So let's be real here for a second, even if he just pulls a double and wins both the 3-point and dunk contests, it will still make for one of the more memorable Saturdays in All-Star history. Although it's going to be difficult to be labeled a "winner" in that one. The new rules have a winning "team" and then the title of "dunker of the night" is voted on by fans. I'm not sure I like this format. I mean, since when is dunking a team sport?
J.A.: Watching a player throw a lob or serve as a human obstacle to leap is all the teamwork we need to see in the dunk contest. If we want to see teamwork, we'll watch the Shooting Stars -- which I'm actually going to watch this year thanks to the father-son combos of Dell Curry, Steph Curry and the Tim Hardaways. What a brilliant idea. I'm sure the Currys (with Becky Hammon) will shatter the record for this event. But I'm hoping Team Hardaway wins (Elena Delle Donne helps their chances a lot) so Tim Sr. can drop another "I got skeeelz." See, there's so much potential with this All-Star Weekend. Things just need to break the right way.
OK, back to Lillard. Which event do you think will be his toughest challenge Saturday night?
Israel: That's kind of a trick question. If you're asking can he be dunker of the night, I'm saying that'll be his toughest challenge. He's got the little-guy benefit, but he's not short enough (6-3) to make people marvel at him. I'd say the favorites in that one are Terrence Ross, Paul George and Harrison Barnes. Unless Ben McLemore does a 720, as has been rumored. Then it's his to lose. So, you see how it would be difficult for Lillard to pull that off. But if you consider his "team" winning a victory in that contest, then I'd go to the 3-point shooting contest as his toughest gig. I mean, I don't know how you pick against Steph Curry in that one (why isn't Kyle Korver in this, by the way?).
On that note, given his game winner against the Warriors, his hot shooting to start this season and his regular defeats of Ray Allen in shooting games after practice, I'm a tad surprised no one is demanding LeBron pull a Lillard and go for the double. I mean, why not, we already ask the world of this guy?
J.A.: See, there you go, making this about LeBron when it really should be about Lillard. Lillard said he's going to surprise people in the dunk contest because he's so small. His height can actually benefit him, because it makes it easy to surpass expectations (think Spud Webb in 1986 and Nate Robinson in 2009 and '10). Winning the All-Star Game MVP will be Lillard's toughest challenge. A first-time All-Star hasn't won the award since Tom Chambers in 1987 (and that was with Magic Johnson spoon-feeding the local boy in Seattle).
LeBron put together a show after practice in Phoenix. We were all entertained. He's scared? Come on, now. If you could jump like that, what's there to be scared of, other than hitting your head on the rim? By the way, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen both have dunk contest Ls on their resume. Anybody ever bring that up (other than me just now)?" -- Israel Gutierrez