NBA.com has touched down in Houston for All-Star 2006. As part of the festivities around town, we'll provide you with behind-the-scenes coverage with our running blog.

From Q&A's with players and celebs to first-person accounts to cool photos, the NBA.com All-Star Blog will be your home for complete coverage from All-Star Weekend!

BEST OF TODAY:
A Guinness World Record is set at Jam Session
Arenas predicts MVP | Kamla agrees
Hungry like the ... Bulls | Eggs, sausage and gold medals
Shaq shocked by his work

Thursday: The players arrive in Houston; Sir Charles left speechless?

Iguodal-Ahhh, Ohhh

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 12:30 a.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Iguodala threw down a series of thunderous dunks Friday night. Watch the highlights.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
And so the Rookies will have to wait another year to get that elusive victory in the game named for them. You see, they just don't have enough experience to defeat their counterparts, one year more-seasoned. Or so the thinking goes. After tonight, another theory will be that they simply lacked an A.I. of their own: Andre Iguodala, who suited up for the Sophomore squad.

Iguodala was nothing short of breathtaking tonight, soaring high above the heads -- after all, 5-9 Nate Robinson was on the floor -- of his opponents and teammates to take MVP honors -- and its accompanying half hour of media obligations -- in the game pitting an All-Star cast of first-year players vs. deserving second-years. Iguodala becomes the second A.I. to dress for the Sixers and be the brightest of the young stars: Allen Iverson captured the game's MVP award in the 1997 East-West version of the contest.

While this game will go down in the annals as Iguodala's shining moment, others had memorable performances that shouldn't be overshadowed. One such showing was by rookie Charlie Villanueva, who pulled in an impressive 12 boards, to go with 18 points. Twelve rebounds might not seem like much, but consider he had to split time with Andrew Bogut and Channing Frye, as well as go up against Dwight Howard and Nenad Krstic, those rebounds don't seem so easy to come by.

Then there was Chris Paul, whom many believed should be playing in Sunday's All-Star Game after leading the Hornets surprising season. The rookie playmaker tied a Challenge record with 11 assists, a mark shared by five others. He also had five steals, in a game that featured very little defense.

But the night was stolen by Philly's second-year swingman, who sent a strong message to Robinson, Josh Smith and Hakim Warrick -- his competitors in tomorrow night's Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk. If, tonight, Iguodala was able to so effortlessly pull off that high-flying trickery in competition, just imagine what he's going to do with an open court and a full head of steam. The competition is stiff, but defending champ Josh Smith knows what he's up against in Iguodala.

"People are talking about Nate and me," Smith said earlier in the day. "I think Andre is going to be some tough competition because I've seen him do some dunks this year that he can do in the dunk contest."

Now the rest of us have seen a collection of his dunks and can only hope he has enough gas left in the tank tomorrow to really elevate.

Tomorrow we'll again be covering all the action here in Houston, from the East and West practice sessions to the Saturday Night contests: the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, Radio Shack Shooting Stars, PlayStation Skills Challenge and, of course, the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk.

Anything UConn Do ...

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:44 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

I can do better. Chicago's Ben Gordon is known for hitting big shots from outside, but Charlie Villanueva, not so much. So, when Charlie V., who played at Connecticut, pulled up for a triple in the face of former Husky Gordon, it was only natural that he'd give a little good natured jawing on the way back down the floor. Somehow we get the feeling Gordon and his Sophomore teammates are going to have the last laugh in this one. The score currently is 99-86, in favor of the Sophs.

What Says You?

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:33 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

I've got a hunch who might take home the MVP honors tonight. I'll give you a hint, his stat line currently reads: 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, 9-of-10 shooting ... But, that's just my thoughts. What's yours?

Buckle Your Seatbelt

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:28 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Well, it seems the young men have gotten warmed up and decided to run. Each change in possession results in a fast break the other way, with plenty of behind-the-back dishes and alley oop attempts. If they don't take the ball to the rim, they're firing from long range.

And, sometimes, even when they're fouled near mid-court, they still take the ball to the rim, as Iguodala just did. Sarunas Jasikevicius tried to save the highlight play on a break, but Iguodala continued at the rim, took the ball between the legs and slammed it down over his head, much to the delight of the crowd.

Getting Out of Hand

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:24 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Remember what we said ... The Sophomores have opened up a 14 point edge and they've gotten the ball back. One of the ways is through the explosiveness of Andre Iguodala. He's 6-of-7 from the field. Would you like to guess how many of his 13 points came on dunks? Make that 7-of-8, as Devin Harris just gave him a sweet lob off the glass to make the flash bulbs pop. Iggy, you might want to reserve a little spring in that step for tomorrow night.

How low can Devin Harris and Dwight Howard go?
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Knicks City Kids Meet the NBA's Big Kids

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:15 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

When New York's teeny dancers came out at the end of the intermission period, they had some sizable company: Orlando's Dwight Howard and Dallas' Devin Harris. The kids entertained the Houston fans by shaking their posteriors and shimmying low to the ground. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard seems to have lost some of the flexibility of the younger younsters, as he was a good three feet from the floor.

