All-Star Weekend: This Is When the NBA Season Gets Good

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Predictions for what's going to happen in pro basketball over the All-Star Break and beyond.

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Jeff Haynes

Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, Sports on Earth and The Atlantic) discuss the NBA at midseason.


Guys,

All-Star Weekend is here. No, not the horrific, ear-splittingly bad, Disney-spawned pop confection. This weekend is the NBA's All-Star Break, with festivities tipping off tonight in Houston. Everyone knows that Bud Selig has struggled to make MLB's All-Star Game matter again. Even Roger Goddell will tell you the NFL's Pro Bowl has always been an exercise in half-assery. Not the Association. The NBA puts on the best all-star show in pro sports.

Mock if you must, but I'll even watch the celebrity game Friday night. It's two hours of perfectly harmless sports-geekery.

Want a reason to tune in? Usain Bolt is playing. Yes, the Olympic gold medalist. He got ups. You know who else will take the court? U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. I've not scouted either, but my MVP money is on the World's Fastest Man over the 48-year cabinet member.

Saturday night's three-point shootout, however, is not so harmless—not for the contestants, anyway. According to the Wall Street Journal, 20 of the 30 players to taken part in a three-point shooting contest over the past five seasons saw their long-range shooting percentage drop afterward. The players hit 41.8 percent from beyond the arc before the event, dropping to 37.8 percent in the season's second half.

The night's main event, the oft-bashed slam dunk contest, comes next. There will be little star power—no LeBron or Durant. Those guys have titles to chase. But at least Jake can root for the Knicks' James White. Sunday, we will get stars in the ASG itself. You won't get anyone diving for loose balls, though. You won't get defense. But you will get huge dunks, Globetrotter-grade dribbling, and the most creative passing on the planet.

The games count again next week, and playoff pushes start. In sportswriter-land, as you guys know, that means it's time to make predictions for the second half. Here's one: The MVP of this weekend's young-stars game in Houston will be Portland's guard Damian Lillard. Here's another: Lillard, especially given that Boston's Jared Sullinger and Detroit's Andre Drummond are both out with bad backs, will also end up being NBA Rookie of the Year.

Hit me, boys. Give me one good guess for the second half—and no fair saying LeBron James's will be MVP.

–Hampton

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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