"Never Say Never" - Rookie Challenge, All-Star Celebrity Game - Friday
The Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam, as it is officially called, is really a showdown between first and second year players in the NBA. The part I love the most is how the Head Coaches for this game are determined. The Rookie and Sophomore teams will be lead by the Lead Assistant Coaches from the 2011 NBA All-Star Game Coaching Staff. Since the San Antonio Spurs Coaching staff earned the right to lead the West, Spurs Lead Assistant Coach Mike Budenholzer will lead the Rookie Team. The Sophomores will be lead by Lawrence Frank, Lead Assistant Coach of the Boston Celtics as the Celtics had the best record in the East as of Febuary 6th, 2011. Some notables on the Rookie side are Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) and John Wall (Washington Wizards). For the Sophomore side, we will see some really experienced and talented second year players in DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), last year's Rookie challenge MVP Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings) and the Air Congo himself, Serge Ibaka. It is refreshing to see both sides compete considering both sides are relatively new to the league with the Sophomores having the edge of experience. If Blake Griffin entered the league in his draft year and didn't spend last year rehabilitating, he may have been playing alongside DeMar DeRozan with the Sophomores. But something tells me he likes how his luck turned out.
Also on Friday night is the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. This is a game where names from the entertainment world play with athletes from the past and present. Some of the celebrities competing this year are Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Bill Walton, AC Green, Jason Alexander and Justin Bieber. I know you may be thinking what does a 16 year-old pop star have to offer against guys twice his age and size? Those of you who have watched "Never Say Never" or the episode of "Shaq Vs." where Shaquille O'Neil played a little one on one with the Bieb, you will also appreciate Justin's serious basketball skills. But one pick for the All-Star Celebrity Squad who should not really be taken seriously is Rob Kardashian from "Keeping up with the Kardashians". Really? I predict he will get totally schooled by the REAL celebrities on this squad, including some current WNBA players also participating in this game. Late night Talk Show Host Jimmy Kimmel will be the General Manager for one side and Sports TV personality and columnist Bill Simmons will lead the other. (To be honest, I am more looking forward to this part of Friday than the Rookie Challenge).
The Jam-Packed Jamalama Shootarama 'Gonna Schoolya' Saturday
Saturday is going to be pure bananas. There's the D-League All-Star Game but if you miss that one, the highlights in two minutes or less will suffice. Then there`s the Shooting Stars, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge. Last year`s highlight for me was Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns who, in a 24 hour period, flew to Vancouver to carry the Torch in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, then flew to Dallas to practice for the All-Star Game and finally, compete in and win the NBA Skills Challenge. Absolutely amazing. But the event everyone is talking about this weekend is the Slam Dunk Contest. Blake Griffin is favoured to win it but I wouldn`t count out the rest of the contestants, especially Serge Ibaka. Also, this year each Dunk Contestant is paired with a Dunk Coach. Here are some key points on each competitor:
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors and Coach Darryl Dawkins
- NBA dunk legend Darryl Dawkins is encouraging DeMar to get the crowd involved this time around and build on his experience from last year.
- Professional Dunker Justin ``Jus Fly`` Darlington has been working with DeMar to create DeMar`s presentation.
- The dunks in DeMar`s consideration are: ``The Cartwheel``; ``The Swing Dunk`` (accomplished by hanging off the rim and swinging your feet around with the ball to dunk) and something we have never seen before.
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers and Coach Kenny Smith
- Two-time Slam Dunk Contest participant Kenny Smith says Blake Griffin is going with the dunk style he prefers since he is capable of anything.
- They have reviewed the following dunks: ``Off the Glass``; ``Through the Legs``; ``Use a Teammate``; ``Leapfrog``; ``Showmanship`` (blindfolded) and ``Never Seen Before``.
- He narrowed it down to ``Through the legs`` and ``Never Seen Before`` but let`s face it. This is Blake Griffin - he is going to use the element of suspense to his advantage.
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder and Coach Kevin Durant
- In my mind, this is the tandem you need to watch. Not as much publicity as Griffin or even DeRozan, but a real contender who just may steal the show.
- Ibaka watched his first Slam Dunk Contest from the Congo and dreamed to be in it one day.
- Teammate and Dunk Coach Kevin Durant says this will be his coming out party.
- Will likely incorporate his signature ``Air Congo`` moves in his presentation.
JaVale McGee, Washington Wizards and Coach Chris Webber
- Chris Webber is a 5-time NBA All-Star.
- McGee is the first player in Washington Wizard`s history to compete in the dunk contest.
- He is also the first player to announce he is doing this for the fans and to represent the organization - some are saying this is a focus lacking in his fellow competitors.
- He has been the most secretive of the four, not revealing too much. But wowed some dunk practice bystanders with his ``Paper in the Net`` move. He grabs the paper in his mouth while leaping and slams the ball on the opposite side of the basket.
The 2011 NBA All-Star Game - Sunday
Finally, we arrive at the event of the weekend. The hype of 2011 NBA All-Star Game may be a little overshadowed by the hype of the Dunk Contest and the Blake Griffin Show but I am sure will be entertaining nonetheless. Here`s how it breaks down (*indicates starter):
The Eastern Conference All-Stars:
HEAD COACH: Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics.
ROSTER: *LeBron James (Miami); *Amar`e Stoudemire (New York); *Dwayne Wade (Miami); *Derrick Rose (Chicago); *Dwight Howard (Orlando); Ray Allen (Boston); Chris Bosh (Miami); Kevin Garnett (Boston); Al Horford (Atlanta); Joe Johnson (Atlanta); Paul Pierce (Boston) and Rajon Rondo (Boston).
The Eastern Conference All-Stars:
HEAD COACH: Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs.
ROSTER: *Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City); *Carmelo Anthony (Denver); *Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); *Chris Paul (New Orleans); Tim Duncan (San Antonio); Manu Ginobili (San Antonio); Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers); Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers); Kevin Love (Minnesota); Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas); Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City) and Devon Williams (Utah).
The fifth starter position was for Yao Ming but he will not be participating in the All-Star game due to injury. As you may know, his spot on the roster was filled by Kevin Love and the final starter position will be decided by Eastern Conference All-Stars Head Coach Greg Popovich.
Thanks once again for joining me this week. As always keep your questions and comments coming by following me on Twitter and Facebook. Remember to join me here on the DNB for more Raptors` opponent analysis in ``Behind Enemy Lines``. Have a great week.