West All Stars Practice Before Sunday’s Game

NEW ORLEANS – Aside from Sunday night’s All-Star game, there’s only one other time every year that the NBA’s best and brightest stars are assembled on the basketball court at the same time.

On Saturday morning, the Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams held a practice at JAM Session at the New Orleans Convention Center in front of a large crowd of fans who showed up to see some of the league’s finest players.

Led by Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks, the Western Conference All-Star team consists of the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Tony Parker, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. During an hour-long session, Brooks led the players through some offensive sets, drills and amusing competitions to entertain the fans.

“We have an opportunity to spend an hour together,” Brooks said. “You’re not going to get much x’s and o’s or much defensive schemes in, but you’re going to get a lot of fun.”

While the practice featured a lot of opportunities for the players to mingle with one another, try some trick shots and show off for the fans, Sunday night’s game will have a slightly different feel. NBA All Star games are always an offensive show with players on both teams trying to give the fans a thrilling show, but both sides have so much pride that the games become extremely competitive.

Durant, who won the All-Star MVP award in 2012, can attest to the intensity that is brought forth in these matchups late in games. In fact, the Western Conference is riding a three-game winning streak in the series, but each fo the games was wins was by five points or less.

“It’s about competitive nature,” Durant said. “All those guys are competitive to the East and the West. It’s fun to come out here and play in the All Star game for the fans, but at the end, everybody wants to win.”

The All Star Game itself is a celebration of the players and their talents, but this weekend is also special for the coaching staff, who get to be an important part of the proceedings. Brooks will be at the helm of the Western Conference squad and featured prominently when it comes to making substitutions and drawing up late-game plays, and he’ll have the full support and help of his Thunder coaching staff.

For Durant and Brooks, to see the Thunder assistants get to be an integral part of the All Star Weekend is a wonderful feeling because it is a reward for all of the long hours and hard work they put in for the team during the season.

“It makes me feel great,” Durant explained. “They deserve it because they put in a lot of work behind the scenes to make us successful as a team. They get some credit as the All Star coaches and it means a lot to me that I was able to help them become an All Star coach.”

“There are so many parts to our organization,” Brooks said. “I wish our whole building could come here and be a part of the festivities over the weekend. I’m thankful for all the work that everybody puts in.”

-Nick Gallo