Returning to the city for the first time since 2006, the NBA All-Star Weekend tips off Friday night from Toyota Center in downtown Houston. While the next few days might be a bummer to fans of great defense and half-court basketball, rarely do as many great players descend upon the same court at the same time.
With the standard events like the Slam Dunk Contest and something called a "Legends Brunch" happening on Sunday afternoon, it's a weekend that should have something for everyone.
That includes the local fans, as they'll be able to cheer on Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Jeremy Lin while they participate in the All-Star festivities. Both were acquired before the season to form a rebuilt Houston backcourt. Today, they power one of the NBA's most explosive offenses and will represent Houston throughout the weekend.
Considering that the weekend is now so much more than simply an All-Star Game, here's a quick rundown of the scheduled events:
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
This year's celebrity game includes the likes of comedian Kevin Hart, ridiculously fast human Usain Bolt and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. There's also "Bruce Bowen (NBA Legend)" participating, to which I bring up a pair of thoughts: (a) Can you be a legend if your only skill on offense was the spot-up three-pointer? (b) Good luck getting to the rim, Nick Cannon.
Rising Stars Challenge, 9 p.m. ET on TNT
"So what kind of game can we be expecting here?"
D-League All-Star Game, 3 p.m. ET on NBA TV
The minor league All-Star game, if you will, offers a nice chance to see some young, talented players on the cusp of earning opportunities at the NBA level. 2012 first-round picks Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Jones are on the rosters, as well as a 6'5 guard named Ron Howard. Sources tell me this is not the famous director, though.
NBA All-Star Saturday Night, 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT
The biggest event of the weekend other than the game itself, Saturday night includes the Slam Dunk Contest, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest and Shooting Stars Challenge.
- The Shooting Stars Challenge, a timed shooting-based game involving four teams, is the first competition of the night. One of the teams includes Harden, so Rockets fans have reason to tune in for this one.
- The Skills Challenge features six players -- Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight, Jeff Teague, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard and Lin -- going through an "obstacle course" requiring them to utilize a variety of their basketball abilities. The timed event is the only one Lin is participating in this weekend.
- The Three-Point Contest doesn't need much explanation -- guys shoot long shots, whoever makes the most wins. This year's participants are Steve Novak, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry.
- The Slam Dunk Contest may not have LeBron James, but there's no lack of hops in this event. Gerald Green, Terrence Ross, James White, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried should be able to provide some flair.
Legends Brunch, 1 p.m. ET on NBA TV
I don't know what this entails -- hopefully a mimosa or two -- but brunch and basketball are two of the world's blessings to mankind. They should be appreciated appropriately.
NBA All-Star Game, "The Main Event," 8 p.m. ET on TNT
No, there won't be any defense, but that doesn't mean we can't still have some fun. With the likes of LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and many others taking the court, there's always going to be the possibility that you see something rather incredible.
Harden is back in his role as a bench player on the Western Conference squad that has won the past two games. The Eastern Conference, behind the efforts of game MVP LeBron James, pulled out a 122-120 win in Houston last time the big game was here. We'll see what happens in Houston this time around.