Wednesday, February 19, 2020 11:04 AM | CBN
It’s always interesting to see what the All-Star Game’s stars have to say about their All-Star experience post-game.
Today we’re bringing you insight into the post-All-Star Game 2020 minds of Team LeBron’s Kawhi Leonard, coaches Nick Nurse and Frank Vogel, and Team Giannis’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid and Kyle Lowry.
Interviews took place on Monday, February 17, 2020. Credit to NBA News.
During the interview, Leonard was acknowledged for winning the first Kobe Bryant MVP Award.
“It's very special”, Leonard said.
“Like I said, I had a relationship with him. Words can't explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe's name on there, it just means a lot to me. He's a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”
“I want to go in and win every game. Whatever happens happens from there. I would dedicate anything to him”, Leonard said of honoring Kobe with his MVP award.
When asked about whether he wanted to win the trophy, Leonard replied, “No. Winning it is a plus. I didn't come in the game saying, I'm going to take that trophy home. I think I came in and made my first two shots and kept shooting and made shots. That's when I told myself I'm going to go try to get it.
Leonard was also asked about what it was like playing with Lakers Frank and LeBron and Anthony Davis.
“It was fun,” said Leonard. “I played with Bron and A.D. last year, and I think the year before that or so. But it's always fun just to get around guys that are very competitive, see what they do on an everyday basis. Just talking, just being their teammate. We go at each other all year round, and just, like I said, it's great to be able to pick their brain and just be around them and joke and laugh.”
Coach Nurse was asked during the interview about how he designs defensive plays, something that’s typically unusual in the All-Star Game.
“We had quite a few stoppages in play down the stretch”, Nurse said. “They had a really good team out there. It's tough to guard, but they were running a couple of actions, and we just kept trying to switch to cover them and make it hard on them down the stretch. The guys did a good job. They made some good adjustments.
“I thought we were knuckling down. We were getting some stops. We got a rebound that got batted away and stolen. We got another rebound and kind of turned it over near midcourt again. We were getting some stops and weren't quite getting our opportunities at the other end.”
When asked about what he thought about the new format, Nurse said he thought it was “really interesting” and “really fun”.
“Each and every quarter was, from a coaching standpoint was really fun. I thought the quarters got really interesting really early in the quarters because the game was moving pretty quick. Not a ton of whistles in the first bit, right? So the thing kind of mattered a little bit. I think with the cumulative score, even though we were down in the first quarter, we thought we had to keep plugging to keep it close so it doesn't get too far away. Then when we were on the other side of it, we said let's keep increasing our lead and get as big of an advantage going into the fourth.
“Then, obviously, the end was amazing. I think everybody in the whole place was on their feet watching each possession, and they were really going at it. I mean, defensively it was hard to get anything --or offensively it was hard to get anything started. Even first passes were being denied. It felt like the end of a playoff game, which was really cool, I thought.”
Nurse also shared his thoughts on Giannis and his defensive skills, having had experienced the Greek Freak on his team.
“I think you obviously see an incredible desire from this guy,” Nurse said. “Defense always starts with the want to and the desire to make big plays and play really hard, and he was doing that. He was taking all the challenges. He was just trying to make all the plays. He talked to me a couple times out of timeouts. He's like, ‘I'm going to guard this guy.’ Give him more freedom to maybe block a shot or get more rebounds or whatever. So he was really into the game. It's part of his greatness, man, is his competitive desire. He's such a great competitor.”
On what it was like to be a head coach in the All-Star Game as a first, Nurse shared: “First of all, it was a tremendous honor to be here. I think the extravaganza was really something for a few days, and then when you get here finally for the game, it's really neat to be a part of.
“Those guys were amazing, from the opening moments in the locker room tonight pregame. They really were positive about going out and competing and playing hard. …First of all, it's an unbelievable group of guys to coach, and then to have them be that concerned and care about the outcome as much as they did made it a really special occasion for me and my staff.”
Interviewers asked Vogel about what changed this year compared to last.
“I think the format probably had something to do with it, but I do think that, while a lot of the All-Star games have not been competitive, usually when it's close down the stretch, it becomes very competitive”, he said.
“I think with the format the way it was, first team to get to that 157 mark, I think it just became more competitive a little bit longer. But it's not uncommon for All-Star games to get competitive down the stretch when they're close.”
Vogel was also asked about how much interaction he shared with coach Nurse during the All-Star Weekend, as well as his thoughts on Nurse.
“The interaction was minimal”, Vogel replied. “I saw him on the elevator when I checked in, the first time I saw him. Our wives and kids hung out a little bit in the hospitality suite at the hotel. Saw him a little bit pregame tonight. My overall impression of him is he's a champion in his first year as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, so much, much respect.”
When asked about what it was like to coach a game with five stars on the court at all times, Vogel replied, “It's what people like to call good problems. Who are you going to give the ball to? They're all good. They're all right answers, you know what I mean?”
We get what he means.
“It was great for me to see the collective competitive spirit of our group working together, usual competitors, fierce competitors against each other. That's what's always been great to me about the All-Star Weekend, the All-Star Game is seeing guys that normally want to kill each other working together and then combining that competitive spirit and strength into one force. I think you saw that with the veteran group we had out there on the floor in the fourth quarter.”
On Chris Paul’s leadership during the game: “Chris Paul is a big reason for the win”, Vogel said.
