Posted Feb 7 2010 2:25PM
The call came as a shock to Stephen Curry. Not so much for Channing Frye. Danilo Gallinari expects to win ... even if he doesn't know who exactly he's competing against.
Those three, along with All-Stars veterans Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce, have defending champion Daequan Cook in their sights as the Three-Point Contest returns to its NBA birthplace. The long-distance showcase, a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, debuted 24 years ago in Dallas with Larry Bird claiming the inaugural event at Reunion Arena.
Larry Legend would go on to win the next two years, entrenching the Three-Point Contest as a must-see during All-Star weekend. Cook doesn't come close to Bird's megawatt star power, but the Heat reserve guard is shooting to become the seventh repeat winner in the contest's history. Cook outlasted Rashard Lewis in an overtime round last year in Phoenix.
"It made people look at me different," Cook said, "as one of the best 3-point shooters in the game. It made me respected."
The competitors are ready.
Curry is only the third rookie ever selected to compete, but he's got experience via bloodlines. Del Curry, a noted marksman during his 16-year career, competed twice in the contest. The younger Curry is hitting 42.9 percent from deep going into Sunday, which is tied for 10th in the league and first among rookies.
"I was surprised they picked me, knowing if they picked one guy from our team, Anthony Morrow would be that guy," Curry said of his Warriors' teammate who led the league in 3-point percentage last season.
"Now that I'm in it, it's something I always wanted to do growing up. My dad was in it twice and he never made it out of the first round. I have to do better than that."
Curry and Gallinari will be busy next weekend, with a Friday night date in the Rookie Challenge. Though the second-year Knicks backup power forward had no idea who the other five shooters were -- "I don't even know who's in," he said -- he'll head to Texas with an Italian bag full of confidence.
"Yeah, I feel confident about it," said Gallinari, 20th in 3-point percentage at 40.4. "I think I have a good chance. We'll see how it goes. I'm really confident."
New York coach Mike D'Antoni sees plenty of room for improvement for Gallinari, starting with rebounding and defense. (Isn't that all the Knicks?) D'Antoni isn't about to mess with his shot. Gallinari leads the NBA in 3-pointers made with 130.
The Contest is all about quantity, right?
"He's tailor made for it because he shoots so effortlessly," D'Antoni said. "A lot of time that's a little bit of a gimmick shot [in the contest] because you can't use your legs and you've got to get a lot of shots up, but he's a great shooter. He needs to get better as a player, but he's awesome how well he can shoot it."
When it comes to being prolific and tall this season, Frye trails only Gallinari. In his first season with the Suns, Frye has redefined his game by setting up shop beyond the arc. The 6-foot-11 center made only 20 3-pointers through four NBA seasons. He's up to 119 this season, good for third behind Gallinari and Rockets guard Aaron Brooks.
So when the league offered up a spot in Dallas, Frye was honored but hardly surprised. He's eighth overall in the league with a 43.4 3-point shooting percentage.
"You make enough, I guess you kind of expect to be in there," Frye said. "But if I wasn't, I wouldn't have taken it personally. I understand it is what it is and there are a lot of other good guys that shoot 3s in this league."
The Suns are a case study in long-range expertise. Frye plans to pick the brain of teammate Steve Nash, general manager Steve Kerr and assistant coach Dan Majerle -- all previous participants. Kerr won it in 1997.
All six contestants had a week to get ready after the field was announced Friday. Getting in some practice shooting off a rack around practices and the last few games before the All-Star break is the tricky part. There's also the pressure of 20,000-plus at the arena and the attention of a worldwide TV audience.
The bright lights won't bother Billups or Pierce, though being a rookie doesn't faze Curry. "I like my chances," he said.
Cook has the added advantage of being the last one to shoot in the first round.
"It makes it a little more competitive, knowing I have the opportunity to know what I have to get to make it to the next round," he said. "It gives me an opportunity to see what is happening and know how many shots I need to make from each rack."
At stake is $35,000 to the winner and a chance to follow in Bird's trailblazing footsteps. Just don't expect anyone to burst into the locker room and proclaim, "Who's coming in second?"
"You've just got to go out there and have fun with it no matter what happens," Frye said. "It's just a game. Of course everybody's going to be competitive when they get out there. I understand those guys. None of them want to lose. It's going to be fun. It's going to be competitive fun."
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