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Gregory Alcala

Gregory Alcala

NBA All-Star Saturday Night: Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

Kyrie Irving Tries to Repeat Previous Win; but Stephen Curry Takes Home the Prize

The NBA (National Basketball Association) as a brand is one of the best marketing machines in the world.

Few organizations know how to market their key assets as well as the NBA. It's greatest players are mostly known for their prowess as scorers, and the greatest player to ever play in the NBA had no trouble finding his shot, in Michael Jordan.

And because points sell tickets, it's only fitting that the NBA would offer a contest, detailed around who can score at a high-level, particularly from behind the arc.

The Three-Point contest is that event, and Saturday night provided one of the best field of players (shooting the three) to compete in the three-point contest for quite some time.

And what's intriguing about this year's collection of players is the fact that, stars were present.

Kyrie Irving, now a three-time All-Star and former three-point shoot-out champion (2013), suited up.

Kyrie-Irving 2015-nba-all-star-media-day Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers guard at the 2015 NBA All-Star Media Day

The "Splash Brothers" in Golden State Warriors sniper duo, Klay Thompson, now a first-time All-Star and Stephen Curry, made an appearance.

You know they had to be there.

And completing the rest of the field featured: Marco Belinelli (San Antonio Spurs & reigning Three-Point Shoot-Out Champion), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks), Wesley Matthews (Portland Trailblazers) and J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers).

There is star power here because this contest highlighted four-All-Stars surrounded by a number of individuals, known for what they happen to do best.

In terms of three-point percentage, seven of the eight contestants (Matthews-39.5 percent, Redick-43.7 percent, Harden-38.5 percent, Irving-41.3 percent, Curry-40.0 percent, Thompson-44.0 percent and Korver-50.0 percent) are all ranked among the top-50 in the league.

With the talent available, a competition was imminent, and everyone available delivered, with very few disappointments.

Matthews, scheduled to fire first, set the bar high for the first round.

The Trailblazers guard went 4-5 from the money-ball rack, connected on three more and successfully shot 8-16, 50% in one-point shots for a total score of 22.

This is the type of contest that can generate excitement and encore's from the audience if something is brewing and Matthews was able to make that happen, bringing the crowd to its feet, sinking eight of his last 10 shots, in the final two racks.

Following Matthews was Redick, who struggled at first, but ended up producing a solid first round score of 18.

Redick shot 4-10 from the first two racks, including one-made money-ball shot and then erupted for nine-straight made shots, connecting on his last three money-ball shots.

As expected, a high-number of consecutive made shots is an excuse for the crowd to get involved, and after Redick's seventh made three, you could hear the volume of the crowd rising.

After Redick, Harden stepped up to the plate, and he honestly under-performed.

I don't view Harden as a shooter, but more as a scorer.

I think Harden is most comfortable in a competitive atmosphere (NBA regular season, post-season, pick-up) in scoring where ever he chooses rather than having to deal with the pressure of doing your best out of 25 three-point shot attempts.

All in all, Harden finished with 15 total points, making five one-point shots and three money-ball shots.

Now, welcome someone who has performed on this stage before and what stage hasn't he been able to perform on?

Irving, more than capable of hitting threes at a significant rate (41.3%) was slated to shoot next, and displayed why he once held the three-point shootout trophy, once before.

He scoffed at Matthews 22 and contributed 23.

Out of 25 total shots, Irving successfully drained 17, including four of five from the money-ball rack and 11 1-point shots.

Irving's play as a guard, at some point will amaze you and this was no different.

After Irving, the last four shooters, as a group presented a competition in itself.

During Curry's course, the next shooter, TNT's Kenny Smith's voice echoed across the arena, as he asked: "Who is the best shooter in Golden State?".

This was a viable question especially when Curry would score 23 and Thompson 24, back-to-back.

And the final two contestants in Korver and Belinelli would both score 18 each, still solid shooting scores.

Unfortunately, solid numbers like 18 from Korver and Belinelli and 17 from Redick were not enough to advance to the championship round.

Even Matthews who set the bar early with an impressive 22 points was left without the opportunity.

