This article and more from Taylor Smith can be found at NBA Soup.
NBA Commissioner David Stern should be a happy fella.
Today, the league's best and brightest all descend upon the fair, yet randomly quite snowy, metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth in what promises to be the largest and flashiest NBA All Star extravaganza to date.
The weekend's main event (the All Star Game itself) is to be played Sunday at the sparkling new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, with over 90,000 expected to be in attendance.
Of course, these are the kind of things that happen when you have Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban and Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones working this thing out together.
Unfortunately, injuries have taken their toll recently, and a few of the league's top tier players, like Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy, will be unable to showcase themselves.
Here's the schedule of noteworthy events (all on TNT):
Friday: 8pm ET: T-Mobile Rookie Challenge (American Airlines Center)
Saturday: 7pm ET: HORSE presented by Geico (Dallas Convention Center)
8:30pm ET: NBA All Star Saturday Night (American Airlines Center)
-Haier Shooting Stars
-Taco Bell Skills Challenge
-Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
-Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
Sunday: 8pm ET: NBA All Star Game (Cowboys Stadium)
So, there's that.
Now, what should we expect?
T-Mobile Rookie Challenge
The Rookie Challenge, of course, pits this year's rookies against last year's rookies in what is essentially the kickoff to All Star Weekend.
The rookie class has been a huge surprise this year, and let's see how their roster shakes out:
Omri Casspi (SAC), DeJuan Blair (SA), Stephen Curry (GS), Tyreke Evans (SAC), Jonny Flynn (MIN), Taj Gibson (CHI), James Harden (OKC), Brandon Jennings (MIL), Jonas Jerekbo (DET).
Last year's rookie class (we'll call them the sophomores) boasts an absolutely loaded roster:
Michael Beasley (MIA), Marc Gasol (MEM), Danilo Gallinari (NY), Eric Gordon (LAC), Brook Lopez (NJ), Kevin Love (MIN), OJ Mayo (MEM), Anthony Morrow (GS), Russell Westbrook (OKC).
In last year's game, then-sophomore Kevin Durant piled up a Rookie Challenge record 46 points in a 122-116 win.
Is there anybody in this year's game likely to push that mark?
Likely? No. Possible? Yes.
If someone like Gordon, Curry, Gallinari, or Morrow gets it going, they can rack up tons of points in no time.
The Rookie Challenge, not unlike the All Star Game itself, is basically a no-defense track meet full of alley-oops and spectacular plays.
To put it lightly, this rookie class is likely going to get completely clobbered by the sophomores.
The rookies have won this game just twice in its current format, but not since the 2002 game in Philadelphia.
In the end, the sophomores will just have too much firepower for the little first-year youngsters to handle, and should win this game easily.
Prediction: Sophomores 140, Rookies 118.
TNT "HORSE" Competition
Haier Shooting Stars
In the least-anticipated event of the weekend (other than the likely sighting of Terrell Owens anywhere near the Dallas area), each team of three has two minutes to hit one shot from six different spots on the floor.
Here's how the teams shake out:
Team Texas: Dirk Nowitzki, Kenny Smith, Becky Hammon.
Team Atlanta: Joe Johnson, Steve Smith, Angel McCoghtry.
Team Los Angeles: Pau Gasol, Brent Barry, Marie Ferdinand-Harris.
Team Sacramento: Tyreke Evans, Chris Webber, Nicole Powell.
I'm not going to try and rationalize discussing this event further.
Prediction: Oh, let's go with...Team Texas.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
In the Skills Challenge, four point guards are to complete an array of skills-oriented tasks, such as passing the ball through tight spaces, dribble around cones, and hit jump shots.
The player that completes the obstacle course with the fastest time is the winner.
Here are the participants:
Brandon Jennings (MIL)
Steve Nash (PHX)
Derrick Rose (CHI-Rose is injured, but as of today he is still a participant)
Deron Williams (UTA)
Three of the players (other than Jennings, the rookie) have won this event in the past, with Rose having won it last year in Phoenix.
With Rose perhaps slowed a bit by his hip injury, let's assume he won't be able to pull off the encore.
Jennings is the quickest of the remaining three, but with his shooting percentage down around 38 percent on the season, will he be able to hit his shots quickly enough?
Let's say he won't, which leaves us with Nash and Williams.
Williams has the younger legs, and will undoubtedly be eager to put on a show in Dallas, where he attended high school.
So, to put it formally...
Prediction: Deron Williams wins it.
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
Here's who we have:
Chauncey Billups (DEN)
Daequan Cook (MIA)
Stephen Curry (GS)
Danilo Gallinari (NY)
Channing Frye (PHX)
Paul Pierce (BOS)
Cook is a participant this season by virtue of his victory in this event last year, but is shooting a measly 30 percent from deep this season.
While in-game shooting is obviously far different from shooting set-shots with no defenders, let's say Cook won't be a repeat winner.
Paul Pierce is shooting a stellar 47 percent from three this season, but he's not typically seen as a traditional three-point bomber.
He's also the biggest "star" player in this group, and the star-type player hasn't typically won this in recent years.
As I narrow it further, there are two players that really stand out as the most likely to win it, and they are Steph Curry and Danilo Gallinari.
Both players have incredibly pure shooting strokes, and don't have to spend much energy in getting off their shots.
I expect this one to come down to the wire, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see it go into the overtime-style format to determine the winner.
Any of the six contestants is certainly capable of pulling it out.
Prediction: Danilo Gallinari narrowly over Stephen Curry.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
During halftime of Friday's Rookie Challenge, there will be a "dunk-off" between Eric Gordon of the Clippers and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors to determine who gets the fourth and final slot in Saturday's dunk contest.
DeRozan has spoken of being supremely confident in his abilities, and I'll just take that as a sign that he'll be able to advance to Saturday's main event. Having just played one half of the Rookie Challenge may not be of any help to Gordon's legs, either.
So, here are the other three participants:
Gerald Wallace (CHA)
Shannon Brown (LAL)
Nate Robinson (NY)
Robinson will try to become the first three-time winner of the event, and should have the crowd on his side, for the most part.
I'm not quite sure what to expect from DeRozan, but he has claimed to be saving his best for the actual contest. He's certainly athletic enough to be able to make some big-time noise.
Wallace is having his best year as a pro, and will attempt to become the second dunk contest champion named "Gerald" to win the event in the last four years (interesting...right? Right?).
However, the player I look most forward to seeing is the Lakers' Shannon Brown.
Brown, essentially a throw-in in a trade with the Bobcats last season, has shown his freakish athleticism time-and-time again, and will undoubtedly make the most of his Sprite Slam Dunk debut.
I feel as though Brown would give LeBron James a serious run for his money in a contest like this, and it's a shame that the King won't be making an appearance. (Would Nike confiscate all footage of the contest if James were to lose? No wonder he backed out.)
Anyway, it's clear to me that Brown is the most prolific dunker in the group, and I think he will steal the show.
Prediction: Shannon Brown wins going away.
2010 NBA All Star Game
The All Star Game is nearly impossible to try and predict, considering the lack of any real effort in trying to stop anybody else from scoring outside of the game's final five minutes or so.
That being said, I'm going to try it anyway.
The West will sorely miss the talents of three-time All Star MVP Kobe Bryant, and I think that could end up being the difference in the game.
The East's dominating frontline, featuring the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James, could prove to be too much to handle for the West.
While I doubt it'll be a blowout, I do think the East enjoys a clear talent advantage, and should be able to win it comfortably.
Prediction: East 132, West 122
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