Zach Randolph and David Lee reminisce. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA/Getty Images)
HOUSTON — After spending much of Friday's All-Star media session talking with this year's slew of first-time All-Stars about what it feels like to learn you're an All-Star, I figured it'd be neat to ask a few players who've gone through the All-Star Weekend experience before but for whom it's all still relatively fresh — players who've made one or two All-Star teams before, rather than perennial selections — what they remembered about their first trip to the midseason showcase. (Then, I saw an opportunity to ask one of those all-timers, so I did.)
If you'll permit a bit of notebook emptying, a quintet of responses, in brief:
Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (two-time All-Star, made his first appearance in 2010 while with the New York Knicks): "This is completely different, because the first time I found out as a replacement a couple of days before. Everything was like a blur — I got the call, I was excited [but] at the same time nervous, because it was my first [All-Star] game and it was really just such a spectacle to me. I felt like I was kind of on the outside looking in. Now I really feel like it's been a season building toward this, I feel like I really deserve it, and I'm able to kind of relax and really take everything in this time around."
[Related: First-time All-Stars explain the thrill]
Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (two-time All-Star, made his first appearance in 2010): "You know, I felt I was supposed to be an All-Star a couple of times [before that] ... so, you know. But it was just a blessing. I just take it for what it's worth. Like I said, I'm humbled about it, I appreciate it and I'm thankful for it. And to be in a room with all these other All-Stars and elite players in the league … it's just great."
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (three-time All-Star, made his first appearance in 2011): "It was great, man. I was just taking it all in, just enjoying the moment. You can't take it for granted — you never know when you may make it or you may not again, so you kind of just have to take it all in as is. [...] I mean, now it's different because I kind of know what to expect now — what to expect and what I gotta do and all this stuff. I kind of know what to do already, so it's kind of the same old rundown."
Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (two-time All-Star, made his first appearance in 2011): "I was in New Orleans with my team. We were on the road and we had practice, and coach [Nate McMillan] called us all into the locker room, and we all watched [the announcement] live. You know, I think that moment ... it was just big. I felt like all my hard work had paid off. I just got more confidence from it."
Well, given that, I asked Duncan if he expected this year's game — helmed by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who's famously shown a willingness to sit his stars in the past and might want to give Duncan an easy Sunday night — to unfold like his first one did, letting him come full circle.
"Yeah," he said. And then Tim Duncan laughed — a brief laugh, but a perceptible one, which was a pretty neat surprise.
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