“He told me early in the day that he wasn't one of those vets that just likes to take a rest in a game like this, that he wants to come in and win a game and help our guys win a game. All the young guys throughout the course of the game, every time they made a mistake or didn't play defense, he was yelling at them. So he got us -- not only got us to the finish line but also provided great leadership and some big plays in that fourth quarter down the stretch.”
Vogel was also asked about how cool it was to watch the hometown Anthony Davis bring the game-winning free-throw for charity.
“Well, you said it best, right?”, he said. “You can’t draw that stuff up. Sort of a Hollywood ending to this weekend's festivities. The local kid wins the game and wins it for charity. I was happy for him. I knew it was going to be a special kind of weekend for him coming home, and to see him win a game like that was pretty special.
Giannis and Kemba were asked about their thoughts re: the different format this year, and whether they’d like to see it going forward.
Giannis: “After the game, my brother came down, and he said, this has been the most fun All-Star he's been a part of. And I asked him why, and he told me, ‘Because you guys were really competitive. You guys were playing to win.’ Team Giannis, that's what we were trying to do. We were trying to come out, set the tone, play hard. Especially in the fourth quarter, the defense got tighter. Guys were hitting one another. Every possession counts. We had a little bit of playoff intensity out there. So I loved it. I hope we can keep the same format for a lot of years, and I think people had fun, we had fun. So that's what it's all about.”
Kemba: “Yeah, I thought it was cool. I had no idea coming into the game, I didn't know what to expect. As we played, it was great. That's what everybody wants to see. They want to see a competitive game. That's what it was in the fourth. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
On what playing in the All-Star Game meant to him, Kemba responded, “It was fun. We just wanted to be competitive. That's all we spoke about in the huddles. It's always a blessing and an honor to get here. I’ve come a long way in my career. This is my fourth All-Star. I'm blessed, and it's always an exciting time to get a chance to be a part of this.”
Giannis commented on his performance closing out the game.
“Obviously, defensively I got a little bit out of breath,” he said. “We played for like 25 minutes in the fourth quarter. Yeah, they were trying to like make the small guys switch on LeBron because they knew that we were switching. Coach Nick Nurse told me to send towards the middle, so he could not goto the screen. That's what I tried to do.
“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding. That's who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on. Obviously, you cannot go wrong -- Kemba, Kyle, Joel, me, Siakam, everybody is great players. Whoever has the ball is going to make a play for the guy next to him, and it's going to be good because we're all great players.”
Kemba on the late Kobe:
“We definitely felt his presence. Growing up, watching Kobe in those games, I felt like he was always competitive, and he was kind of the one who got the game going. I think we kept that going tonight. I think he definitely would have loved to watch the way we went out there and competed tonight. Over the years, the All-Star Game has been a game where it just hasn't been as competitive as probably the fans would like, but tonight it definitely was, and we got to keep that going.”
Giannis on carrying on Kobe’s legacy:
“I'm just trying to do what I've been doing since day one, which is get better, be humble, help my teammates be great. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing is get better. Whenever I have a chance to go out there, I just play with an edge. That's pretty much it. When you do that, I think everything takes care of itself.”
Interviewers also asked Kemba whether he expected playing what was essentially an entire fourth quarter.
“No, I wasn't expecting it at all”, Kemba said. “I was actually supposed to be on a minute restriction, but the game got too close. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to compete. I knew down the stretch that it would get serious like that, and I wanted to be a part of it. So, yeah, it was cool.”
Interviewers asked Embiid about his All-Star Weekend experience. “It was great. Fun weekend,” he said. “Probably one of the best All-Star Games ever. Guys competed. It came down to basically the last shot. I don’t agree that you should be able to win on a free throw, but overall it was a lot of fun.”
On talk of strategy, Embiid shared that his team was “just trying to get the best shot possible. Obviously, I got it going in the fourth [quarter]. But it wasn’t enough.”
Embiid was also asked about his thoughts on the Kobe tribute before the game, to which he replied: “It was great. Just watching it. A lot of us were emotional. It was cool. Kobe and David Stern both deserved it, and obviously all the people that were killed in the crash. I thought it was great and emotional.”
On playing for a purpose, Embiid said: “Me personally, with where I am from, when you make it you got to go back and help as much as you can. Having the opportunity to be here and being able to help people, I think it meant a lot. I’m proud of my team. I felt like everybody played hard. Obviously, we just came up short.”
Embiid was then asked if he believes this format should be adhered to in future All-Star Games.
“For sure”, he said. “Besides the first quarter, I felt like everybody was playing hard. It was competitive.”
Embiid assured interviewers that it was inspiring to be among the best in the league. “It’s great. You try to be out there with the best and prove why you belong and also prove that you are better than them. It’s always fun to come out and just enjoy the time and just be part of the best.”
During his interview, Lowry was asked about his experience this All-Star Game 2020.
“Awesome. It was great,” he said. “I think it was one of those things where we innovated. In our league we always try to do different things, and it worked out perfectly.
When asked about what he could have done on that last play, Lowry said, “I literally couldn’t do anything. It sucked to end like that. Maybe we have to tweak that format a little bit more [and have the game end on a made basket]. But it was a fun learning experience.”
Lowry commented on the upside and downside to this year's game. “There’s always juice when it comes to those types of charities in general and kids. I’m happy to be a part of it. Unfortunately, my squad didn't get it done. I’m 0-6 in All-Star Games now.”
On the intensity during the game, Lowry commented that “We wanted to win. We’ll do anything it takes to win a basketball game. I think the format was great for everybody. The change helped the whole experience.”
Thanks again to NBA News for providing quotes.