Both superstars feeling at home, feeling the love from New Orleans
“I look at everyone in New Orleans as pieces of my extended family.” Chris Paul, Clippers guard
Point guard Chris Paul, back in the city his NBA career began in, joked Thursday afternoon he was able to maneuver around a group of young students at KIPP Central City Primary School without causing much of a stir — something he would have never been able to accomplish during his six seasons with the New Orleans Hornets.
They probably didn’t recognize him without his old Hornets jersey. No matter.
“Even though most of them didn’t pay me any attention, I wanted to hug all of them,” Paul said of the kids, many of whom had yet to attend elementary school during his Hornets’ tenure from 2005-11.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul, has continued to hold strong to his ties to the Crescent City.
“When you come back to somewhere that’s such a part of who you are, I look at everyone in New Orleans as pieces of my extended family,” said Paul, now a seven-time NBA All-Star. On Sunday, he will play as a reserve for the Western Conference.
His dedication to the game and to the city is evident by his All-Star commitment. For Paul just recovered from a separated right shoulder, an injury which took him out of the lineup for all but one game in January. He’s played in two games since his return, helping the Clippers beat Philadelphia and Portland to maintain the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
Last season, Paul earned his first All-Star MVP award aftering compiling 20 points, 15 assists and four steals. Now, he’s back to try to do it again.
Paul’s touch on New Orleans continues through his CP3 AfterSchool Zone program. He utilized All-Star weekend to announce his new role as an ambassador for Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, a non-profit organization that uses the positive power of sport to address society’s most pressing challenges.
“There’s something special about New Orleans,” he said, sandwiched between New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. “Whether I’m home in North Carolina or in L.A. during the season, when somebody mentions the word, New Orleans, I light up. Because as you know, there’s no city like it, there’s no people like the ones here.”
Davis ready to be host
The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis was coming off a four-day three-game road trip Wednesday night, but with his first All-Star appearance coming up, in New Orleans, no less, there was no thought of rest.
“I’m ready to go,” Davis said during an appearance at the Joe Browne Gym in eastern New Orleans. “Once you start practicing and playing and doing all of the other stuff, you don’t think about it because you don’t have much choice.”
Davis wasn’t even quite sure what his schedule is for Friday. It includes a morning practice for Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, media sessions for the All-Stars, an NBA Service Day appearance and the Rising Stars game itself at 8 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center and a possible surprise appearance at the Kyrie Irving/Uncle Drew’s Speakeasy promotion in the French Quarter.
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” he said. “I just go where they say I’m supposed to be doing.’
But Davis said the public response to his being selected to replace Kobe Bryant on the West team has been overwhelming.
“The people in New Orleans have definitely shown me a lot of love, because they’re proud someone from the Pelicans is in the game,” he said. “They’re really supporting me.”
One thing Davis hasn’t done is practice his introduction entrance on Sunday night.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” he said. “But I guess I’ll come up with something.”
Davis’ appearance Wednesday was to announce that Nike and Foot Locker are again underwriting midnight basketball at Joe Browne.
Will Wade play?
Heat guard Dwayne Wade’s All-Star participation Sunday is at stake because of a foot injury.
Wade, a 10-time All-Star, missed the Heat’s win against Golden State because his foot went numb, he told various media outlets. He was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on Thursday, where he also planned to particpated in several charity events.
Wade, an Eastern Conference starter, is averaging 18.7 points and 4.7 assists this season.
Verrett back home
For a change, ESPN anchor Stan Verrett is answering questions, not asking him. He’s preparing to play in front of thousands, millions of fans, not report on the game.
Verrett, a New Orleans native who graduated from St. Augustine High, will play in Friday night’s Celebrity All-Star Game. Already, his Twitter feed has erupted with one-liners.
@CountOnKB: @stanverrett will mess around and win MVP in that celebrity game. #NOLA
Verrett: ”that’s asking a lot homie, but I will play my best.”
Challenged to channel his inner “Jimmy Graham,” the Saints’ field goal-dunking tight end, Verrett joked on Twitter, “I can guarantee I WON’T.”
According to SeatGeek, the average All-Star Game ticket on the secondary market three days before tip-off is at an all-time low of $822, a decrease of nearly 40 percent from last season’s game in Houston ($1,333).
As of early Thursday, the cheapest seats available were listed at $385 in the upper level. The event ticket search engine also said All-Star Game tickets have a history of falling as the game approaches.
On Friday, Pelicans guard Eric Gordon will help Chevron give away 200 copies of GoldiBlox, a book written to encourage young girls to learn more about engineering, and another 200 copies of a K’Nex Extreme Sports Building Set to boys, all in an effort to get children interested in science, technology, engineering and math... Meanwhile, All-Star Stephen Curry of Golden State will join ESPN broadcaster Jay Williams to host a basketball skills camp at New Orleans’ Kingsley House, a settlement house which has served more than 500,000 people since its doors opened in 1896. ... NBA All-Star merchandise stores are now open at the NBA Store at Jam Session, held at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and the Gallery Ballroom of the Sheraton New Orleans.