NBA All-Star Weekend Guide: Cats Edition

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) tries to block the shot of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the third quarter on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. (Ashley Landis/Dallas Morning News/TNS)

Anthony Crawford

Under head coach John Calipari, players having great success in the NBA has been the standard. Nearing the halfway point in the season, this weekend is when the best players in the game meet to put on a show for the fans. A UK presence at these All-Star events is a nice boost for the program and recruiting.

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge

All-Star weekend kicks off Friday night at 9 p.m. with all of the outstanding youngsters in the league taking center stage in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. With the all the events being hosted by Toronto, Canada, the NBA decided to add some international flavor pitting Team U.S. against Team World. The event is composed of a selection of first and second-year players in the league, and it just so happens that UK will have a few representatives in the game.

Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns, from last year’s Final Four squad, will suit up for Team U.S. Towns has been fantastic right out of the gate after being drafted number one overall. He is averaging 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds to lead all rookies in both categories. Towns’ exceptional play for the Minnesota Timberwolves has made him a shoe in for the Rookie of the Year award.

Booker earned the spot in the lineup after it was announced that former Cat, Nerlens Noel, would miss the game because of injury. The shooting guard earned the replacement spot thanks to his recent surge for the Phoenix Suns. He only recently started earning consistent playing time after former UK guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe sustained injuries. He has made the most of his opportunity, shooting 40.3 percent from three and scoring 10.6 points per game.

The sole UK player to suit up for Team World is Trey Lyles. The forward’s career so far in the NBA is similar to Booker’s. After the Utah Jazz sustained some injuries in their frontcourt, Lyles stepped right in and started contributing. He has shot the three-ball much better than he did in college, currently shooting at 40.8 percent. He is averaging 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds since the start of 2016 when he he started receiving minutes more consistently.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

State Farm All-Star Night starts at 8 p.m., and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge is the opener. Usually an event for guards to show their ball-handling and passing skills, this year is headlined by three UK big men. Towns, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins make up three of the four frontcourt players in the event in its first year of allowing non-guards to compete. All three will be able to show their versatility as they try to out-finesse some of the craftiest guards in the NBA.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

Former UK sharp-shooter, Booker, will also participate in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. He is the only rookie in the field and will face some of the biggest names in basketball with the reigning MVP and last year’s winner Steph Curry also taking part in the event. The rest of the field is made up by James Harden, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, JJ Redick, and Chris Bosh.

NBA All-Star Game

The last event of the weekend takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday with the best of the best in the NBA suiting up for the All-Star game. Unsurprisingly, UK has multiple players in the game for the third year in a row.

It will be Cousins and Davis playing for the Western Conference and John Wall opposite representing the East. None of the three were voted into the starting lineups for their respective conference, but all should still see major time off the bench to help cap off a big weekend for basketball and UK.