On the bright side, All-Star weekend is the NBA’s crown jewel. Even with Beal’s snub, there are plenty of reasons to camp in front of your television Friday-Sunday. Three Wizards are making the trip to Chicago – Latvian sharpshooter Dāvis Bertāns, rookie Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner – and the whole weekend is a celebration of basketball culture. There will be no shortage of entertainers and legends on hand, plus a murderer’s row of @LeagueFits and gratuitous branding.
Bertāns will join odds-on favorite Trae Young, reigning champ Joe Harris, and five others in the 3-Point Contest. The 27-year old could legitimately win the event. He’s probably the best shooter the Wizards have had this decade (though Beal has a case) and ranks near the top of the league in made 3-pointers per game (5th) and three-point percentage (8th). At the very least, he’ll be neck and neck with Harris for the night’s best beard.
“My experience with the Wizards has been great since I arrived this summer,” Bertāns told the Wizards website. “It will be an honor to compete in the 3-point contest on behalf of all of them and to represent Latvia during All-Star weekend.”
This year the contest will have a new wrinkle. In addition to the racks of balls worth one point and infamous multi-colored two-point moneyball, the league added two green balls way beyond the arc worth three points apiece.
The 3-Point Contest is part of All-Star Saturday Night, which also features the Skills Challenge and Slam Dunk Contest. From a pure competition standpoint, it’s the best part of the entire weekend so make sure you tune it to TNT at 8 p.m.
On Friday night, the Wizards will send Hachimura and Wagner to the Rising Stars Challenge. It will be the first time any Wizard has played in the game since a baby-faced Bradley Beal got in on the action way back in 2014.
A lot has changed since then; the game now features a USA-vs.-World format, measuring the best young foreign stars against those from the United States. Hachimura and Wagner, who both returned recently from long stints on the injury report, are teamed up together on Team World.
Hachimura, after all, grew up in Japan before making a name for himself at Gonzaga, while Wagner is a native of Germany.
Even with the Wizards’ struggles, Hachimura and Wagner have managed to separate themselves. Hachimura as an all-around offensive player and plus-defender and Wagner as Davis Bertans-Lite.
“I am very honored to be chosen for the Rising Stars Challenge,” Hachimura said to the Wizards website. “I look forward to representing the Wizards organization, our fans and the country of Japan during All-Star weekend.”The 22-year-old Hachimura is putting up 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this year and is certainly part of the team’s plans moving forward. Wagner, who’s also averaging double-figures and hitting 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers, should be a guy who sticks around but, you know, Wizards.
“My improvement this season prior to getting injured shows the confidence they had in me and the work our coaches put in with me, so I’ll be proud to represent them and my home country of Germany in Chicago,” Wagner told WashingtonWizards.com.
The Rising Stars Challenge will be the first major event of NBA All-Star Weekend. It will air nationally on TNT at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 14. For more information about All Star weekend, visit here.
For more information about the Washington Wizards, visit here.