After covering the 2008 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans for Hoopsworld, I was excited to cover the festivities again this year. But what was supposed to be a quick flight to Dallas turned into a 22-hour journey that had too many twists and turns not to share.
Thursday, Feb. 11
10:30 a.m.: About to head out for Logan Airport when I get an e-mail that my direct flight from Boston to Dallas has been canceled due to snow in Texas. I’m told all flights to Dallas are full through Sunday afternoon, but I‘m determined to get to All-Star Weekend. Time to get creative.
2:30 p.m.: The entire city seems to be shut down, but I finally find a way to Dallas (well, a flight to Washington, D.C., and then another to Houston, but that’s close enough, right?). Off to the airport.
5:30ish p.m.: Flight No. 1 to D.C. is delayed. Cutting it close for my connecting flight.
6:50 p.m.: Land in D.C. with 37 minutes until my next flight. With bags in tow, literally run through the airport “Amazing Race” style from Terminal B to C, pick up the boarding pass for my next flight, go through security again and board the plane, all in 15 minutes.
7:37 p.m.: Take off for stop No. 2 — Houston.
10:50 p.m.: Touch down in Houston, where the airport is in chaos because of the snow. (I was told most people there don’t even own shovels -- unimaginable to a Bostonian!) Attempt to rent a car to drive to Dallas, but none are left. Borrow a cell phone (my Blackberry has died at this point and there are no working pay phones anywhere) and find a place to spend the night thanks to a friend who has offered up her hotel rewards points.
Friday, Feb. 12
1 a.m.: Check into a hotel and purchase a ticket for the next bus out. Enjoy the complimentary granola bar (aka dinner) and fall asleep around 2:30.
4:15 a.m.: Wakeup call. Out the door by 5:45 to catch a 7:15 bus to Dallas. Excited to be on my way.
6:15 a.m.: The excitement is short-lived when I realize I’m not going anywhere yet. They fill my bus with passengers from previously canceled trips. People had been waiting there since 10:15 the night before and even slept in the terminal. (There better be some serious snow on the ground when I get to Dallas!)
7:20 a.m.: Let’s just say, this bus station is not a place you want to be alone. After being approached by several questionable characters, including a man who wants to sell me everything in a luggage bag he found for $30, I resort to desperate measures. With no flights, rental cars or buses available, I call a cab to take me 235 miles to Dallas.
10:30 a.m.: Snap this photo of the snow during the 3-1/2-hour ride. Then proclaim this would be nothing in New England.
Noon: Check in to the media hotel the same time as Michael Holley. He flew out that morning and arrived on time. Glad it didn’t take everyone from WEEI 22 hours to get there!
1 p.m.: Time for work — Eastern Conference All-Star media availability. There’s a barrage of journalists at every table, but players patiently answer every question they get. Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett field questions about trade rumors and emphasize their focus on the second half of the season.
4 p.m.: Attend the National Basketball Players Association press conference addressing the collective bargaining agreement. Derek Fisher says he was pleased that young players such as Rondo attended their meeting earlier in the day, as any future changes could affect his generation of athletes.
6 p.m.: Grab dinner at media dining at the American Airlines Center. The meat lasagna was a much better choice than the veggie. Then time for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. Rookies win and Tyreke Evans is named MVP.
10 p.m.: Off to the eighth annual Kenny Smith All-Star Bash, benefiting the Aim High Foundation.. Chat with former players straight out of my basketball card collection — Kevin McHale, Dennis Scott, Steve Smith, etc. A few current players including Al Horford and Anthony Morrow stop by, along with a random appearance by baseball player Gary Sheffield.
Saturday, Feb. 13
8:30 a.m.: Head out to more media availability. The objective is to grab as many players as possible. Watch some of the Eastern Conference practice. LeBron and Dwyane Wade face off in a halfcourt shootout, and Dwight Howard sets a record by hitting a 52-foot, 6-inch shot sitting down. Apparently, word of my journey is making its way around the media circuit, as one of my Boston counterparts graciously offers to sell me everything in his bag from breakfast for $30. (Appreciate the humor.)
