NBA All-Star Preview: Houston, We're Ready For Take-Off

There’s an interestingly bittersweet, somewhat erotic but mostly inscrutable sensation in the air this morning. Somehow, the eve of All-Star Weekend has fallen on one of the most pointless holiday’s of all time. My emotions haven’t been so mixed since the Bulls’ couldn’t decided whether to get rid of Luol Deng or Ben Gordon (I know).

In all seriousness though, it’s almost time for NBA fans as a collective group to gather around their couches, drink beer and eat pizza all day while superstars dunk the ball all day. All-Star Weekend is a testament to everything that you could consider wrong about basketball. Flash, and not fire. A complete and utter disregard for defense. Dunks on dunks on dunks. Tantalizingly unbelievable athleticism taking the place of fundamentally sound skill. In other words, let’s get excited.

My favourite part about this weekend’s festivities always has been, and probably always will

Feb 4, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) dribbles against Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

be the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. It’s a testament to the future of the league, and like the All-Star game, rotation’s and tenacity are a rare occurrence. Tom Thibodeau, eat your heart out. Among this years headliners are Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis and basketball Twitter favourite, Kenneth Faried.

It’s hard to argue against Team Shaq’s compilation of both Kyrie and Lillard, but the idea of Ricky Rubio throwing dazzling alley-oop passes to the Brow and Faried takes the cake for me. I’ll put the odds on Team Chuck coming out victorious, probably by a disgustingly large margin because again, defense is taking a little time off to rest for the next few days.

This game provides us with more than just rim-shattering dunks though, it gives us a glimpse into the future. Taking it back two years, this game was headlined by Blake Griffin, James Harden and Stephen Curry. Go back another two years and you’ll find even more prominent names such as Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, and Marc  Gasol. That’s just from the rookie team, by the way.

Providing as the pre-game fodder to this dunk-a-thon will be the All-Star Celebrity game. While we’re not going to see Justin Bieber lighting it up from beyond the arc again, last year’s MVP Kevin Hart will be returning. The event will feature household names such as Ne-Yo, Usain Bolt, the often participating Common and more. Basically, what happens every year is that people we expect to be terrible are good, and vice versa. And then the fan’s vote in the most popular player in the game as the MVP, regardless of whether or not they were on the winning team.

The highlight of All-Star Saturday is, and always has been, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. This years contestants are Eric Bledsoe, Terrence Ross, Gerald Green, James White, Kenneth Faried and Jeremy Evans. In other words, “who?”

Don’t get me wrong here. Each and every one of the above-mentioned guys is a phenomenal dunker. But the fact that the most likely winner is a Knicks’ back-up who has never been in the game solely because it’s not often he remains on an NBA roster by February can’t bode well for the popularity of the contest. The NBA is as personality-driven as it is superstar-driven. The coinciding of these two phenomenon’s has created some of the most polarizing

February 25, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Western Conference guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (left) and guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (right) smile during the 2012 NBA All-star team practice session at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

players in sports history. As a rite of passage, these superstars would showcase their skills in the dunk contest.

The superstars of today, as everyone and their mothers love to remind us, are different. So much so that many of them are tempted to take the entire weekend off altogether to rest. The All-Star game is eons away from becoming the NFL Pro-Bowl, but needless to say, things done changed. 

Now, to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: All-Star Sunday. Otherwise known as the day everyone clamours at the bit for something to do until the festivities finally begin, which is not until 6 PM EST by the way. The NBA All-Star game is likely the best showcase of collective talent in professional sports. Be it because it’s in the middle of the season, or that it’s riddled with personalities, for some reason it just is.

Unlike most years, the fans and the coaches have collectively done a good job. First and foremost, Yao Ming retired so he couldn’t be voted in. That in itself did wonders for the merits of fan voting. Secondly, Jeremy Lin couldn’t outpace Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook to squeeze in to the game. If there’s one thing that’s gone wrong, it’s that Stephen Curry has yet to find his place in the game. That may change though, since  Rockets’ guard James Harden is unsure about whether or not he’ll play. 

Overall, the selection process didn’t go over that badly. Both teams are massively stacked, but as always, the West is better by virtue of not being the East. This year’s MVP? I’m going to go with Kevin Durant. This year’s double-take, disgusted reaction face viral gif award will all but certainly go to Kobe Bryant.

Backcourt Bias will be back after the break. Be sure to follow Seerat Sohi at @DamianTrillard and tune in to Fansided for continuous All-Star coverage this weekend.

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