NBA All-Star weekend has arrived, the league coming together in full force in Toronto, Canada for the festivities. The Los Angeles Lakers have ample representation this time around after blanking last year while Kobe Bryant recovered from shoulder surgery, which means we'll be covering the events D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Kobe are participating in.
The break in the regular season also opens the possibilities for big changes for teams around the NBA. The trade deadline is Feb. 18, leaving front office's little time to make final adjustments to their rosters. The Lakers aren't tied to any strong rumors just yet, but you can anticipate a few reports will be floated out in the coming week. The Atlanta Hawks might be the team to keep an eye on, with both Jeff Teague and Al Horford being mentioned as potential movers, but there could be a brand new Dwightmare brewing -- and moving -- from Houston.
The fun of All-Star weekend contests paired with the excitement of big trade rumors. The middle of the NBA season has arrived.
Friday, Feb. 12 Schedule
All-Star Celebrity Game - 4 p.m. PT - ESPN
The annual celebrity game is almost a travesty (almost, it's a love-hate relationship) since Kevin Hart won't be playing in this one. He's coaching the "USA" team, which features Muggsy Bogues, Chauncey Billups and Nick Cannon. Team "Canada" will draw the most intrigue, though, with Tracy McGrady (!!) playing on the squad, along with Rick Fox.
Rising Stars Challenge - 6 p.m. PT - TNT
This is where All-Star weekend really begins, with a showcase of the top rookies and sophomores in the NBA in a USA vs. World format. D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson are part of a stacked USA team that includes Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker. Nerlens Noel was a late scratch, replaced by Devin Booker. Julius Randle was in consideration as a fill in but already had vacation plans in the Bahamas. Do you, Ju.
The World team isn't a pushover, though, led by Andrew Wiggins, Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay. The global talent in the NBA continues to rise, and this looks like it should be a fun competition to get ready for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday, Feb. 13 Schedule
All-Star Saturday Night
Saturday night is the laid back one that used to be all about the dunk contest, but might end up belonging to Steph Curry in the three-point contest. The events get moving at 5 p.m. PT on TNT.
Worth watching if only to see DeMarcus Cousins run the skills challenge, along with our own Jordan Clarkson
Taking anyone but Steph defending his crown here is crazy. Your full list of participants: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, JJ Redick, Chris Bosh, Devin Booker.
Zach LaVine put on a show and may have resurrected what had become a dying novelty, but this year's field doesn't necessarily look fantastic. It's a field of four with LaVine, Aaron Gordon, Will Barton and Andre Drummond. We'll see how LaVine follows up what was a great moment last year.
Sunday, Feb. 14
Valentines Day All-Star game
NBA All-Star Game, 5:30 p.m. PT, TNT
The culmination of All-Star weekend ends on the culmination of an amazing career. Kobe Bryant's final All-Star game is going to dominate the conversation, giving the Black Mamba a proper farewell in a game with the best and brightest in the league. There's still half a season to go for Kobe, but this is a big moment for the NBA to come together in one place as he gets one last show.
I'm already getting chills thinking about the introduction they'll cook up for him. Don't miss it.