Well dear readers, you’ve been waiting all year (all two-ish months of it) and the time is finally here – it’s NBA All-Star Weekend! Each season, the NBA gathers its most popular players and celebrities for a variety of entertaining contests, all of which culminates in the annual all-star game.
This year, two Portland Trail Blazers will be participating, as Damian Lillard and Seth Curry will compete in the Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest, and Lillard is a reserve on Team LeBron in Sunday’s All-Star game. No Blazers players will be participating in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest or the Mountain Dew Ice Rising Stars Challenge, and no Portland area celebrities will be involved in the All-Star Celebrity Game (presented by Ruffles).
So what portions of All-Star weekend should you tune in for, and which should you avoid? When will Lillard finally have paid his dues in this league? What are the most memorable moments in All-Star weekend history? For these questions and more, we enlisted Fireside Sports co-hosts Bryant Knox and Casey Mabbott to answer them.
Without further ado, here is this week’s All-Star game themed lightning round:
1. The NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off this Friday, and the Portland Trail Blazers are sending two participants to Charlotte. Which event are you looking forward to the most?
(BK) Call me crazy, but I’m most excited to watch the the Rising Stars Challenge: Team USA vs. Team World. The talent in this group is nuts. Ben Simmons, DeAndre Ayton and the Slovenian Wunderkind himself, Luka Doncic, will face off against the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox. The list of talent in this game is too long to cover everyone, but if you’re considering buying a crystal ball to check out the future of the NBA, forget about it. This is the game to check in on.
(CM) I would have to say the all-star game itself, but I’d be lying if I told you I will make time to watch it. I haven’t had a lot of interest in the slam dunk contest since the best dunk artists stopped participating, and I have no doubt that one of the splash brothers is going to win the 3-point contest, so the only event still in doubt would be the all-star game itself, and given the on-paper talent difference between team LeBron and team Giannis, even that could be a lopsided affair.
2. Damian Lillard and Seth Curry are competing in the three point contest, what odds do you give either Blazer to win?
(BK) I actually love Seth Curry in this. Damian Lillard is the kind of guy who could hit something crazy like 13 in a row at some point…but he’s also the guy who could end up with a very underwhelming and forgettable first round. Curry, on the other hand, is the No. 2 shooter in the league as far as three-point percentage, and he has home-court advantage on his side, in that he and his brother, Steph, grew up in Charlotte. Vegas has given Curry and Lillard the fifth- and sixth-best odds, respectively, but I’d honestly drop Dame lower and bump Curry higher. I’m not a betting man…but I might throw $5 the Curry’s way. (I just won’t commit to which Curry just yet.)
(CM) Insurmountable odds, if that is an option. Lillard is a streaky shooter who can catch fire as quickly as Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, but I have my doubts he can stay hot long enough to win the whole thing, and I don’t like Seth Curry to get out of the first round. It’s going to be a long day for both, but it’s neat that the Blazers are sending two players to the weekend on the whole.
3. Lillard was voted an all-star reserve for what feels like the fifth year in a row. Do you think we will see a year where Lillard is a starter, due to his on court performance, and not some tragic rash of injuries?
(BK) The only way this happens is if Lillard gets the heck out of dodge before his prime ends and he lands with a perennial contender in a big market. This isn’t a knock on Lillard, who scored 21 points in less than 21 minutes in the 2018 exhibition; it’s more an indictment on the state of All-Star voting. The league has take measures to involve parties beyond just fans when it comes to voting in starters, but the popularity contest within the process will always exist, and as good a self-marketer as Dame is, he’s going to need more national television exposure (and probably more playoff success) to make it happen.
(CM) I don’t know that the fans will ever like Lillard enough to see him as a starter, but that might be a good thing. Aside from his considerable talents, one thing he has had going for him since day one is the chip on his shoulder to prove his doubters wrong and that he belongs in the elite class of NBA players. I would have concerns that he would have trouble competing at the same level if the league finally gave him his due (since he turns it up a notch each year after his ASG snub), but I have no doubt that he will always compete at an all-star level.
4. Are you team LeBron or team Giannis in Sunday’s All-Star game?
(BK) Team LeBron, for sure. As laughable as it may be that The King used this year’s All-Star Game Draft to just recruit everyone he’s ever wanted to play with, you gotta admit that team is insane. It would’ve actually been more lethal if James hadn’t traded away Russell Westbrook for his Klutch buddy Ben Simmons, but the edge still goes LeBronn’s way.
(CM) Team LeBron. It’s fun to see the players get to choose the rosters and keep the league from locking these guys in to one conference until the end of time. Due to the complexities of trade scenarios in today’s NBA this might be the closest thing we get to seeing some of these players share the court at the same time other than the olympics, and at least here it is against arguable level competition.
5. What is your favorite all-star weekend memory?
(BK) This really comes down to two for me. For starters, the 2000 Dunk Contest. We will never, ever see someone put on a show the likes of what we saw from Vince Carter, and every dunk contest since has failed (mostly miserably) to live up to the incredibly high bar VC set for the rest of basketball eternity. The other? The 2003 All-Star Game. AKA, Michael Jordan’s Swan Song. The game ended up going to double-overtime and was highly competitive throughout, but the turnaround jumper he hit at the end of OT No. 1, the fact that Carter gave up his starting spot in his honor, the energy in the building knowing it was 100 percent, absolutely MJ’s final time lacing up his All-Star sneakers…that one is unforgettable for a kid who always wanted to be like Mike.
(CM) The entire 1988 All-Star weekend was a gem beyond compare. Larry Bird won the 3-point contest, Michael Jordan defeated Dominique Wilkins in the best slam dunk contest of all time, and then Jordan took home MVP honors as he led the East to victory in a very high scoring game. I challenge anyone to find a more complete weekend of all-star heroics.