Instead, we would get a final round featuring Curry, Thompson and Irving, pitting the teammates from Golden State against each other, for one night.

Irving began the second round on fire, sinking 8-10 from the first two racks for a score of 9, including one money-ball.

And in the next rack, from the top of the key, Irving would miss all five shots.

He rebounded on the next rack, connecting on five and went 2-5 on the money-ball, completing his championship round with a score of 17.

The championship round warrants a performance that could pressure the other two finalist, and 17 only sparked Curry to provide a shooting show for the ages.

How does a score of 27 sound?

You would think that would be enough to seal the deal because that's the performance Curry exhibited in his fourth three-point shoot-out contest.

He had never won the contest in previous years and for arguably the best shooter in the league, Curry made his case with the crowd in the palm of his hands by the second rack.

In Curry would only miss five shots, going 4-5 from the money-ball rack in addition to 13, 1-point shots.

It would be a tough task for anyone to follow up Curry's performance even for Thompson, who failed to match his teammate, or mirror his first round exploits.

With the exception of his first rack, starting out strong hitting four of his first five shots, Thompson would go 6-20 in the last four racks, solidifying Curry's win. In a contest where each participant could have walked away with the crown, Curry validated why he is the number one marksman in the league.

"I'm very happy right now," said Curry during his post-three point contest interview. "I've obviously been in it four times. So I wanted to win it and get it down. And thankfully tonight I got it, was able to accomplish that."

When asked if this contest shows who is the best three-point shooter in the NBA, Curry replied: "I want to be. There are obviously different criteria you can look at to judge that. Just being in that competitive spirit and having fun out there, I love to shoot the basketball. So that's a great place to kind of showcase that. And I have fun doing it. So I get to take this home with me."

Coming from a basketball family of shooters in father Dell Curry, a former NBA player and his brother, Seth who is currently playing in the D-league, I think it's pretty clear who the bragging rights belong to as of All-Star Saturday night.

Chasing Playoff Spot, Brooklyn Nets Making Moves

Trade Kevin Garnett to Minnesota in Exchange for Thaddeus Young; Right Now Holding on to 8th Playoff Spot

In their last 10-games, the Brooklyn Nets are 5-5, holding on to the last spot in the Eastern Conference standings, with the 8th seed.

As far as February 27th, 2015, is concerned, the Nets are 23-32, in a 4-team race for the 8th spot, alongside: The Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, and the Boston Celtics.

If the Nets are to contend in the Eastern Conference, let alone make the playoffs, the roster as it stands, has to make some sort of improvement right?

Last week, at the NBA trade deadline, the Nets made a move towards securing a playoff spot.

That meant sending future Hall-Of-Famer, Kevin Garnett back to the place where it all began: the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 1-for-1 swap for Thaddeus Young.

Thaddeus-Young Minnesota-Timberwolves Thaddeus Young, formerly of the Minnesota Timberwolves on his way to the Brooklyn Nets

With Garnett's days numbered as a pro, you would think that he would want to go to a contender with the hopes of one last title-run, but instead, waived his no-trade clause to return to the team that traded him away 8-years ago.

"I did not know the city missed me like this," Garnett told

"I don't think you can ever wish or ever think the city loves you like this. But to see it is reality and I'm very appreciative."

And why wouldn't they.

Garnett was the player that the Wolves drafted out of Farragut Career Academy (Chicago Illinois), in 1995, who immediately gave the north-western team a reason to rejoice.

Under the watch of Head Coach Flip Saunders, Garnett became a perennial All-Star (12 selections with Minnesota, 15 career selections), an MVP and helped lead the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals in 02, against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Unfortunately the Wolves lost that series, 4-2 and following the disappointment of the playoffs and a couple of down years, Garnett wanted out of Minnesota, looking for opportunities to win elsewhere.

He became a champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics, and that experience along with his impeccable resume as one of the NBA's greatest players, is something the Timberwolves wanted to influence their young core and mentor them until he decides to call it a career.

"With the opportunity of coming here and helping young guys in this transition of being better and bettering this team for the city, I saw this as a great opportunity for me, so I'm just happy to be here," said Garnett to Timberwolves media,

The Timberwolves feature a core of five young and talented players all under the age of 25 in, last-year's no.1 overall pick in Andrew Wiggins, 2015 Slam Dunk Champ Zack LaVine, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, and Glenn Robinson.

