LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 --
There aren't many players in the NBA as quick and as skilled as Denver's Earl Boykins
. His lethal combination of speed, shooting and ball-handling make him one of the most valuable reserves in the league.
Will the 5-5 Boykins throw it down on Saturday night?
Boykins, however, stands just 5-5, which has made it an uphill battle just for him to make an NBA roster, let alone make it to All-Star Weekend. So one might think that the 989 Sports Skills Challenge competitor might be a bit humbled by being a part of the entire midseason extravaganza taking place in L.A. But to Boykins, making it to All-Star Weekend was just part of the plan.
"I always thought I would be (at All-Star Weekend)," Boykins said during Friday's media availability. "But early on in my career I knew it was going to be hard."
Even though making it to All-Star Weekend as a competitor in one of the Saturday night events may not be the same as being named an All-Star outright, Boykins is still excited at the prospect of strutting his stuff against some of the league's best.
"I'm very, very excited about the skills competition," said Boykins. "I get a chance to compete against other top guards in the league."
In the competition, Boykins will face Derek Fisher (a late replacement for Lakers teammate Gary Payton), Baron Davis and Stephon Marbury. Davis and Marbury are well known for their high-flying exploits, so it was only fair to ask Boykins if he could throw down as well.
"If I feel that I have a big enough lead, you'll see," said Boykins slyly, hinting that he might just show his skywalking skills on the final stage of the skills competition.
A player supporting one of his teammates in outside competitions is to be expected. But given the level of confidence Indiana's Ron Artest has in teammate Fred Jones in the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk, it would appear that Jason Richardson has no chance at defending his back-to-back titles.
"I've seen (Jones) dunk, I've seen him do some amazing dunks in practice," said Artest. "He's going to win."
So why, exactly, does Artest think Jones is such a ferocious dunk artist?
"He dunks on people," explained Artest. "They should have a dunk contest where you put big people in front of the rim and you dunk over them."
An interesting concept, indeed. So what predictions is Jones willing to make? Let's just say he's not quite as quick to call himself the winner as his teammate is.
"I'm not a cocky dude or nothing," said Jones. "I don't have any predictions, I just hope I make all my dunks."
If history is any indication, then Jones stands a good chance of at least making all his dunks. For it seems that competition has always brought out the best in him. And his dunking.
"My first dunk was in the eighth grade, and it was actually a dunk on somebody in a game," said Jones. "I'd always tried it in practice, but never made it. But there were less than five seconds left in this one game, and I just went up and did it."
Feed the Family
While dunking is an art, shooting is more of a science that is perfected through countless hours of practice. So how scientific are this year's shooters feeling heading into the Foot Locker 3-Point Shootout? Well, apparently, they're more about going with the flow.
"I didn't practice as much as I wanted to, but I did practice yesterday and the day before," said Rashard Lewis
. "Really, it's more about confidence than anything else -- just being relaxed."
"I'll just go out there and try to catch a rhythm," said Chauncey Billups. "You know, don't shoot them all too fast, just catch a nice little rhythm and get them off."
Billups is doing double-duty in both the 3-Point Shootout and the RadioShack Shooting Stars competition. In that competition, an NBA player, an NBA legend, and a WNBA player team up against other squads of three to see who can combine for the highest score. So what advice did Billups have for his teammate, Detroit Shock forward Cheryl Ford?
"I told her, 'We gotta win this thing. I've got kids to feed.'"
--Randy Kim, Rob Peterson, Bryan Williams, NBA.com