Notes From Day 1 of All-Star Weekend
Nuggets from my notebook from Day 1 of All-Star Weekend.
- When I landed in Houston this morning, the first thing I saw upon awaking from a mini coma and raising the window shade was a private jet at a hangar. It had Michael Jordan’s Jumpman logo on the tail and Carolina blue along the sides. It had to be MJ’s joint. It was pretty sweet.
- Pretty significant statement from Russell Westbrook in his media session today. “I think it’s very important to be able to stay with one team and stay with a great organization like we have and be able to do things like this. It’s a blessing.”
- Hard to top that last quote given its implications. So strictly from a light-hearted standpoint, here’s the quote of the day courtesy of Westbrook when asked if he’s more of a cat or more of a dog. “I’m a wolf,” Westbrook said, seemingly without even having to give it much thought. Asked if he wanted to explain that at all Westbrook said “Nope. Let the fans figure it out.”
- Asked how long it would take to him to grow a beard as long as James Harden’s, Westbrook informed us that he’s “never shaved a day in my life.”
- Westbrook on three straight All-Star Games: “It’s great, man. You can never take it for granted. You never know. Some years you may not make it.”
- Somebody asked Kevin Durant if he ever “broaches” the subject of the Kings’ possible move to Seattle with Clay Bennett. I guess I’m obligated to tell you, for anybody that might not know, Durant said no.
- Durant on what he thinks would happen if he plays in front of a Seattle crowd as a member of the Thunder: “I think they’ll boo us. I think they’ll boo us, no doubt.”
- I asked Joakim Noah if there is any chance we see Derrick Rose play next Sunday against the Thunder. “Probably not,” he said. Then, perhaps seeing the child-like look of sorrow that had washed over my face, Noah patted me on the top of my back, just behind my right shoulder, and said “sorry buddy.”
- More from Noah on Rose possibly sitting out the entire season: “I think it would be deflating to everybody. But at the same time, we understand that there’s a bigger picture. It’s very simple. If he feels healthy enough, he’ll be back. If he doesn’t, then we’ll go out there and give everything we got. And I think we’re capable.”
- Tony Parker just turned 30. And he didn’t take too kindly to being asked about it. “I don’t like when you talk about my age like that. It’s a very sensitive subject. I’m not 36 like TD,” Parker jokingly said, referring to teammate Tim Duncan.
- Apparently, Westbrook used to play tennis. Seriously. That’s what he said today.
- Durant was again asked about his friendship with LeBron James. Here’s what he said when asked specifically how that relationship affects the game. “I don’t think it affects the game,” he said. “We still come out there and play at a high level. Both of us. We don’t take it easy on each other.”
- Here is Durant’s all-time starting five: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Shaq.
- Here’s a sampling of today’s session with Harden in Q&A form. You’ll notice in that Q&A that Harden loves him some video games.
- From the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department. A precocious young boy working for Sports Illustrated Kids made the rounds with the All-Stars and asked a few questions. I kid you not. This is the exact question he posed to Harden: “Pro basketball can be very stressful. How do you relax in your free time?” (Doubt this needs further explanation.) Here is how Harden answered it. “Watch cartoons. Play video games. Get massages. Try to do things that’s quiet and stay away from loud noise.”
- The same kid reporter caught up with Westbrook. One of his three questions: “Who would you rather have on your team, Spider man, Batman or Ironman and why?” Westbrook: “I like Batman, because Batman has better cars. He’s got nice cars.”
- Also in line with a question posed to Harden in the above link, Westbrook said cars would be the most difficult thing for him to give up for 40 days in the spirit of Lent. “Driving,” Westbrook said.
- To recap, in 27 minutes today, we learned Westbrook has never shaved a day in his life, that he used to play tennis and that he has a crazy infatuation with cars.
- Westbrook was great today. He was patient even though he probably didn’t want to be. He was polite even though it’s been proven he doesn’t particular care to be. And he even said ‘Thanks guys” to the people that remained listening when his time was up for answering questions. Major show of maturity by Westbrook today.