Garnett, who also has the aspirations of owning the Timberwolves one day is in the perfect spot to end his career and in the meantime aid the growth spurt of a young-core expected to turn a franchise around like he once did, 17 years ago.

For Brooklyn, unlike Garnett who is playing mentor and instructor for a team hoping for a better tomorrow, Young was acquired to help today.

It almost seems like Young has been in the league for a decade, but the former McDonalds All-American and Georgia Tech alum is in his 8th NBA season, still young, no pun intended, at 26 years-of-age.

With the exception of Philly where he spent the first seven years of his career, Young is suiting up for his third-team in two-years, now with a realistic chance of actually playing for something.

A day after the trade, Young scored eight points and helped the Nets defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in his first game with the team.

"He didn't play extended minutes. But for not knowing any of the plays and not having a shoot-around or a meeting with us, I thought he played really well," Deron Williams told following the game.

Deron-Williams Media-Day-Photo Brooklyn Nets point guard, Deron Williams

"He looked good for us and he's going to be great for us as he gets more acclimated to the team."

Joe Johnson also seems to be a fan.

"I think he's going to be great," said Johnson about Young to "He just has to get familiar with the system, but he's definitely the kind of player that fits our mode. So he's definitely going to help us."

Joe-Johnson Brooklyn Nets shooting guard, Joe Johnson

Young's career 13.8 points per game is something the Nets can either exploit as a reserve or as a starter.

And in talking about new weapons for the Nets, rookie Markel Brown has also surfaced recently.

The periodically used guard, buried onto the bench due to the depth chart, recalled from Maine Red Claws of the D-League alongside fellow rookie Cory Jefferson, has played in the Nets last three games (Lakers, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans) contributing on both ends of the floor, scoring a career-high 10 points against the Nuggets on Monday.

Even Williams is getting into the act, showing flashes of his All-Star self, when healthy, producing a double-double against the Lakers, last week in 12 points and 15 assists.

Yet and still, the Nets are still nine games under .500 at 23-32, entering a tough three-game stretch in which they will visit the Houston Rockets tonight, meet Houston's neighbor in the Dallas Mavericks and their new weapon in Amar'e Stoudemire and then host the Golden State Warriors on Monday, to begin the month of March.

No one ever said it would be easy, but the Nets did this to themselves.

Last month on January 2nd, the Nets were 16-16.

As soon as February 1st, the Nets were 19-28, due to a seven-game losing streak in January where the Nets lost to potential lottery teams in Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

For a team that currently has the only hope of the city, they have to be better than that.

The acquisition of Young for Garnett, Deron Williams’ recent play, and featuring young players like Brown may be the recipe for the Brooklyn Nets to finish big.

There are only two months left in the season, and it is time for the Nets to make their push for a playoff spot, now.

NBA All-Star Saturday: Skills Challenge

Patrick Beverley Shows He Has Skills

With the conclusion of the Degree Shooting Stars, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge began shortly after.

I know, just two more events until we can watch the Slam Dunk Contest.

As far as the skills challenge is concerned, this event is all about the point guard.

Since its debut in 2003, some of the best guards in NBA history, from the 2000's to the present, have been selected to showcase their PG skills and most importantly win.

Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach, Jason Kidd won this event in its first year of existence.

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is a two-time champion (06, 07) as well as future Hall-of-Famer, Steve Nash in (05,10).

The best up and coming guards in the NBA have contributed to this event and this year presented a new wave of the NBA's youngest new stars at the PG position.

And here are your gladiators: Patrick Beverley (Houston Rockets), Brandon Knight (Bucks, Now Phoenix Suns), Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) Isaiah Thomas (Suns, Now Boston Celtics), Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks) and Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic).

In previous years, the course required the participants to first convert a layup, dribble between three obstacles, complete a pass into a net, shoot a mid-range jump-shot and proceed through a couple more obstacles, finishing the course with a layup, which stops the clock and serves as that players time.

