Charlotte becomes the center of the basketball universe with the NBA All-Star Game

Kyrie Irving

The stars come out at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., this week as the NBA pauses for its annual All-Star Game.

Airing Sunday, Feb. 17, on TNT, the 2019 edition will feature the game’s top players (as determined by a fan vote) vying in a contest that historically has featured lots of scoring, some aerial acrobatics and a bit of hamminess on the part of a few players who like to play to the fans. Absent usually, is defense as players try to avoid injury and stay on the court for the season’s second half (and postseason).

At this writing, top vote-getters in the East were Giannis Antetokounpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, and in his last All-Star appearance, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

In the West, the projected starters are LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks in his All-Star debut, Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Rose, an interesting selection because he doesn’t even start for his own team.

As for reserves, they’re chosen by each conference’s top vote-getter, which would be Antetokounpo and James.

The second half of the NBA season then resumes Tuesday, Feb. 19.

•Meanwhile down in Florida, a racing season begins.

Sunday on Fox, it’s the opening of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season with its biggest race, the Daytona 500.

Contested on the 2.5-mile oval of Daytona International Speedway, the 200-lap race features a field of 40 cars and drivers looking to score some early championship points with a win or a top-five or top-10 finish. Among those competing are past race winners Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, 2018 Cup champion Joey Logano and last year’s 500 victor, Austin Dillon.

Dillon won the Great American Race last year driving Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet, 20 years after the NASCAR legend won his first and only Daytona 500 and three years to the day after Earnhardt was killed in a wreck at Daytona. He took the lead on the last lap in overtime after spinning leader Aric Almirola into the wall to bag his first 500 victory.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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