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All-Star Saturday takes center stage
New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - In what has become a highlight of the NBA calendar, All-Star Saturday festivities will commence from Smoothie King Center.
The night starts off with the Shooting Stars competition, followed by the Skills Challenge, the 3-Point Shootout and the main event, a showcase of athleticism known as the Slam-Dunk Contest.
Or, one could call All-Star Saturday, "Damian Lillard Day."
The Portland All-Star, who competed in the Rising Stars game on Friday, is scheduled to participate in the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Shootout and Slam- Dunk Contest on Saturday.
"I'm happy that I'm really a part of the weekend. I get to compete in all these events, and just to be in these guys' company with all these stars," said Lillard. "It let's you know that the hard work is paying off."
This year, much like last, Saturday's competitions are broken down into East vs. West. Paul George of the Indiana Pacers is the East captain, while Steph Curry guides the West. Both are starters in Sunday's All-Star game.
Saturday's happenings start at 8 p.m. ET.
Up first will be the Shooting Stars, a simple enough competition where current NBAers join a legend and a WNBA star in a shooting contest from all over the floor.
The first round will feature teams from the same conference against each other. The winning teams advance to the final round for the title.
Each competitor will be stationed at one of the first three places, and the shot must be made before the next can be attempted. All three will chuck it up from near half-court and the team with the best time wins.
It's a family affair for two of the teams as Curry will join his father Dell Curry and Becky Harmon of the San Antonio Silver Stars. On the East team, Tim Hardaway, Jr. of the New York Knicks will partner with his dad Tim and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky.
Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder will pair with Karl Malone and Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock. The other East team is the defending champion trio of Miami's Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash of the Sky.
The Skills Challenge underwent some changes this year. Now, there will be two two-man teams from each conference competing against each other to reach the East vs. West final. It will now be a relay format.
The Eastern teams will be rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and All-Star DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors as well as rookies Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers and Orlando's Victor Oladipo.
The West will be represented by Lillard and Utah Jazz first-year player Trey Burke and the tandem of Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns and Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 3-Point Shootout remained largely untouched, although the East v. West format remains intact. The player from the Eastern Conference with the most points will meet the player from the Western Conference with the most points.
However, there is one new wrinkle this year.
Each player can make one of the five locations to a full rack of five money balls, each worth two points.
Defending champion Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers anchors the East team of Orlando's Arron Afflalo, Washington's Bradley Beal and Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets.
Curry and Lillard are on the West team alongside All-Star starter Kevin Love, who won the title in 2012, and San Antonio Spur Marco Belinelli.
And now, it's time for the main event.
This year's edition of the Slam-Dunk contest will see many changes, first of which is a Freestyle Round.
Let's let the NBA explain:
"In a significant first in the event's history, the competition will tip off with a Freestyle Round where the dunkers for each conference will have 90 seconds to showcase as many dunks as they want. At the conclusion of the Freestyle Round, the panel of judges will then choose a winner by voting 'East' or 'West.' The winning conference will earn the advantage of deciding whether its dunkers will dunk first or second in the head-to-head battles that take place in the Battle Round."
The Battle Round?
"The Battle Round will feature head-to-head matchups pitting East dunkers vs. West dunkers, with the judges choosing a winner for each battle. Upon losing a head-to-head battle, that dunker is then eliminated from the competition. The first team to win three battles will win the competition and be crowned 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions."
No individual champion?
"At the conclusion of the team competition, fans will then have the opportunity to vote for the player of their choice as the 'Sprite Slam Dunker of the Night' through SMS, Twitter, NBA.com and the NBA GameTime app."
For the first time since 1988, there will be three All-Stars in the Slam-Dunk Contest. George and John Wall of the Washington Wizards team with defending champion Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors, and out West, Lillard, Golden State's Harrison Barnes and Sacramento's Ben McLemore round out the team.
02/15 09:52:58 ET