At The Break

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:08 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

As the rookies headed into the locker room at the break, some of the things we overheard were "Those guys are playing for real" and "We gotta play some more defense." The players then proceeded to give Channing Frye some grief about getting dunked on by Dwight Howard.

Coach Lowe came in and said that they needed to stop the lobs and play tighter defense on Ben Gordon, who is the halftime favorite for MVP.

As the rookies exited the locker room, they were greated by Commissioner Stern, who shook their hands.

One Half Down, One To Go

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:57 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Through 20 minutes the Rookie squad has held tight and could pose a real threat in the second half. Expect Pistons assistant Sidney Lowe -- coaching the first-year players -- to give a motivational speech, rallying his troops. But, if history's taught us anything, it's to think the Sophomores have the experience necessary to open up a sizeable lead in the second period. Last year, the Rookies actually took a lead into the locker rooms before the Sophs pumped in 75 in the final 20 minutes alone. So, don't make plans for the next 20 minutes on the game clock. Things are about to heat up here in Houston.

MVP Voting

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:46 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

So much for Bogut looking like a good bet for the MVP of this game. He does have four boards and an assist to go along with those four points, but his team's down eight, with other players turning in strong performances. So, who's going to win MVP? That's what we want to know. Keep it here on NBA.com in the second half and we'll give you the opportunity to help choose the MVP.

Mascots Are Funny

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:39 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Say what you want, but dunking -- even off a trampoline -- has to be mighty hard under all that polyester. The mascots are playing nice and taking their turns springing into the air for their assault on the rim. Clutch, Houston's bear, got first crack at the rim, well, because it's his building. But we have to admit, we were a little disturbed when he stripped down before getting his running start. He is a a bear after all and it shouldn't be such a big deal, but we still found it a little disturbing.

Celebrity Sightings

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:30 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

It's still early and the Celebrity Game has just concluded over at Jam Session, but we're seeing stars here inside the Toyota Center. Sitting baseline, looking dapper in a vest with shirt and tie, is Shaq. He was greeted with a friendly handshake by former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, as the second-highest single-game scorer assumed his baseline seat in the same row, which also happens to seat Raptors star Chris Bosh. Across the aisle is LeBron James, who is sharing laughs with the Big Diesel. We've also had a Ludacris sighting on the big screen, complete with T-Mac-esqe shades.

Early MVP Consideration

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:22 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

While, in popular opinion, Andrew Bogut may rank second in the running for Rookie of the Year honors behind Chris Paul, it's the Aussie looking strong in the early going to give his Rookie team an early lead. Immediately after Dwight Howard missed a lob on our end of the floor, Bogut broke out down the court and caught the long lob for the two-handed authoritative jam. But, then again, Paul does already have three assists in less than five minutes of play.

Final Preparations

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:17 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Earlier tonight when the rookies made their way back inside the locker room, Nate Robinson was flipping through the All-Star program. He stopped at the page for Chris Bosh and said, "This guy gets buckets."

Coach Sidney Lowe went over the offense a bit and then a couple of out-of-bounds plays. Lowe put an emphasis on playing hard but also told them to have fun. On defense, nothing easy. "We want to keep everybody in front of us."

Elvin Hayes then gave the rookies some words of encouragement and then they huddled up. After the huddle broke, they had a few minutes before they needed to walk out onto the court, so Andrew Bogut headed back to the training room for some stretching, while Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva and Sarunas Jasikevicius did their stretching on the locker room floor. A few players partook in some pregame Red Bull.

As Chris Paul headed to the training room to get his rib pads taped up, we asked him if it felt like a real game.

"Somewhat. We only got nine guys in the locker room though."

The players then made their way out to the tunnel towards the floor where they met up with the sophomores.

"I'm going to foul you," Channing Frye told Devin Harris while elbowing him just before the two teams walked onto the floor. "I can't foul out."

Flying V

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:12 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The Flying V was once a popular Gibson model guitar. TNT's flying V camera could make just as much noise as a rock star's one-time axe of choice. If you're watching this game -- or Sunday's Game -- from home, make sure to check out the shots from the overhead camera. We've seen the camera as low as about 12 feet off the floor, giving a whole different perspective to the way you watch hoops.

Is This the Rooks' Year?

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 9:03 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

In case you're keeping track, the first-years haven't beaten the Sophomores since 2002 when Jason Richardson took MVP honors. As a side note, the event was held on Saturday night back then and Richardson also went out and captured the dunk title in the same night.

A Preview of Sorts

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:57 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Okay, if you have any thoughts of missing tomorrow night's dunk contest, you'd better reconsider. Maybe Andre Iguodala was giving us a sneak peek at what he might do tomorrow night, or it could have simply been an errant throw, but either way, it was spectacular. The other A.I. tossed himself a lob during pre-game warmups OFF THE SHOT CLOCK! Then he went up and got it.

