SAN ANTONIO -- It was a moment that Washington Bullets guard Tim Legler often had dreamed of during his five years as an NBA journeyman: always watching the NBA Long Distance Shootout during All-Star weekend and wondering just how he would fare.
So, after spending most of the first half of his season as league's top three-point shooter, Legler a month ago was extended an invitation to participate in the contest.
One problem. The contest was on a Saturday. The due date for his wife, Jennifer, and their first child, was the day before. Legler wondered whether he would attend the competition.
"I had some mixed emotions," he said. "I was real stressed out for a couple of weeks because I was worried about what was going to happen. It was really weighing on my mind."
It weighed until last week, when the Leglers decided to induce labor, which lasted 15 hours, for Jennifer. That resulted in the Feb. 1 birth of 7-pound, 7-ounce Lauren Nicole, whose mom will be in front of a television set watching a relieved Tim compete in today's shootout for the $20,000 top prize.
"I feel so relieved right now, and I'm just going to have a good time the whole weekend now that Lauren is born," said Legler, who is tied for the league lead in three-point shooting at 51.3 percent. "Had we not done this, I was prepared to fly back right away if she went into labor. But now I know that Lauren is healthy, and that Jen's healthy. I can compete with a clear mind and just enjoy myself."
Still, leaving for a road trip that would keep him away 10 days -- the Bullets had two away games before the All-Star Game and two after -- was hard for Tim, who was born in Washington and lived several years in Woodlawn.
"I woke up [Tuesday] with a heavy heart because I said, 'Man, I have to leave her for 10 days,' " Legler said. "It's going to be tough. I wish I could be home. But this is my job."
Legler had been so caught up with his little girl that he practiced only once for the three-point competition. On Monday night, Legler went to the team's practice site in Bowie, where he simulated contest conditions by shooting from racks of balls.
"I hear that other guys in the competition have been practicing, and I'm thinking maybe I'm missing out on something by not practicing," Legler said. "But, hopefully, I'll get down there and do well. All the practice in the world probably won't make you too ready for it."
Legler has been taking pointers from teammate Mark Price, who won the shootout in 1993 and 1994, one of just three players to win the contest in consecutive years. Larry Bird and Craig Hodges have won the contest three years in a row.
"Mark told me it took him three years before he even advanced," Legler said. "He told me to take it real serious and that the guys who do the best are the guys who have fun with it. I'm real confident. I feel that if I can get out of the first round, that I'll have a good chance of winning the competition."
Win or lose, Legler will have the support of his two biggest fans, who will be cheering him on from home.
"We'll be sitting in front of the TV, hoping that he does well," Jennifer said. "I know he's worked so hard to get to this point.
"I always felt that whatever we had to do to work things out, that they would," Jennifer added. "Things have worked out, and we're so happy."