Return to Transcripts main page


NBA All Star Game. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 17, 2018 - 02:30   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: We've got a special coming up. Well, good to see you guys, thanks for hanging with us. I appreciate. The CNN bleacher report special, All Access at the NBA All Star Game is next. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you tomorrow.

ALLIE LAFORCE, CNN REPORTER: Welcome into our CNN special coverage of the NBA All Star Weekend. I'm Allie LaForce and we are in the heart of downtown LA at LA Live.

ANDRE IGUODALA, NBA PLAYER: And I'm Andre Igoudala, excited to be here this weekend for one of the NBA's biggest traditions.

LAFORCE: That's right, it is one of the best traditions and we're taking you behind the scenes. Let's get to it.


LAFORCE: The world's biggest basketball stars coming together for a global celebration of the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Hollywood. You have arrived.

LAFORCE: This year in Los Angeles, Hollywood's glitz and glamour mixing with all-star skills, slam dunks, and style. It's team LeBron taking on team Steph Curry, forever a fan favorite inspiring a new generation.

STEPHEN CURRY, NBA PLAYER: You obviously want to leave the game in a better place than we found it.

LAFORCE: Joining forces with one of the brightest and boldest, first time all star Joel Embiid capturing the spirit of the game.

JOEL EMBIID, NBA PLAYER: A great picture to me has to elicit a response from the viewer.

LAFORCE: Meet the man behind these iconic NBA photos. This is All Access' NBA All Star Weekend, a CNN bleacher report special.


LAFORCE: Andre, this truly is a great sporting weekend. It's the time for the NBA to shine. You get a few days off although this is probably more exhausting going around doing all the NBA All Star activities than it is actually playing. But give us some insight into, as a player, what you look forward to the most in this weekend?

ANDRE IGUODALA, NBA PLAYER: Well, a lot of guys are looking forward to get some rest, some time off from the mental fatigue, the mental stress of the wear and tears of a long NBA season, but a lot of times the guys are spending time with their families, but the guys at the All-Star game are really excited for the slam dunk competition, the three-point competition, a lot of the first and second year players who are participating in the events from the rookie-sophomore game are really excited to show and prove themselves. So there're a lot of things going on this weekend that everyone is excited about.

LAFORCE: How seriously do you take it as a player, because you're playing basketball everyday, three, four hours a day on average and now you come to this competition. Is this something you take lightly or are these guys really taking it seriously?

IGUODALA: Well, I think a lot of the guys are trying to get a feel for what it's going to be like from the competition and the aura from everyone else, the guys that have been here before. So the veterans take the lead on what type of competition this is going to be like. Is it going to be relaxed or is it going to be intense. So the young guys, they're jittery, they're a little nervous, but they're just looking forward to things getting rolling.

LAFORCE: So actually this weekend, we'll see if it worked. And what I mean it worked is the NBA tried to revamp the All Star format to make it more enjoyable, to make it more competitive, to make it something where fans have to see it. They wanted to make it must-see TV, so this weekend, we'll find out if that's going to happen.

So basically it was playground-style draft. We have LeBron James and Steph Curry, they got to pick their teammates for the All Star game. Do you like the new format? And amongst the players, what was the reaction to it?

IGUODALA: Well, it gives you a little bit of a sandlot feel.


IGUODALA: You're out there with your friends as kids and you know, two captains picking teams. And as a captain, you want to make sure you made the right pick. So you're letting the guys you pick know, "Hey, we got to win this." I think a lot of the guys like this format with the east and the west being mixed and I'm sure there's pride with LeBron and Stephen which team wins.

LAFORCE: So Andre, we talked a little bit about LeBron and All-Star weekend, but we haven't talked about LeBron and the new look Cavaliers. The Cavs shook up the NBA at the trade deadline and they won four straight heading into the All-Star weekend. Let's hear what LeBron has to say about his new look team.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: We became a younger team, more athletic, you know, we have some more shooting. So it's my job to get these guys on the same page with us where we want to accomplish what we want to do. So I look forward to getting them here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBron, at 33, what's your goal for the rest of your career?

JAMES: To keep playing at a high level. Keep playing at a high level, continue to inspire the youth and just be the role model I am on the court. It doesn't matter what age you are, I think it's always been in my DNA.


LAFORCE: And I'm now very excited to welcome in the third member of our broadcast, the one and only Steve Smith. Not every day I get to sit between two NBA All Stars, but Smity, we're so glad you're up here to talk a little LeBron and talk a little All Star.

STEVE SMITH, BASKETBALL ANALYST: I'm happy to be here. Yes, I'm looking forward to it.

LAFORCE: So we were getting into the new look Cavaliers, you heard what LeBron had to say about the team. What's your reaction to the move that they made?

SMITH: Well, I think before the moves, they were dead in the water. I mean when you start talking about a team, they're definitely a top three team, but when you start talking about LeBron James, these championships, I didn't think the team that they had constructed before they made the trade, the way they were going wasn't going to be a chance to make the championship. These new young guys, it's brought life and brought passion. There's still a long way to go, but I think he has to be happier. You have some young legs, the guys that can get up and down, so it gives them a better chance.

