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Dwight Howard

We established last year that we like the NBA All Star Game and all the regalia involved. If you don’t, too bad. Don’t watch. That will not, however, interfere with my desire to see freak athletes try new things when dunking a basketball or to watch the NBA’s new breed run up and down the court tonight in an exhibition of fast-break basketball. Sorry, if you’re in it for the defense, this isn’t the weekend for you.

Nevertheless, I’ve always found the NBA’s All Star celebration to be the best the best of the bunch. The Pro Bowl? Yeah, and excuse for millionaire athletes to spend a week in Hawaii to play a game no one wants to be apart of, except first-year selections (yes, I’m generalizing here). Because of the stupid stipulations placed on Major League Baseball’s All Star game, it has a little more importance than a simple exhibition game — something all All Star events should only be — but it doesn’t mean its any more entertaining than what the NBA offers.

/NBA justification

With that in mind, here are my predictions for the events you will be privy to, starting tonight with the Rookie/Sophomore challenge.

Rookie Challenge
Durant versus Beasley, Rodney Stuckey versus Derrick Rose, Greg Oden versus Al Horford. Sounds like a lot of fun. Normally, the more experienced team wins these games, but this year, when you look at the rookie roster, there’s an awful lot of talent there. Nevertheless, I’m sticking with experience.

Sophomores 142, Rookies 125. Like I said, defense will be at a premium the entire weekend.

I’m picking Joe Johnson here (out of him, Durant and O.J. Mayo). Next season, maybe they can call it the H-O-R-S-E contest sponsored by Geico instead of changing the name of the friggin’ game.

Haier Shooting Stars Competition
Don’t really care here, but hey, anytime you get to see Becky Hammon, it’s a good thing.

Becky Hammon

With that in mind, I’m picking San Antonio.

Skills Challenge
The Shooting Stars competition and the Skills Challenge are simply opening acts for the 3-point contest and the of course, the dunks. The obstacle course game is vaguely entertaining, strictly for the fact you get to watch NBA players go through warm-up drills. Your participants are as follows:

Devin Harris (Nets)
Tony Parker (Spurs)
Derrick Rose (Bulls)
Mo Williams (Cavaliers)

For me, Tony Parker stands out. Except for maybe Derrick Rose, no one in that field can move around the court like Parker does. Harris and Williams are brilliant guards, but Tony Parker seems like he’s made for this type of thing.

Three-Point Shoot-Out
Now the big boys come out to play. This year’s bomber field includes these players:

Mike Bibby (Hawks)
Daequan Cook (Heat)
Danny Granger (Pacers)
Jason Kapono (Raptors)
Rashard Lewis (Magic)
Roger Mason (Spurs)

Kapono is the defending champion and even though the field has some great shooters in it, I’m sticking with Jason “I’m Not Larry Bird” Kapono. Watch his performance from last year below this text and you’ll see why I’m picking the way I am.

Slam Dunk Contest
Now that’s more like it … as long as Nate Robinson doesn’t start missing again. Oh, and, remember this?

That’s my pick for this year’s winner — although, maybe this time, Howard will win with a dunk instead of a monster layup ;) . J.R. Smith is my dark horse.

All Star Game
Since 2001, the conferences are 4-4. This year, the East has LeBron, D-Wade, Howard, and the Boston Celtics. All of them. Even the one’s who are retired. As for the West, it’s Kobe, Paul, Yao, Duncan and the crew. Looking at the rosters, the West is deeper, but the East’s starting five is better. This one’s a harder pick, but my gut tells me to pick the West, and with that:

Eastern Conference 140 Western Conference 129.

MVP: Dwight Howard with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

So there you have it. The East wins again (four out of five) and Dwight Howard accepts the crown from Shaquille as the most dominating big man in the game. Oh and he can dunk with style too. Unfortunately, I’ll probably miss most of Saturday’s fun because of the holiday coinciding with it. I kind of doubt giving the gift of the NBA All Star Celebration would make for a happy Valentine’s Day on my end.

Thank goodness for DVR boxes.