The stage is set for this year's NBA All Star Weekend that will pit some of the most popular players from Western Conference and the Eastern Conference against each other. The players have been voted for by the fans, something that means a lot to the players.
That the NBA All Star happens during the middle of the league, it gives the players some respite from the hectic schedule and relax a bit while also giving the fans their share of entertainment.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist with the USA team and Miami Heat's LeBron James was looking forward to his 10th All Star Weekend match at the Smoothie King Centre on Sunday. He said on Friday here that being an All Star meant a lot to him.
"It is very important because I have been voted for 10 straight years by my fans. They mean everything to me. For them to love what I do, and to allow me to be a role model to them, I have been doing things to inspire them, means everything to me," said the 29-year-old.
New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony said he would use this weekend to have fun with fellow hoopsters. "It is a great experience. We utilise this weekend to exhale a little bit, decompress from everything and show our fans how much we appreciate their support. For me to be voted in, makes it more special. I get to hang out with the other All Stars and have fun," said the 29-year-old forward and a close friend of James.
Kevin Love, who suffered a bruised left thigh in Minnesota Timberwolves' 91-98 loss to New Orleans Pelicans on February 7 and missed action since, resumed his practice exactly a week later, on Friday here.
"The NBA league games come at you fast," he said when asked how hectic the league was. "You have so many games in a week. You get a chance here to take a lot of rest. On Sunday, I am assuming to give 20-25 minutes in the game, less than my usual 35 minutes."
Love said that one has to deal with the schedule "unless the season is longer".
Blake Griffin has grown in stature since making his first All Star appearance in 2011. "I try to enjoy it a little bit more. In my first year, I was running round and round, did not have a second to breathe. Every year I tried to scale back a little bit and take a breather. It is still fun, still an honour and I still enjoy much," said the LA Clippers' forward.
Dwight Howard said that chemistry between the players off the court improved during the All Star Weekend. "It is a great honour to play in an All Star game. I am looking forward to playing myself. James (LeBron) and I are definitely looking forward to playing on the court together. We have been on a roll and will have fun on the court, come Sunday," said the Houston Rockets' centre.
As this match is of the fans, by the fans and for the fans, the most important ingredient in this popular sport here has been taken good care of by the organisers. There are a lot of events that involve the spectator participation. Going by the jam sessions, the celebrity game and the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the spectators will have one memorable night on Sunday.