Posted by Melanie Curtsinger, Saturday, February 16, 2013, 7:45 AM
All-Star Trip (Part 2)
Before I go into any detail about today, let me first start off by saying how proud I am of Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson. I literally spent the entire day with them, and from start to finish, they were true professionals and represented the Orlando Magic in a manner that would make anyone proud, both on and off the court. I seriously feel like a proud mom right now talking about these two! But, without further ado, here’s a recap of my day 2 out here in this crazy mess known as NBA All-Star.
9:15 a.m.: My day gets off to a comical start, as Andrew texts Nik and I and says, “All my stuff Is too big!” (referring to his practice gear). Nik responds back not too long later with “put some muscles on then!” This starts a series of bashing text messages that were exchanged through the morning/afternoon that literally kept me laughing most of the day (and is still making me laugh just typing it!)… more on this later!
9:45: Again, the day got off to a wayyyy too early start for All-Star… this is a break, right, so why do I have to be at work so early? I meet the guys over at the convention center, where the Team Chuck and Team Shaq squads are conducting their practices in front of fans at the Jam Session Center Court. Team Shaq is up first! Just before Andrew heads out to the court, I ask him if he ever found smaller practice gear, to which he responded: “No, and I feel like a toddler in these things!”
9:50: While team Shaq practices, Team Chuck arrives to do their media availability. Nik takes a seat and is bombarded with media during the entire 25-minute session.
10:15: As Team Chuck wraps up media, the two teams swap, with Team Chuck going to do their practice session while Team Shaq takes their seats for the media availability. As Andrew walks off the court he fishes around in the Gatorade cooler for an orange Gatorade and is disappointed not to find one. Luckily, there’s another cooler just a few feet away with, you guessed it, an orange Gatorade right on top, much to Drew’s delight!
10:40: Team Shaq wraps up media and heads out to their NBA Cares Day of Service event. I head back out to watch the last few minutes of Team Chuck practice, where they are playing a game of knockout, which the players let a 10-year-old boy named Diego win.
11:15: Team Chuck is led by NBA Security through the back of the convention center and down a freight elevator to a back entrance where a bus is waiting for us. Have you ever been on an elevator with about 30 other people before, 10 of which are NBA players? Well, neither had I!
11:20: We board a bus and follow our police escort through the streets of Houston. On our bus are all of the members of Team Chuck, including Nik, Anthony Davis, Brandon Knight, Ricky Rubio, Kenneth Faried, Alexey Shved and a few other of the young All-Stars. I can’t help but think that the police escort is a tad unnecessary, but then I think how cool it would be to be the President and never have to wait in traffic ever. If you’ve ever driven on I-4 in Orlando, you can understand why this is so fascinating to me.
11:29: My fantasy of never waiting in traffic is abruptly brought to a halt when we come to a railroad crossing with a train just sitting there. One of the policemen comes to the bus to tell us we’re going to have to go north of where the train is stopped to get around because it hasn’t moved in a half hour. Commence the NBA Operations guys on the team bus freaking out. Wizards PR guy Scott Hall suggests we build a ramp and just jump it, which I think is just a grand idea.
11:40: Just a few minutes behind schedule, we arrive at our KABOOM! Playground build. Team Chuck immediately pitches in and starts putting together odds-and-ends part that will be added to the playground. Nik joins Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis and Alexey Shved in constructing some mini baskets.
12:15: I get a text from Andrew, who apparently has just finished his Day of Service event. It reads: “Have fun digging ditches! That was rough work!” Not one to let a good joke go by the wayside, I take a picture of Nik doing absolutely nothing (trust me, he was working, but at the moment he was waiting on a part) and send it to Drew.
Seconds later, I get: “No fair! I just dug ditches for the last hour!” Nik sees this exchange and makes me send him a pic of him actually working so he won’t feel bad. Seeing an opportunity here, I write back and tell Drew that probably just made him to do so he would build his muscles like Nik said and be able to fit in his practice gear next time!
12:30: It’s time for Team Chuck to leave, but Anthony Davis refuses to leave until he finishes putting a piece together. The team rallies around him and they all finish it together. Team Chuck then heads back to the bus and on to the team hotel… with a police escort, of course.
5:30: The two teams meet in the team hotel and all head back down the creepy freight elevator yet again for a journey down to the bus… except this time, the elevator smells like fish, which one of the players is quick to point out.
5:40: We arrive at the arena and have to go through security before going in… yes, even NBA players have to get wanded and all that fun stuff before going back to the locker room.
6:50: Team Chuck heads down to the Rockets’ practice court, which is roped off and set up as a photo area. The team gathers for their official team photo and then takes photos with sponsors, ball kids, etc. The team then heads back to the locker room, where Commissioner Stern comes in and speaks to them for about 10 minutes.
7:10: Team Shaq heads down and goes through their photo shoot as well before their meeting with the Commish. Drew tells me he’s heard they are going to take back the shoes they gave him for the game at the end of the night, but he tells me he really likes them and wants to keep them as a momento of the occasion. Not sure how all that turned out, but I know Nik was a big fan of his shoes too, as he asked me earlier if I liked them and if I thought our equipment guy would let him wear them to a game back home.
7:40: Before leaving their locker rooms, the Team Shaq coaches go over a few plays on the white board (seriously?). The teams then head out to the court after confirming they are indeed good with the pick and roll play that the coach just set up… which leaves me to one of my very important NBA All-Star lessons. If there is ANYTHING I’ve learned doing All-Stars throughout the years, it’s to never eat the media food. Just wait until the players leave, and eat theirs.
8:00: Satisfied with the brownie I just had, I head back out to the court, where the fun is about to begin. One more thing I love about All-Star is PR seating… we are literally seated right behind the courtside seats, giving me a perfect view of this amazing display of basketball (sarcasm much?).
8:45: During halftime, I wonder back in to the Team Chuck locker room (which is common – most PR people are in the locker rooms) to see what’s going on, only to find every eye fixated to TNT’s coverage of the Rising Stars Challenge. The TNT crew is currently showing clips of Shaq back when he was a rookie/sophomore, causing one player to pipe up, “wow, Shaq was slim back in the day!”
9:40: The entire arena goes bananas after Kyrie Irving basically breaks Brandon Knight’s ankles, causing the last four minutes of this basketball game to be the “let me see if I can break your ankles now” game between those two and a personal dunk contest for Kenneth Faried, who is crowned MVP.
10:00: Upon conclusion of the game, I take Nik and Andrew back to the Mix Zone, which is where every player does their postgame media (locker rooms aren’t open to the media like at home games). Nik and Drew team up and are literally beaming talking about how much fun they had in the game – and they asked if I saw how they both dunked on each other, which definitely seemed to be the highlight for both. While this is Nik’s last opportunity to experience the rookie/sophomore game, Drew talks to the media about how great the weekend has been and how he’s going to work hard to make it to this game again next season!
While Nik and Andrew are both off to Orlando on Saturday morning to rest up for the stretch run, I’m staying behind for more All-Star craziness. Keep checking back throughout the weekend for more behind-the-scenes action from NBA All-Star Weekend, or follow me on Twitter at @Magic_TWSS for live, up-to-the-minute information!