Dustin breaks down each day of events for NBA All-Star Weekend as well as offers up his predictions for the results.
All-Star Weekend is one of the best things about the NBA season. You get things like the Dunk contest, the 3-point Shootout and after last season’s shake up, the exciting Rising Star Challenge. It’s also significant to note that at this time next year, the NBA will be saying its’ goodbyes to commissioner David Stern. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there though, for now, let’s take a look at the great lineup fans will be treated to this weekend in Houston.
Kicking off the weekend is the All-Star Celebrity game that brings in (debatable) celebrities of music, movies and other media as well as a few retired NBA players looking to show they still got it. This year, coaching the East will be Russell Westbrook and coaching the West will be his former OKC teammate and current Houston guard James Harden. Though the teams haven’t been set, the lineup will feature Kevin Hart (the MVP of last year’s game), musician Ne-Yo, “Hunger Games” actor Josh Hutcherson, wannabe headphone mogul Nick Cannon, Trey Songz, Olympian Usain Bolt, Arne Duncan, Terrence Jenkins, Common, John Schriffen, Ryen Russilo, Dikembe Mutombo, Clyde Drexler, Sean Elliot and Bruce Bowen as well as WNBA’s Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore. The game itself often comes with mixed results as some participants have more experience than others, usually resulting in a one-sided game, but it’s enough fun watching them fumble around and the probability of Dikembe rejecting shots left and right is immense. The lighthearted nature is also a perfect way to start the weekend off right.
Prediction: Team Westbrook. Because the teams haven’t been announced, this is purely speculative, I’m also basing this solely on what I imagine each coach will be wearing courtside. Yes, Harden’s got the beard, but Westbrook owns the greatest shirts this side of 1993.
MVP: Kevin Hart
Rising Star Challenge:
Last year, the changing of the format of the Rookie/Sophomore challenge made the game the most exciting part of the weekend to me. For the second straight year, instead of Rookies vs. Sophomores, it will be Team Shaq vs. Team Chuck (Charles Barkley). The teams were drafted from a pool of eligible participants:
Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Nicholson (replacing the injured Andre Drummond), Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Chandler Parsons, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyler Zeller and Kemba Walker
Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Ricky Rubio, Tristan Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Brandon Knight, Isaiah Thomas and Alexey Shved
Prediction: Team Shaq. Team Shaq is full of shooters while Team Chuck will depend mainly on the size advantage they have as well as hoping for production from Rubio, Beal, Knight and Thomas but the pairing of reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving with likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard in the backcourt gives Team Shaq an explosiveness that will be near impossible to contain.
MVP: Damian Lillard
SATURDAY- “Skills Day”
*Important Note- The format for Saturday’s events has changed; the participants in the events have been broken into East vs. West with Dwayne Wade serving as the overall captain of the East and Chris Paul the captain of the West. Whichever conference produces the winner of each event will see money donated to charities of their choosing. This is a fantastic idea to help raise more money for charity as well as make each event even more interesting.
Shooting Stars Competition:
Saturday starts off with a mixing of current and past stars of the league as well as the WNBA in the Shooting Stars competition. 4 teams of 3 players (1 current NBA player, 1 retired NBA player and 1 current WNBA player) compete to see who can make a series of 6 shots with the fastest time. The best two times go head-to-head to determine the winner. The shots range from bank shots to 3-pointers and culminates with a half-court shot.
- Team Harden: James Harden, Tina Thompson and Robert Horry
- Team Westbrook: Russell Westbrook, Maya Moore and Sam Cassell
- Team Bosh: Chris Bosh, Swin Cash and Muggsy Bogues
- Team Lopez: Brook Lopez, Tamika Catchings and Dominique Wilkins
Prediction: Team Harden. The Forward heavy East is at a large disadvantage compared to the guard led teams in the West. I think this will come down to how the veterans shoot and that edge I give to Big Shot Robert Horry which gives Team Harden the W and the West the first overall win of the day.
Designed to test the PGs of the league, this event tests the participants’ passing, dribbling and shooting in an extended obstacle course. The two players with the best times advance to the finals and go head-to-head for the title.
