Feb 14, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t exactly played like a team lately that deserves much recognition at a weekend celebrating the NBA’s best and brightest, having lost eight games in a row and sunk to near the very bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. And indeed, the Sixers will only be sending one representative to New Orleans this weekend for the glorious bonanza of NBA All-Star Weekend, who you might have to squimt a little to see behind all the Kevin Hart grandstanding and TNT crew attention-hogging.
However, that one rep will be Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers rookie sensation who has turned this excruciating death march of a season into a slightly less excruciating death march of the season. He deserves our attention while performing on this national stage, not only on Friday night during the “Rising Stars” Rookie-Sophomore game (you got robbed, Tony Wroten), but on Saturday night during the Skills challenge (that thing where they dribble through cones and throw the balls through the sideways hoops and whatnot).
The Rising Stars challenge (9:00, ESPN) will see MCW leading the rookie-heavy Team Weber squad (Anthony Davis is one of only two sophs on the squad, though he’s not a bad one to start with) against a Team Hill squad keyed around reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, double-double machine Andre Drummond and everyone’s favorite super-sized Grecian, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The rookie-soph game is usually laughable as far as competitive basketball is concerned–to say that defense is “optional” might be generous–but is usually good for a handful of dazzling highlights, and can be a good showcase for the crazy things that these super-talented young dudes can do. (Remember John Wall’s bounce-pass alley-oop to Blake Griffin? Jason Williams’ elbow pass to Raef LaFrentz? Our own Evan Turner looking like the next Oscar Robertson? Fun times.)
The Skills Challenge (~8:30 Saturday, TNT) will also feature many of MCW’s rookie-sophomore brethren, such as Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo and Antetokounmpo, as well as some slightly more veteran ball-handlers like Goran Dragic and DeMar DeRozan. A player of MCW’s coordination, handles and quickness is usually a safe bet to fare well in a contest like this, though it shouldn’t be discounted that one must actually hit a 20-foot jumper at some point in the competition, which could represent a serious hang-up for Mike. Get that part down, though, and I like his chances pretty OK.
Look, it’s All-Star Weekend. This is as great as sports gets without actual consequences. You should be watching whether or not any Sixers are involved, but if MCW in his breakout campaign can’t get you to tune in, you’re clearly just a lost cause. You better not be slacking off on celebrating Phil Collins Day tomorrow, though.
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