NBA All-Star Saturday Night, despite tweaks to the rules on a yearly basis, provides the exact same things every year: a memorable moment or two that fans of the NBA and the players who cause such moments will remember for a long time, combined with long stretches of disinterest and way, way, way too much Reggie Miller.
This year, the dunk contest has a field full of stars and semi-stars competing in a format that makes no sense. The three point contest has three point shooters and an actually interesting new twist. The shooting stars contest exists. And the skills competition, done for fans that appreciate fine passing and dribbling, is so confusing I don't exactly know how to describe it.
For the second straight year, the only Sixer that will compete on Saturday night will be the team's point guard in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Michael Carter-Williams will compete for the second straight night. Luckily, the competition does not involve eating Taco Bell (at least for this year, anyway). Nobody wants to see vomiting as part of the competition, I'm sure.
The challenge is basically a basketball obstacle course. In prior years, individual players would navigate the course, completing basically every meaningful play you can while there's no one else on the court - dribbling around mannequins, passing through tires, hitting a jumper, and hitting a layup/dunk. It's pretty simple, and honestly not all that exciting. Last year, Jrue Holiday lost out in the finals to Damian Lillard.
This year's Skills Challenge involves a relay format with two players who don't play for the same team, because why not make it a cluster? MCW will team with Victor Oladipo throughout. In the first round, they'll take on the curious pairing of Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan. I didn't know DeMar knew how to pass, which is a major part of the competition, but that's beside the point. Defending champion Lillard will pair with Trey Burke to face all-star snub Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson. The winners of each round will face off in the finals to determine the co-champions.
Since Oladipo and MCW went through the rookie game together last night, that could offer an advantage over the Giannis-DeRozan team. The Burke-Lillard pairing also has the same advantage over Dragic and Jackson.
Obviously, we're rooting for MCW here. That's the only point of Sixers-specific interest on the night. Now, here's what else will be happening:
Sears Shooting Stars
Hit a foul shot, a three, and a halfcourt attempt in the fastest time, and you win. The now traditional triage of an NBA player who has to be there anyway, an NBA "legend," and an active WNBA player combine to try and hit each of these shots. Whichever Western Conference trio that advances should be the heavy favorites, since Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are there. Notably, a family theme has taken over, as Tim Hardaway, Sr. and Dell Curry are teaming with their sons.
Also: Sears is still a thing?
Foot Locker Three Point Contest
I have a problem with the three point contest: it doesn't give a representative showing of who the best three point shooter is. I'm basically the only person who cares about this, but here goes nothing. No NBA players who will be participating in this contest actually shoot off racks consistently like they have to do in this competition. NBA teams give players coaches or other staff members when they practice - they get the ball as if in a game competition. The shooting rack does not replicate any game situation, so you're not really getting to see who is the "best" shooter.
2014 NBA Draft
If I became Adam Silver for the day, this would be like the third measure I'd take in changing things in the NBA. No more racks. Swing passes to the corner for threes. Dish-and-kicks to elbow threes. Dribbling into above-the-break threes. Make this happen, and I will be elated, Mr. Silver.
The twist I mentioned above? Players can choose where their moneyballs - which count for double - are placed. Most will put them in the corners, but which corner will they choose? Stephen Curry is probably the favorite for this competition, as well.
Sprite Slam Dunk
As mentioned earlier, a star-studded field makes for more general interest. But will it result in a better show? I'm excited to see Paul George slam on everyone, for Damian Lillard to partake in his third consecutive event of the night, and for Ben McLemore to make his first positive contribution of the 2013-14 season. Joining those three will be John Wall (!), Harrison Barnes, and defending dunk champion Terrence Ross.
However, we have an exciting (not) new twist: the players again will be competing in teams for the third time of the night! Teamwork, you guys! Trying to make conferences matter! The East is not four hundred notches below the West, no! I'm not even going to bother trying to explain the rules - the Mothership has that ish on lockdown, though - because they're kind of pointless. The good news is that there is a freestyle dunk round with multiple guys showing off their repertoires at once. But it should be longer than 90 seconds long, and it should feature And-1 mixtapes and people going insane and falling into each other in awe.
The dunk contest has a history of disappointing us. Here's hoping it does not (it's likely to).
Coverage of all events, starting with the Shooting Stars, begins at 8:00. We'll be threading it.