Team East: Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight and Jeff Teague
Team West: Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker
Prediction: Jrue Holiday. Tony Parker is the defending champ of this event and I think that it’ll come down to Parker vs. Holiday for the win. So far this season however, Jrue Holiday has impressed at almost every turn as the primary scorer/focal point for the Philadelphia 76ers as they adjust to life without Andre Iguadala and wait to see if they’ll ever see Andrew Bynum on the court. Not that any of that will affect how this contest will go, I just think Holiday has proven to be a great scorer and passer and this is just a chance to showcase his ability to a larger audience and evens the score 1-1 overall.
A game of Around-the-World from behind the 3-point line from corner to corner, the Three-Point shootout is possibly the toughest of all the events held on Saturday. The contestants have 60 seconds to go through five racks of balls; each rack has 5 balls, four standard balls worth 1 point per make as well as a “money ball” worth 2 at the end of each rack. The top three scorers from the first round advance to the final round where the same pattern is followed and the top scorer is the winner.
Team East: Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Steve Novak
Team West: Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry
Prediction: Stephen Curry. This is solely based on the thought that Curry will have a chip on his shoulder from not being selected to the All-Star game. The argument has been made that Curry is the best pure shooter in the league today, while others have argued it’s Steve Novak. What better way to settle the debate than the two going head to head for the victory? An argument can be made for either shooter and Kyrie Irving could sneak in as well, but I think Curry stands tall when all is said and done.
Slam Dunk Contest:
Easily the most popular event of the day, arguably of the entire weekend, the Dunk contest showcases athleticism and creativity that fans don’t get to see anywhere else. Blake Griffin has dunked over a car, Nate Robinson has dunked over Spud Webb and Jeremy Evans dunked multiple balls at once. There have been a few changes made to the format of the contest; there will be six contestants instead of four, the time allotted for each dunk will be 1:30 instead of 2 minutes and in the first round, the dunks will be scored from 6 to 10 by a panel of judges and in the final round, fan voting will determine the winner.
Team East: Gerald Green, Terrence Ross and James White (where are you Paul George?!?!)
Team West: Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried
Prediction: Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe’s explosiveness has only been seen in spurts this season, with fans getting an extended look the last few weeks while Chris Paul was battling injury. No one knows what to expect from any of the competitors and what they have planned for the contest, so this is speculative but I’m going to predict it right now; Eric Bledsoe will dunk over Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan while they juggle flaming chainsaws and standing on the hood of a Kia minivan.
The All-Star Game:
The entire weekend has been building to this; the games’ best going head to head for ultimate bragging rights. Fans know to expect a high scoring and low defense game, but last year Dwayne Wade broke Kobe’s nose making a “play on the ball” so anything can happen. There are lots of questions that will be answered at this game though; will Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett play well together? Will Kobe cry when the game ends and Chris Paul has to go back to the Clippers? Will Dwight Howard put up 20 points and 40 rebounds and further infuriate Lakers fans?
Here’s what we know: Blake Griffin will monster dunk, Kevin Durant and Kobe will monster score and LeBron will just flat out be a monster.
The most exciting part of the game to me won’t be the storylines, it will be seeing the first-time All Stars getting their chance in the bright spotlight; Kyrie Irving (getting the start for the injured Rajon Rondo), Paul George, Jrue Holiday, James Harden, Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler are all competing for the first time and will certainly lay the groundwork for the next generation of All-Stars while providing the kind of excitement and flash that fans have come to expect from the game.
Team East: Rajon Rondo (inj.), Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Luol Deng, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, Brook Lopez (replacing Rondo) and Joakim Noah
Team West: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, James Harden, David Lee, Tony Parker, Zach Randolph and Russell Westbrook
Prediction: The East. Teaming up Kyrie Irving with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony just isn’t fair. The East bench is also a little deeper with three capable swingmen in Chris Bosh, Paul George and Luol Dang. It’ll be closer than previous years’ games, maybe 145-138 or somewhere around there but the East will take the lead in the third quarter and never let it go.
MVP: Jrue Holiday (just kidding) LeBron James.
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