All-Star Weekend Preview
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 22:02
This year’s NBA All-Star Game Weekend in Houston came with a lot of changes, from the voting system to the Dunk Contest format, but as always, this weekend should be an incredible display of talent and athleticism. Here’s a quick breakdown of the events.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
An event that seemingly allows competitors to get flashy is actually more about speed and finesse. Competitors are asked to perform a variety of passes into goals, jump shots, layups, and dribble courses. It’s obvious to pick fast point guards with exquisite ball handling skills and incredible finishing abilities, but this event isn’t geared towards that type of player. Past competitors John Wall and Kyrie Irving fit this category, and haven’t been able to win.
Although the event is timed, a player like Jeff Teague, who is an explosive athlete, might be just a little too fast for the event, and the jump shot could give players like Jrue Holiday and Jeremy Lin a hard time. The middle ground is controlled by Tony Parker, last year’s winner, who looks poised to repeat his title. He plays with such control, but always seems to be a step ahead of his opponent, and his experience should be enough to give him the win.
Winner: Tony Parker
Foot Locker 3-Point Contest
The key to winning the 3-point contest is being comfortable shooting the ball all around the arc. And any player who hopes to win has to get into a rhythm early, see the ball go through the hoop from all five spots, and then catch fire right in time for the final round. Defending champion Kevin Love will not be participating, opening the door to a wide range of players.
The shootout is geared towards catch-and-shoot players, which is why we see Matt Bonner and Steve Novak competing, even though the two haven’t attempted a great deal of shots this season. These two are the epitome of stand-still, 3-point shooters and they both will probably light it up Saturday night.
But the two players most likely to win this are Ryan Anderson and Stephen Curry. They have both shown throughout the season that they can connect from anywhere beyond the arc, and they both shoot at an incredibly high percentage from all spots. And with that being said, the tiebreaker goes to Curry, as his beautiful stroke will carry him to the win.
Winner: Stephen Curry
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
It’s been hard to watch the dunk contest in the past few years, as the league’s greatest stars have declined to participate, leaving lesser-known contestants forced to resort to skits and stunts, with mixed results. With the contest changing its format this year to a West vs. East style to increase collaboration among competitors, this could actually be a great year for the contest.
The East rolls out with a sneakily strong roster, which includes former dunk-champ Gerald Green, rookie-sensation Terrence Ross and James “Flight” White. Green was already the owner of one of the best prop-dunks in the contest’s history, when he blew out a candle on a cupcake in the 2008 Dunk Contest.
Ross has taken the league by storm with his amazing open-court dunks. The rookie loves to kick his legs out, which should give him some style points, and work the ball around in the air. He should be helped by being the teammate of Demar Derozan, who had one of the most underrated dunks in recent contest memory in 2011.
And finally, White is a head-scratcher of a pick, until you look up his YouTube videos. One of his highlight tapes is of him pulling off dunk after dunk from the free throw line, starting off with powerful slams but then going between the legs. If he can pull that off this weekend, Kenny Smith will just lose it.
The West’s contestants are no slouches, either, as they bring in defending champ Jeremy Evans, the Manimal, Kenneth Faried and Eric Bledsoe. Last year, Evans probably had one of the weakest showings for someone who won the contest: His most impressive slam was catching two balls from Gordon Hayward and dunking them both, a typical stunt dunk. More should be expected from Evans this year, with his long wingspan and ability to get above the rim, and he’ll need a stronger showing if he has any chance of repeating.
Faried, on the other hand, is your classic in-game dunker, a type of contestant that has had mixed results in the past. He has amazing leaping abilities and incredible force at the rim, but can he put some variety in it for the contest?
And for people who don’t know Bledsoe, it’s about time to make his acquaintance, as the six-foot one-inch guard will put on a show this weekend. While he doesn’t get as much press as the other high-flyers on his team, Bledsoe should benefit from being around Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan and Chris Paul. Pound for pound, no one dunks with as much force as Bledsoe and when you couple that with his amazing hops, Bledsoe is the pick to win the dunk contest.
The Main Event
Sunday night’s All-Star game will feature a classic roster of mainstays, along with some fresh faces to invigorate this year’s contest.
The West will roll out an almost all-Los Angeles lineup, with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard getting the start. The East put forward Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett and the replacement for injured starter Rajon Rondo. Bryant and Garnett, as well as reserve Tim Duncan, will represent the old guard this year, as they are the only players with 10+ ASG appearances.