Beehive State basketball fan guide to NBA All-Star weekend
The Jazz have another D-League All-Star on their roster. Power forward Malcolm Thomas excelled with the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Austin Toros before being claimed off NBA waivers by Utah. Players have to be on D-League assignments to play in this game, so Thomas will not participate.
All-Star Saturday Night
Saturday, 6:15 p.m. (TNT)
Connections: You can’t think about Louisiana and All-Star basketball without having Karl Malone pop in your head, right? The Mailman was on the NBA’s mind, too, so he’s been invited to compete in this shooting competition featuring a current player, a former player and a female player. Malone is on a team that includes Thunder star Kevin Durant and WNBA standout Skylar Diggins.
Another fun aspect of this competition is that two teams feature father-son combos, including former Jazz sharpshooter Dell Curry and Warriors star Steph Curry along with Tim Hardaway Sr. and his son.
Longtime Jazz coach/player Jeff Hornacek, now the Suns’ bench boss, and Natalie Williams won a two-player version of this shootout in 2000 (then known as the All-Star 2Ball).
Connections: Lillard is the defending champion, and he’ll be teamed up with Burke in a revamped format that features four teams of two.
Burke admitted he hadn’t had much opportunity to practice for this event leading up to All-Star weekend. He likes how it’s set up and added, “I think I’ll be OK.”
Deron Williams won it while with the Jazz in 2008.
Connections: It seemed like a no-brainer that former Jazz guard Kyle Korver would be in this competition, but he reportedly turned down an invitation for family reasons. Lillard is shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Hornacek was a two-time champion (1998 and 2000).
Slam Dunk Contest
Connections: Some in Jazzland were surprised that 2012 Dunk Champ and 2013 runner-up Jeremy Evans wasn’t invited. The Jazz’s bouncy forward wasn’t too disappointed, though.
“I’m sure everybody loves new faces,” Evans said. “I’ve been twice and had fun. They’ll show it on TV, so I’ll be watching.”
At least Utah fans have someone to cheer for: Lillard. At 6-3, he’s the shortest dunker, too.
Here’s something Jazz fans might not know about this contest. Jazz starting small forward Richard Jefferson, now a wily 33-year-old veteran, took fourth in the 2003 dunk event.
NBA All-Star Game
Sunday, 6:15 p.m. (TNT)
Connections: Lillard exploded onto the NBA scene with Portland last season after being drafted sixth overall out of Weber State in 2012. After winning Rookie of the Year honors, his natural progression was becoming an All-Star and that’s exactly what he’s done while averaging 20.7 points and 5.7 assists as a sophomore. Kobe Bryant even suggested that fans vote for the ex-Wildcat instead of himself this year.
Jazz fans might be more apt to root for a guy on the Eastern Conference squad, though.
Paul Millsap was passed up by Utah after seven seasons in a Jazz uniform in free agency last offseason, and the 6-8 power forward has made a big splash with his new team in Atlanta. Millsap is averaging a career-high 17.6 points, including making a record 50 3-pointers already. He’s also grabbing 8.2 rebounds a night for the Hawks.
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