Nothing but imported stars as NBA All-Star Weekend hits Chicago
NBA All-Star Weekend moves into Chicago for the first time in three decades and, as they say, the timing could be better.
This weekend is supposed to celebrate Chicago's place as one of the hot spots of the basketball universe. But with the Bulls struggling through Season 3 of their rebuild, much of the focus will be on how all the all-stars play elsewhere.
Actual representation from Chicago will be light. In the All-Star Game, local native Anthony Davis will play for Team LeBron and ex-Bull Jimmy Butler, now with Miami, is a reserve on Team Giannis.
The Bulls' lone representative in any of the main all-star events is Zach LaVine in the 3-point contest. While many expected him to return to the dunk contest, which he's won twice in the past, LaVine wants to show everyone he's become a complete player.
“If people think I'm a highflier, they're just a casual NBA fan. Check their phones,” LaVine said this week, according to bulls.com. “It's something I haven't done before. It's going to be fun and I think I have a shot to win.”
Second-year center Wendell Carter Jr. was chosen to participate in the Rising Stars Game on Friday, but will sit out due to a sprained right ankle. He's hoping to return to game action after the break.
“I'll be doing everything everyone is doing — the media, the appearances. You know, everything but play,” Carter said. “Of course, I do want to play. But they recognized I'm one of the premier first- or second-year players in the league. So that feels good they see that.
“I look at myself as a player who will be in this league for a long time. So I feel I will have opportunities to make the All-Star Game and all the other festivities.”
Bulls will be featured in a couple of side events. LaVine will compete in an NBA 2K20 tournament sponsored by the NBA's E-League on Friday afternoon at the House of Blues. LaVine will compete against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Rudy Gobert and Cam Reddish, and the event will be streamed on the E-League's Twitch channel.
Lauri Markkanen and Cristiano Felicio will coach at the three-day Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, which features 64 high school-age boys and girls from 34 countries. Pascal Siakam, Davis Bertans and Tacko Fall are also helping coach.
Here's a brief rundown of the other major events, to get you ready for All-Star Weekend:
This is Friday night at Wintrust Arena, with Chance the Rapper and Common serving as the two team captains.
Rising Stars Game
Friday at the United Center, a group of first- and second-year players are divided into Team USA and Team World. Real all-stars Trae Young and Luka Doncic are scheduled to participate, along with hyped rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Miami rookie Kendrick Nunn is the lone Chicago native.
Besides LaVine, the field includes Duncan Robinson, Davis Bertans, Trae Young, Buddy Hield, Devin Booker, Devonte Graham and defending champ Joe Harris. Betonline.com has listed Robinson as the favorite, while LaVine and Graham are co-long shots at 10-1.
This is kind of a strange field. Orlando's Aaron Gordon returns after finishing second to LaVine a few years ago. Miami's Derrick Jones is a relatively obscure player, but a great athlete. Milwaukee's Pat Connaughton had a ridiculous vertical leap at the draft combine, but is kind of an unknown commodity. Then there's Lakers center Dwight Howard, the 2008 dunk champ who is now 34 years old.
Derrick Rose canceled due to injury concerns, so now the field is ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie, Chicago native Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, Domantas Sabonis and Bam Adebayo.
The league made major changes to the format this year. A winner will be determined in each of the first three quarters. Then in the fourth, it's basically the first team to 24 wins, which is an homage to Kobe Bryant.
To set the rosters, Team Giannis includes Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Khris Middleton, Bam Adebayo, Rudy Gobert, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Brandon Ingram and Donovan Mitchell.
Team LeBron features Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, James Harden, Ben Simmons, Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Domantas Sabonis and Devin Booker, an injury replacement for Damian Lillard.
The weekend entertainment will feature more Chicago artists than the all-star rosters. Before Sunday's All-Star Game, Jennifer Hudson will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the other victims of the helicopter crash.
Chance the Rapper will offer a narrative on what basketball means to Chicago. Chaka Khan will sing the national anthem, while country artist Tenille Arts will handle the Canadian anthem.
The halftime show will include Chance the Rapper with Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled and Quavo from the hip-hop band Migos.
On Saturday, Queen Latifah will be joined by some local children for a rendition of Stevie Wonder's “Love's in Need of Love Today.”
On Friday, the Chicago Children's Choir will sing the national anthem, while Taylor Bennett performs at halftime. He's the younger brother of Chance.
The cheapest ticket right now is for the Rising Stars Game, where you can get 300 level for around $100 per seat on StubHub or VividSeats. All-Star Saturday night will run you around $500 in the upper level. All-Star Game seats are going in the $800s for the 300 level and $5,000s and up for 100 level.