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No. 25 K-State dives into start of Big 12 play

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No. 25 K-State dives into start of Big 12 play

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was asked whether he thinks his No. 25 Wildcats are ready for the start of Big 12 play, and his answer didn't exactly fill anybody with confidence.

``I don't think you know until you get there,'' he said.

Weber has already gone through an up-and-down nonconference slate, getting blown out by Michigan and Gonzaga before upsetting then-No. 8 Florida. So perhaps it's no surprise Weber doesn't know exactly what to expect from Saturday's game against No. 22 Oklahoma State.

``I thought we had made some progress up to the Florida game, and then you have some setbacks with traveling and the injuries,'' said Weber, whose team scattered for a holiday break and then had trouble returning to Manhattan because of lousy weather.

When players did return, some of them were nursing injuries.

Starting point guard Angel Rodriguez has been dealing with tendinitis, and backup guard Martavious Irving had his knee lock up in practice. Weber is hopeful both will be ready when the Wildcats (11-2) play the Cowboys (10-2), but he won't know until game time.

``We need them,'' Weber said. ``We can grind and fight without them, but if we are going to be really good, we need those guys. It would be nice to have both of them healthy.''

Especially considering the way Kansas State played without them.

The Wildcats plodded and muddled and shuffled through an uninspired win over Missouri-Kansas City in their first game after the holidays, and then needed a big second-half charge to put away South Dakota in their final tuneup for Big 12 play.

Neither time did they look anything like they did in beating the Gators.

``We learned a lot,'' said senior Rodney McGruder, who has had to shoulder an even greater scoring role without his two backcourt makes. ``It's just about how to get shots without guys creating for you and things like that. It's been a switch up in the offense.''

The offense has been the biggest hurdle for the Wildcats to overcome this season.

Under former coach Frank Martin, Kansas State ran half-court sets in which every player on the floor had a prescribed role. But when Weber was hired, the Wildcats began to implement his motion offense, a more free-flowing system that involves constant cutting and moving.

Predictably, the results early on were disastrous.

Passes were sent sailing out of bounds, three guys would bump into each other on the same spot on the floor, nobody was crashing the boards on offense - and Weber was left to stand on the sideline, raise his arms in frustration and ask, ``What was that?''

Slowly, the Wildcats started to get things figured out, and they looked like a fluid machine against Florida. But then injuries set in and the past couple weeks have been ugly at best, and now the Cowboys are visiting for an important Big 12 game.

``I'm ready. Our team is ready,'' said junior guard Shane Southwell. ``They're a really good team. I don't know if they are still in the Top 25 after their loss, but they played well and they honestly should have won that game. It is a big game and I am ready to play.''

Indeed, the Cowboys are still ranked after their 69-68 loss to No. 10 Gonzaga on Monday night. Their only other loss came against Virginia Tech early in the year, and North Carolina State and Tennessee are among their victims this season.

The game could play a big part in how the Big 12 shakes out.

While sixth-ranked Kansas remains the heavy favorite to win its ninth straight conference championship, the league is wide open after that. Kansas State and Oklahoma State are among a handful of teams vying for second place, with an eye on at least challenging the Jayhawks.

``They're a great team. We just have to come out and bring it,'' McGruder said. ``They're coming into our home and we have to protect our home court. I look forward to it.''

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.