Kobe Bryant isn’t dusting off beignets at Café Du Monde. He’s got enough to do what with trying to rehab his knee and poking Chris Kaman with a stick to keep him awake on the Lakers’ bench.
Dwayne Wade said he will play Sunday at the newly labeled Smoothie King Arena since the feeling has returned to his foot, though King (LeBron) James’ Miami Heat teammate might not be able to move that smoothly on his aching appendage.
Bad knees? Numb feet? Should we ask Dirk Nowitzki if this cold winter has made his hips ache?
The aging All-Stars of the NBA are still all stars, but if Kobe were here in New Orleans this weekend sipping a café au lait on Jackson Square, he would definitely hear the ticking of the clock at St. Louis Cathedral.
The one race no athlete can win is against time, and as the 63rd annual All-Star Game approaches and some of the biggest stars of the NBA are starting to look like they’re ready for AARP.
Meanwhile, a wave of new stars is cresting, threatening to crash the party of the NBA’s “old guard.”
Former New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul is still more than two months shy of his 29th birthday, but he felt a bit like a relic when he looked around the West team locker room.
“I’m one of the older guys,” said the Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar, back just a week from a shoulder injury. “I was looking at Damian Lillard and going, ‘I wonder what he’s thinking?’ It hit me that it goes by quick.”
Lillard, 23, the Portland TrailBlazers phenom point guard, is trying to go all Iron Man on his fellow All-Stars. He’s trying to become the first to play in Friday’s Rising Stars game, three of Saturday’s events (skills challenge, 3-point shooting and slam dunk contests) and Sunday’s All-Star game. If Wade tried to do all that, he’s probably need to get re-treaded like a car in next week’s Daytona 500.
“To be in the company of all these stars lets you know the hard work is paying off,” said Lillard, who is working harder than any of them this weekend.
“I feel like I belong, definitely. I’ve always had that confidence, but now I’m here with them.”
Lillard is hardly the only all-star who would get carded on Bourbon Street. Eleven of Sunday’s 24 all-stars are 25 or younger, seven of them on the West squad alone.
“Maybe I’m the old guy,” said former Hornets and current Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, here for the 3-point shooting contest.
“I’m 27, and they’re younger than me.”
You feel old, Marco?
“A little bit,” he said with a smile.
The beard does make you look older, Marco.
The young guys we spoke to showed proper deference to their elders, though clearly eying their seats at the grown ups table.
“We’re definitely looking up to the older guys in the league and what they’ve done in the past and trying to keep that going,” said Washington Wizards guard John Wall, at the ripe-old age of 23.
“I think it’s always that way,” Lillard said when asked if the stars in the NBA’s constellation are shifting. “You have guys who are stars and they get older and it’s younger guys’ time. They’re still playing at a high level, but it’s changing.”
The hometown hero, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, soft-pedaled his first all-star appearance made possible because Bryant got hurt.
“Those guys can still go,” said Davis, who drew plenty of praise Friday from his fellow All-Stars. “D-Wade is still ballin’ out of his mind right now. Kobe tore his Achilles, but those guys can still score.”
Respect for your elders, as Harvey Keitel’s character in “Pulp Fiction” said, shows character.
But with respect, Davis also issued a veiled warning when he spoke of his fellow players in Friday’s Rising Stars game.
“All those guys are good enough to play in the All-Star Game,” Davis said. “It shows all the work that we’ve been doing, and we’re trying to get to where these guys already are.
“We know where these guys are, like LeBron, Kobe, Tony Parker. We’re trying to get to that level.
“This is just the first step.”
The first step — and, well, of course, you understand, they’re really big steps from these really tall men — to what may yet become an NBA-dominating youth movement.