NBA All-Star weekend: A primer on what to watch in Toronto
Hockey and Toronto are synonymous, with the sport’s Hall of Fame being housed there and the Maple Leafs being one of the NHL’s “Original Six” franchises. And sports like baseball, rugby, yachting and curling all have history in the city going back to the 19th century.
But next weekend, basketball takes over the Queen City.
For the first time, the NBA All-Star Weekend is heading outside the United States. Toronto was announced as the site for these festivities back in September 2013, and the city has been gearing up ever since.
Here’s some of what to watch during the league’s midseason showcase weekend:
Let’s start this list with the final event on the weekend agenda: That whole East vs. West matchup on Sunday, Feb. 14.
It will be the 18th and final All-Star game for the retiring Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a chance for Toronto standouts Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to show off for their home fans (and the crowds at Raptors games are nothing if not passionate already), Miami forward Chris Bosh’s return to his old home arena, LeBron James playing in the game for the 12th time and, of course, the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
Don’t expect a blowout: Only two of the last 13 All-Star Games has seen a winning margin of more than 10 points.
Don’t expect 2015 All-Star MVP Russell Westbrook to win it again: Bob Pettit was the only back-to-back MVP, and that was in 1958 and 1959.
Don’t expect anyone to foul out: No one has since Hakeem Olajuwon did in 1987.
Do expect a bunch of 3-point attempts: The teams combined for 133 tries from long range last season.
THE 3-POINT CONTEST
Why it’s one of the major highlights of the weekend: Stephen Curry will take part. (So are seven other players, who quite possibly are all vying for second place.)
There have been 10 instances in NBA history where someone has made at least 232 3-pointers in a season. Four of them belong to Curry, who is on pace to smash the record of 286 3’s he made last season.
Entering Saturday, Curry averages 14.8 points per game this season just off 3-pointers. His competition in this one: His Golden State teammate Klay Thompson, Bosh, Houston’s James Harden, Lowry, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and the Los Angeles Clippers’ J.J. Redick.
So it’s forecast to be downright frigid and windy in Toronto next weekend. The celebrities will show up anyway.
Raptors superfan (and in his spare time, a Grammy winner) Drake will be there, as will actor Kevin Hart, Blue Jays star Jose Bautista and Nick Cannon, among others.
There’s a celebrity game on Friday night, and expect a star-studded lineup around the court for all the All-Star Saturday festivities such as the dunk contest, skills competition and the 3-point contest.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gives his annual All-Star address on Saturday night, and topics likely to come up are the status of the league’s labor agreement and his feelings on the Hack-a-Somebody tactic that tends to turn games into free-throw contests starring players who are terrible at shooting free throws.
If the league has big news to make over the weekend, then this will likely be where it drops.
THE NEXT WAVE
Two things certainly worth noting would be the Rising Stars game on Friday night — pitting some of the top young stars from the U.S. against the best young international talent in the league — and the NBA Development League All-Star game on Saturday afternoon.
Among those expected to compete in the D-League contest: Jimmer Fredette, the No. 10 pick in the 2011 draft out of BYU.
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