Deep Ball

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:52 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The Rookie and Sophomore squads just took the floor, heaving mini basketballs into the stands for the fans in attendance. Channing Frye and Andre Iguodala had other ideas, however, taking target practice on the TNT crew assembled on a make-shift stage at the Toyota Center. The set was a considerable distance up off the floor, but the hoops stars had no problem reaching the lights and cameras. We'll have to ask Vince Young what he thinks of their arms.

Cheering on the Raptor

Posted by Mauricio Mendosa: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:47 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Jose Calderón showed up at the Rookie Challenge, working as a commentator for Canal Plus, a TV channel in Europe. He passed by the court to say hi to his teammate Charlie Villanueva and his old friend from the Spanish league, Sarunas Jasikevicius.

“I wished to be part of this game along with Charlie but I think that there is a lot of talent here. I’m looking forward for the next Rookie Challenge as a sophomore,” he said.

Vince Young Goes OverTime

Posted by Eric Weinstein: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:45 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Former UT QB Vince Young is standing courtside preparing to shoot a live segment with Craig Sager for TNT OverTime on NBA.com. Vince has been rapping with T.J. Ford, Andre Iguodala and Dwight Howard, trying to convince them to be interviewed. Young looks sharp, decked out in a brown pinstripe suit. Sager, on the other hand, gives new meaning to the term 'rust never sleeps,' as his orange-tie-on-orange-shirt combination is blinding.

After the game, Young and his camera crew are heading to Tony Parker's album release party for more OverTime content.

Hungry Like The ... Bulls

Posted by Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:33 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Deng and Nocioni rushed to practice, forsaking nourishment.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
That is what happens if you show up late. Remember, the Bulls trio missed the first 45 minutes of the sophomore practice this morning after their flight got delayed. They´ve been so busy all they´ve not had a chance to eat. Good thing that the NBA offers its players some great in-room dining.

Some 80 minutes before tip-off, Gordon spotted the big buffet in the locker room, which featured Biscotti, fresh fruits, spaghetti and meatballs, herb grilled chicken breast, green salad and a steamed vegetable medley. Gordon filled his plate with almost everything and enjoyed dinner, while the rest of the team was busy answering media questions in the jam-packed room.

"I have not eaten all day," Gordon told us. "I have not had a chance."

As it turned, it was a good way to escape the multiple reporters flooding the room - and the players - with questions. It did not quite work for Okafor, who was approached by three Japanese journalists during his meal.

"I have spaghetti with meatballs," he explained to them. "It is very delicious."

Deng was the second Bull player to grow hungry but Del Harris caught him out.

"You better make sure it is a light meal," the coach vowed. "We´re playing soon."

Andres Nocioni, the third Bull, only needed some fresh fruits after having a very quick lunch break this noon in the NBA Entertainment offices. Let´s see whether it will affect their performance tonight as the Rookies have just entered the floor.

Ricky Barry Would Love Us

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:29 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Q: What do Chris Paul, Nate Robinson and Channing Frye all have in common?

A: They were nailing NBA-range thee pointers ... Underhanded!

During warmups for tonight's Rookie Challenge, the three first-year players toed the arc and fired away granny-style. Paul swished. Robinson rattled his home. Frye missed, but would hit on a later attempt.

It just goes to show the light hearted atmosphere here at the Rookie Challenge. Larry Brown's not here to tell his rookies that shooting from below the waist isn't the right way. And even if he was here to enjoy the show, he probably would've been as entertained as us. A few short minutes later, we watched two of the Rookie of the Year candidates playfully engage in a little one-on-one, as Paul tried to take Bogut off the dribble from the perimeter. We're pretty sure that matchup favored the speedier guard.

Live! At the Toyota Center

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 8:14 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Greetings hoops fans, we're here at the Toyota Center in Houston for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge.

Right now, about an hour before the game goes to air on TNT, the rookies -- Paul, Bogut, Frye, etc. -- are shooting around right in front of us. Meanwhile, Sarunus Jasikevicius paused to speak with NBA Blog Squad member George Eddy.

As you know, George is a huge Saras supporter. And why not, Saras has done well, not only overseas (which, to whomever has followed Saras' career, goes without saying), but here in the States as well.

Despite blogging for NBA.com for two years, we still hadn't met George. Ah, the internet and the All-Star Game: bringing people together.

Gilbert Replaces Raja

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 7:57 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We have just learned that Raja Bell will not be able to participate in Saturday's Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout due to a family illness. He will be replaced by Gilbert Arenas.

On the Move With the Rookies

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 7:56 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We needed a ride over to the Toyota Center for the Rookie Challenge (well, we didn't really need a ride, it's right across the street from our All-Star office, but work with us here), so we just hopped on the bus that was taking the rookies over. We entered through the parking garage, into the luxurious Houston Comets locker room in the Toyota Center (The sophs are in the Rockets locker room).

As players started getting dressed, Chris Paul had a major decision to make. He had two pairs of shoes to choose from: black with purple or black with teal. He first put on the black and purple pair, along with some yellow socks, but then decided to switch to the black and teal. He followed most of the other players into the training room to get taped. As he got taped next to Deron Williams, he pointed out Deron's diamond earrings.

"We all know that he knows that he was No. 3 and I was No. 4," Paul said. "He doesn't have to show us!"