Noon: Trip to the souvenir store. Everything and anything you could ever want with an All-Star logo on it. Have to send a hat to dad in Arizona, of course.
1 p.m.: Check out the latest from Brand Jordan as MC Lyte DJs the event. Big photo of Ray Allen on display among other Brand Jordan athletes.
2 p.m.: Get a look at the NBA All-Star sneakers and apparel courtesy of adidas.
3 p.m.: Head over to the Playstation Players Lounge, where Playstation had created a personalized console for Pierce.
4:30 p.m.: Back to the American Airlines Center for NBA Commissioner David Stern’s press conference and the Saturday night festivities:
- Steve Nash beats out Deron Williams in the skills competition. Surprisingly enough, this was almost as exciting as the dunk contest.
- Pierce takes home the trophy in the 3-point shootout and redeems himself from a terrible showing in 2002. He is beaming the entire time during his press conference, filled mostly with Boston reporters.
- Nate Robinson wins the dunk contest without all the frills and theatrics of past competitions. Still haven’t seen anything come close to topping Howard’s Superman dunk.
11 p.m.: Time for the 944 Media party with Snoop Dogg at The Boardroom. Enjoyed the performance a few feet from the stage … close enough to see his Kobe Bryant jersey clearly.
Sunday, Feb. 14
3:30 p.m.: Hop on a packed bus for Cowboy Stadium in Arlington. To say it’s massive would be an understatement. Coldest afternoon of the weekend as I walk to the entrance — the wind chill feels like I’m back home.
5:13 p.m.: Settled in after what feels like a 20-minute elevator ride to the media work room. (Did I mention this place was huge?) Pass by Rondo and Gerald Wallace doing pregame interviews for TNT.
5:18 p.m.: Check out the court, which is elevated a few feet off the ground. Howard, Horford, David Lee, Derrick Rose are shooting around.
6:15 p.m.: Do a lonnng lap around the concourse. Throngs of fans huddle around the NBA TV set where Kobe Bryant is making an appearance. Scan the crowd for a quick jersey count: three Larry Bird, three Pierce, one KG. Then chuckle at the binocular rental stands, considering the size of the Jumbotron.
7 p.m.: Official start time of the All-Star Game coverage, although tipoff won’t be for another half-hour or so. Watching the game up in the press box behind a glass window. A few observations from the view up top:
- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Howard put on a dunking show for the East. But Deron William’s soaring slam was my favorite of the game -- and topped many of the dunks from the contest, too.
- Even from my seat, you can see KG on his feet clapping the entire game
- Howard hams it up on the Jumbotron. Rondo is sitting next to him looking straight ahead. Can’t imagine him striking a pose for the camera in the middle of a game.
- Alicia Keys, Shakira and Usher perform. Keys belts out “Empire State of Mind” sans Jay-Z and steals the show.
- Receive text messages from my mother proclaiming "All-Star!" every time Rondo touches the ball. After calling him that since his rookie year, she finally has a nickname that rings true.
- In the end, the East wins and Wade is named MVP. And as he hoped, Pierce played limited minutes.
11:10 p.m.: Into the Mix Zone, where players are set up at different stations to talk to the media. Snag a few one-on-one questions with KG, then talk to members of the East team about his leadership this weekend.
12:09 a.m.: On the bus back to the media hotel in Dallas. Freeway is jammed with people still leaving the stadium.
12:50 a.m.: Media hospitality. Great to catch up with so many talented reporters at the end of a long weekend.
2 a.m.: Contemplate wrapping up this diary, but considering I don’t fly out of Dallas until 6 p.m. the next day, who knows what else can happen on this trip?
Monday, Feb. 15
1:15 p.m.: Don’t take any chances and arrive at the airport early for my flight. It’s a nice change being able to walk through the terminal rather than sprint.
3 p.m.: Didn’t I say I had a feeling something else would happen on this trip? A friend accidentally knocks my Diet Coke on to my lap during lunch. Soaked, but all I can do is laugh. Par for the course …
10:10 p.m.: Finally land in Boston and am told there will be snow the next day. Fine by me, as long as it’s not a wintry mix of canceled flights, bus stations and 3-1/2-hour cab rides.