Beehive State basketball fan guide to NBA All-Star weekend
Matt Gade, Deseret News
NEW ORLEANS — As teammates headed across the continent Thursday for All-Star break trips — New York for Enes Kanter, Oakland for Andris Biedrins and spots in between for other guys — Trey Burke traveled south for the weekend.
The rookie is on a working vacation in the Big Easy.
On Friday, he’ll play in the Rising Stars Challenge, which features 18 of the NBA’s top first-year players and sophomores. On Saturday, the point guard will compete in the Skills Challenge, which tests athletes in passing, dribbling and shooting.
“They both should be fun,” he said. “Both of them are exciting for me.”
The 21-year-old also has multiple appearances, interviews and a service project to participate in during a busy All-Star weekend.
And, yes, he even plans to catch up with old teammates Jared Sullinger (high school) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (college), hang out with loved ones (his mom, dad and siblings) and relax in between events.
“It’s going to be exciting. I don’t know what to really expect because this is my first All-Star (appearance),” Burke said. “I look forward to spending time with my family and just enjoying the whole experience.”
Burke said he also wants to learn from the likes of, well, any of the NBA stars in town with whom he’ll be rubbing shoulders through Sunday night.
“I’ll get some rest and try not to do anything that’s going to make me even more tired than I am now,” Burke said Wednesday after the Jazz beat Philadelphia 105-100 to wrap up a three-game winning streak heading into the break. “I think the No. 1 thing is getting rest, eating right, mentally just getting ready for the second half.”
Burke’s weekend isn’t nearly as jam-packed as Damian Lillard’s. The former Weber State star is scheduled to become the first NBA quintathlete after competing in a record five events during the All-Star extravaganza.
“He’s a competitor,” Burke said of Lillard.
They’re not the only athletes with Utah connections in New Orleans. Here’s your Beehive State basketball fan guide to All-Star weekend:
Rising Stars Challenge
Friday, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Connections: Burke was selected to be on Team Webber, where he’ll join forces with his Michigan buddy Hardaway Jr. and his Northland (Ohio) High friend Sullinger. While their team is highlighted by New Orleans’ commissioner-appointed All-Star, big man Anthony Davis, Lillard is the featured player on Team Hill.
Jazz players Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, who get a break this weekend, scored 14 points apiece in the contest two years ago to help Team Chuck beat Team Shaq.
Burke will be the eighth Jazz player to play in this game, following Hayward, Favors, Bryon Russell, Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams, Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer.
D-League All-Star Game
Saturday, 1 p.m. (NBA-TV)
Connections: Big man Justin Hamilton, who helped the Lone Peak Knights win the Class 5A title in 2008, will represent his home state in this minor league showcase. The 7-footer was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 second round and then traded to the Miami Heat after playing college ball at Iowa State and LSU following his Utah prep career. He’s now patrolling the paint for the Sioux Falls Skyforce while trying to work his way into a steady job in the NBA.
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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