Every All-Star Weekend, there seems to be one guy, typically a young player, who announces himself to the rest of the NBA. In 2009, Kevin Durant played on the national stage for the first time and dominated the Rookie-Sophomore Game. Kyrie Irving did the same in his 3-point barrage in Orlando during the Rookie-Sophomore Game and repeated it last year in his first All-Star appearance and at the Three-Point Shootout.
This year in New Orleans is undoubtedly the Year of Damian Lillard.
Lillard will participate in five of the six events at the NBA's All-Star Weekend. He was drafted second by Grant Hill in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, the game that pits teams of rookies and sophomores against each other.
Lillard will get really busy Saturday night as he participates in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge obstacle course relay, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout and the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest.
Lillard will also make his first NBA All-Star Game appearance as he is averaging 20.6 points and 5.7 assists per game for the surprising Trail Blazers.
That is a lot of running around for the reigning Rookie of the Year.
Knowing how Lillard has taken the league by storm in the past two years, he is sure to make good on some of the promise of his busy All-Star Weekend.
It would not be surprising to see him play well in the guard-dominated BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge. He scored 18 points and had five assists in last year's game. He certainly should have the skills to make it through the obstacle course, he certainly has the shooting ability as a 40.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc and he certainly has the hops to put on a show in a stacked dunk contest.
Saturday night's festivities will be made more interesting with some rule changes the league is implementing to spruce things up.
First off, there will be no individual dunk champion. Rather the three dunkers representing each conference will be competing for conference glory in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
The East is represented by John Wall, Paul George and defending champion Terrence Ross. The West is represented by Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore. Each group of three dunkers will have 90 seconds in a free style round where each dunker must complete a dunk. It will be followed by a head-to-head "battle round." The first team to win three battles will be crowned Slam Dunk champion.
The Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout sees a minor change when each participant will be able to select one shooting area to put a rack of all money balls. That will certainly add some strategy for this year's participants — Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Arron Afflalo, Marco Belinelli, Joe Johnson and Kevin Love.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge was also changed into a two-man relay format. One East team — picked from the group of Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan — and one West team — picked from the group of Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, Trey Burke and Reggie Jackson — will go head to head in the championship after a first round through the obstacle course.
It should be a fun weekend in New Orleans for sure. If not a tiring one for the Blazers' first-time all star.