This year, the course required those involved to dribble between a series of obstacles, complete a chest pass, convert a layup on the opposite basket and then return to the original basket, where a made three-point shot will stop the clock, signaling that players time.

Instead of the individual exhibitions we have seen in recent years where one player alone progresses through this obstacle course, the NBA has modified the competition where two players will compete against each other to determine who can finish the course before the other, tournament style.

The NBA is thinking smarter, thinking NOW, and its changes in the format of this event made for entertaining TV.

Just based off of the eye-test, I figured Teague would have the best chance to win or even Thomas, factoring their speed as my lone argument, and I was sadly mistaken.

This wasn't just about who was the fastest of the pool of players but who could be the most efficient guard for a couple of minutes. The conclusion of this event did not disappoint the viewers, especially if you favor the underdog.

In the first round, both sporting generous smirks, Beverley advanced to the next round against Thomas, who struggled to execute his first chest pass.

Thomas, due to his speed eventually caught up to Beverley at the three-point shot station, and several failed attempts by both players forced a layup challenge, as both players relied on their inside play, which Beverley outlasted Thomas and sealed his trip to the next round.

Next up, Teague, a member of the Eastern Conference division leading Hawks, showed that dominance on the floor and flew by Magic rookie Payton who, despite his enjoyable experience didn't look as though he was interested in winning.

Although Payton was able to keep up with the speedy veteran, Teague knocked down his first attempt from three, which eliminated Payton, as he was moments away.

In the final two match-ups of the first round, Knight de-throned the former Skills Challenge Champion, Burke on his third three-point attempt and Lowry represented "We The North" well, ending Schroeder's threat, wasting no time as he sped through the obstacles and connected on his first three-point attempt, with Schroeder in pursuit.

With the final four set, Beverley would continue his Cinderella story against Teague, a first-time All-Star, while Knight and Lowry would provide the other finalist.

While the grins remained on the exterior of our heroes, you could tell that their blood was boiling and that the competitive fire that we observe from these star athletes, throughout the NBA season, was present on Saturday night.

Of course in the smallest dosage possible.

And so it began, and Teague found himself exactly where he wanted to be.

He eased through the obstacles and successfully executed his first chest pass through the net, which took Beverley several tries, almost tying together his own shoes in securing his fate.

Teague converted his layup and jogged up the court, passing Beverley on his way, feeling comfortable about his chancing of having to only knock down one trifecta to compete for his first skills challenge championship, and somehow he came up short.

Atlanta, so far this season has won their share of games in an extensive fashion, but Teague, unfortunately, failed to bring home more good news.

Instead, Beverley's performance, this round, mirrored his NBA game.

He doesn't give up and he never backs down.

Although he was behind with Teague attempting his first three-point shot to advance, Beverley took advantage of Teague's first two-misses and connected on his first attempt, earning a spot in the final round.

Shortly after his shot, Beverley taunted the bench a little, all in fun and celebrated with teammate James Harden who was in attendance, as if this was Beverley's sole purpose for All-Star Saturday night.

Who says the Skills Challenge doesn't mean anything?

In the other finalist, Knight prevailed, knocking down his first three-point shot before Lowry could even challenge.

And with that result, Knight would battle it out with Beverley for the crown.

Maybe the writing was on the wall and I was unaware, because it seemed as if, on this night, everything went Beverley's way in this competition and the good vibes would follow the Rocket into the final round.

Yet again, Beverley found himself recovering from miscues.

Beverley's struggles with the chest pass almost cost him the title, but Knights initial misses to seal the deal from three, allowed Beverley to close the gap, and like the second round against Teague, Beverley sank his first three point attempt and entered the winner's circle.

"Definitely blessed to be here," said Beverley during his interview as he was awarded the honor.

"Blessed to be in this position. Blessed to even be in the NBA, coming from a humble beginnings."

Beverley, known for his defensive prowess and role on the Rockets as a perimeter lock-down defender, was given the stage to show the other facets of his game, and in doing so shattered the odds and early predictions.

"I hope Coach McHale is watching, and maybe I can get some plays now," Beverley said through laughter.

Hey if you can win the Skills Challenge and uplift yourself as well as your teams notoriety even though there was no final score except entertainment, then maybe he should have a couple X's and O's dedicated to his performance.

