses and Blake Griffins of the league into town for three nights of hoops heaven (Feb. 15, 16 and 17, 2013). Sure, unless Morey can pull off a Pau Gasol-level trade before then, it all might remind everyone in town just what the hometown team is desperately missing.

But, oh what a show it will be.

Three nights of basketball superstars is better than no nights. Stern also managed to name drop Justin Bieber not once, but thrice, slipping in how the mega pop star playing in the celebrity game last year proves that you never know who will show on an NBA All-Star Game weekend.

Heck, Alexander and Morey will even probably show. By then, maybe they'll even find themselves in the same room with Stern.

If not? Who cares? The important thing is that the Rockets owner's done another good thing for Houston, bumping aside Dallas on the way to the basket.

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