Williams remarked that he hasn't eaten all day, but he wouldn't get a chance to partake in the locker room spread until after the rookies made their way to the Rockets practice court for a photo shoot.

We followed along and we congratulated Sarunas Jasikevicius on his Knockout championship. "Do I get money for that?" he asked. Ummmm... no.

There were four different sets set up on the practice court: a photo set where they stood with a basketball, a set where they sat on a chair, a set where they stood on a platform for television promos and a set for the team photo.

While they were taking the team photo, the sophomores arrived. As the rookies made their way out, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon partook in a game of UConn fake-sparring.

The rookies then made their way back to the locker room where they were mobbed by the media.

Celebrity Sightings

Posted by Adam Bloom: Fri., Feb. 17 at 7:37 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

As the McDonald’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by 2K Sports was getting started on Center Court at Jam Session, the award winning coaches were making final preparations to spur their teams to victory.

Eva Longoria, coach of H-Town, did a quick head count, to make sure they were all together before being led out on the court -- all while dancing in place to the music.

On the other end of the court, Queen Latifah, who's guiding Clutch City, was also stretching and dancing to the music, yelling at her team to get fired up. She seemed very excited to be here and was talking to Nelly about infiltrating the other team's plays.

The crowd favorite tonight seems to be Clutch City's Ice Cube.

What Would Happen if I Stole the Ball?

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 7:20 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The above question was one I heard more than once on the Jam Session floor as Joseph Odhiambo was nearing his goal of 26 hours, 40 minutes dribbling a basketball. A close second was, what would happen if he lost his dribble?

He'd still hold the Guinness World Record, is the answer to both, but he'd probably be pretty upset with you. The old record was 24 hours, but Odhiambo wasn't content to just better the mark by a minute or two, he wanted to make a definitive statement.

"I've been looking at this record for the last four years, but I just didn't have the right equipment."

Joseph didn't have to look any further than Spalding's new NEVER FLAT ball. While I can't vouch for the ball personally, it certainly withstood the roughly 140,000 bounces it took off the hardwood, possibly even better than Joseph himself. "My shoulders are really heavy," Odhiambo said moments before stopping his dribble.

Joining Odhiambo and Spalding in the achievement was Clyde Drexler and a representative from Guinness World Records, who presented Odhiambo with a certificate commemorating the milestone.

"He's got a nice handle," Drexler said. "He can handle the basketball. Some of the point guards in the NBA could take note."

And, now, the rest of the world can, too.

A Cure for What Ails Him?

Posted by Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 6:23 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Don't call me Shot Doctor, says the man who is known for his odd shooting clinics.

A while ago, Holger Geschwindner, mentor and discoverer of Dirk Nowitzki, put us through his favourite training methods for three-point shooting.

Holger regularly jets over the ocean to take a first-hand look at Dirk's shooting. Does that make him a Shot Doctor?

"That is not the right expression for me,” he told us while watching his protégé going through the photo shoots "The Americans don't care about a seven footer who can defend like a world champion but not shoot. Dirk would have never conquered Basketball-America. Shooting is part of the game unlike in soccer, where matches end with one, two or three goals. So for him to have a chance, he needed to learn how to shoot."

Asked what areas of his game Dirk still needs to improve, the ever-so-strict Geschwindner replied:

"Everything. He entered the NBA two years ahead of plan so there are a lot of things to catch up with and optimise."

Rewind!

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 5:45 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Earlier in the day, while the Sophomores were on Jam Session center court finishing up their shootaround, the Rookies arrived backstage, all of them except for Sarunas Jasikevicius were decked out in brand new Nikes. While they were waiting, NBA legend Rick Barry arrived and asked Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Paul and Rookie assistant coach Elvin Hayes to do quick promos for his radio show.

As the sophomores left the floor, we caught up with Dwight Howard, and asked him what tips he had received from Sophomore assistant coach Moses Malone.

"He just talked to me about expanding my game and shooting the ball more," Howard told us. "He said that when he first came in the league, he was doing the things that I was doing like rebounding and really working in the low post. He said that when he developed a jump shot to go with his low post game, it opened everything up for him and people didn't know how to gaurd him. So, he just told me to work on that during the offseason and get that into my game."

So what's it like to get advice from a legend like that?

"I feel honored that he was talking to me. I can learn a lot from Moses Malone. I didn't get a chance to watch him growing up, but I played with him on PlayStation a lot and he was awesome on there."

Back on the court, Rookie coach Sydney Lowe went over a few offensive sets, but then gave the kids plenty of time to just shoot around. They took advantage, quickly breaking into a game of an old favorite, Knockout. In the spirit of total access, we've got the play-by-play ...

Danny Granger was eliminated by Nate Robinson.
Charlie Villanueva was eliminated by Deron Williams (after CV missed a windmill dunk).
Chris Paul was eliminated by Luther Head.
Robinson was eliminated by Sarunas Jasikevicius.
Andrew Bogut was eliminated by Channing Frye.
Head was eliminated by Williams.
Williams was eliminated by Jasikevicius.
Frye was eliminated by Jasikevicius.

