It seems like ages ago the Warriors were walking off the court after rolling to a blowout victory over the rival Lakers on Opening Night. Somehow more than three months have passed since that eye-opening win, and here we sit, 52 games into the season with one left to play before reaching the unofficial halfway point, otherwise known as the All-Star break. And while most of the Warriors will get to take advantage of some well-deserved downtime, the annual All-Star festivities do not provide a respite for all the Dubs. In fact, two of them will be quite busy.
Both Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes will be headed to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend, where they’ll compete against the best the NBA has to offer in a multitude of events, corresponding to each of their individual talents and reputations amongst the rest of the league. Curry, in the midst of by far his most impressive season to date, will of course be participating in the Weekend’s main event, the All-Star Game itself. He’ll also be competing in two additional events, as well as serving as captain for the Western Conference throughout the weekend (with $500,000 in charitable contributions on the line). Barnes, on the other hand, will be participating in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge for the second-straight year, as well as become the first Warrior to compete in the Slam Dunk competition since Jason Richardson won it in back-to-back years in 2002-03. There’s a lot going on all weekend and it’s easy to lose track of who’s competing in what event and when, so here’s an outline of what to expect starting Friday night:
BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge – 6 p.m.:
The top freshmen and sophomores in the league will take the court against one another in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, which begins at 6 p.m. (PST) Friday night. The game will feature two squads put together by former NBA greats in Grant Hill and former Warrior Chris Webber. The teams were determined by an alternating draft in which Harrison Barnes was the fourth pick of Team Hill, where he’ll partner up with the likes of Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond. Team Webber is led by Anthony Davis and Michael Carter-Williams, which should make for a great game on both sides. Starters for each team will be determined by a fan-vote, and the starting lineups will be announced the night of the game. If you want to see Barnes early and often, make sure to vote here.
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night – 5:30 p.m.:
Saturday night will provide the setting for the featured individual competitions of All-Star Weekend, with four events taking place throughout the night:
Sears Shooting Stars (1st Event):
All-Stars Curry, Chris Bosh and Kevin Durant headline the 2014 Sears Shooting Stars competition, which features one current NBA player, one current WNBA player and an NBA Legend on each of the four teams (two per conference). This will be Curry’s first event of the weekend, as he’ll team up with his father Dell Curry and six-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon in an attempt to bring home the crown. They’ll be going up against another father-son duo in Tim Hardaway Jr. and former Warrior great Tim Hardaway Sr., who will be joined by 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne, which should make for some great family entertainment.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge (2nd Event):
The only event of State Farm All-Star Saturday Night to not feature a Warriors player, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge is introducing a new format that features four teams of two players each competing in a two-round timed relay-style course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations. Representing the Eastern Conference are DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo on one team, and Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo on the other. The West will be represented by Damian Lillard and Trey Burke in one pairing, while Reggie Jackson and Goran Dragic comprise the other. This is the same event Stephen Curry won in 2011, so the result could be indicative of future greatness.
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest (3rd Event):
The NBA's best from behind the arc will take part in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, with the eight players competing in a two-round competition. Each player will have one minute to shoot as many balls as he can. The highest scoring East and highest scoring West competitors from the First Round will advance to the Championship Round. Of the two finalists, the one with the lower individual score from the First Round will go first in the Championship Round. Naturally, the player scoring the most points in the Championship Round will win. However, there is a slight change to this year’s competition. Just like last year, five shooting stations with five balls each will be set up around the three-point line. Four of those racks will have four normal game balls worth one point each and one "money ball" worth two points. However, new to this year's contest, a fifth rack will be a special "all money ball" rack. Each competitor will decide the spot for this rack to be placed at one of the five shooting locations. Every ball on this rack will be worth two points. You’d have to think that Curry, the all-time NBA record holder for three-pointers made in a season, would be a popular pick to win, and after falling short in his previous two appearances in 2010 and 2013, he should be extra motivated.
Sprite Slam Dunk Competition (4th Event):
The final event of Saturday night will feature some of the top skywalkers from throughout the league as Harrison Barnes will be joined by the likes of All-Stars Paul George, Damian Lillard and John Wall, as well as Ben McLemore and Terrence Ross, in the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk. This year's event will feature the participants competing as a team – three players representing the Eastern Conference and three players representing the Western Conference – in an above-the-rim two-round format. In a significant first in the event's history, the competition will tip off with a Freestyle Round where the dunkers for each conference will have 90 seconds to showcase as many dunks as they want. At the conclusion of the Freestyle Round, the panel of judges will then choose a winner by voting "East" or "West." The winning conference will earn the advantage of deciding whether its dunkers will dunk first or second in the head-to-head battles that take place in the Battle Round. The Battle Round will feature head-to-head matchups pitting East dunkers vs. West dunkers, with the judges choosing a winner for each battle. Upon losing a head-to-head battle, that dunker is then eliminated from the competition. The first team to win three battles will win the competition and be crowned 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions. At the conclusion of the team competition, fans will then have the opportunity to vote for the player of their choice as the "Sprite Slam Dunker of the Night" through SMS, Twitter, NBA.com and the NBA GameTime app. We’re all well aware of what the Black Falcon is capable of, but the rest of the field is also stacked and should make for a mind-blowing competition.
63rd NBA All-Star Game – 5 p.m.:
The Weekend’s main event takes place at 5 p.m. (PST) on Sunday night, and will feature the best players in the NBA today. Stephen Curry will become the first Warrior to start the game since Latrell Sprewell in 1995, and will make it two years in a row that the Dubs are represented in the annual game after David Lee was selected as a reserve a year ago. Curry, the leading vote-getter amongst all guards, will be joined in the starting lineup (injuries permitting) by Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love for the Western Conference. Starters for the East include Kyrie Irving, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. The West has won the last three games and four of the last five between the two sides, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue to keep that trend going. In any case, it is sure to be a memorable event for Warriors fans, who have waited a long time to have their star player be featured among the league’s very best on the brightest stage.
Whether you like high-flying 360 windmill dunks, or guys showing off unbelievable range and consistency, NBA All-Star Weekend will have it all. It’s a chance to reward the players who have earned their right to be there, as well an opportunity for fans to witness the best of the best competing against one another, all in one place. More so, it gives us all a chance to better appreciate the tremendous talent and skill involved in the game we love.
So, enjoy the weekend #DubNation. Because once it’s over, there’s no slowing down.