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NBA All-Star Saturday has global flavor

Feb. 8, 2002 at 8:15 AM   |   Comments

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Do you remember playing "Around the

World" as a youngster? The NBA is staging its own version on

All-Star Saturday.

Just about everywhere you look, there will be an international

influence as the game's global growth takes center stage.

Saturday afternoon's Rookie Challenge features Pau Gasol of

Spain, Tony Parker of France, Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, Zeljko

Rebraca of Croatia and Hedo Turkoglu of Turkey.

The Hoop-It-Up 3-on-3 tournament -- a new competition replacing

the drab 2ball -- features an entire team of internationals as

Turkoglu, former NBA player Sarunas Marciulionis of Lithuania

and WNBA star Ticha Penicheiro of Portugal join forces.

In the Shootout, Peja Stojakovic of Yugoslavia and Steve Nash of

Canada will try to dethrone Ray Allen and stake claim to the

unofficial title of best shooter in the NBA.

If that's not enough, one of the assistant coaches for the

Rookie Challenge will be Philadelphia favorite Darryl Dawkins,

who once claimed to be from the planet Lovetron.

Seriously, international players have become more prominent and

five foreigners, including Stojakovic and Nash, will play in the

51st All-Star Game on Sunday.

All-Star Saturday starts with the eighth Rookie Challenge and

the third under the current format, in which second-year players

take on a team of rookies.

The Rookies are led by Gasol, who is averaging 17.2 points per

game, and Memphis Grizzlies teammate Shane Battier, who averages

14.8 points. Among others, they are joined by forwards Rebraca

of the Detroit Pistons and Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz and guard

Parker of the San Antonio Spurs.

Turkoglu is part of a strong Sophomores squad that also includes

2001 Slam Dunk champion Desmond Mason and Shootout participants

Mike Miller of Orlando and Quentin Richardson of the Los Angeles

Clippers.

After just three years, 2ball has been replaced by Hoop-It-Up,

which has teams from Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles

playing 3-on-3 half-court contests.

Each team has a current player, former player, WNBA player and

celebrity. Justin Timberlake of pop group N'SYNC and actor and

comedian Jamie Foxx are among the celebrities and Magic Johnson

and Moses Malone are among the former players.

Between the semifinals and final of Hoop-It-Up is the Shootout,

which is consistently the most exciting event of All-Star

Saturday.

Last year, Allen, the All-Star guard of the Milwaukee Bucks,

shot down Stojakovic and Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas in the final

round. He is trying to become the fifth repeat winner of this

event, joining Larry Bird, Craig Hodges, Mark Price and Jeff

Hornacek.

This year, Stojakovic and Nash are back. Miller, Richardson,

All-Star Paul Pierce of Boston, Wesley Person of Cleveland and

Steve Smith of San Antonio, who leads the league with a 3-point

percentage of .525.

Saturday's only event without an international is the Slam Dunk

Contest, which could use a jolt of excitement after last year's

lackluster competition won by Mason, who is trying to join

Michael Jordan as the only back-to-back dunk champions.

The field has been reduced by two to just four high flyers. One

of them is All-Star Steve Francis of the Houston Rockets, who

had a sensational series of dunks two years ago in Oakland that

was obscured by Vince Carter's takeoff into orbit.

Rookies Jason Richardson of Golden State and Gerald Wallace of

Sacramento complete the quartet.

The Rookie Challenge tips off at 4 p.m. EST and the remaining

events begin at 8 p.m. All-Star Saturday will be televised by

TNT.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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