So Sarunas Jasikevicius is your 2006 Rookie Challenge Knockout Champion. Of course, he had an advantage because he was doing an interview while the first three players were eliminated. That, and he's a great shooter.

They (Heart) Gilbert Too

Posted by John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 5:04 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

After media availability, the interview and photo circuit got busy again. So busy, that some players had to wait while others were having their photos taken. After photographer Jennifer Pottheiser told Gilbert Arenas that he was the best dressed player of the day so far, Dirk Nowitzki walked in the room. Pottheiser directed Dirk to a stool while she shot Arenas, saying "You can hang out there and watch the beauty of Gilbert."

After Pottheiser was done with Gilbert and before he left the room, he exclaimed to Nowitzki, "Four for 22, that's all you can give me?", lamenting on his performance gainst the Mavs on Wednesday.

And Finally ...

Posted by Rob Peterson/Brad Friedman: Fri., Feb. 17 at 4:08 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We can't go through a whole blog without mentioning the Daddy.

Shaquille O'Neal was his usual jovial and silly self.

First, Shaq on his relationship with LeBron: "He's a great guy. I have a great relationship with his mother. We spoke when LeBron was in high school."

Shaq on his kids' relationship with LeBron: "He's so good, my kids took my picture out of their rooms and put his pictures up," Shaq said. "He's actually a guy, that when my kids do start playing ball, I will allow them to watch.

"Some guys I won't allow them to watch, but I will allow them to watch LeBron because he plays the game like it should be played."

As for Shaq's police work, well, let's just say some of the work shocked him. Casually, Shaq mentioned he'd been stunned by a Taser gun.

"A stun gun," one media member, asked, of course, stunned.

"Yes, twice," Shaq replied.

And you went down, asked another?

Matter of factly and with a straight face, Shaq replied: "Yes."

Finally, one followed up with this query: "So, how many did it take?"

In an are you kidding me tone, Shaq said, "One."

Speaking of one, that's one for the books, people. We're done at Media Availability. We hope you enjoyed the live blogging and that there'll be many stunning moments from this weekend.

Special Guest Blogger

Posted by Rob Peterson/Rick Kamla: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:58 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

First, let's welcome NBA TV's own (drum roll) Rick Kamla!

Kamla got some prime news from Gilbert Arenas. Maybe Gilbert will win the All-Star MVP, if he can figure out how to work the "loopholes" in East coach Flip Saunders' offense as he has his coach's, Eddie Jordan, in Washington.

Kamla said: "Gilbert says he knows the loopholes in Jordan's offense. He's averaging 28 points per game, conforming game to Jordan's system. But if he needs to score for his team, he can work around that and get off for points."

Maybe Gilby will love Saunders' philosophy of the motion offense.

"I think it's the fact that I spent in Minnesota, a hockey state," Saunders said, "that I enjoy an assist leads to the goal. I find the same things in the basketball."

Gilby, if you want that MVP, go talk to Flip about minutes. Sounds like the offense is set up for your liking.

More Vince

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:54 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Maybe players can learn some trade secrets at the All-Star. Or so says, Vince, who's looking forward to playing with the four Pistons.

"I'd kinda like to figure out what's going on in Detroit and try to bring it back to New Jersey."

It's the Heart

Posted by Rob Peterson/Bernard Boey: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:51 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Allen Iverson's been hearing it forever. But this seven-time All-Star is having none of it when it comes to his size.

"First, play with your heart," Iverson said. "Size doesn't mean anything."

VC's Shoes

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:47 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Vince Carter, the 2000 dunk champ, said that he helped design his new shoes, the VC5. It's a combination of some of the shoes that he has worn in the past.

Also, one of the Cavs media guys stopped by our table and placed a pair of black shoes, size 16s on the table.

"Are those...?" I asked.

"LeBron's," he replied. "Yes." "Those aren't his shoes for the game are they?"

"No, photo shoot."

Cool. Check our galleries later to see LeBron's photo shoot kicks.

'Sheed

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:38 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

'Sheed was all smiles with NBA TV.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
With a 42-9 record, the Pistons are the best in the league. One of the many reasons is the Pistons have had one starting lineup all season long: Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

Only Prince didn't make the All-Star Game this season.

As to why having such cohesion is important, allow Rasheed to extrapolate.

"I think of us as five fingers on a hand," Rasheed said. "We can do more damage as a fist than slapping." Meanwhile, the Pistons have three media people for their four All-Stars.

Jermaine O'Neal

Posted by Rob Peterson/Mauricio Mendoza: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:36 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Though, voted as a starter, Jermaine O'Neal will miss the All-Star Game because of a groin injury. But he's still here facing the media.

For all the guys out there, let me speak for you: Ouch!

O'Neal's a trouper. But as for the recent growing pains the Pacers have gone through, O'Neal met the questions head on about the Ron Artest trade and his injury.

"Things are getting better," O'Neal said. "I have to recognize that it was a tough time.

"Actually, I got hurt during the drama ... and I think that nobody realizes I was hurt.

