Getting You Ready for All-Star Weekend 2011

In general, NBA All-Star Weekend is a big deal on a big stage.

But this season’s might take the cake in terms of star power.

All of the Hollywood A-listers, and B-listers for that matter, are sure to be in attendance for the simple fact that it’s in their backyard. Actors, musicians, entertainers, pro athletes, entourages, groupies, high rollers – they’ll all be there this weekend in Los Angeles, home of the stars, hub of the movie industry.

All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles is sure to be on another level. And the Thunder will be right in the thick of it, as Oklahoma City will be represented by three players, each participating in one of the major events.

Last year’s All-Star festivities in Dallas were both memorable and historic for the Thunder. And there’s no telling what this one will bring.

Thunder.nba.com will be there every step of the way, bringing you complete coverage of your Thunder through blog posts, Tweets, feature stories and a plethora of multimedia.

With that said, here’s a rundown of what to expect this weekend:

THURSDAY

Out of towners begin to arrive while most All-Stars are already in town. LAX will be the paparazzi’s dream. Interstate 5 is never a smooth ride, so one wouldn’t expect that to change for this weekend. The L.A. Live complex is where most of the action will be. That’s where all the events, from the Jam Session at the Los Angeles Convention Center to the STAPLES Center, where All-Star Saturday Night and the game itself will take place.

Before L.A. Live there were empty parking lots and warehouses in the vicinity of the STAPLES Center. So the area has cleaned up nicely since it last hosted the All-Star game in 2004. It’s a big reason why the NBA settled on L.A. this year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“As a destination city with warm weather and all the new resources, that makes it a very appealing destination,” NBA executive vice president of events and attractions Ski Austin told the Times.

As far as Thunder-related events go, forward Kevin Durant will be at two events: one at a Los Angeles-area Foot Locker followed by an appearance at a Nike store in Santa Monica. We’ll have you covered on both events.

FRIDAY

This is when things really start to pick up. Jam Session will be open to the public and the Convention Center will be busy throughout the day, culminating with the Celebrity All-Star Game headlined by (depending on your taste) NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, reality TV personality Rob Kardashian, rapper Common, ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons and teeny bopper Justin Bieber.

The big event of the day, though, will be the Rookie Challenge. After taking in the game as a spectator last season, forward Serge Ibaka will play for the Sophomore team this year.

The Rookies snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Sophomores last season with a 140-128 win. Russell Westbrook poured in 40 points for the Sophomores, James Harden played for the Rookies, who had Kevin Durant as an assistant coach.

Here’s the complete rosters for both teams.

But hours before the TNT coverage begins, all the participants in All-Star Saturday Night, the All-Star Game and the Rookie Challenge will face the media for the NBA’s equivalent of Super Bowl Media Day. That’s when you’ll want to keep refreshing our All-Star blog because we’ll be blogging, Tweeting and uploading quotes, videos, pictures and notes from the brouhaha. Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook will each get their own tables, which are sure to be surrounded by print, digital and broadcast media from around the world. Should be interesting.

SATURDAY

Things get going in the morning, when both All-Star teams hold an open practice at the Jam Session main court, followed by another media free-for-all.

The practices are actually worth it if you can get it. Players and coaches are usually mic’d up and toward the end of the session players typically engage in some sort of half court shot contest. Always a crowd pleaser.

Later that afternoon is the NBA D-League All-Star Game, which will have a nice Tulsa 66ers presence to it. Head Coach Nate Tibbetts, assistant coach Dale Osbourne and team trainer Tony Katzenmeier will coach the West Team, which will include 66er forward Larry Owens, who played on a pair of 10-day contracts with the San Antonio Spurs last month.

All-Star Saturday Night inside the STAPLES Center will also have a Thunder feel to it. Westbrook was among the candidates to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge against New Orleans’ Chris Paul.

After that comes the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest, featuring forward Kevin Durant, Boston’s Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, Golden State’s Dorell Wright and Miami’s James Jones.

Pierce is the event’s defending champ. Allen recently became the league’s all-time marksmen from three-point range. Jones can drain the long ball in his sleep, Wright is a bit of a dark horse and Durant, well, at 6-9, can shoot three-pointers flat-footed. And, as we’ve all seen, he has the ability to get into one of those shooting zones when he’s basically unconscious. Remember his 47-point outburst on 17-for-25 shooting in the Rookie Challenge two years ago? Anything’s possible.

The Oklahoman recently ran their picks for the 3-Point Contest, and beat writer Darnell Mayberry went with Durant.

The night cap will be featured event of the day, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, where Serge Ibaka will show the rest of the world his dunking skills. He’ll go against Oklahoma City native Blake Griffin, Washington’s JaVale McGee and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. NBA.com has compiled what they deem as Ibaka’s 10 best dunks of the season that you can watch here.

While Ibaka and his Thunder teammates have kept his plans for the dunk contest under wraps, this isn’t Ibaka’s first go-round at a dunk contest. He participated – and won – one in Spain in 2008.

SUNDAY

The crown jewel of the weekend, the reason why we’re in Los Angeles in the first place, is for the 60th NBA All-Star Game, which tips off at 7 p.m. CST on TNT.

When you think of Hollywood, you think of red carpet treatment. But the All-Star Game gets a magenta carpet, where players and celebrities will strut down for their grand entrance into the STAPLES Center. This will be the fifth time L.A. hosts the All-Star Game, the most recent one coming in 2004.

By now, you know the usual suspects: two teams and 24 players, including Durant, a first-time starter and second-time All-Star, and Westbrook, who was selected as a reserve by the Western Conference coaches.

A nice nugget of info courtesy of Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears: at 22, Durant and Westbrook are the youngest teammates to play in an All-Star Game since Detroit’s Isiah Thomas and Kelly Tripuka in 1982.

Durant, who was voted as a starter from fans, is excited to see Westbrook play before his hometown crowd.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Durant said. “Of course I get to see him every day but to see him in that All-Star uniform for the first time in his hometown really makes me proud. It makes me feel like a big brother. But I’m excited for him. It’s going to be a fun time. It’s something that no one can take from either one of us.”

The East topped the West, 141-139, in last year’s game at Cowboys Stadium, with Dwyane Wade (28 points, 11 assists) earning MVP honors.

This year, the NBA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are issuing a public awareness campaign titled, “If You See Something, Say Something.”

Contact Chris Silva