With the first half of the NBA season in the books, the second half is now when it really counts most now that a majority of the players have the upcoming week to rest and recover, due to the NBA’s All-Star weekend.
The All-Star break will gather some of the NBA’s top talent from this season for the 61st annual All-Star game on Feb. 26th.
The players will meet for the 2012 All-Star weekend at the new Amway Center in Orlando, Florida; where players will represent their respective conferences and teams.
The starting lineup for the Western conference all-star team is Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, center Andrew Bynum, Thunder forward Kevin Durant, Clippers guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin.
Representing the Eastern conference in the starting lineup will be Magic center Dwight Howard, Heat guard Dwyane Wade, forward LeBron James, Bulls guard Derrick Rose, and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
The Western conference has to be the favorite in this match up with Bryant still competing at a high level, leading the league in scoring.
Four of the five players in the line-up are playing for either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers. Some even have played together as part of Team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Eastern conference has Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony in the starting lineup.
Both players have recently returned to their team after missing multiple games due to injuries.
Before the star studded game takes place on Sunday night, there will be several other events that will take place at the Amway Center.
On Feb. 24th, the NBA’s best rookie and sophomore players from around the league will compete in the Rising Stars challenge.
Their was a twist to the format this year, where in previous years the rookies would play against the sophomores.
This year’s format had the rookies and sophomores shuffled together and drafted to one of two teams that are managed by current TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, who picked one player at a time for each team.
With the first pick in the mini draft for the game, Shaq picked sophomore guard Blake Griffin. Barkley picked rookie guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored 34 points in the 146-133 victory over Team Shaq, and went 8 for 8 from the 3 point line.
With a strong performance by Irving, he was named the game’s MVP.
The NBA celebrity game is another event that takes place during the All-Star weekend.
Some of the participants will include TV, movie, and music celebrities such as Common (singer), Ne-Yo (singer), Kevin Hart (actor), and Vinny Guadagnino (MTV’s Jersey Shore) with a small mix of basketball players like Penny Hardaway (NBA Legend), and Tamika Catchings (2011 WNBA MVP).
While last year’s slam dunk champion Blake Griffin will be a part of the All-Star weekend; he will not be defending his title in the slam dunk contest this year.
With Griffin out, that leaves the contest wide open for anyone to claim as their own, when the event takes place on Feb. 25th.
This year’s four participants, all of which are competing in the contest for the first time, will be Rockets forward Chase Budinger, Pacers guard Paul George, Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams and Jazz forward Jeremy Evans.
Evans was added to the contest to replace Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, who could not compete due to a left patella tendinitis.