9 things to watch during NBA All-Star weekend

Photos of Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler.

If you’re making jambalaya, don’t skimp on the andouille sausage. Or the bell pepper. Don’t forget the Creole seasoning or the thyme.

No fewer than 14 ingredients go into New Orleans’ signature dish, and it’s an apt parallel for the NBA’s All-Star weekend, which contains a jumble of events sponsored by an array of companies. This will be my first All-Star weekend and here are things I am (sort of) looking forward to:

All-Star media availability, 11 a.m. Friday

If there was any question as to whether the NBA’s top names would put on a show, rest assured: The interviews will be covered live, on NBA TV’s Facebook page. Among the likely questions …

To Carmelo Anthony: Where should we forward your mail next month?

To Jimmy Butler: Are you worth the Celtics’ No. 1 pick (i.e. the top pick in the draft)?

To LeBron James: Would you like to chuck Barkley through a window?

Slam dunk contest, Saturday night

No set time because it comes after the Taco Bells Skills Challenge and JBL Three-Point Contest on State Farm All-Star Saturday Night. No surprise that corporate logos will be added to NBA jerseys next season.

Zach LaVine just underwent ACL surgery, so we won’t get a rematch of last year’s dazzling duel between him and Aaron Gordon. The Magic’s Gordon will take flight again, competing against the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Suns.

The 66th All-Star Game, 7 p.m. Sunday

Will Russell Westbrook "accidentally" fire a pass off Kevin Durant’s head? Will the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk from half-court? Whom will Butler, in his first All-Star start, guard on the West? And, of course: Will anyone guard anyone? (Last year the West scored a record 196 points.)

John Legend, halftime headliner, Sunday

The 10-time Grammy winner will transform the Smoothie King Center (real name) into the Smoooooooothie King Center. Legend has a voice that is both melodic and powerful. (Also performing: Questlove and the Roots.)

The commissioner represents a league that has been unafraid to assert its political views. The 2017 All-Star weekend was moved from Charlotte to New Orleans over North Carolina’s "bathroom bill" that limits protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. Silver certainly will be asked about the #FreeOakley movement, the push to legalize sports gambling and the league’s oft-criticized Last Two Minute Report.

Three-point contest, Saturday night

Guess which team will not be represented? The Bulls, who have hit a mere 361 3-pointers. Next lowest in the NBA: The Pistons, with 435. Klay Thompson is a heavy favorite (11/10 odds, via to beat a field of: Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

Basketball has already taken Marshall High alumnus Alfonzo McKinnie to Luxembourg, China, Mexico and Abu Dhabi. Now the Windy City Bulls big man will get to show off his rebounding prowess in a game that also features Yogi Ferrell, Alex Poythress and Abdel Nader of Niles North.

Skills challenge, Saturday night

Karl-Anthony Towns reigned last year, scoring one for the big men. This year’s "bigs" are DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) and local favorite (in both Chicago and New Orleans) Anthony Davis. The "smalls" are Isaiah Thomas (Celtics), John Wall (Wizards), Gordon Hayward (Jazz) and Devin Booker (Suns). Hayward is a small who measures 6-foot-8.

All-Star Celebrity Game, 6 p.m. Friday

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