NBA All-Star Weekend heads to New Orleans

The New York Knicks' Kevin Seraphin (1) contests a 3-point shot by the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) in the second period at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The Warriors won, 121-85. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group/TNS)


The Smoothie King Center in New Orleans will play host to the 66th Annual NBA All-Star Game at 8 p.m. Sunday.

The All-Star Celebrity Game, Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, 3-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest will also be taking place in that order over the first two days of the All-Star Weekend.

Since 2012, the only reason to even watch the Celebrity Game was for comedian and actor Kevin Hart’s goofy antics. Hart has won four consecutive Celebrity Game MVP awards.

The Rising Stars Challenge is filled to the brim with players who are establishing themselves as centerpieces for their teams.

Sophomore players in the game include the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns.

Last year, then-rookies Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets managed to score 30 points, while Booker and D’Angelo Russell dropped more than 20 points each. Rookies to watch for in this game are Brandon Ingram of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Dario Saric, who is averaging more than 10 points per game.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine prepares for a second quarter dunk against the Phoenix Suns on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

The Skills Challenge will kick off Saturday night’s events and will feature superstars such as  Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas. Porzingis, Booker and 76ers star Joel Embiid will also participate. Following the Skills Challenge is the 3-Point Shootout. This year’s contest will feature returning champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and 2013 champion Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Testing their luck are Eric Gordon and Kyle Lowry, who are second and third, respectively, in 3-point shots made per game this season. Nick Young and Kemba Walker are also appearing in the shootout for the first time in their careers after posting .418 and .391 3-point percentages, respectively, through the first half of the season.

The final event of this year’s All-Star Saturday is the Slam Dunk Contest.  Reigning champion Zach Lavine of the Minnesota Timberwolves will not be returning to defend his crown a year after breaking the all-time perfect score record. Instead, we’ll enjoy watching the man that forced him into two tiebreakers, Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. Gordon has already proved that he deserves to be in the contest, but the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the Suns’ Derrick Jones Jr. and the Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III will try to prove why they deserve the title.

Jordan is the only one that may have proved himself during the season. Jones has only played in a total of six games all season, spending most of his time in the Developmental League. In Robinson’s fourth season, this is the first time he has ever played 50 games or more, but all that matters in this challenge is if they can dunk or not.

The final event of the weekend, and the reason the whole weekend even happens, is the All-Star Game Sunday night.

Last year’s game was simply for shooters, with a final score of 196-173 and 139 3-point attempts, setting a record for both. With only eight differences from last year’s All-Star Game, and the addition of young shooters like Walker and Giannis Antekoumpo to fill those spots, is it possible that both records are broken? Fans will find out this weekend.