By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
Feb. 16, 2013
ALL-STAR SATURDAY RECAP:
HOUSTON -- For as active as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been thus far during All-Star Weekend, it feels like they must be teleporting from place to place in Houston.
That was very true during Friday’s lineup of activities and didn’t change on Saturday as the duo changed gears but still found a way to represent the Oklahoma City throughout the city. Prior to Saturday’s practice session that the Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams held at Jam Session at the Convention Center in Houston, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook met with the media and answered a few questions.
Considering the teams consist of 24 of the best players in the world, the practice was not meant for tactical purposes, but as a way to give the fans in Houston a sneak peek of what they’ll see on Sunday night in the All-Star Game.
“It’s more for the fans, we all know the game of basketball. Coach (Greg) Popovich, he knows we know basic sets in the NBA. We know this is more for the fans and letting them become closer to the All-Stars. This is all so great for us to interact with them as well.”
It was remarkable to see the court at Jam Session in Houston’s convention center filled with the incredible collection of talent, and fun to see the players from different teams interact with one another. While everyone is excited about the big game on Sunday night, Durant couldn’t contain his excitement for the events of All-Star Saturday night, where teammate Russell Westbrook would participate in the Shooting Stars competition.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Durant said. “Just to support Russ with the Shooting Stars deal, I’m looking forward to that. And supporting my Maryland/DC guy in James White in the Dunk Contest, I can’t wait for that either. It’s going to be fun. As a kid you don’t really remember the All-Star Game, you remember the Dunk Contest and the Three-Point Contest.”
It always seems that All-Star Saturday night is the evening most filled with pure excitement and competition during the weekend. With the Slam Dunk contest, Three-Point contest, Skills Challenge and the Shooting Stars Challenge, Saturday night had plenty of breathtaking moments. Team Westbrook was rounded out by fellow Jordan Brand member Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and seven-time NBA Champion Robert Horry in the Shooting Stars challenge.
The competition featured a shot just outside the lane on the right side of the floor, which Moore took, a left elbow jumper which Westbrook took, a top-of-the-key three pointer which Horry took, a short corner jumper which Moore took, and a wing three-pointer which Westbrook took. After that, the trio all tried to make a half-court shot. After recording the best time out of all four teams in the opening round at 29.5 seconds, Team Westbrook couldn’t knock down the halfcourt shot, falling in the finals to Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash.
“It was fun, it was great,” Westbrook said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t make the half-court shot. It was a good experience though… It’s fun interacting at All-Star with legends and WNBA players.”
Before Westbrook competed in the Shooting Stars challenge and the Thunder duo took in all of the sights and sounds at All-Star Saturday night, Westbrook made the trip to west Houston to visit the Galleria mall. There were thousands of fans packed into the rink level of the mall where Nike and Jordan Brand hosted a massive expo and question-and-answer session with young adoring fans. Westbrook helped describe the new Jordan XX8 basketball shoes, which he was the first to ever wear.
“It was great, it was an event at the mall, interacting with the fans and talking about the shoe a little bit,” Westbrook said.
His teammate Kevin Durant also made an appearance to the Galleria after participating in a Skullcandy fan interaction event at Jam Session earlier in the afternoon. Durant came to the stage at the Galleria and fielded questions, gave out some advice to the youth and talked about his KD branded Nike shoe line. From sneakerheads to NBA fans, the Galleria was packed to the brim to get a glimpse of the two Thunder All-Stars. It was an incredible sight to behold as the fans hung on every word and strained to take pictures.
“I am (amazed), it’s crazy,” Westbrook said. “It seemed like everybody in Houston was at the mall. It was pretty cool.”