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All-Star Saturday: Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie back to defend their crowns

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2020 NBA All-Star - Portraits Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris, the poster boys for the Nets development success, will try for second titles in the All-Star Break’s skills challenge and 3 point shooting contest, starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s a refresher course in how they did it.

Two years ago, Dinwiddie won the Skills Challenge in L.A, but he was unable to defend the title last February because he was sidelined after thumb surgery. Last year, Harris made his All-Star Weekend debut and captured the crown in the 3-Point Contest with the highest score ever, edging out Steph Curry.

Dinwiddie will be part of an eight-man field that also includes Miami’s Bam Adebayo, the LA ClippersPatrick Beverley, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, and Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

With Dinwiddie absent, Tatum won last year’s event. Beverley is the 2015 champion.

As Tom Dowd writes...

The event is a three-round series of head-to-head competitions, with first-round matchups to be determined on the night of the event. Competitors must dribble a slalom course from one end of the court to the other, complete a pass through a target, dribble the length of the course back for a layup, then return to the other end and make a 3-pointer to complete the course, with the first finisher advancing.

“I was obviously super-appreciative of the opportunity,” Dinwiddie told Dowd. “It was serendipitous because it was in L.A. and a lot of guys kind of chill. I was trying to win that thing. Being at home, I was really trying to win it. I probably won’t have the same fervor, but, yeah, that’s what I remember. I was actually out there trying to win that thing.”

For Harris, last year’s win in Charlotte was a prelim to topping the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 47.4 percent.

There’s a new format this year in the contest, sponsored by Mountain Dew. Dow explains...

The event has added two new shooting locations called the “MTN DEW Zone.” Located between the top-of-the-key rack and the wing racks, each of the two zones will feature a 3-point ball and will be six feet beyond the 3-point line. The remaining four racks will again feature 16 one-point balls and nine two-point balls — five of which will make up the money ball rack. Each shooter’s round will now be expanded from 60 seconds to 70 seconds, and the maximum score jumps from 34 points to 40 points. The three highest scores from the first round will advance to the championship round.

The field has been cut from last season’s 10 competitors to eight. Harris will be joined by Washington’s Davis Bertans, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Charlotte’s Devonte’ Graham, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield, Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Miami’s Duncan Robinson, and Atlanta’s Trae Young. Booker is a late replacement for Damian Lillard who was hurt in Portland’s last game before the break.

“At the end of the day, it’s not super taxing physically,” said Harris. “I think it’s just more of stuff like this. You have to do a lot of events and media and different things that way. But you can manage that too. There’s only a few things that are mandated by the NBA. The rest is sort of your own volition to go and do it as a you please. But the actual event is a lot of fun. Just given the fact that I won last year I feel like I’m sort of obligated to go back and defend the crown.”

Dinwiddie assessed both his and his teammate’s chances.

“For Joe, I would say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Dinwiddie told Dowd. “My man got a burner. He won last year, so go for it. For me, yeah, they set up a practice course for you to do it. Quite honestly, if you guys have ever seen me practice, you know I’m gonna walk through it.

“At the end of the day, the Skills Challenge is all about who can hit the 3-point shot first. The other stuff is pretty basic. Take your time with the pass because it’s not that difficult. Just take your time, try not to smoke it. Other than that, people get hung up on the 3-point rack. When I won, I was just fortunate enough to just knock ‘em down. If you look at it, I was behind a couple times and cashed a three and beat guys. And then Lauri (Markkanen in the final), he didn’t want no smoke.”

For both, the chance to win a second title is particularly meaningful. In 2016, less than four years ago, Harris was out of the league. He had been traded, cut and underwent surgery on the same day. Dinwiddie was in the G League, having been cut by the Bulls on whose home court he’ll be competing. Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson in both and rescued them.

Friday wasn’t all about preparation for All-Star Saturday Night. Dinwiddie spent time with ESPN where he got a big round of applause on The Jump and talked about the Nets chances and how he fits with Kyrie Irving who he recruited last summer...

He also had some words when Scottie Pippen and Tracy McGrady doubted he could win the Skills Challenge again.

The two events will be broadcast on TNT.