I walked around a fair amount last night -- the traffic is pretty bad, and while I saw a massive police presence, I did not see any trouble. Haven't heard any stories, or read any articles either. The NBA has to be cautiously optimistic that their approach this weekend is succeeding. Also, one note: the place in the city with more police than anywhere else I have seen is immediately outside the hotel where most of the media are staying. Those beat writers are trouble, I tell you.
I'm not much of a name-dropper, but at a party hosted by Michael Jordan last night, the following people walked through the door within less than a half-hour: Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dikembe Mutombo, William Wesley, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rudy Gay ... the list goes on and on. It was a great party to make you feel short.
Regular readers of TrueHoop know that I am a huge fan of PeacePlayers International (formerly Playing for Peace). The program teaches basketball to kids in war-divided communities, using the love of the game to engender cooperation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, blacks and whites in South Africa, Jews and Palestineans in Israel, and elsewhere. Their latest program is here in New Orleans, and it kicked off this morning with some fanfare thanks to the presence of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, and Antawn Jamison. They are all sponsored by Adidas, as is the New Orleans PeacePlayers program. Duncan and Garnett both get credit for being unbelievably disarming and fun with the two dozen or so students they shared the court with during some short full-court games. At one point, Howard had the ball at halfcourt and looked determined to drive on Duncan. Duncan quickly turned, grabbed about a ten-year-old girl from his team, shoved her toward Howard and said: "you get him!" Billups also taught a valuable life lesson by setting a pick on a young player, and showing him how an NBA player can artfully hold another player without it looking like a foul. It was all in good fun, and credit these athletes and this program with putting together a PR event that in fact felt like it was full of some genuine love.