Posted by Melanie Curtsinger, Friday, February 15, 2013, 7:45 AM
All-Star Trip (Part 1)
Sometimes I equate the NBA All-Star Weekend madness to the TV show “Cheers”… I just feel like singing, “sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name”… except in my rendition, I think they should replace ‘name’ with ‘face.’ After being in the NBA for nine seasons now (geez, I’m old) and after going to four of the last five All-Star Weekends, you pretty much can’t walk more than 10 feet without running into someone you know… or at least someone you know but can’t remember their name, so you give the courtesy hello… or the person who knows exactly who you are, but you can’t place that person for the life of you. Anyhow, you get the idea. The players’ hotel lobby is chaos, with NBA players and agents mingling about, along with some random kids who somehow managed to sneak in getting everyone’s autographs (you aren’t even allowed on the premise without a room key); the scene outside the hotel is even more chaotic with fans scrambling to catch a glimpse of their favorite player; and the events themselves are a star-studded who’s-who affair of famous actors, singers and the occasional reality TV star. Welcome to All-Star Weekend.
11:10 a.m.: I arrive at the gate at Orlando International Airport a half-hour early only to find that the entire flight has already boarded. Since when did airlines start boarding an hour before they left? Am I missing something here? I hop on the plane and head right to my seat just a few rows behind our team security guard and Assistant Coach Brett Gunning. Also on the flight are Nik Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, GM Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry.
12:30: About an hour into the flight, I head up to Nik’s seat (where he’s watching an “ESPN 30 for 30” film) to do a short in-flight interview of him for our website coverage. After I’m done, he says, “No way is Drew going to be awake. That guy always sleeps on the plane.” Sure enough, I head to try to interview Andrew, but just as Nik predicted, he’s dead asleep.
1:10 (Central time): Welcome toHouston! #TeamMagic, as I am now calling our group, congregates inside the terminal where there is a cart waiting to take us to the luggage claim. Nik says he’s always wanted to go on one of those but Andrew says they’re only for older people, so we need to walk. Nik argues back that their legs have logged many miles this season already and they need to take advantage of it, which finally convinces Drew to hop on the cart. Meanwhile, Hennigan and Perry waste no time and start walking. A few minutes later, we all wave to them as we swiftly pass by them en route to baggage claim! In no time, we’re headed to downtown Houston, which is about a half-hour drive from the airport.
3:30: The guys’ first official duty at All-Star is to do a media circuit, which is luckily right there in the hotel. I meet them there and they each do a circuit that includes stops on NBA TV, NBAE, ABC, NBA Photos and Sirius XM Radio. After seeing some of his fellow rookies/sophomores dressed down, Nik laments to me that he feels overdressed (he’s the only guy in a button-down and blazer). A great piece of advice I was always given, and we both agree upon, is that it’s best to be the best dressed guy in the room and not the worst.
3:45: Ever the UK fan, Brandon Knight and I talk a little Kentucky basketball while he’s waiting for a room to open up on his circuit.
4:30: The guys finish up with their duties and head back to their rooms until their mandatory 5:30 rookie/sophomore players meeting at the hotel.
5:00: I head across the street to try to get my credential at the convention center, but was stopped at every checkpoint and asked for said credential. I think someone forgot to tell me that I needed a credential just to go pick up my credential. Again, welcome to All-Star Weekend.
5:30: I arrive back at the hotel and the hotel lobby is even more abuzz than before. Anthony Davis stands in one corner with at least 20 people around him, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker aimlessly roam about. MKG leaves for an appearance and the Charlotte PR guy explains to me that he and Walker are heading out to find a mall. Apparently the Bobcats are coming off a long road trip and Walker has no clean clothes, so he needs to go buy new ones. Can’t make this stuff up, folks!
8:00: After a workout in the nicest hotel gym I’ve ever seen (complete with indoor lap pool on the top floor overlooking the city), I head to my room to shower and change into clean clothes that I did not have to go to a mall to buy, and meet up with my fellow colleague from the Indiana Pacers for dinner. I was delighted to find out that Mexican food in Houston was every bit as delicious as I thought it would be!
10:00: Seriously, if you want entertainment, just people watch in the hotel lobby. In about an hour period of talking with some fellow PR staff from around the league, we see Jeremy Evans come back from dunk contest practice with a sandwich board in tow (clue of what’s to come??), Stephen Curry walking across the lobby with his wife carrying dozens of red roses (I had forgotten it was even Valentine’s Day until that very moment), and in what seemed to entertain us the most, we watched an NBA Hall-of-Famer go into the hotel gift shop, spend about 45 minutes shopping and emerge with 3 bags of stuff he had bought, which brings up two questions – 1) How in the world could someone spend that much time or money in a hotel gift shop? 2) Maybe Walker should’ve just shopped there with him?
Tomorrow’s a big day, folks, starting with TEAM SHAQ and TEAM CHUCK practices first thing tomorrow morning… so be sure to check back for updates tomorrow and throughout the weekend!