Eric Patten @ericpatten | 2/25/12

ORLANDO– Chris Paul seemed at ease in his All-Star surroundings at Saturday’s practice at the Orange County Convention Center about 20 minutes outside of downtown Orlando. It’s Paul’s fifth trip to the midseason showcase, but for the first time in his career he’s starting alongside one of his regular-season teammates, fellow All-Star Blake Griffin.

“Me and Blake being on the team together is really cool.” Paul said. “I played in the All-Star Game twice with David West [then with the Hornets]. But it’s the first time having a teammate be able to start with me. It’s fun having that bond and be able to talk to somebody about any and everything.”

Check out images from All-Star Practice here: GALLERY
The bond was apparent Saturday as both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference squads shared the court and walked through about an hour of shooting around, basic floppy and pick-and-roll sets, and half-court shots in a failed attempt to break a Guinness World Record—something the Rising Stars teams tried Friday with minimal success.

Teammates naturally gravitated towards one another. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stood underneath the hoop and batted the ball at the rim. Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade gathered in a circle in one corner, sharing a few seconds together. And while Paul seemingly has a rapport with everyone, he and Griffin were genuinely having fun.

They were chatting with Durant and Westbrook, interviewed in tandem with Craig Sager of TNT, and even jokingly ran a side screen-and-roll against a young boy who was on the court near the end of practice.

At the same time, on an afternoon that’s customarily about fun, Paul and Griffin also showed the work ethic that’s been so symbolic of their still budding relationship. For every left-handed free throw from Griffin, it seemed he’d end up shooting another couple jumpers from 18-20 feet with the same intensity he might at the Clippers training facility in Playa Vista.

And for every slow motion, cross-over spin move from Paul, the point guard who Dwyane Wade referred to as a “general,” would direct traffic or chat up Western Conference head coach Scott Brooks (Thunder). That’s where the veteran Paul reveals his competitiveness, even when it’s allegedly fun and games, he’s still picking his opponent’s brain. Only this year he has a teammate here to help him.