Saturday , Feb , 18 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Skills Challenge to highlight All-Star Saturday night

=== Skills Challenge to highlight All-Star Saturday night ===

(Sports Network) – While the 55th annual All-Star Game will be the main
course on Sunday evening, there will be plenty of appetizers for fans to munch
on Saturday night at the Toyota Center, as the festivities will include the
Three-Point Shootout, Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest, Shooting Stars contest
and Skills Challenge.

This year the highlight of the evening figures to be the star-studded Skills
Challenge, as the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash will be back to defend his title
against LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade of the
Miami Heat and rookie Chris Paul of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

The event debuted in 2003 and has the players competing in a two-round
timed obstacle course that features dribbling, passing and shooting stations.
Normal NBA ball-handling rules apply during the course.

Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets won the inaugural competition, followed by
Baron Davis of the Hornets in 2004 and Nash last season.

Entering its 20th year, the Three-Point Shootout has always been one of
the highlights of the weekend. This year should be no different, as New York
Knicks forward Quentin Richardson will attempt to defend his title.

Joining Richardson in this year’s competition will be Seattle’s Ray Allen, who
won the competition in 2001, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry from Dallas,
Detroit’s Chauncey Billups and Gilbert Arenas from Washington.

Arenas is a late replacement for Phoenix’s Raja Bell, who withdrew from the
event Friday because of a family illness.

The players will compete in the two-round competition with the top three
finishers from the first round advancing to the finals. Five shooting stations
are set up around the three-point line, with four orange balls worth one point
each and one multi-colored ball (money ball) worth two points at each
location. Each player has one minute to shoot as many balls as he can. In the
Finals, players will shoot in ascending order of first round scores.

Another event that used to be the highlight of the weekend, but has lacked the
star power in recent years is The Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest.

Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith will be back to defend his title against the
likes of Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers and rookies Nate Robinson
of the New York Knicks and Hakim Warrick of the Memphis Grizzlies.

As a rookie last season, Smith used a seated Kenyon Martin of the Denver
Nuggets as a prop on his way to back-to-back 50-point dunks in defeating Amare
Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns.

Judges for this year’s event will be Hall of Famer and former Rockets star
Clyde “The Glide” Drexler; Hall of Famer and former Rockets and University of
Houston star Elvin Hayes; Hall of Famer and former Houston Rockets star Moses
Malone; former Rockets star and current television analyst Kenny Smith and
former Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

Finally, the Shooting Stars contest will feature four teams consisting of
three players from Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Each
squad will have a current NBA player, a former NBA star and a current
WNBA player from the city.