The 2013 NBA All Star Game tips off at roughly 8:30 ET Sunday. The best players in the NBA will gather together in an exhibition game in which defense seems to be discouraged. Will Kyrie Irving continue to win everything, including our hearts? Will Kobe Bryant pass to any teammate? How many alley-oops will be attempted? SB Nation's NBA staff has all the predictions you need to be prepared.
With his team still several games out of playoff contention, this is absolutely Kobe Bryant's time to shine. I expect him to freeze out his teammates and hit at least five fadeaway 19-footers in the corner, a la Michael Jordan in 2003, on his way to an All-Star MVP and a decisive West victory.
West over East, Kobe Bryant MVP. This would be an awesome opportunity for Kobe to forget all about passing again, but I think he'll go for a 10-assist, 30-point game. I most look forward to Russell Westbrook looking off James Hardenagain.
The All-Star Game's best running subplot is Kobe Bryant's insistence on using the exhibition as a platform for talking smack to LeBron. Kobe's just a few years too old to have been drawn in to the NBA's chummy culture, a byproduct of AAU as much as anything else. While LeBron's been the game's best player for at least five seasons, Kobe remains the only one psychotic enough to think something as ridiculous as the All-Star Game can be used as a gauge of mental toughness. I see Kobe taking MVP and the West taking the game, with plenty of barbs directed at LeBron along the way.
East over West. Kyrie Irving wins MVP because this is his weekend. He's on a mission and he cannot be stopped. And for the first time all season, Dwight Howard plays defense. Because that's how Dwight Howard works.
As much as I'd like to think that Kevin Durant and LeBron James will face off for our hearts and souls, as much as I'd like to think maybe Kevin Garnett will come up huge in what he's calling his final All-Star appearance, as much as I'd like to predict Kyrie's coming out party, I just can't look past Kobe. I think he'll pass more than expected to start the game, but will take over down the stretch as the West sneaks out a close victory. Kobe takes the MVP.