The NBA’s annual All Star Weekend tips off tonight in Houston and first on the slate is a clash of the league’s new generation in the Rising Stars Game.
It showcases the very best of the rookie and second-year players in the league, divided into two teams chosen – and coached – by former stars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley.
It’s a bit of fun, of course, but recent years have seen the curtain raiser provide some of the most enthralling contests of the three-day jamboree.
So which legend of the game has won the battle to pick the hottest talent available?
Team Shaq will be headlined by Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, the favourite to be Rookie of the Year. That should make for a high-scoring combination with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who will make his debut in the All Star Game itself on Sunday.
Team Chuck is headlined by Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets with Spanish star Ricky Rubio and Denver’s impressive Kenneth Faried adding some extra power.
On balance, O’Neal looks to have been dealt the stronger hand so that’s why his squad are 1.58 for victory with Barkley’s side at 2.42. But these games have a tradition of high scoring and lead swings so look at Team Shaq on the handicap of -4.0 at 1.91.
There more serious action in the Euroleague on Friday night when reigning champions Olympiakos visit Khimki Moscow with both teams scrapping to reach the play-offs. However the Russians have been plagued by financial problems that have seen their players’ wages go unpaid in recent weeks.
Amid some discord, the Greeks could take advantage and come good at 2.70 for the victory.
Bet of the Day: Take Team Shaq in the NBA Rising Stars game on the handicap
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