NBA All-Star Weekend: Damian Lillard sizes up skills contest favorites


NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard didn’t enter all three NBA All-Star skills competitions just for the fun of it.

“If I didn’t think I had a chance to win all of them, I wouldn’t put my name in them,” Lillard said. “But I really feel strong about the 3-point shootout.”

The Portland guard is the reigning champion of the skills competition, which will take place Saturday night, along with the 3-point shooting contest and the dunk contest. This year, though, Lillard sees the tandem of the Phoenix’s Goran Dragic and Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson as potential favorites.

Four two-man teams will compete in the skills challenge, going through the course in a relay format with a single time. The competition consists of dribbling around obstacles, passing to targets as well as hitting close and mid-range shots.

As well as Dragic has played this season, averaging 20.3 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game, Lillard said the Suns guard should have been on the Western Conference roster for Sunday night’s main event.

If Lillard had to pick a favorite other than himself to win the 3-point shooting contest, he said it would be Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who has made 41.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range and whose 3.4 3-pointers made per game leads the league.

As for the dunk contest, which this season will be a competition between conferences, Lillard expects his Western Conference team that includes Golden State’s Harrison Barnes and Sacramento’s Ben McLemore to come out on top. The East’s dunk squad consists of Indiana’s Paul George, Toronto’s Terrence Ross and Washington’s John Wall.

Rising Stars Challenge

Andre Drummond had 30 points and a Rising Stars Challenge-record 25 rebounds, leading Team Hill to a 142-136 victory over Team Webber on Friday night.

Besides an impressive tally of dunks and rebounds, Drummond even managed to make his free throws while winning MVP honors. A 41 percent shooter during the regular season, the Detroit forward went 6 for 8, including a pair with 29 seconds left after chasing down Bradley Beal’s missed free throw to give his team a five-point lead.

Cleveland’s Dion Waiters had 31 points, mostly coming during a 1-on-1 duel with New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. in the second half. Beal finished with 21 for Team Hill, picked by former NBA star Grant Hill.

Hardaway scored 36 points and made seven 3-pointers for fellow former Michigan star Chris Webber’s squad.

By wire sources