LOS ANGELES (AP) — The stars will be out in Los Angeles, on the basketball court and all around it.
The NBA’s All-Star festivities are back at Staples Center, with the usual events on All-Star Saturday night and a new format for the game Sunday.
Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry drafted players from the pool of All-Stars and the winning team gets a $350,000 donation from the NBA to the charity it chose. The league is hoping the new format that replaced the traditional East-West matchup will make it more competitive after a couple of lackluster games the previous two years.
Perhaps the players can heed the words of Kobe Bryant, who won the MVP award on his home floor when the All-Star Game was last in Los Angeles in 2011.
“I feel like we have a sense of responsibility and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard,” Bryant said following that game. “And we come here, that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete and that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to tell my teammates to do.”
Bryant is gone now but Beyonce and Jay-Z, Jack Nicholson and Justin Bieber are among the celebrities who attended that game and are scheduled to be back for at least some of this weekend.
Some things to watch as Los Angeles hosts the All-Star Game for a record sixth time:
LEBRON IN L.A.: James refuses to discuss his free agency during the season, but figure on it coming up in Los Angeles since there’s been such speculation about him signing with the Lakers. The Lakers, after a trade with James’ Cavaliers last week, would have enough salary cap space to offer a maximum contract to James and another star if he opts to become a free agent and leave Cleveland this summer.
HOMECOMING KINGS: The Los Angeles area is home to a number of All-Stars, including 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and runner-up James Harden, along with Oklahoma City’s Paul George and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.
SIDELINED STARS: James’ team will look much different than the one he drafted after a number of injuries. DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, John Wall and Kristaps Porzingis all were forced to pull out. George, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker were added as injury replacements by Commissioner Adam Silver.
DUNK LIKE DAD: Larry Nance Jr., one of the players who went from Los Angeles to Cleveland in the four-player trade at the deadline, will be back in his former home arena to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest. He’ll try to follow in the footsteps — or flight path — of his father, who won the NBA’s first slam dunk title in 1984. Rookies Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Dennis Smith Jr., and Indiana All-Star Victor Oladipo round out the field.
BIEBS IS BACK: Bieber will return to play in the celebrity game on Friday night after winning MVP honors in the 2011 game. He will play on Team Lakers, co-coached by actor Michael B. Jordan. They will play against Team Clippers, who feature Academy Award winner Jaime Foxx.
ALL-STAR SINGERS: Fergie will sing the U.S. national anthem and Barenaked Ladies will perform the Canadian national anthem. Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D will take the stage at halftime. Kendrick Lamar also is set to perform Friday night in Los Angeles as part of the weekend festivities.
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