2018 All-Star Saturday With Russ & PG

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

LOS ANGELES – After spending time with family and friends the last two days and getting a much-deserved rest, Russell Westbrook and Paul George were suddenly front and center on the All-Star scene.

Westbrook has been present downtown for days now though, with his face plastered on billboards on buildings throughout the area near Staples Center. From NBA All-Star signage to Jordan Brand advertisements, Westbrook is certainly the most visible of all the 24 All-Stars this year.

“I had the opportunity to be able to see it for the first time today,” Westbrook relayed. “Just looking up and seeing that is honestly surreal for me because I never thought I’d see myself on the side of a building let alone just be here in the NBA and be at All-Star Weekend. All of this is an unbelievable blessing and I’ll definitely never take it for granted.”

@russwest44 in that All-Star mood.

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When he got on the court alongside Paul George with Team LeBron on Saturday morning for practice, he shined brightly as well. As the practice came to a close and the music started blasting, Westbrook found himself in the spotlight, dancing to Future’s song, “Mask Off”. Even in between getting loose and knocking down some shots, Westbrook found a way to put on a show for the fans at the LA Convention Center. When asked about what he enjoyed more, Westbrook was ready to answer.

“Always basketball, but I like dancing too,” Westbrook grinned.

George got loose on the floor with his teammates too, practicing alongside players from both the Western and Eastern Conferences in this new playground-style All-Star format where LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the teams. The whole event on Saturday was a spectacle for the fans who have flocked to the downtown area to get a glimpse of the NBA’s best. Not only did they get to watch practice, they also got a chance to watch and listen to the players address the media afterward.

“I think it’s beautiful for the NBA to reach out and extend,” George said. “The fans is really what makes all this happen. It’s the ones that we play for and we go out and want to give a show for. For them to not lose sight of that and make this thing about them is what it’s about.”

Westbrook and George’s presence here is a celebration of the incredible seasons that both of them are having. Somehow, almost unfathomably, Westbrook is nearly averaging a triple-double again this season at 25.4 points, a league-leading 10.4 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game. George is shooting a career-best 43.2 percent from the three-point line on 7.7 attempts per game, also a career-high, while scoring 22.5 points per game and leading the NBA in steals per game at 2.2 – making his case for Defensive Player of the Year. Their success and health to be on the floor and produce led to this moment being here, and both players are grateful for the opportunity.

“It was exciting to get the opportunity to embrace the moment and enjoy family here and friends,” Westbrook said. “It was a great moment.”

“We all look forward to the vacation and stuff like that, but to be honest it’s just cherishing these moments,” George added. “You’re not picked in the All-Star every year. Some guys, just living in this moment and embracing this moment. For myself, I try to take a lot away from this.”

After practice, Westbrook hopped around downtown Los Angeles for a trio of promotional appearances with Jordan Brand, his own clothing line Honor the Gift and with Mountain Dew. After that he is going to re-convene and meet George over at the Staples Center for All-Star Saturday night, where George is competing in the Three-Point Contest. Over the last week or so, Westbrook’s even been helping George practice the drill-like format of the competition.

“Yeah we practiced a little bit, made sure Paul can go out there and represent and win it,” Westbrook said.

“I feel great. I don’t wanna jinx myself, though, come out and airball the first one,” George cracked.

PG: Cherishing the All-Star experience with his teammate.

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Paul George may have jinxed himself. As the pomp and circumstance of All-Star Saturday Night ratcheted up, it was George’s turn to go around the horn in the Three-Point Contest. Unfortunately for the Thunder star, he couldn’t catch a rhythm until the final rack, when he hit four of five shots. He finished with a total of 9 points in the first round, which wasn’t enough to advance to the next round.

Westbrook sat courtside and cheered on his teammate, but it was clear – George needed to be catching those crisp Westbrook passes before he shot instead of taking the ball off the rack. Regardless of the outcome, George still had a great time soaking up the whole evening.

“I got in my rhythm late, which was a little too late,” George said. “At the end of the day, it’s all fun. I enjoyed it.”

Next up for both George and Westbrook is the All-Star Game on Sunday night. Be sure to tune in at 7 p.m. CT for full coverage on TNT!