Feb 7, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
A week from now the eyes of the basketball world will be on New Orleans for the NBA’s Damian Lillardapalooza. … er, I mean the NBA’s All-Star weekend.
While Sunday’s All-Star Game is the big show, I’ve always found Saturday night’s series of skill contests more fun than the no-D exhibition that is the All-Star Game itself. So, in the spirit of gambling (I guess), let’s take a stab at handicapping the three big events of All-Star Saturday night.
All predictions here must come with this caveat — they have changed the format this season to start with a freestyle round where everyone is dunking, then a series of head-to-head dunk “battles” to decide if the East or West wins. I have no idea how this will change the feel of the event and how the format will effect who wins it. That said, I’ll make a prediction anyway on who wins the “Dunker of the Night” as voted by the fans.
Favorite: Paul George, Indiana Pacers. There are three factors in his favor. First and foremost, the fans vote on the award and George is a popular budding superstar. This is a popularity contest to a degree. Second, he has done this before. George has been in the dunk contest and that matters because there is a distinct difference between an in-game dunk and an exhibition dunk and having done this before he should get it. Third, and most importantly, he can really throw it down.
Others at the front of the pack: Terrence Ross and John Wall. Ross won the Dunk Contest last year and did it without props — he knows how to win and we know he can throw down. Wall has the perfect combination of athleticism and showmanship to win the Dunk Contest, plus he is a name known by fans.
Dark Horse: Ben McLemore of the Kings. He was supposed to be the best shooter in the last draft but he has real hops and has shown some impressive dunks this year.
Favorite: This is the hardest event to predict, but I’ll take Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns — he’s quick, he’s precise, and he grew up in a European system where they practiced the fundamentals more than most AAU coaches do stateside. Besides, the Suns deserve some recognition.
Others at the front of the pack: Watch out for the two rookies, Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke. This is the kind of event that traditionally goes to skilled guys who are quick with the ball, your Tony Parkers of the world, and these two guys are both quick and skilled.
Dark Horse: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks… okay, I’m not sure he has a real shot at this, but I just want the Greek Freak to win.
Favorite: It’s got to be Stephen Curry. There are guys who have higher in-game shooting percentages but this is a contest about finding a groove and hitting big shots under pressure and nobody in the game right now does that better than Curry.
Others at the front of the pack: Really any of the guys in this group could get in a rhythm and win, but keep an eye on Marco Belinelli — he is knocking down 44.3 percent of his looks from beyond the arc this season, the highest percentage of anyone in the competition. Also don’t sleep on Kevin Love, who won this same competition two years ago and we know he can find a rhythm and win.
SATURDAY NIGHT’S BIGGEST WINNER
He’s performing before the Slam Dunk Contest and he’s the only thing I know I’ll love all night.
Nets 103, Spurs 89: The Spurs were without their big four (no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard) yet they led in the first half by as many as 12 because they are the Spurs and they run their system. But eventually talent wins out in the NBA and Brooklyn just had more of it — although Alan Anderson may not be the first name you think of in Brooklyn he had the hot hand and had 22 points on the night as the Nets pulled away in the second half for the win.
Warriors 102, Bulls 87: Out of the gate Golden State just was not ready for the hard charging, aggressive style of Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls — they only know how to play one way. But again, as in the Nets game, at some point talent wins out and Golden State has guys who can create on offense that the Bulls just do not — Stephen Curry had 36 points on the night as the Warriors came back to get the win. But it was closer and harder fought than the score indicates (the Warriors closed on an 11-2 run).
Mar 5, 2015, 11:00 PM EST
Pacers’ David West made the assertion after Denver fired head coach Brian Shaw.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:00 PM EST
Ibaka comes up with a massive rejection.
Mar 5, 2015, 9:00 PM EST
Gasol is too skilled.
Mar 5, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
We all saw it at the time, but the league confirmed the missed call the next day.
Mar 5, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Hamilton was a piece in the Goran Dragic trade.
Mar 5, 2015, 6:15 PM EST
Dragic has praise for the Suns organization.
Mar 5, 2015, 5:30 PM EST
The NBA wants to raise it to 20.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:45 PM EST
Westbrook has had four consecutive triple-doubles.
Steve Kerr on MVP race: “If Daryl Morey wants to run his own one-man campaign for James Harden, he can do that”
Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Kerr hasn’t been publicly lobbying for Curry.
Mar 5, 2015, 3:11 PM EST
Recapping a month-long Nike Basketball training experience, which featured workouts run by Tim Grover, Jerry Powell and Idan Ravin — who have trained guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Also includes performance reviews of Nike’s latest basketball shoes.
Mar 5, 2015, 2:31 PM EST
Dispute reportedly over terms of second season
Mar 5, 2015, 1:36 PM EST
Sager will be on the sidelines for Thursday night’s Bulls-Thunder matchup.
Mar 5, 2015, 1:26 PM EST
Bulls guard pledges money to school
Mar 5, 2015, 12:53 PM EST
Warriors guard shows up Bucks
Mar 5, 2015, 12:11 PM EST
Nine players have ended a day leading the NBA in points per game this season
Mar 5, 2015, 11:41 AM EST
Suns wing might be NBA’s best dunker
Mar 5, 2015, 11:04 AM EST
Chris Paul frantically tries to get Jordan’s attention
Mar 5, 2015, 10:28 AM EST
Whiteside posts monster 18-25-4 in win over Lakers
Mar 5, 2015, 9:49 AM EST
Center will reportedly receive two-year contract
Mar 5, 2015, 9:11 AM EST
At least one Spur appears to be peaking
- Training like the Pros: Recapping a month-long Nike Basketball workout experience 3
- Report: JaVale McGee can’t reach deal with Celtics 11
- Craig Sager makes long-awaited return to TNT after 11-month battle with leukemia 7
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Masked Russell Westbrook just needs a cape 20
- George Karl: Knicks could use a strong point guard next to Carmelo Anthony 14
- Ray Allen announces he will not play this season 14
- Pelicans’ Anthony Davis a gametime decision Wednesday vs. Pistons 1
- Derek Fisher questions ‘character and integrity’ of players after Knicks lose to Kings by 38 points 30