All-Star Weekend 2011: All-Star Game Preview

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:12 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Feb 18, 2011 4:34 PM CDT

More All-Star Coverage on Oklahoma Sports:
All-Star Weekend 2011: Slam Dunk Preview
All-Star Weekend 2011: 3-Point Contest Preview
All-Star Weekend 2011: Skills Challenge Preview
All-Star Weekend 2011: Rookie-Sophomore Challenge
Harden to Replace Evans on All-Star Sophomore Team
Westbrook to Take Part in All-Star Skills Challenge

Grant Belcher
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

NBA All-Star Game
Sunday, Feb. 20
6 p.m. CST
Staples Center, Los Angeles

Where You Can Find It:

Anticipated Starting Lineups

Western ConferenceEastern Conference
G Chris Paul, New Orleans
16.2 ppg, 9.6 apg
Derrick Rose, Chicago
24.9 ppg, 8.2 apg
G Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
25.1 ppg, 4.8 apg
Dwyane Wade, Miami
25.4 ppg, 4.3 apg
F Carmelo Anthony, Denver
25.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg
LeBron James, Miami
26.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg
FKevin Durant, Oklahoma City
28.9 ppg, 7 rpg
Amare Stoudemire, New York
26.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg
CTim Duncan, San Antonio
13.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg
Dwight Howard, Orlando
22.8 ppg, 13.8 rpg

West Reserves:
Manu Ginobli, Spurs
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
Pau Gasol, Lakers
Deron Williams, Jazz
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Blake Griffin, Clippers
Kevin Love, Timberwolves

East Reserves:
Kevin Garnett, Celtics
Paul Pierce, Celtics
Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Ray Allen, Celtics
Al Horford, Hawks
Joe Johnson, Hawks
Chris Bosh, Heat

What You Need to Know:

Every year, it's hard to tell whether the All-Star game is an awe-inspiring gathering of the best the NBA has to offer or an anti-climactic event overshadowed by the other events of the weekend such as the dunk contest. No one wants to get hurt during All-Star weekend when the games don't actually count, and therefore no one goes very hard. That quandary does result in some impressive dunks, some hilarious goofing around and scores in the 160s for each team. What fans don't get to see, however, is their dream of what it would be like if all the great players came together on one roster to take the NBA by storm. It's tough to tell what an All-Star team would do in a competitive game, because the teams on the court aren't running any offense, playing any defense or putting out any effort.

On the other hand, someone watching a Celtics-Heat regular season game, for example, would get to see seven of the Eastern Conference's 12 All-Stars in action, going all-out, running plays and actually playing to win. Add the Atlanta Hawks in there and you have three teams making up 75 percent (nine out of 12) of the East's All-Stars. With numbers like those, it's easy to see why the annual event isn't that much more prolific than a big time regular season or even playoff matchup.

The Western Conference is a little more evenly distributed, however. No team has more than two All-Stars playing in the game (Thunder, Spurs and Lakers all have two each). The West has the league's leading scorer in Kevin Durant. It has the best dunker in the league and the first rookie to play in the All-Star game since Yao Ming in the Clippers' Blake Griffin. It has a starting forward in Carmelo Anthony that could just as easily have been an Eastern Conference All-Star, and might well be any day now. There is only one basketball to go around, and it will be interesting to see how selfish or selfless the West plays against the Eastern Conference (Also known as the Celtics/Heat All-Stars).

Who to Watch:

One of the longest-running debates in All-Star history is whether players from losing teams should deserve to be an All-Star. It takes ridiculous stats to pull it off, but some say if a player was truly an All-Star, he would have been able to lead his team to more victories. This year's game features two such players who were in that discussion for some time in the Clippers' Blake Griffin and the Timberwolves' Kevin Love. They average a combined 44 points and 28 rebounds per game, but play on teams that are well below .500. Though Griffin and Love don't exactly strike people as the type to hold a grudge, they might be prepared to go out and prove that they deserve to be on the court. Griffin will likely continue a show that he starts on Saturday night with the dunk contest. Though it sounds like an obscure title, Kevin Love will be known as the game's greatest outlet passer when he retires. Love can put a 90-foot baseball pass or overhead pass right on the money, one of the underappreciated fundamentals of the game. Love will probably rack up plenty of rebounds, but don't be surprised if he also registers a surprising number of assists from tossing long passes to teammates who will surely be looking for wide open dunks.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder have been one of the league's top duos this season. Durant is in his second All-Star game (his first start) and Westbrook is making his first of what will surely be many All-Star appearances. Durant scored a decent 15 points off the bench last year for the West, but will get plenty more playing time and plenty of shot opportunities this season. The MVP of the game, more often than not, is usually the player on the winning team who scores the most points. If the West wins, Durant will certainly be in that discussion. Meanwhile, Westbrook has been unselfish ever since he was drafted and "officially" became a point guard. In normal games, he would rather give the ball up to Durant or Ibaka and let them slam it home. Every All-Star team needs facilitators to coordinate who dunks and when, so look for Westbrook and Chris Paul to carry that duty, racking up plenty of assists but probably not very many points.