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NBA All-Star Weekend Preview: Can Team LeBron remain undefeated?

LeBron James looks to make it six straight wins in a row as he goes up against Team Giannis for the main event of this year’s All-Star Weekend

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NBA: NBA All-Star Game-City Scenes Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of the year again when the NBA regular season takes a brief pause and the focus shifts to the annual All-Star weekend, which will congregate in the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah this year. The three-day event will be headlined by some of the best current and rising superstars in the league who will partake in various activities throughout the weekend.

For the Lakers, it’s only LeBron James and Scotty Pippen Jr. who will represent the purple and gold in their corresponding events. James, who will serve as an All-Star Game captain for the sixth year in a row, will play in his 19th All-Star Game (tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for All-Star Game selections), while Pippen Jr. makes an appearance for the first time in the Rising Stars tournament.

Despite the limited Lakers representatives for this weekend, there’s still a lot to look forward to. For one, it gives us Lakers fans a breather from what has been an insane roller coaster ride of a season. In the meantime, we don’t have to worry about whether or not the Lakers can sustain a 12-point lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter or how many games they are behind the sixth seed. Instead, we can focus on several All-Star festivities that only happen once every year.

That said, it’s going to be interesting to see how the festivities play out this weekend. Will the 3-point contest, highlighted by some of the flashiest names in the league, steal the spotlight once again? Will the Slam Dunk contest featuring our long lost son Mac McClung, stun the basketball world and prove that the tournament isn’t dead after all? And finally, can James continue his undefeated stint as an All-Star captain?

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on, and where you can watch it.

Friday Night

The Jordan Rising Stars tournament (which for a fun fact, will be held on Michael Jordan’s birthday) will take place right after the Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday, and guess who’s making an appearance? Our very own and favorite Spaniard Pau Gasol!

Similar to James Worthy’s role in last season’s tournament, the two-time Lakers champion will coach his own team (Team Pau) against Deron Williams (Team Deron), Joakim Noah (Team Joakim) and Jason Terry (Team Jason). The coaches have already drafted their players and by default, Pippen Jr. will be under Terry’s team, which is the G-League squad.

For the second straight year in a row, the Rising Stars tournament will follow the new redefined format that was implemented last year. Each team will have to reach a target score (40 points) instead of a running clock to end the game. Games 1 and 2 will be played until one team reaches 40 points, while Game 3 (the finale) will be played until the to-be-crowned champion reaches 25 points. Each game is a do-or-die tilt so hopefully, Pau makes us all proud by channeling his inner Zen Master AKA Phil Jackson to lead his team to victory.

The Rising Stars tournament will tip-off by 6:00 p.m. PT., and will be televised nationally on TNT. Prior to this anticipated event, the Ruffles All-Star Celebrity Game will also be televised nationally on ESPN at 4 p.m. PT. The All-Star Celebrity Game rosters will be coached by Ryan Smith (Utah Jazz governor and honorary captain) and Dwyane Wade. You can check out the roster of celebrities for each team here.

Saturday Night

Arguably the most fun part of the weekend, Saturday night’s festivities will tip off with the Kia Skills Challenge followed by Starry 3-Point Contest and then the AT&T Slam Dunk to end the night. Just like last year, there will be no Laker participating in any of these events (unless we still claim Mac McClung), but if you were entertained by last year’s activities, then this one should be as thrilling considering who’s participating.

The three teams that will headline the Skills challenge are the Antetokounmpo brothers (for the second year in a row), Team Jazz and Team Rookies. It was Team Cavs (the hosts) that won last year’s Skills Challenge, so let’s see if former Laker Jordan Clarkson and his current team can do the same for their city this year.

As for the 3-point contest, this one will involve more All-Stars compared to last year, specifically Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, Tyrese Haliburton and Lauri Markkanen. Regardless, it’s hard to sleep on Buddy Hield and Kevin Hurter who are just as talented from shooting beyond the arc. I personally have a hard time picking the favorite to win this contest — which could be a good thing since I believe this one might just be the most competitive tournament of the night. So all eyes will be on who has the hot hand and wins their first ever 3-point contest trophy.

Meanwhile, the Dunk Contest will feature some young legs this year. I don’t know about you but I’m rooting for McClung in this one just because of his Laker roots. But it won’t be a shocker if KJ Martin (one of the highest-flying forwards in today’s league) brings home the trophy.

The second night of the All-Star weekend will tip off by 5 p.m. PT. All events will be televised on TNT.

Sunday Night

Last but not the least, the All-Star Game starting Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis will be the main event for the weekend. This will be the 72nd All-Star game in league history, which will feature six players set to make their All-Star debut and a record-tying nine international players involved (six of which will start).

The interesting twist of this most anticipated event is that the team captains, James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, will draft their teammates on the spot specifically moments before tipoff. James has already defeated Antetokounmpo in the same setup in 2020 and knowing how competitive both superstars are (Giannis did say two weeks ago that his goal is to finally beat LeBron), this match should be a treat. Can James remain undefeated as an All-Star captain (AKA as LeGm) for the sixth straight year in a row? The DraftKings odds and I think so.

NBA: All Star Game-Team Durant at Team LeBron David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

DraftKings Odds

According to our friends over at DraftKings, the world’s leading daily fantasy sports brand, Team LeBron (-150) is favored against Team Giannis (+130) per the DraftKings moneyline. No captain over the past five years has proven to be a more successful general manager and leader than James, so it makes sense why he and his team are once again favored to come out on top on Sunday.

And speaking of LeBron, he’s going to be honored during the event for passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He’ll also likely play limited minutes on Sunday since he’s probably still dealing with a left ankle injury, which kept him out for three games prior to Wednesday’s victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. So, expect the Lakers’ superstar to rely more on the team he’s going to construct for this one.

Regardless, there’s still a lot to look forward to. Who’s going to bring home the Kobe Bryant All-Star trophy this year? Which All-Stars will shine the brightest? Will this year’s All-Star game be as exciting as last year’s and the one in 2020? We’ll find out on Sunday.

The All-Star game will tip-off by 5 p.m. PT, and will be televised on TNT.

Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for continuing coverage of the various Lakers-related angles of the All-Star game as the weekend rolls along, and hang out here in the comments to chat about all the various events.

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