The NBA's All-Star weekend begins Friday night with the All-Star Celebrity Game and the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. The Celebrity Game is an annual farce that brings occasional joys and mostly rolls of the eyes.
The Rising Stars Challenge is, however, a chance to see some of the most athletic, talented young basketball players in the world showcase their ability and try to prove they belong to play Sunday night. Only Kyrie Irving will actually be playing Sunday night in the All-Star Game, but there are probably a half-dozen future All-Stars in the game.
Many people think the NBA's Friday night All-Star festivities are the lowlight of the weekend but, on the contrary, they typically are where the most spirited, competitive basketball is played. The celebrities, especially Arne Duncan who totally balled out last year, always like to show everyone they can play a little bit, and the former NBA players like to goof around.
This year, Clyde Drexler is participating. Drexler said in Jack McCallum's great Dream Team book that he still thinks he was better than Michael Jordan. Drexler did not have a good track record for saying things in McCallum's book, it should be pointed out. However, Drexler is such an alpha male personality, and had stayed around the game, color-commentating Rockets games and staying in shape, that I fully expect him to play his rump off every second he's out on the court. I could be wrong, but I hope not.
The rookie game, however, is entertaining simply because of how the game always turns out. It's an in-game dunk competition for parts of it, other parts can get super-competitive based on the one-on-one matchups, and the Team Chuck vs. Team Shaq thing seems to have at least added a superficial element of intrigue in the players.
I'm fascinated to watch, in particular, the combination of Ricky Rubio, who finally seems to be hitting his stride, and Anthony Davis, who has quietly been superb this year. Davis has crazy long arms and soft hands, so he's the perfect alley-oop finisher. I expect him to score 30 points and Rubio have 15 assists.
The Friday night festivities are the least-ballyhooed of the entire All-Star weekend, but pay close attention, and you might find out they're also the best.
Celebrity All-Star Game: 7 p.m. EST on ESPN
Rising Stars Challenge: 9 p.m. EST on TNT/ESPN Radio