Even with the win, Beverley appreciated his exposure and did so with class.

"Getting to the NBA now, replacing someone and getting a chance to display my talents out here and winning it; helping a young kid like this for school and everything, it's, you know, a big testimony-- a bit humbled about it and definitely appreciate it."

I think Beverley made some news fans Saturday night.

NBA All-Star Saturday: Degree Shooting Stars Challenge

Team Bosh Earns Bragging Rights with its Third Straight Title

The NBA All-Star Weekend is similar to meals at your favorite restaurant.

All-Star Friday is the bread you consume while you mull over the choices on the menu.

All-Star Saturday is the appetizer, nourishing your body, moderately.

And then All-Star Sunday is not only the main course, but it is your favorite entrée.

In a restaurant, you can choose to go straight for the main course, but with the NBA All-Star Weekend, you don't want to skip the appetizer.

First and foremost, the Barclays Center and the NBA presented a visual show. The basketball court became a viewing screen of moving images with intros to each event creating an atmosphere that just screamed entertainment.

In two words, sheer beauty.

Beautiful as it might have been, the fans did not come to Barclays on a brisk Saturday night to watch fireworks.

It was all about the individuals participating in the best ticket in town, four events in one.

Saturday night, billed as the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, featured: the Degree Shooting Stars Challenge; Taco Bell Skills Challenge; Footlocker Three-Point Contest; and the event of the night, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

The Degree Shooting Stars was not the most highly anticipated event, but it registered high on the excitement meter. It involved four teams connecting on shots with varying degrees of difficulty at different parts on the floor. The team taking the least amount of time to advance to the championship round wins.

Team Curry (Sue Bird, Stephen Curry, Dell Curry), Team Westbrook (Russell Westbrook, Penny Hardaway, Tamika Catchings), Team Millsap (Paul Millsap, Scottie Pippen, Elena Delle Donne) and the two-time reigning champs in Team Bosh (Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash) all competed for the bragging rights.

It's a good thing I am not a betting man. I would have lost by betting on Team Curry.

In the first round, Catchings, a nine-time WNBA All-Star, almost cost her team a trip to the championship round missing her first seven field goals (19.0 seconds). But, Westbrook and Hardaway, bailed out Catchings by sinking their first attempts from the top of the key and the elbow three (5.0 seconds).

And on the 4th shot, Hardaway reminded everyone why he was selected to be on Team Westbrook sinking his attempt from half-court. Team Westbrook completed their shot-circuit in 35.2 seconds.

But Team Bosh would have their say.

They've been here before, they knew what to do.

And so they did it.

Team Bosh bested Team Westbrook by connecting on all of their shots in eight attempts to Team Westbrook's 10 in only 30.8 seconds.

Next up, the championship round, and the favorite prevailed once more.

Team Westbrook was on a roll in the championship round during its first three shots.

Catchings learned her lesson and used the backboard, knocking down the first required shot; smart.

Hardaway executed his first attempt successfully and Westbrook missed his first and made his second. Team Westbrook completed its first three shots of the championship round in 13 seconds.

All was well until Team Westbrook ran into the half-court shot, the toughest of all four shots. The team missed 26 consecutive attempts as time expired, which put them in position for an upset.

As for Team Bosh, there was no rush.

Team Bosh took its time and at the 57.6 seconds mark, the legend, Wilkins clinched Team Bosh's third straight title on their seventh attempt from half-court.

"Chemistry," said Wilikins when asked how Team Bosh has been able to defend its title. "We just wanted to repeat what we did last year. We did the same thing last year. We didn't want to change it, for luck."

"I think we don't take it so serious," said Cash answering the same question following the event. "Over the last three years we've seen a lot of just everybody; we're so competitive as athletes. When we come out here, it's really simple. We have a good time. We joke around. We miss the shot; all right, we'll get the half-court shot. We just keep it loose. It's fun. And we strategize."

All records are meant to be broken, even championship streaks. But, Team Bosh has a system that works and next year, at the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend hosted by our neighbors up North in Toronto, Team Bosh may be tough to de-throne.

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