All-Star Weekend | What to Watch For

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Red, white, and blue figure to be prominent colors in Los Angeles, where the 76ers will be well-represented at NBA All-Star Weekend 2018.

Over the next three days, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric are each scheduled to take part in at least one event staged at STAPLES Center during the league’s annual superstar showcase. Embiid’s appearance in Sunday’s All-Star Game itself will be the capper, as the big man is set to become the first Sixer to start the exhibition since Allen Iverson in 2006.

From afar, Brett Brown will be keeping tabs on the talented trio he’s played an instrumental role in developing. Having previously attended an All-Star Game as an assistant coach, Brown, who celebrates a birthday Friday, knows how intimate and special the weekend can be, particularly for someone like Embiid, who was chosen for the main event.

“You see these [All-Stars] in a locker room, and you’re looking around at 24 of the best players in the world all under one roof,” Brown said this week. “That experience for Joel is priceless, just watching superstars, how they act, and conduct themselves, and [their] mannerisms. It’s a learning experience. It’s part of his evolution.”

In addition to serving as the starting center for Team Stephen (selected by Golden State MVP Steph Curry), Embiid was picked to participate in this year’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge as well.

Simmons and Saric, along with Embiid, were named to represent Team World in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Simmons, who ranks among the NBA leaders in triple doubles (3rd, 6), assists (4th, 7.3), and steals (7th, 1.9). “It’s my first All-Star Weekend, so I think it’ll be fun, just being around all the other players, media, appearances, things like that,”

Saric will be back in the Rising Stars Challenge for a second year in a row. He enjoyed soaking up the environment during All-Star Weekend 2017.

“It’s a pretty fun, and pretty nice thing,” said the multi-faceted forward, a runner-up for Rookie of the Year last season.

Below, find a brief guide to help with your All-Star Weekend content consumption planning.

Friday, February 16th

Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge | 9 PM EST | TNT | STAPLES Center

For the fourth time in Brett Brown’s now five seasons as head coach, the Sixers are sending multiple players to the Rising Stars Challenge, which pits the NBA’s top American rookies and sophomores against their counterparts from the rest of the world.

In a starting role last year, Dario Saric posted 17 points (7-10 fg, 3-5 3fg), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, as he and Team World knocked off Team USA, 150-141. The Croatian likes the format of the Rising Stars Challenge.

“Of course, since I played at [Nike] Hoops Summit, World against Americans, you want to beat them,” said Saric, “but we are there for the fans, we are there to enjoy it. Of course, all players want to win that game, and I really want to win that game, too.”

As is the case for Saric, the Rising Stars Challenge is the lone All-Star Weekend activity on tap for Ben Simmons. Highlighting the rest of the World Team roster are Joel Embiid, Lauri Markkanen (Chicago), Buddy Hield (Sacramento), and Jamal Murray (Denver).

Team USA will be led by Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Jayson Tatum (Boston), Jaylen Brown (Boston), and Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers).

Saturday, February 18th

State Farm All-Star Saturday Night | 8 PM EST | TNT | STAPLES Center

There’s no doubt Joel Embiid has skills, uncanny ones at that for a player his size. Accordingly, the 7-footer will headline the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, one of three competitions held All-Star Saturday Night, along with the JBL Three-Point Contest, and Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Embiid is expected to be joined in the Skills Challenge field by Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn), Al Horford (Boston), Lauri Markkanen (Chicago), Buddy Hield (Sacramento), Jamal Murray (Denver), Andre Drummond (Detroit), and Lou Williams (LA Clippers).

No Sixer has ever won the Skills Challenge, which dates back to 2003. Jrue Holiday (2013) and Michael Carter-Williams (2014) are the only other players in team history to have been picked for the event.

Sunday, February 19th

67th NBA All-Star Game | 8 PM EST | TNT | STAPLES Center

Named the Sixers’ 31st All-Star of all-time, Joel Embiid will be part of history Sunday. For the first time, the NBA’s All-Star rosters have been hand-picked by players, with Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Steph Curry acting as this year’s captains.

While Team LeBron has been ravaged by an unfortunate string of injuries (DeMarcus Cousins, Kristaps Porzingis, John Wall) in recent weeks, Team Stephen has remained as originally constructed.

Embiid, to say the least, has proven to be a worthy All-Star. As of Thursday, he ranked sixth in the league in both rebounding (11.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.8 bpg), and was tied for 10th among all players with 28 double-doubles. His 23.7 points per game was 13th-highest in the NBA.

For as superb of a job as the 23-year old has done this season anchoring the Sixers’ young up and coming roster, and positioning the team for a playoff push, it should be fun to see what type of magic he can help create alongside the best of the best.

Over parts of the seven decades that the NBA All-Star Game has been played, four different Sixers have claimed a total of six All-Star MVP awards: Hal Greer (1968); Julius Erving (1977, 1983); Charles Barkley (1991); and Allen Iverson (2001, 2005).

To stay on top of everything involving Embiid, Simmons, and Saric during All-Star Weekend, be sure to check in with the website, and follow our social channels, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.