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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
ASG WEEKEND – GETTING SILLY IN SLC
NBA All-Star weekend has arrived and the world’s best are here to give you a weekend of highlights while they party their butts off and celebrate success. ASG weekend is a cultural mecca for 72 hours where all the stars are suddenly friends and decide how they want to pair up with each other for future seasons. With a weekend of basketball that’s sure to entertain, there are also some lines I’m seeing on the board that are tantalizing.
Let’s get into the weekend schedule and some picks to pick the weekend in SLC a profitable one.
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game – 7 pm ET
To pop the cork on All-Star weekend in Utah, we naturally start with a cast of A to D-list celebrities showing off their athleticism (or lack thereof) for the world to laugh at. Dwyane Wade and Utah Jazz Governor (owner) Ryan Smith are Captains. Team Wade will be led by DK Metcalf on the boards, Rapper 21 Savage, and 2022 game MVP Alex Toussaint – the guy that yells at you on our Peloton. Team Ryan will be athletically led by Calvin Johnson, MLB legend Albert Pujols and WNBA Star Diamond DeShields. If you can find a bet or take some money from a friend, my money would be on Team Wade as there are just more athletes ready to win on Friday night.
Alex’s Play: Team Wade
Jordan Rising Stars – 9 pm ET
If you want to know “who’s got next?” In the NBA this is the game to watch, and the format is fascinating. An assortment of the league’s best rookie and second-year players play head-to-head in mixed teams drafted by four different player captains. This Friday night exhibition is always packed with highlight-reel plays and essentially devolves into the first of three dunk contests of the weekend. The four teams play in a round-robin tournament and one of the four teams is made up entirely of G League players. It’s kind of like a squad of AAA all-stars taking on the big leagues for one night. Of the four squads, I’m looking at Pau Gasol’s drafted team to take it down, featuring both the #1 draft Paolo Banchero and Jayden Ivey – what a duo.
Alex’s Play: Team Pau
Skills Challenge – 8 pm ET
All-Star Saturday night kicks off with an obstacle course-style skills challenge that pits the more elite movers and ball handlers in the league against one another. The course is a mix of passing, dribbling, evading, and finishing at the rim. Immediately you can tell who’s motivated to go 110% and actually win this event, while some past competitors have ham and egged it around the course in an effort to look cool, instead of actually winning. With that knowledge, I’m looking at Team Rooks – rookies aren’t going to loaf around. Solo Banchero, Jayden Ivey, and Jabari Smith Jr. are an elite ball-handling trio to take this home over the Utah Jazz Trio and the Antetokounmpo brothers.
Alex’s Play: Team Rooks
3 Point Contest
Immediately after the Skills Challenge is the sharpshooter’s event, which brings back many memories over the years. From Larry Bird winning in his warmups to a young Steph Curry asserting his greatness behind the arc, this event is always a tastemaker for who the most dialed-in shooter is in the game. This year’s field has no one from last year’s top 3 but is led by Damian Lillard, Tyler Herro, and my guy Celtics star Jayson Tatum. As for my picks, I’ll rock with Tatum but I’ll also take a sneaky good west coast shooter from the kings.
Alex’s Plays: Jayson Tatum and Kevin Huerter
Slam Dunk Contest
Calling a spade a spade – this event has definitely lost some luster in recent years, but I will say that I’m more optimistic about this year’s field of contestants than in recent years. 2022’s contest was an absolute dud won by Obi Toppin. What the dunk contest needs are high flyers that will actually take the time to research and practice EASILY repeatable dunks – not something they pulled off once in an empty gym. With that in mind, I’ve seen videos of KJ Martin flying out of the gym for the rockets, so I’ll take him as a newcomer on the scene to impress.
Alex’s Play: KJ Martin
The Game Day Draft – 7:30 pm ET
In an effort to create some momentary drama leading up to Sunday night’s All-Star game, we’re not going to know the full final rosters for each team until moments before tipoff. While the Captain’s drafts in recent years have been conducted days before the game, this year’s wrinkle will have Lebron and Giannis picking their ENTIRE TEAM right before the 8 pm ET tip, live on-air. This fun schoolyard-style draft is definitely good for building drama, but it adds a new layer to picking who you like pregame – there are only a few minutes to decide.
The Game – 8:30 pm ET
Team Lebron is likely the slight favorite regardless of how the draft goes, led by the King himself alongside a slew of his BFFs. My guess is that Lebron goes very guard heavy with his early picks. Team Giannis is best to grab youth and size with his picks, and they’ll take the court as a team that was just fully formed moments ago. Practice is going to look so awkward…I’m here for it.
Alex’s Play: BLIND – I’ll Take Team Giannis +3.5 points (hopefully)
Game MVP: Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo
EATS AND DEETS
What to eat: If you’ve still got Super Bowl leftovers, go for it. The most famous food in Utah (google says) is Jell-O if you’re less inclined in the kitchen.
Performances: Post Malone is the unofficial music/celebrity host of the weekend. I’m also hearing of performances from The Kid Laroi, Pitbull, Saweetie, and more to keep the energy high all weekend.
Loudest Celebrity: Kevin Hart undoubtedly. He always makes his presence felt here.