Monday, February 15, 2010

All-Star Week Impressions and a Little Hot Dish

This year's All-Star weekend was kind of like that nice, little home-cooked meal your Grandma makes.  You're not too sure how it's going to be.  You know it could be awesome and some of Grandma's legendery home cooking (mine made phenomenal chicken and rice, along with the best tuna salad EVER).  Or it could have been the version that slipped in recent years.  The kind that you knew could be great but really missed the mark.  Frankly, I thought it was going to be the latter.  I didn't think North Texas would be able to handle the traffic and insanity that was going to hit it.  But our little area did me proud.  Yes, downtown Dallas was a parking lot many times this weekend.  Jam Session, the Galleria, Northpark, nightclubs and restaurants were packed but I'll take it.

The game experience was great.  The arena looked amazing.  The scene was great.  People were able to chat with their friends and hang out in a little courtside bar that gave it a real intimate feeling.

Players unanimously loved it.  Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Derrick Rose, Lebron James, Deron Williams all loved playing in front of the crowd.  Stoudemire told me he was overwhelmed.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban must have been on cloud 9 the entire weekend.  From the trade to the success of the game, he had a smile on his face from Wednesday night to early Monday morning.  I asked him what it was like reading 108,713 (the record-breaking number of people in attendance Saturday night).  He told me that wasn't the "moment".  He said when he saw the number on paper he was blown away.  He said that Jerry Jones wanted the paper for his Cowboys Hall of Fame.  Cuban told him know and said that it was going in his "personal hall of fame."  He said it was in his back pocket.  We asked him to retrieve it so we could shoot it and he couldn't find it.   I love it.

On to the fun stuff!

From the Tool Shed
I've met Arnold Schwarzenegger before.  Not the we're friends and we hang. I've just interviewed him for a quick 30 seconds and moved on.  He was great.  I happened to be in the bowels of the AAC while he was making his way through Saturday night and was impressed yet again.  He was gracious, engaging, warm and welcoming to every single person who approaching him.  Very impressive.  He had the same number of security detail as this man who comes from deep inside the tool shed. Seriously.  I saw security escorting Stephen A. Smith through the AAC bowels on Saturday.  Really?


From the Did You Know Department: 
-The NBA gives celebrities complimentary tickets to attend the All-Star game.  Of course it does.  They like the buzz surrounding the event.  As you can imagine, the league wants to see shots of them during the game.  What's interesting is that some celebrities don't want any of the publicity or to be seen on camera.  If a celeb who's gotten the comp tickets tries to shoo the cameras away while they're getting a shot - tough.  A little birdie told me that league told it's cameramen and women to just keep shooting.
-Most Mavericks players bought suites for All-Star Saturday night.
-Just about every department from the Dallas Cowboys got a suite to the All-Star game.

Lebron Truly is the King
Wherever Lebron James goes, there he is.  He is the star, the focal point and truly the king.  Players defer to him.  Celebrities are in awe of him.  The media flocks to him.  It's interesting to see how in command he is of a room, a court or a 100-seat stadium.  He does look like he's 40, though.


Kobe's Not That Bad. I promise.
A lot of PR types and media folks don't like Kobe Bryant for a number of reasons.  I have absolutely nothing but fabulous things to say about him.  I always get an eye-roll when I say that.  Derek Harper sort of took Kobe under his wing when he was with the Lakers and Kobe has always respected and looked up to Derek.  Tons of players feel that way about Harp, honestly.  Because of  my professional relationship with Derek, Kobe has always been great to me.  There are always a million mediots (my new favorite word...thanks, Mike Fisher) surrounding him during interview sessions.  He always looks to me and lets me ask whatever I want (mediots typically compete with one another to get a question into a player....it's a battle trying to get one in).  And generally, he gives me a hell of an answer.  Yes, I'm biased.  Sorry.
Magic Also Loves JJ
I asked Magic Johnson about the Mavericks and he literally gave me an entire 3-minute interview.  I love Magic.  He's always been wonderfully sweet to me.  Magic loves him some J.J. Barea.  Magic went down the Mavericks roster and praised Dirk, J Kidd, Shawn Marion and then.....your favorite little sparkplug, J.J. Barea.  (I wonder if he's see him play lately?)  Although he did call him "Barerra".  Some of Barea's teammates still do that, too.  I told J.J. what Magic had said when I saw him on Saturday night and he was stunned.  "Really?" he asked.  "Yeah," I said.  J.J. lit up and high-fived me.  It was so cute.
 
A First-Timer's Impression
I interviewed just about every player this weekend except Chris Kaman (more on that later).  Our Chicago sister station needed me to get an interview with Bulls guard Derrick Rose.  It was his first all-star game in his second NBA season and it was so fun to see that youthful enthusiasm.  He will be 22 in October and marveled at every event he attended.  He grew up watching guys like Jason Kidd and Kevin Garnett and told me that he was picking their brains at every chance he could get.  It's a refreshing change from a guy who's been there, done that and is so jaded that a naked Victoria's Secret supermodel wouldn't even register.

Speaking of Not Registering
I tweeted this but I almost felt sorry for poor Chris Kaman.   He was a total also-ran.  Hardly anyone wanted to talk to him at the media availability sessions.  Fans were kind of like "eh, is that this guy" After the game, he had just one reporter interviewing him.  Granted he probably enjoys the lack of attention but to top it all off, he has to play for the Clippers.

Other Random Thoughts:
-Nuggets Guard Chauncey Billips continues to be one of the nicest NBA players I've ever met.  I brainfarted and asked him a dumb question and he smarted back "what's wrong with you today?" He's a good egg.  
-Former Spur Bruce Bowen is one of the nicest people I've ever met.
-I saw a hint of personality from Spurs Center Tim Duncan.  He actually laughed during a rare one on one interview I conducted with him.
-There was a group from NBA China streaming live back to China.  This poor woman was shooting her reporter with a camera pack on her back that showed the video she was shooting.  Every photographer I worked with said you couldn't pay them enough to shoot with that thing on their backs.  Not because it was heavy but because they were all scared of what that radiation was doing to to her insides!  That video backpack was SCARY looking.  Needless to say....it
 was made in China.
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