2017 NBA All-Star Weekend

February is one of my favorite months for sports because of the Super Bowl, pitchers in MLB report to spring training, college basketball is starting to get down to the wire, and NBA All-Star Weekend. This year, the festive event will take place in New Orleans. I took a trip to New Orleans in May of 2015, and that was one of the best experiences of my life. The culture in “NOLA” is truly one of a kind. The original destination was Charlotte, but due to anti-gay laws within the state, the NBA elected to change locations. The NBA just hosted the All-Star Game New Orleans in 2014.

Besides Kyrie Irving’s belief that the world is flat, the most intriguing headline of the weekend is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reuniting as teammates. Their brotherly friendship has been derailed since KD’s departure to Golden State. The two has yet attempted to patch things up so that should make way for an interesting interaction in the locker room. 

The events for Saturday includes the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, JBL Three-Point Contest, and the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. I’m picking Isaiah Thomas for the Skills Challenge, Nick Young for the Three-Point Contest, and Glenn Robinson III for the Slam Dunk Contest.

As for the NBA All-Star Game itself, I have Anthony Davis as the MVP. With that being said, I hope all the events live up to the hype! 

NBA Preview Part 5: Southeast Division

                                                   Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks
Key Additions: Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Holiday, Walter Tavares
Key Subtractions: DeMarre Carroll, Pero Antic, Elton Brand, John Jenkins
Outlook: Winning their division title in 21 years, the Atlanta Hawks are ready to defend their crown. The team overachieved last year because they have a solid foundation. “Star power” usually carries a team to the Finals. This didn’t have a bonafide superstar, but had underrated players that teams took for granted. DeMarre Carroll was a big loss for them. He wasn’t their best player, but he was the glue guy (Exhibit A: Eastern Conference Finals after he got hurt). Adding Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. gives Atlanta some much-needed depth. They managed to keep Paul Millsap in the “final hour” during free agency (Almost joined the Orlando Magic). I expect them to have a decent chance of winning their division again.

Charlotte Hornets
Key Additions: Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes, Tyler Hansbrough
Key Subtractions: Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Lance Stephenson, Mo Williams, Bismack Biyombo
Outlook: The Charlotte Hornets are talented enough to make the playoffs. Al Jefferson gives opponent’s problems on a nightly basis. Kemba Walker and newly acquired Nicolas Batum are underrated. I’m still trying to figure out Frank Kaminsky, but I’m sure he’s better than Kwame Brown. Jeremy Lin comes in with a chip on his shoulder. Everybody remembers him for his 15 seconds of fame (Linsanity). I’m sure he wants to change that perception.  Also, this team has quite a few young players that plays with a lot of energy. That means, they have the opportunity to steal some games that they shouldn’t win. If the chemistry is right, they should in the playoff hunt.

Miami Heat
Key Additions: Justice Winslow, Gerald Green, Amar’e Stoudemire
Key Subtractions: Shabazz Napier, Michael Beasley
Outlook: In my opinion, this is the one team that could prevent LeBron from reaching his 6th straight NBA Finals appearance besides the Chicago Bulls. They arguably have one of the best starting lineups in the league. Justice Winslow was a steal. They got Stoudemire and Green at a bargain price. Most importantly, Chris Bosh is back. Ultimately, this team is going as far as Dywane Wade carries them. The chronic knee and miscellaneous injuries will play a key role in how this team performs. Also, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat WANTS to be LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This team may win the division, but if they don’t, good luck trying to put them out in the playoffs (with a healthy D.Wade if course).

Orlando Magic
Key Additions: Mario Hezonja, C.J. Watson, Shabazz Napier
Key Subtractions: Kyle O’Quinn, Maurice Harkless, Willie Green
Outlook: I really like their rookie Mario Hezonja. His attitude alone makes me think that the Orlando Magic will be alright in a few years. This team is young, athletic, and will be fun to watch on the fastbreak. They almost added Paul Millsap until he returned to the Atlanta Hawks in the final hour (that would’ve been big). Their offense in the half court will continue to struggle until a post presence is acquired. Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo will have to take their game to the next level if the Magic wants to make their first playoff appearance in the “Post-Dwight Howard” era.

Washington Wizards
Key Additions: Gary Neal, Jared Dudley, Kelly Oubre Jr.
Key Subtractions: Paul Pierce, Kevin Seraphin, Rasual Butler
Outlook: I am a fan of their back court. When Bradley Beal isn’t off and John Wall is not turning over the ball, this team can give any teams headaches. Otto Porter showed signs of real potential during the final few months of the Wizards season last year. Adding Gary Neal was an underrated move because they finally have a guard that can shoot off the bench. In my eyes, losing Paul Pierce was significant. Not only he can still score around 15 points a game, he brought mental toughness, crunch time abilities, and championship experience to a young core. Only time will tell if “The Truth” rubbed off on the rest of the team. If not, I don’t expect a real title run.