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18 thoughts ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City
The NBA invades the capital of Utah this weekend for its showcase event — and I'm here for all of it.
SALT LAKE CITY — I arrived at Indianapolis International Airport around 6 a.m. on Thursday, about nine hours after the Pacers beat the Chicago Bulls. As early as it was, I was not at all surprised to see several familiar faves who were on their way out of the city as well.
Two Pacers players, who had to fly commercially for a change.
Three Pacers staff members.
A couple members of the Indiana Sports Corp.
Those first flights out in the morning are brutal, aren’t they? But you must fly when the flights are available — and there just aren’t many to Salt Lake City, Utah.
And you can forget about any non-stop options.
The 72nd NBA All-Star Game will be held on Sunday inside Vivint Arena, reaching 214 countries and territories. It’s a huge deal to the NBA, their signature event. It’s unfortunate that it comes 73% into the season, but that’s how it aligns with the rest of the sports calendar.
Did you notice how it was scheduled for one week after the Super Bowl, marking the end of the NFL season? Next year, the NBA continues its recent trend of holding games in cold-weather cities.
2021: Atlanta (without fans)
2023: Salt Lake City
In large part thanks to you paid subscribers, I will be here for the next five days covering each of the events. … Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard in the Rising Stars games, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton in the 3-point contest, Trevelin Queen and Gabe York in the G League Game and Haliburton in the All-Star showcase.
I’ve made a point to be at every NBA event over the past year — from the draft combine in Chicago to the draft in Brooklyn, to summer league and the G League Showcase in Las Vegas.
Thursday is a travel day for most so there aren’t any notable events. But things get started Friday morning with practice and a media session for the young guys playing in Friday’s Rising Stars game.
As I’m writing this, inside a hotel lobby with a warm coffee beside me, it’s 30 degrees outside. But so far, I’ve been impressed with the city.
Before the events get underway, below are my thoughts entering the weekend at the home of the Utah Jazz.
Finally, it’s here. For those not involved at all this weekend, it’s a breath of fresh air that they needed a month ago. That’s why from New Years to the All-Star break is so frequently referred to as the dog days of the season. A lot of strange stuff happens, some have moments of discomfort because of the trade deadline and by now, each team knows what it is.
I feel bad for six teams: the Bucks, Bulls, Wizards, Timberwolves, Clippers and Suns. They all had games on Thursday while the rest of the league had already begun the break.
Props to the NBA for allowing smaller cities to host this special weekend. Like Cleveland, SLC and Indy. A warm weather city with a beach is great, but this means a lot to the cities, the teams and their fans.
Contrary to popular belief, this is difficult for home teams to host because a lot of it is out of their hands. It’s the NBA who comes in and runs it. For many years, that was one of the biggest things keeping the Pacers for requesting a game. They didn’t want to piss off season-ticket holders who all expect to have tickets to the game. But that’s not how it works.
There are an estimated 60 members of the Pacers All-Star host committee in SLC this weekend, plus many others from Indiana Sports Corp., Visit Indy, Downtown Indy, IMPD, etc. If they have a role in hosting next year, they’re out here observing, taking notes and thinking about how they can add value.
Upon arriving, there were numerous locals dressed in the same attire, holding a sign that welcomed any questions. That’s how you do it — and I first remember Indy doing that for the Super Bowl back in 2012.
Among the items of concern: the weather at the time for next year. And Sunday is forecasted to be 54 and sunny. That would be awesome.
This sweet knit hat and gloves were given to media when picking up credentials. These will definitely be put to good use.
Something that may only interest me for next year: The Jazz played four straight games on the road in the final week leading up to this event.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised that Buddy Hield welcomes competition and the opportunity to shoot more — anytime, anywhere — but I was a little bit surprised he accepted an invitation to participate in the 3-point contest. Primarily because of how much he gives to the game. Five days off work is important for everyone after intense periods of work.
All-Star Saturday events help bring attention to players and earn them respect. While Hield, 30, is appreciated in Indy, the feeling is not mutual from Kings fans. And to go down as one of the best shooters in the game, a second 3-point title only helps his case.
This dunk contest just is not it. The field of four: KJ Martin, Trey Murphy III, Jericho Sims and Mac McClung. Are any of those names familiar to casual fans. Nah, definitely not. Find a sponsor, put $1 or $2 million on the line and you’ll get better names and bigger talent. Maybe not LeBron James, but perhaps the interest to compete would be there for guys like Ja Morant, Aaron Gordon, Zion Williamson (if healthy).
I hope I’m wrong, but I think the 3-point contest will be much more interesting.
Holding a live team draft an hour before the All-Star game will be very interesting. This is a first, and it’s even more intriguing because of the unpredictability and the curiosity surrounding who is picked last. That’s an uncomfortable spot, no matter if it’s just in front of your boys or on national television. Then … will they player try to show out?
Instead of the city-themed All-Star jersey, I’m a proponent of each player wearing their own jersey. It gives the team representation and is a better look.
Twenty-two of the 30 teams have at least one player in the All-Star game, a record.
Will there be a Jimmer Fredette sighting? He last played for the Phoenix Suns in 2019 and in the Chinese Basketball Association during the 2020-21 season.
The Pacers plan to reconvene in Indianapolis on Tuesday. They host Boston on Thursday, then are on the road for a daunting stretch — 11 of their next 14 games.