Wade had good things to say about Kobe.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Wade on Kobe

Posted by Rob Peterson/Bernard Boey: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

While there may be moments in the All-Star Game when he matches up with Kobe, Dwyane Wade also talked about him during availability.

"Kobe is the same, driven guy that he's always been," Wade said. "It seems like he's always fine tuning his game.

As for Kobe's new commercial, what does Wade thing about that?

"I love it," Wade said. " The part I like most is what people hate him for is that a lot of people also love him for."

We Heart Gilby

Posted by Rob Peterson/Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:24 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Last year, Gilbert Arenas predicted that he'd be All-Star Game MVP. Any regrets? And what about this year?

"We need to find out how many minutes I'm going to play," Arenas said. "If I play more than 20 minutes..." And then Arenas, in a whisper said, "I got this. I got it. The President has it. I got this. I can feel it."

King James was swarmed by cameras, microphones and voice recorders at Friday's media session.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
The East Is In

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:22 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The West stars have departed, and now the East is in the house. LeBron, sitting right in front of us, is slammed with media members. And, yes I do see the Cavs.com's The Optimist getting info for his column.

Does KG Get the Point?

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:22 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

League MVP Steve Nash said he's willing to step aside for a bit and let a certain seven-footer bring the ball up the floor.

It would be nice to see five seven-footers on the floor at the same time, Nash said.

Nash's lineup would feature Pau, Dirk, Yao and Duncan on the floor to go along with KG, though Garnett is officially listed at 6-11. But since Nash is the MVP, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and let him round up.

Nash also had a "Steve Nash for 2007 All-Star" pin in front of him on the table.

"Some guy just gave it to me."

Avery Speaks Some More

Posted by Rob Peterson/Bernard Boey: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:19 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Johnson went on about the Mavs' possibility of winning an NBA title.

"The past 11 years, only four teams have won titles," Johnson said. "Reggie Miller, for example, was a great player, but he never won a championship."

Avery Speaks

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:10 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Mavs and West All-Star coach Avery Johnson has been praised for shoring up the Mavs' defense this season. As for the old school defenders, Johnson doesn't think some of the best defenders of yesteryear would be as effective these days with the handchecking rules. Johnson noted that Derek Harper and (a younger) Gary Payton would have trouble.

"Even me," Johnson said. "I would have to retire."

As for Avery's pick for league MVP, after his own MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki, he looks to Motown.

"If I couldn't vote for Dirk, I would vote for Chauncey Billups."

Finally, someone asked him what's it's like to be in first place?

"I really don't think we're in first place," Johnson said. "I look at Detroit and San Antonio being one-two because they were in the Finals last year.

"Until somebody dethrones those guys, we're still a work in progress."

Pau In Your Face

Posted by Rob Peterson/Mauricio Mendoza: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3:03 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

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Like the beard? We thought so.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Seems that first-time All-Star Pau Gasol is enjoying the attention of many media members. He's one of the busiest guys with the Spanish and Latin America media around him.

As for the inevitable question about his beard: "I just decided I wanted to change my look. But now, it's a whole marketing thing around Memphis."

Yes, Pau is truly a Grizzly.

T-Mac's Shades

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Seems that hometown All-Star Tracy McGrady has gone Jackie O (or at least Hollywood) on us. He's wearing shades that cover half his face.

Dirk Dresses Up

Posted by Rob Peterson/Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:56 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Meanwhile, Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki still enjoys being at the All-Star Weekend.

"It still feels very special to be here. I won't be having any parties on my own and I just enjoy the whole weekend."

As for media availbility, Dirk mentioned that he's not comfortable wearing the collared shirt. He says he's more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt.

Yao Crush

Posted by Rob Peterson/Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:56 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

More than 50 media members descended on Yao's table and it caused some space issues as the media pushed Yao's table on him.

Yao, ever polite, asked the media: "Please don't push the table."

Throughout the Q&A session, Yao would answer in both English and Chinese, which sometimes confused the English speaking journos.

As for the game, Yao is looking forward to matching up with Shaq.

KG on ASW

Posted by Rob Peterson/Bernard Boey: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:52 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

We got some time with KG...

He thinks the All-Star Game, "Has become like an awards show, like the Grammys because you get to meet a lot of celebrities and there's never a dull moment."

As for the All-Star Game, KG says he's going to help T-Mac and Yao score a bunch of points Sunday because they're playing in their hometown.

And one more thing from KG, this on sophomore sensation, "Dwight Howard is definitely, definitely, definitely the future of the league. The Magic are giving him a lot of responsibilities. So, yes, he's definitely the future."

Don't be so modest, Timmy.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Dry and Witty

Posted by Rob Peterson/Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:48 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

One media member asked Tim Duncan, "What prized possessions do you cherish most. What mantel pieces do you have?"

Duncan's reply: "I don't have many prized possessions. When I'm home I just enjoy being with my family."

Somehow we don't think he's being completely forthright with all the bling (rings and MVPs) he's one. Then again, he could be just being Tim Duncan.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the makeshift wall, Duncan's teammate Tony Parker was busy cracking up reporters when asked a single do and don't for All-Star Weekend.

