You’ve only got a few more days to vote for LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum to be starters on the 2014 Western Conference All-Star team before polls close on Jan. 20. Both Aldridge and Lillard are in the Top 10 in voting at their respective positions, but neither would make the Western Conference starting lineup if the vote where to end today.
But according to Sam Amick of USA Today, Aldridge should be a starter by virtue of being the best power forward in the Western Conference this season …
Speaking of MVP candidates, the Portland big man who was already considered one of the best in the game has never been better. He’s sixth in the NBA in scoring (a career-high 23.6 points per game) and rebounding (a career-high 11 per) and is averaging a career-high 2.9 assists per game to boot for this Blazers team (28-9) that is the surprise of the season.
Amick lists Aldridge alongside Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard as his Western Conference All-Star starters.
Amick also lists Lillard as one of his “wild-card” reserve picks …
From an out-of-nowhere Rookie of the Year honor last season to the first All-Star appearance that should be coming his way, the player who was drafted sixth overall out of little-known Weber State has exploded on the NBA scene. Beyond the 21.4 points, 5.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, he has fast become one of the most clutch players in the game. Lillard trails only Curry, Harden and Durant in fourth-quarter scoring (6.7 points per in the fourth) and has become a regular at game-winning shots (three this season). His inclusion here will likely depend on Kobe Bryant, who is second among all vote-getters but could – and should – decline the honor so that a deserving talent can take part.
Kobe already told fans they should vote for guys like Lillard rather than for himself, so it stands to reason that Bryant, who has only played in six games this season and is currently sidelined with a knee injury, would pass on the All-Star invite, opening up a spot for Lillard.
Starters for both the West and East starters will be announced on Jan. 23 with reserves, who are voted in by NBA head coaches, will be announced a week later.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consolation prize.
The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…
Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.
CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”
When did you find out you were selected?
CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”
Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.
CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”
What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?
CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”
You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”
What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.
CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”
I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?
CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”
A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?
CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”
You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”
After a practice last week in Tualatin, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who has been vocal about his desire to be involved at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto in one way or another, was asked to make the case for why he should be a participant in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, an All-Star Saturday event featuring an obstacle course that tests dribbling, passing and shooting. McCollum’s response?
“Why should I be in the Skills?” said the 6-3 guard in his third season out of Lehigh. “You’re looking at a guy who plays two positions, for starters. Can pass, can shoot, can score. Should I say anymore?”
Apparently not, as it was announced Thursday at the top of TNT’s weekly edition of “Inside The NBA” that McCollum has been selected along with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, L.A.’s Jordan Clarkson and Houston’s Patrick Beverley to compete at the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. From the team’s press release…
Through 50 games this season, McCollum ranks second on the team in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg). He is shooting a team-high 39.1% from beyond the three-point line.
McCollum recorded 35 points (14-28 FG), 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals against Sacramento on Dec. 27, making him the first NBA player to log at least 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a game since Kevin Garnett on Dec. 10, 2004.
Playing in his third NBA season, McCollum is ranked eighth in the NBA with 116 three-point field goals. He’s also scored 20 or more points on 23 different occasions in 2015-16.
McCollum joins his running buddy Damian Lillard as the only Trail Blazers to ever participate in the Skills Challenge, which was added to the All-Star Weekend festivities in 2003. Lillard won the Skills Challenge in 2013 as a part of his successful quest to compete in all five All-Star Weekend events and then defended his title in 2014 along with Utah guard Trey Burke as a part of the short-lived attempt at making the Skills Challenge a team event, so you can be sure Dame is going to have some pointers for CJ. And Lillard will probably never let McCollum hear the end of it if he doesn’t win, so there’s some extra motivation there as well.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is scheduled to take place Saturday, February 13 at 5:30 pm Pacific.