|ESPN.com: News||[Print without images]|
LOS ANGELES -- Being an NBA All-Star is similar to freshman year in college for players.
They check into a hotel with a dorm-like atmosphere. There's a video game lounge. There are new teammates to adjust to and meetings that lull you to sleep. And most importantly, there are lots of laughs and memories to cherish.
Fortunately, first-time NBA All-Stars Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin took the weekend by storm.
Blake Griffin has had the busiest weekend of all three first-timers. He is the first player in NBA history to participate in events on each day of All-Star Weekend. He scored 14 points in the Rookie Challenge on Friday night, jumped over a car to win the slam dunk contest Saturday night and will take the floor tonight in the 60th NBA All-Star Game. Being involved in every aspect of All-Star Weekend is just fine with Griffin because he remembers last year's All-Star Weekend a little differently due to a season-ending injury.
|Blake Griffin, king of the slam dunk contest, is the first player in NBA history to participate in events on each day of All-Star Weekend.|
"I was at home in Oklahoma City. I remember watching the NBA TV practices and I watched the game," Griffin said. "It's your first All-Star [Game] and you kind of just want to go check it out, but I just had no interest last year. I tell everybody now I'm trying to make up for lost time from last year."
Although it is their first time as All-Stars, this game had a home-court feel for all three players. Westbrook and Love, above, are both from the Los Angeles area, and Griffin is the new king of L.A. as the Clippers star player. All-Star Weekend is hectic enough, but having it in your hometown presents unique challenges.
"I'm from L.A. and I know this scene, but as far as the party hopping, that's not really me I like to enjoy the festivities and have fun," Love said.
"I have a tremendous amount of support here and a lot of family so the ticket requests were very high," Love said. "I had about 40 to 50 requests, after that it just got to be too much so I just had to cut it off at about 20. That's hard for me."
Love almost didn't have a spot on the All-Star Western Conference roster as he was voted in at the last minute by commissioner David Stern to replace an injured Yao Ming. Love recognizes his fortune, and at practice Saturday, he said he just wants to soak it all in.
"Obviously we hope Yao comes back and gets healthy," Love said. "I feel very blessed to be here and very humble. I'm looking forward to all the festivities that come with this weekend."
Love's former UCLA teammate, Westbrook, is a defensive specialist. NBA All-Star Games aren't famous for their intense defense (last year's final score was 141-139), but Westbrook still plans to play with tenacity.
"Yeah I'm going to play defense," Westbrook said. "I don't want to be the one to get dunked on."
Thankfully, 2011 slam dunk champion Griffin is on his team in Sunday's game.
"Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and myself, we are rookies to the game, we're looking to have fun on Sunday and enjoy it," Love said. "It's not all about the All-Star Game even though we are here for that. It's about having lifelong memories because no one can take away that you are an All-Star."