CHICAGO — The All-Star Weekend fun started for Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic, and he was able to soak it all in while grinning from ear-to-ear.
In the big picture, it mattered not to Doncic that his World team lost to the USA team, 151-131, in the Rising Stars Challenge game at the United Center. The experience of playing in this game offered some lasting memories.
One memory for Doncic was a shot way before midcourt that he converted at the halftime buzzer.
“It was fun,” Doncic said. “In those games fans want to see a lot of dunks, a lot of long threes and fun stuff.
“The half court shot, you can ask Deandre Ayton. He will tell you. I called it before the timeout, so you can ask him.”
Doncic also drained one of his patented step-back 3-point shots that helped the Mavs to a 33-22 record at the All-Star break.
Doncic started Friday’s game and played 24 minutes and collected 16 points, two rebounds and five assists. He was 6-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc.
In a game with where defense was foreign, Doncic executed three perfect alley-oop dunk passes, two of them to Rui Hachimura.
Eric Paschall led the USA team with 23 points Collin Sexton scored 21 and Miles Bridges added 20. Also, Zion Williamson was 7-of-11 from the field and finished with 14, but since he missed New Orleans’ first thee games this season against the Mavs with an injury, this was actually his first time playing against Doncic.
Or, was it?
“Honestly, I don’t even know if I can count that as my first time playing against Luka,” Williamson said. “I felt like he was just — he was just chilling.
“Like come on, you all know he was just chilling. He’s a great player. His resume shows it. And no, I didn’t really hear any Luka stories today.”
Adrian Griffin, who coached the World team and used to play for the Mavs, was overly impressed with what he got from Doncic.
“It’s awesome to be around that type of talent,” Griffin said. “For the coaches, we’re fans too.
“Even though we’re competing against each other, you’v got to marvel at his skill level for such a young player. He’s almost like a seasoned veteran the way he plays, and you don’t see that every day.”
Griffin recalled one play in particular that centered on Doncic and his skill set.
“I drew up a timeout play for him, and the first part was for a lob,and he just stopped me and said, ‘Hey, you need to draw that up for someone else,’ ” Griffin said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Let me finish now. This is going to get you a corner three.’
“So he said, ‘OK, all right.’ He had a great sense of humor. We probably could have used a couple more threes from him, but it was fun.”
RJ Barrett, a forward for the World team via the New York Knicks, even told a story of working with Doncic a few years ago.
“I worked out with him a couple of years ago and I didn’t really know much about him,” said Barrett, who tallied a game-high 27 points. “So I was 16 and he was 17.
“I thought he was like a pro. I thought he was like 25. So to see him now, it’s great. We’ve got the same agent (Bill Duffy), so we interact some here and there.”
BRYANT, STERN HONORED
Former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and ex-NBA commissioner David Stern were honored before the Rising Stars Challenge.
The NBA commissioner from 1984-2014, Stern died on New Year’s Day, less than a month after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Meanwhile, Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
Six-time NBA All-Star Pau Gasol and 11-time WNBA All-Star Sue Bird read statements regarding Bryant and Stern.
“The NBA is now a global game because of David and Kobe,” Gasol said. “I’m proud to have worked with them, and also to have called them friends.
“I know both of them would want us to enjoy your time here, to compete and to have fun. Kobe used to say, ‘Do epic things also.’ So, let’s have an epic weekend.”
Noting how Stern was at the forefront of the NBA becoming a global game, Bird said: “None of us would be here today without David.”
Gasol was a teammate of Bryant’s from 2008-14 – including when the Lakers won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. When Bryant’s name was mentioned, the crowd let out a chorus of “Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be” chants.
Tributes to Bryant and Stern are in several places in Chicago, including on the back of the media credentials.
Before the NBA All-Star Celebrity game, 24.2 seconds of silence was held. Bryant wore jersey No. 24 during part of his 20-year NBA career, and Gianna wore jersey No. 2 on her youth basketball team.
In fact, every player on Team LeBron and Team Giannis will wear No. 2 and No. 24 during Sunday’s All-Star game.
HALL OF FAME FINALISTS
Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant were the top headliners who were announced Friday as finalists to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
The other finalists are ex-WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings of Duncanville, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, and ex-coaches Eddie Sutton and Barbara Stevens.
Those who will be named to the Hall of Fame class of 2020 will be announced at the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta on Apr. 4, with the enshrinement ceremonies occurring on Aug. 29 in Springfield, MA.
OBAMA ON HAND
There was a surprise visitor Friday morning at All-Star Weekend.
It was president Barack Obama.
Players in the Rising Stars Challenge were busy filling 500 backpacks with school supplies for under-privileged students and teachers during an NBA Cares event when president Obama popped up out of nowhere and started conversing the players and students. None of the players or students knew he was coming, so it made for an exhilarating scene.
“It was a pleasure,” Mavs point guard Luka Doncic said. “It was very nice meeting him.
“I hope to hang out with him soon, so it was a pleasure.”
President Obama even joked with Doncic about the shooting exploits of former Mavs point guard Jason Kidd.
“He just came to me and introduced himself. Obviously, I know who he is. He just said, ‘You do a fantastic job.’ That really inspired me. And he said, ‘Don’t shoot like J-Kidd.’ ”
Earlier on Friday, Doncic also was on a Tech Summit panel that included comedian Bill Murray.
“He’s a funny guy,” Doncic said. “I watched him a lot. He always makes jokes, and it was a pleasure to meet him.”