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What I Learned – NBA All-Star Weekend: Predictions, storylines and news

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We have arrived at 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in the Windy Cindy. This is the third time Chicago has hosted the ASG and the first time since 1988, when Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins in an iconic Dunk contest and scored 40 points to earn MVP honors and lead the Eastern Conference past the Western Conference.Some quick facts provided by the NBA:A record eight international players from seven countries have been named 2020 NBA All-Star team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Dončić (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Rudy Gobert (France), Nikola Jokić (Serbia), Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Ben Simmons (Australia). Nine 2020 NBA All-Stars are under 24—the most since the league’s first All-Star Game, in 1951 (nine). The under-24 players, from youngest to oldest: Luka Dončić (20), Trae Young (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Brandon Ingram (22), Bam Adebayo (22), Devin Booker (23) Donovan Mitchell (23), Ben Simmons (23) and Domantas Sabonis (23). When he takes the court in Chicago, LeBron James will set the record for NBA All-Star Game starts with 16. James is the career All-Star Game scoring leader with 362 points. The NBA also announced a new format for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game designed to increase the level of competition throughout the game. Every quarter will count for charity with each team trying to compete to win each quarter for Chicago-based community organizations. There will also be a new game ending in which the fourth will be untimed and the teams will play to a final target score of 24 to honor Kobe Bryant. The Crossover staff predicted the results from each major event and picked one storyline to follow throughout the weekend. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsMark BechtelRising Stars: US Skills: Spencer DinwiddieThree-point: Joe HarrisDunk: Pat Connaughton (I’m intrigued by his inivation for Christian Yelich to join him)ASG: Team LeBronStoryline: Can James Harden take a joke? I love that the draft is now a public affair. It’s refreshing—OK, it’s straight-up Schadenfreude—to see the greatest athletes in the world get put through the same horrible gym class choose-a-side, please-don’t-let-me-go-last hell that everyone else did when they were kids. The highlight of the draft was when Giannis passed over Harden because, he said, “I want somebody who’s going to pass the ball,” and then took Kemba Walker. Will that motivate the Beard? Will it make him shoot more? Less? Who knows?Jeremy WooRising Stars: USSkills: Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderThree-point: Davis BertansDunk: Derrick JonesASG: Team LeBronStoryline: I’m very honestly and deeply interested in how the new All-Star format is going to work. I guess I imagine it’s going to feel like four separate pickup games. I have no idea how subs will be handled. But it would be cool if like, Giannis and LeBron decided they were going to play five-guard lineups for a quarter just to see what happens. The fourth quarter alone is gonna be worth the watch…unless the game just drags out forever. Who knows. I’m down for it.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsJarrel HarrisRising Stars: US Skills: Spencer DinwiddieThree-point: Duncan RobinsonDunk: Aaron GordonASG: Team LeBronStoryline: I am excited about a couple things: Zion Williamson’s first All-Star Weekend, Aaron Gordon back in the dunk contest and all the sneakers to hit the court. But the most notable storyline will be how the NBA honors Kobe Bryant throughout the weekend. As the late David Stern would say ‘The star of stars’, Kobe was everything the weekend is all about. Elizabeth SwintonRising Stars: US Skills: Spencer Dinwiddie Three-point: Duncan Robinson Dunk: Aaron Gordon ASG: Team LeBronStoryline: The tributes for Kobe and Gianna Bryant and the seven others who died in the helicopter crash will be emotional, and I am looking forward to seeing how the players will honor them throughout the weekend.Michael ShapiroRising Stars: WorldSkills: Spencer DinwiddieThree-point: Buddy HieldDunk: Aaron GordonASG: Team LeBronStoryline: Will the old guard still shine? This year’s All-Star roster is packed with plenty of fresh faces, from Luka Doncic to Trae Young to recent addition Devin Booker. But the 2020 All-Star Game still may belong to some familiar faces. LeBron James will certainly look for Anthony Davis on a slate of lob attempts, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is now more of a grizzled vet than shiny newcomer. Don’t forget about Russell Westbrook, either. The former Thunder star already has two All-Star Game MVPs under his belt, and he’s not afraid to hoard shots in the first half. Westbrook has his groove back after a dominant last month with the Rockets. He could continue to shine in Chicago. Ben PickmanRising Stars: WorldSkills: Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderThree-point: Davis BertansDunk: Derrick Jones Jr.ASG: Team LeBronStoryline: Does this year’s All-Star weekend plant seeds for future superstar pairings?Last year when LeBron James picked Anthony Davis to join his All-Star team, TNT’s Ernie Johnson followed up with a question that seemingly everyone watching the draft show was thinking, “are you sure you want him to be your teammate?” LeBron responded, “You know, I’m very sure of that.” Months later, they would be paired up for more than just an exhibition. Video also surfaced in 2019 of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chatting in a hallway, leading to plenty of conjecture about the topic of their conversation. And again, come July, the two would be reunited in Brooklyn. Offseason decisions are made after considering a variety of factors and it seems unlikely that any one brief conversation or even single exhibition game would be the end all be all in deciding if a player changes teams. But even with a relatively thin high-level free agent class this summer, will this weekend produce the same kind of conversations about future moves as last year’s weekend? The NBA loves the rumor mill and some kind of speculation—justified or not—seems bound to come out from Chicago.

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