Then and Now
Mike Abdenour, the Pistons trainer then and now, has lived both ends of the spectrum. He can’t think of a more glaring example of the NBA’s spectacular growth than what the All-Star game has become. When the league moves operations to Las Vegas for All-Star weekend – because it’s no longer just about the game – Abdenour will be there as trainer for the Eastern Conference team.
It’s his third trip to the game, the first in 1979 when the Pistons hosted at the Silverdome and the second in 1993 in Minneapolis when Abdenour was amid his three-season stint with the Philadelphia 76ers before returning to the Pistons, for whom he is now in his 28th season, in 1995.
“In 1979, when we hosted at the Silverdome, it was basically show up and come to the game,” Abdenour said. “With the growth of the league and the expansion of All-Star weekend, it’s taken on more of a workload. This year, because it’s at a neutral site, we’re going to be like the Marines. We’re going to be adapting all over the place.”
The NBA trainers association selects the representatives for the All-Star game each season, but it usually involves choosing only one trainer. Whichever franchise hosts the game, that team’s trainer works for the home conference’s team. But because this year’s game is in Las Vegas, which has no NBA franchise, both trainers were selected based on the rotation system in place. It’s been 14 years since Abdenour worked the All-Star game, and much has changed, but his peers tell him to expect to be busiest during the celebrity game.
“They have a plethora more injuries than the players ever will,” Abdenour laughed. “Some guy who thinks he’s Johnny Jumpshot, who may have an Emmy, we’ll be dealing with him as opposed to LeBron (James) or Kobe (Bryant). The celebrity games are the worst. That’s probably where the bulk of your action is going to come. You just want to sit there and watch the 24 greatest basketball players in the world at the time play basketball. God forbid something happens, you’re there prepared for it.”
It’s especially gratifying to Abdenour that not only will two Pistons players accompany him to Las Vegas, but that Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups so closely mirror the franchise’s values.
“That’s the nice part of it,” he said. “Not only well deserving of their honors, but it exemplifies what Joe (Dumars) has built around here. You’ve got the superstar phenomenon that permeates through the league, which is great. Everybody wants to come and see Kobe, everyone wants to see LeBron, Vince (Carter) Yao Ming – the superstar level. But when you talk about two guys like Rip and Chauncey, who basically epitomize what this organization’s mantra has been for the last six or seven years – goin’ to work every night – that’s the beauty of what that’s all about. Well-deserved, and from their standpoint, very rewarding.”