NEW ORLEANS – The NBA's All-Star weekend is a working trip for Damian Lillard, set to become the busiest All-Star ever.
For Carmelo Anthony, it's a chance to get away from work.
The league's midseason event has something for everyone, along with the belief that its All-Star weekend is second to none in sports. It starts Friday afternoon with the announcement of the finalists and direction electees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and finishes up with the game Sunday night at the recently renamed Smoothie King Center.
"The NBA, we have the best All-Star, No. 1 because it obviously lasts the entire weekend. We do a great job of celebrating our legends, I think we do that better than anybody else," Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley said. "It's the greatest thing the NBA does well."
The last All-Star weekend in New Orleans, in 2008, was a particularly good one, with Dwight Howard donning a Superman cape to win the slam dunk contest and LeBron James winning the game's MVP award after helping the Eastern Conference hold on to beat the West.
Lillard has a chance to be the star of this weekend, since he'll be involved in everything. The Portland guard, last season's Rookie of the Year, will become the first player to compete in five events. A first-time All-Star selection, he'll also take part in the Rising Stars Challenge for rookies and second-year players, will defend his title in the Skills Challenge, and is entered in the dunk and 3-point contests.
"It's obviously something that nobody has done before and I was presented with the opportunity, and they're all events that I feel like I'm capable of competing in, so I figured, 'Why not make history?'" Lillard said in an interview with the Trail Blazers' website.
Anthony will start for the East, a chance to pick up a victory in a season where his New York Knicks have had far too few. He was asked if it he would be able to enjoy himself with so much misery around him in New York.
"It's going to be tough to kind of get into everything that's going on, but once I get down there, see friends, see family, kind of not think about this for a couple of days, maybe it'll change," he said.
Here are five things to watch during All-Star weekend:
DECORATED DUNKERS: With Lillard, Indiana's Paul George and Washington's John Wall in the field, the dunk contest includes three All-Stars for the first time since 1988, when Michael Jordan edged Dominique Wilkins in a famed showdown in Chicago that also included Clyde Drexler. Defending champion Terrence Ross of Toronto, Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore and Golden State's Harrison Barnes round out the field.
PAUL PLAYS: Chris Paul recovered from his shoulder injury just in time to play in the game in New Orleans, where he was Rookie of the Year in 2006 and played for the Hornets until he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011. The starting point guard for the West was the MVP of last year's game in Houston.
MEDIA MADNESS: Fans can again watch the interview sessions with the All-Stars during Friday's media day online at nba.com/offthecourt. The live stream, courtesy of American Express, allows fans to watch four East All-Stars and four from the West answer questions from reporters live.
SILVER SPEAKS: Adam Silver holds his first press conference as NBA commissioner on Saturday night. He became the league's fifth commissioner on Feb. 1 after replacing David Stern, who isn't expected in New Orleans after he was in charge for every All-Star weekend since 1984.
STANDING BY: The hometown Pelicans got an All-Star when Anthony Davis was selected as an injury replacement for Kobe Bryant. With Miami's Dwyane Wade missing the final game before the break because of an injured left foot and his status unknown, another East player may end up finding his way to New Orleans.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney