All-Star Weekend in Toronto has arrived, and anticipation is growing regarding the Slam Dunk Contest, the 3-point shootout—which will include both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson—and, of course, the actual game which will be Kobe Bryant's All-Star farewell. Before all that, though, there's the matter of the celebrity game Friday, which will pit teams coached by Drake and Kevin Hart in what should be a friendly battle, more the former than the latter.
Drake's team will feature "Property Brothers" Jonathan and Drew Scott, actors Tom Cavanagh and Stephan James, Arcade Fire's Win Butler, two-time WNBA All-Star Tammy Sutton-Brown, tennis star Milos Raonic, actor, singer and international mystery Kris Wu, former Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Tracy McGrady, and star of HBO's "Oz" Rick Fox.
On Hart's side: Jason Sudeikis, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Anthony Anderson, Miles Brown, Nick Cannon, Elena Delle Donne, Joel David Moore, Chauncey Billups, Muggsy Bogues and Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry.
Ahead of the game, here's our scouting reports on key members of Drake's team, with an assist from the Property Brothers.
Jonathan and Drew Scott are twin brothers who you might have heard of from their popular home renovation show "Property Brothers." They're also participating in this Friday's NBA All-Star Celebrity Game as teammates. The brothers played in the celeb game back in 2012 on opposite teams.
One of the homeowners who appeared on their show was the marketing director of NBA Canada. With the knowledge that the twin brothers (Drew, more so than Jonathan, as you'll find out) were huge basketball fans, they received an invite to play in the game.
The celeb game is exactly as it is presented, as competitive as the Pro Bowl with the skill level a bit dialed down thanks to a mix of amateur ballers, retired pros, WNBA players and others who we can file under miscellaneous. When I chatted with the brothers last week, Drew told me he used to play five hours of basketball a day as a kid, and competed at the college level. Jonathan remembers it that way, too, how his brother would rather read up on Anfernee Hardaway than go to the movies with him.
"Nobody is taking the game too seriously," Jonathan said. "We're out there to have fun and put on a show. But some people take a game a little too seriously." He was referring to his twin brother.
"I'm competitive," Drew said. "I like to have a good run. We're all having fun, but I'm not going to ease up and not block a shot. If Kevin Hart is taking a shot in front of me, I'm swatting that."
When Drew got the invite in 2012, he hadn't played in five years, and needed to get back in shape. He's much more prepared this time. The brothers are currently filming in Las Vegas, and Drew had Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams over at his place earlier in the week to shootaround. He made two 3-pointers last time he was in the celeb game, and won the celebrity All-Star 3-point challenge, so when I compared him to Steph Curry, he laughed but did not reject the compliment. "The last time when I made those two threes," Drew said, "it was the first time I ever shot an NBA three. I had this confident look on my face after hitting one, but inside I was like 'holy shit.'"
Jonathan is more of a "dominant presence under the hoop," according to himself. The plan is to crash the boards and try to take over the paint. Drew thinks if the opposing team closes out on him at the 3-point line, they will be making a mistake. "My money spot is just inside the 3-point line," he said. "Also, when I was younger, I had a 43-inch vertical. I was the white guy who could jump. If I'm feeling really good I can get a dunk in."
The coaching staff—Drake, Jose Bautista, DeMar DeRozan and Steve Nash
Before we move onto the other players, we should also consider the coaching staff. There are plenty of red flags as to whether Drake will hold his team back.
Red flag No. 1: Players on the team have seen his infamous airball. It's hard to respect a coach that you know can't ball.
Red flag No. 2: Drake is friends with the opposing coach and known to build camaraderie with his opponents.
Those are the primary concerns. Also, this is basically Drake's unofficial weekend, which means his mind will likely be occupied by other things, and it doesn't help that close friend and city councillor @Norm will probably get involved in the proceedings somehow, adding another distraction to the head coach of the team. DeMar DeRozan and Steve Nash should help, but their lack of coaching experience will make them a non-factor. The same goes for Jose Bautista, which brings me to another pertinent question: Why are there no events at the SkyDome, only the original birthplace of the Raptors franchise?
According to Drew, the coaches usually divide up five-man units and have them on five-minute runs. In 2012, he spent most of his time on the court with the Run-TMC trio of Mitch Richmond, Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullins. "They hadn't played for awhile," Drew recalls. "They were running their own things, pumping up threes, and not hitting them. That was exhausting to run back and forth after misses." Note to the coaches: find the right five-man units.
When the celeb game rosters were announced I asked "who is Kris Wu?" on Twitter and a couple of his fans descended in my mentions immediately to let me know that I should consider using Google. So I did.
Wu was born in Guangdong, China, and was the basketball captain of several school teams back home and in Vancouver. He was part of a Chinese-South Korean boy band called EXO. My second favorite fact from his Wikipedia page: Wu was invited to the Met Gala in 2015 and was the fourth most tweeted-about star at the Gala behind Justin Bieber (more on him later!), Rihanna and Beyonce. My favorite fact: Wu was named "Most Influential Internet Male God" at the Asian Influence Awards in 2015.
Here's a five-minute clip of Wu playing two-on-two (he's the one with the blonde hair, white dress shirt and khakis):
Here are a few things I jotted down as part of my scouting report: If you can force him to the left with the dribble, the bigs in the lane can probably collapse on him and prevent him from finishing at the rim. Not the best finisher at the basket. His help defence seems to be non-existent so Hart's team should definitely look to attack when he is on the weak side.
Back to Bieber. His absence from this game is surprising, but the league might want to distance itself from a player with such a history of off-court problems. But here's my two-video pitch to have Bieber in the game, and also I'd like to mention "Sorry" is one of the greatest tracks you want to hear when you're on the dancefloor (I'm turning 32 in October).
I know as much about Win Butler and Arcade Fire as I do Kris Wu. Sorry, take it up with the editor, he never said I needed to have an open mind about music to write a celebrity game preview.
Here's a two-on-two game with Michael Landsberg, Amir Johnson, Dallas Green and Butler (is this the most obscure Canadian basketball video that exists on YouTube?):
There's also this:
I'm in on Win Butler!
Raonic is an accomplished professional tennis player, but according to this interview, did not play basketball growing up, although he is a huge Raptors fan. Asked what he would be doing if he wasn't playing tennis, he responded: "I would probably be graduating college with some sort of finance degree or I would play pro basketball."
So, he's a dreamer. He's also a professional athlete, and that has to help in this type of setting. Raonic won't be afraid of the moment if it's a close game late, something we can't say for everybody. Here's Jonathan on his 2012 celeb game experience: "That was the most stressed I've been in my adult life."
So, the key for Drake's team will be to find the right five-man combinations. He should obviously take advantage of having T-Mac and Fox on the team, but also understand that he can spread the floor with guys like Drew, Butler, and feature Sutton-Brown in sets. As Jonathan and Drew point out, the WNBA players involved in the game are probably the best ballers on the court, and they should be heavily involved until the game dissolves into Kevin Hart's personal campaign for the MVP award.
If Team Canada loses, it will be the second most embarrassing moment for this country next to a group of people actually petitioning against a Kanye West performance. I'll be rooting for them.