USA TODAY Sports
Eric Bledsoe in the dunk contest is the main draw for Citizens of Clips Nation, but this year's three point shootout could be entertaining as well.
All Star Saturday is comprised of four different events, all with sometimes silly official names that include the official sponsors of those various events, official names which I'm going to completely ignore. I can't even keep them straight all the time. I often think that the "Shooting Stars" event is the one where they shoot three pointers, but it turns out it's not. I'm not even really sure what the "Shooting Stars" event is -- I know that old guys and chicks are allowed in it, but my knowledge sorts of ends there.
But let's be clear: there's really only one that everyone wants to see, and that's the dunk contest. For citizens of Clips Nation, that is especially true of this season's event, since Eric Bledsoe will be participating in the Dunk Contest and he's the only Los Angeles Clipper that is competing on All Star Saturday.
Chris Paul will be all over the Saturday event as well, even though he's not competing directly. In an effort to boost interest in the All Star Saturday competitions, this season the NBA has introduced a conference level aspect. The East and the West will compete with each other for points in the various events, with the winner securing donations to a couple charities of their choice. Paul is the captain of the West team, which is playing for the Make-a-Wish America and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association. Dwyane Wade is the captain in the East, and they are playing for Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the No Kid Hungry. So assuming that Big Brothers/Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs both help boys and girls about equally, I guess which team you root for may come down to whether you want to help dying kids or hungry kids. Which could get awkward. "Go East!" "Oh nice, I guess you hate dying kids." (Or am I the only one that things of pretty much everything as a zero-sum game?)
The Three Point Shootout at least has worthy participants this year. In recent seasons it has seemed to include fewer and fewer truly great shooters, more and more 'names' who happened to be able to shoot some. I like Kevin Love fine, but he should never be winning a three point shooting competition, I'm sorry.
That shouldn't be a problem this season. Stephen Curry and Steve Novak are arguably the two best pure shooters in the NBA right now. You never know exactly what's going to happen -- either of those guys could have a poor round and get eliminated at any point -- but I certainly expect it to come down to one of them. I'm glad that Matt Bonner, who has been a top three point shooter in the league for years, is finally getting a chance to shoot as well, but he doesn't really have the quick release necessary to thrive in this contest. Curry and Novak are those rare shooters you expect to never miss -- you are just plain surprised when the ball doesn't go in. I hope they face each other in the finals.
But let's talk about the dunk contest for a bit. If the Three Point Shootout has a worthy field, then the Dunk Contest has done well this year as well. There are two former NBA Dunk Contest champions in the field (Gerald Green and last year's winner Jeremy Evans), but it's worth noting that neither of them as the dunking reputation of James "Flight" White. White has been on the fringes of the NBA for years, sticking with the Knicks this season. But his dunking exploits in D-League dunk contests and elsewhere are legend. White's 30 now and finally getting his chance to dunk on the biggest stage. He may or may not be the dunker he once was, but if he's even close to that guy, he's going to be a favorite in this contest.
In addition to Mr. White and Mr. Green and Mr.
Pink Evans, the field is rounded out by Toronto rookie Terrence Ross, Denver's Kenneth "Manimal" Faried and Bledsoe.
I like the fact that both Faried and Bledsoe are major contributors on playoff teams. Too often the Dunk Contest is the exclusive domain of guys you've barely heard of, rookies who aren't even in their team's rotation. Evans, Green, White and Ross are hovering near that description -- it's particularly interesting that both White and Green have bounced between the NBA and other league's for years -- but Faried and Bledsoe both have the potential to be future stars, and in fact aren't too far away from "star" status right now.
Bledsoe has a chance in this contest if only because he's the little guy, and the crowds tend to love the little guy. With every other dunker in the field listed at 6'6 or taller, the 6'1 Bledsoe is the midget of the group. There's a reason that little guys look super impressive dunking the ball, and it goes beyond pulling for David versus Goliath. When a 6'8 guy is hanging from the rim, his feet are a couple feet off the ground. When the guy is 6'0 (and accounted for what is probably a shorter wing span as well, he's more like three feet off the ground. The little guys have to put a LOT more space between themselves and the floor to complete a dunk, and it just plain looks impressive when they do.
Bledsoe is a rare combination -- he may be the only 6'1 power dunker. He will try to tear down the rim in this dunk contest, and with a element of fan voting involved in the process, don't be surprised if he wins the thing. Not to mention that he'll no doubt have Chris Paul throwing him perfect passes, and might even find a way to incorporate Blake Griffin into the show.