New Orleans starters Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, David West and Tyson Chandler got a head start on their Western Conference competition Wednesday, when they helped cast the first official ballot in voting for the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. The game will be played Sunday, Feb. 17 in the New Orleans Arena.
During a morning ceremony in the Arena’s Courtside Club, the four players filled out a ballot that tipped off voting. They weren’t allowed to vote for themselves, so four local New Orleans elementary school students were invited to the event and “encouraged” to vote for Paul, Stojakovic, West and Chandler, respectively.
The four Hornets cast one vote apiece for an Eastern Conference player at their position (Paul tabbed Charlotte’s Raymond Felton “because he’s also in his third year”; Stojakovic selected Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani “to represent Europe”; West picked Chicago’s Luol Deng; while Chandler chose his good friend, Chicago’s Eddy Curry).
Hornets owner George Shinn opened the festivities by discussing the positive impact that the NBA’s showcase event will have on the Big Easy.
“New Orleans deserves the All-Star Game,” Shinn said. “In my opinion, this is the finest event town in the entire world. People here know how to put on a show and do a great job. We’re expecting a tremendous All-Star Game.
“All-Star 2008 is more than just a game. It’s something that has gotten the NBA deeply involved in helping rebuild this wonderful city. We’re excited about it. There is a higher purpose. We’re proud to be the host city this year. Let me urge everyone to vote early and vote often, and get our guys on the floor for this All-Star Game.”
During the event, master of ceremonies Sean Kelley – the Hornets’ radio play-by-play announcer – held a Q&A session with the four Hornets on the 2008 All-Star ballot:
Sean Kelley: What does it mean for you to see your name on an NBA All-Star ballot?
David West: It’s a great opportunity to represent my family and the organization. With the way I came into the NBA, people didn’t expect me to do much, so this makes me feel very good.
Sean Kelley: How much lobbying are you going to have to do with your friends and family back home in Teaneck, N.J.?
David West: I don’t think I need to do too much. [smiles] They’re going to support me!
Sean Kelley: Peja, you’re a three-time All-Star. Does playing in the All-Star Game become old hat, or is it exciting each time?
Peja Stojakovic: It’s a privilege to be an All-Star and representing your team and organization. It was a great experience for me, being surrounded by the best players in the league. It was one of the most exciting weekends of my NBA career.
Sean Kelley: With the Hornets returning full-time to New Orleans after two seasons, what a huge bonus for us to have the All-Star Game here in our return home. What should NBA All-Star mean to this city and Hornets fans?
Tyson Chandler: I think it’s going to be a great opportunity, to bring some of the best players in the world to this city, and bring attention here.
Sean Kelley: A lot of critics out there say the fans shouldn’t get to vote on which players start in the All-Star Game. What do you think?
Chris Paul: I think the fans SHOULD have a say-so. The fans are the reason we play every night, and the ones who come out every night and support us. It’s all about the fans. They’re the reason we do what we do.
Sean Kelley: And the fans can definitely stuff the ballot box, right?
Chris Paul: Oh yeah. I think we should just have a ballot party! [smiles]