- On a semi-related note, today might be the first time I’ve ever heard Russ tell a reporter he had a good question. The question was what Westbrook thinks he could beat Jordan at. It’s the same one posed to Harden in the above Q&A. “I don’t know. I feel like I’m good at a lot of stuff, but MJ was also good at a lot of stuff as well,” Westbrook said. “So I’m not sure about that one. That’s a good question, though.”
- My story for Saturday’s paper that includes Westbrook opening up about what’s really important to him as a player.
- I missed this somewhere along the way. But Westbrook wouldn’t let a makeup artist cover up his scars during a recent photo shoot. Why? “I think it’s just being natural,” he said. “Ain’t no need to cover it up. If it’s there, then it’s there. You kind of just got to go with it, and that’s how I felt.”
- Westbrook politely declined to sing any Ke$ha today…He then said Katy Perry would do the soundtrack to his personal version of the movie “Love & Basketball.”
- Both Durant and Westbrook were asked whether the Thunder now has a big three when you include Serge Ibaka. The fact that that question was posed is both a compliment and an oversight. It’s a compliment because it’s a credit to the growth Serge has shown. It’s an oversight because the people asking the question clearly must have been oblivious to how good Harden was alongside Westbrook and Durant last year.
- Naturally, both Russ and KD kept it all about the team instead of talking about a big three. “We can,” Westbrook said of talking about a big three. “But I think each and every one of us, myself, Kevin and Serge, we like to create a team concept around Oklahoma City and try to keep it that way.”
- I asked Westbrook what his favorite part of All-Star Weekend is. He said the events of Saturday night. I then asked him his least favorite. Without hesitation, he said “this.” He said it with a laugh, though, and was clearly having some fun even though he was dead serious in his answer.
- I really feel bad for the All-Stars during their media sessions at this weekend. They’ve got to answer the same seven or eight questions over and over and over again for 30 minutes straight. And when a question does not fall under that seven or eight question umbrella, it’s a ridiculously off-the-wall question, or request for a shout out to Zimbabwe or some other far away land, or pleading for a promotional line for a foreign news station.
- It was kind of weird hearing KD say All-Star Saturday night is his favorite part of the weekend as well. You’d think the players actually like playing in the game the most. But when you really think about it, All-Star Saturday night is a chance for the players not participating in the events to just be one of the guys. They can kick back, relax and enjoy the show like the rest of us, only with better seats. Durant put that opportunity in its proper perspective. “I grew up watching the dunk contest, the 3-point contest,” Durant said. “I always would see the players front row at those events. And to be one of those guys, that’s going to be cool.”
- Durant’s predications for Saturday night’s events: Westbrook for the shootout. James White for the dunk contest. Steve Novak for the 3-point contest. Damian Lillard for the Skills Challenge.
- KD then said he doubts he’ll participate in any of the All-Star Saturday night events in the future. “I doubt it,” he said. “I just come here to be a fan and enjoy the weekend and have fun playing in the game.”
- Westbrook on why he’s participating in the Shooting Stars event on Saturday night: “I wanted to do something different, actually. I was tired of losing in the Skills Challenge.”
- Westbrook’s rolling with Kenneth Faried for the dunk contest, mainly because he worked out with him before and has seen him “do some amazing stuff.”
- Durant didn’t put himself in the top three for the regular season MVP race. “It’s LeBron and (Chris Paul) and Tony Parker for me. That’s how I look at it,” Durant said. “Those guys have the best records and they’ve done so much for their teams.”
- In answering the previous question, Durant revealed some interesting insight into the Thunder’s admiration for the Spurs, the franchise many believe OKC is modeling itself after. “Those guys are always flying under the radar, the Spurs,” Durant said. “We talk about it all the time in our facility. The Spurs quietly always have the best record.”
- Meaningless fact. The Durant-coached celebrity team lost 86-54 last year. The Westbrook-coached celeb team lost 58-38 this year.
- Westbrook on his favorite African player in the NBA: “Serge. That’s easy.”
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