Do: Make sure you go to the Tony Parker party tonight.

Don't: Don't miss the Tony Parker party tonight.

So, let's see: Parker is funny, talented and dating Eva Longoria. Ah, to be Parker right now.

Whoosh!

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:42 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Or should that be Swoosh? A rush of air swept past me as Lakers guard and Nike pitchman Kobe Bryant made his way to his table and the throng of media rushed to follow him. He must have 100 people at his table.

Compliant?

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:37 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Is everyone here dress code compliant? The only person I can see from my perch is Ray Allen, one of the sharper men (on every level) in the NBA. He's wearing a natty sweater vest and a collared shirt. So, I guess, check "yes" on the dress code so far.

Change Over

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:32 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The All-Star Saturday night participants have departed and the guys who play on Sunday are in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Americas here in Houston.

Kerr Says Ray

Posted by Rob Peterson/Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:28 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Who's going to win the Three-Point Shootout on Saturday night?

"Ray Allen" says Steve Kerr, who won a title of his own.

"I think there are a lot of guys," Kerr said. "Ray Allen has to be the favorite because he's been there so many times. If I had to pick someone, I'd pick Ray Allen." Of course, Kerr told us last year he believed Kyle Korver would win, so we'll wait and see.

And You Are?

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:27 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Seems that one reporter was a little confused at Media Availability. The Suns' Raja Bell was sitting at the table Yao Ming will use later and was mistaken for ... Shaquille O'Neal:

Go figure.

Moments after Bell left, about 20 media members descended on the table to wait on Yao.

Q&A with Q

Posted by Rob Peterson/Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:25 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Quentin Richardson has some dos and don'ts for the All-Star Weekend:

Do: Have as much fun as possible on the weekend.

Don't: But don't have too much fun.

Q also says his favorite spot to shoot from on the floor is the wings and he expects tough competition because "they're all great shooters. You can expect the most from Ray Allen because he's always there. And Dirk is a great shooter."

More Warrick

Posted by Rob Peterson/John Schuhmann: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:23 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Nate could have some competition cheering for him.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Warrick said that the Knicks' Nate Robinson, who's 5-9, is the underdog and you may even find one of the dunk competitors cheering Nate on:

"You might catch me on the sidelines rooting for him."

Something New

Posted by Rob Peterson/Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:20 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

The Grizzlies Hakim Warrick is ready, willing and able -- or so he says -- to bring something totally new to the Sprite Rising Stars dunk contest.

"I have a dunk that's never been seen before," Warrick said, "because there's always that one dunk in this competition, and I will have something prepared.

We're Heeeeeeere!

Posted by Rob Peterson: Fri., Feb. 17 at 2:15 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Ladies and gentlemen, mom and dad, we're here -- LIVE -- at 2006 NBA All-Star Media Availability in the Hilton Americas Grand Ballroom . You may remember me from such articles as Click and Roll and last year's All-Star Blog.

Stick with us for the next two hours as we grab the latest and greatest quotes.

Running (Around the Truth) With the Bulls

Posted by Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 1:45 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Better late than never. Forty-five minutes into the practice session, the three Bulls eventually made their way into the George R. Brown Convention Center.

"Ben Gordon showed up late for the airport," Deng was joking with us.

You´re serious?

"Yeah."

Really?

"No, the flight got delayed due to poor weather in Chicago. But we´re very happy to be here now. It feels great."

So, Ben, what happened this morning?

"My space ship got delayed," the guard explained.

After the 15-minute practice session, Gordon joined Dwight Howard and Okafor at midcourt to sink some long range bombs. Luck was not on their side, but they won't need it anyway, claims Okafor, who has a pretty simple explanation why his team will win tonight.

"The Sophs are bigger and better, man. They are going to win," Okafor raved. Originally from Houston, the Charlotte forward felt bad about missing out on the show in his home town. “This really feels bad,” he told us.

Fun and Video Games

Posted by Brad Friedman: Fri., Feb. 17 at 1:20 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Thursday night eight rookies and eight sophomores converged to compete in the NBA Live 06 tournament at the EA All-Star Party. Held at the posh club Belvedere, there were many recognizable faces in the crowd. Jazzy Jeff was dee-jaying. The ESPN crew -- Stephen A. Smith, Greg Anthony, Tim Legler -- mingled with the crowd. NBA TV's Fred Carter joked with players. Among the players competing that night:

Andrew Bogut -- A swell guy who was very excited when I told him Aussie national team teammate C.J. Bruton came close to landing with an NBA team.
Daniel Ewing -- Was still not happy about his loss to Travis Diener in the Rookie Photo Shoot NBA Live 06 tournament.
Channing Frye -- Said Larry Brown's "cool" but admitted his first seven or eight games it didn't seem like he could do anything right.
Danny Granger -- Said he checks out Player Nation from time to time and saw his picture in our top story area this fall.
Sean May -- Was accompanied at All-Star by his brother Scott May, Jr.
Chris Paul -- Stayed cool as a cucumber throughout the tournament even when the crowd erupted after his spectaculer moments. Didn't even blink, in fact. Made it to the finals before losing to Josh Smith. "He (Josh Smith) had the Spurs, and Manu Ginobili couldn't miss. I don't know if he put in some sort of cheat code or something. But the first quarter killed me when we got down 10." See Chris' All-Star scrapbook.
Charlie Villanueva -- Grabbed me and gave me a big "hello" when I arrived. I've covered Charlie at two other EA events before.
Deron Williams -- He was upset about losing in the first round. Blamed the loss on missed free throws.
Hakim Warrick -- Lost in the first round to Villaneuva. But he's still good at baseball video games.
T.J. Ford -- I wonder if Ford and Ewing, his Willowridge High School teammate back in the day, ever thought they'd make it this far, competing in EA Sports NBA Live Tournament. Oh, and also in that event Friday night.
Dwight Howard -- Was wearing a beautiful sky blue fuzzy sweater with a plaid, collared shirt underneath.
Devin Harris -- Was very quiet on the shuttle ride to the venue. Might not have said a word. Perhaps he was visualizing himself being crowned champion.
Emeka Okafor -- Pretty good dancer. Was bobbing to the hip-hop.
J.R. Smith -- Cheered on his Hornets teammate Chris Paul in a close semifinals contest, at one point jumping up and down on a cushioned bench shouting "Come one C.P."
Josh Smith - Stay tuned for a special blog entry on our winner.

Rookie Strategy

Posted by Johannes Berendt: Fri., Feb. 17 at 12:40 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

If you can't beat 'em, make 'em late for the game. That could be the strategy of the rookie squad, who is preparing to take Center Court at Jam Session for practice. The Sophomore team had only six players dressed when it began practicing at 12:00 ET -- the three Chicago Bulls representatives were expected to arrive from the airport, but were delayed. The Bulls routed the Sixers last night in Chicago, forcing Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni to fly in to Houston today. Fear not, fans of the Sophs, the Bulls trio arrived in time to get in about 15 minutes of pracitce time with their teammates.

One Sophomore who'll sit tonight is Emeka Okafor. Last year's Rookie of the Year has been hampered with injuries and has only played 26 games this season for the Bobcats. Although he took a few jumpers this morning, he'll be out of action for tonight's game.

The absence of Okafor isn't expected to let the Rookies claim victory for the first time since the 2002 team did so, says Dallas' Devin Harris. "We can't allow ourselves to get beaten by the first-year players."

Eggs, Sausage & Gold Medals

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 12:00 p.m. ET [ Permalink ]

One of the highlights of All-Star Weekend is that you never know who you'll encounter or what might happen. Witness breakfast this morning at NBA Entertainment headquarters, where myself and Rob Peterson noshed with San Antonio Silver Stars guard Nikki McCray. While hoops is the customary topic of conversation, as you can imagine, around here, we diverged onto the Winter Olypmics taking place in Torino, Italy.

McCray shared with us her fondness for figure skating and how U.S. skater Johnny Weir fell to a fifth place finish last night -- apparently he landed a jump on both feet when he should have on one, as well as not even performing a required maneuver. The three-time WNBA All-Star might not know what it's like to medal in the Winter Olympics, having given up her own figure skating dreams at a young age, but she's twice experienced having the gold slipped around her neck as a member of the U.S. hoops squads in 1996 and 2000.

Foreign Correspondents & Correspondence

Posted by Jeff Dengate: Fri., Feb. 17 at 10:45 a.m. ET [ Permalink ]

Indiana's Sarunas Jasikevicius is one of 12 international players in events at NBA All-Star 2006.
Chris Graythen/NBAE/Getty Images
If you're a regular visitor to NBA.com, you've likely seen my name at the top of such articles as the weekly Power Rankings, the somewhat more sporadic Click and Roll, among a host of others. But the name Johannes Berendt -- who's helping handle the blogging duties here in Houston -- may be foreign to you ... Actually, we prefer to say international.

You see, this weekend brings the NBA to 215 countries around the world in 44 different languages. It also brings an influx of international media to the host city. Enter Johannes, who's come all the way from Bielefeld, Germany, to give the NBA.com crew a hand.

And, it's strange, thousands of miles away from home, Johannes can almost feel like he never left ... I said almost. First, he has countryman Dirk Nowitzki in the game. You've heard of him? Then, there's the media here from his home country and 37 others -- 302 international media members in all are in Houston this weekend -- here covering the festivities.

Johannes isn't NBA.com's only international correspondent, either. We've also enlisted the help of Mauricio Mendoza, who's based in the NBA's Miami office. Originally from Columbia, Mauricio handles the bulk of the coverage on our Espanol site, one of NBA.com's nine international web destinations. Given we have a Spaniard, Pau Gasol, playing in Sunday's big game and an Argentine, Andres Nocioni, in tonight's Rookie Challenge, it's important to provide adequatae coverage in the language.

Spanish and German are but two of the languages we're bound to hear spoken at today's media availability session, when the assembled media members get their first shot at all of the Saturday Night participants and Sunday's All-Stars. We'll be blogging live on-site from 2-4:00 ET today, so be sure to check back.

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