LAFORCE: What do you think about the leader that LeBron is?

SMITH: Well, I think he's been phenomenal. One thing I can say is obviously as you get older, you become a better leader, but I thought when he was young, to have that leadership quality at such a young age, I think he's done a phenomenal job.

LAFORCE: Andre, what's your experience been with LeBron off the court?

IGUODALA: Well, I think LeBron is one of the more locked-in, engaged athletes that I've ever seen, you know. I think some of the athletes he looked up to, the Michael Jordans, the Kobe Bryants who were, you know -- they had those aspirations to be the best, not just at their position, but at their sport. I think he kind of fed off that and tries to do some of those same things, the same qualities, leading your teammates, making them better, expecting the most out of them and you see that night in, night out with many different rosters he's taken to the NBA finals.

LAFORCE: Let's talk about the Golden State Warriors, the team that the Cavs have had to go through if they want to win the championship over the last couple of years. And the Warriors took a lot of heat for allowing the players to coach the other night and I thought it was phenomenal only for the -- from the standpoint that you don't allow your players to coach unless you've coached your players to get to the point where they can coach, right?

So they respect you as a coach, they respect each other, they know the game of basketball, they've worked hard for you, and they're knowledgeable and they have a high basketball IQ. So why not mix it up a little bit? I thought there was a massive overreaction to this.

SMITH: Well, I'm old school and I think the one thing you look at it is, is Steph has to. This is a team that have been together. They have to find ways to keep these guys engaged. They are professional.

LAFORCE: It's a long season, right.

SMITH: It's a long season and one thing he has these guys have high basketball IQ and you've got to really take that. And people throw their word out there. There are some guys that are phenomenally talented, but these guys have high basketball IQ. I just think for a guy that played the game and you're on that other side and when you see the Andre Igoudalas and Draymond Greens and the David Wests coaching, there's nothing against those guys, it's just the integrity of the sport when you have guys go up in competition.

I just love to see Andre run a play or the third guy, the third assistant coach maybe take over and now those guys do it in practice. But I'm old school though, because I would probably foul Iggy really hard.

LAFORCE: I love it. How did the coach experience go for you by the way?

IGUODALA: Interestingly, we've had those situations, like Smitty said in practice, we run plays, we simulate it, you know, what will we do in certain situations. So we've been there before. Steph with his bag of coaching mastery of trying to motivate the players, keep things fresh. You know, you've been in the finals three straight years and you're playing from October all the way through June, not having much of a break and especially some of the obligations that your All Stars have night in, night out, the media expectations of just being on alert and being on edge 24/7 throughout the season with so much attention there we get.

So Steph is always -- you know he's world class with the things that he brings that we don't expect and we just have to adjust on the fly to get us ready for any situation.

LAFORCE: So we have Coach Kerr, we have coach Andre, but the coach on the court during game action is always your point guard and that's Steph Curry and Steve, you got a chance to catch up with him, didn't you?

SMITH: Yeah. Speaking of point guards, I got a chance to sit down and talk about ball handling. You'll be interested to see Steph said he wasn't a great ball handler in high school.


SMITH: Let's take a look at the piece.


SMITH: Just talk to me about your ball handling?

CURRY: It's funny because that wasn't always one of my strengths. Growing up, I played point guard, but I was kind of more of the basic ball handler, just kind of initiating the plays.

SMITH: Did you just say you were a basic ball handler?

CURRY: Yeah.

SMITH: You know, I can't -- I can't get that wrapped around, you're basic. Let's give me basic, what's basic to you?

CURRY: Basic is literally you come down, I wouldn't -- probably I wouldn't change hands. I'd dribble with my right the entire way down the floor just, you know, surveying the floor and initiating the play and then I go and run off the ball.

SMITH: This is when you were like eight, are you talking about high school?

CURRY: I mean high school too, I mean I had a little bit but more so it was just more of my shooting that kind of separated me.

SMITH: Your pre-game routine, it's taken on a life of its own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like back in the old days with Michael Jordan who played for the Bulls, fans get their earlier to watch warm-ups.

SMITH: He's now working on that ball handling just because he uses it.

CURRY: I mean that means a lot. You obviously want to leave the game in a better place than we found it and you can have an imprint on the game and inspire kids and think they really want to work on their game to focus on the fundamentals, that means a lot.

SMITH: We're going to take you through a couple of these plays. We're going to start off the first one, I know you remember it. What was the feel, right, just to get somebody the ball?

CURRY: Yeah, just to get them a little something. I saw that I had two guys on my left and sometimes you can kind of leave and pass it to them like that, but just to show him the ball and keep it moving to the basket is one of those. You just freeze them for half a second and you keep it moving.

SMITH: And we love it. We call that the wash and pull, you know.

CURRY: The wash and pull, I like that.

SMITH: The wash and pull, the next window is we call this the one hour service.

CURRY: I get it. This is one where I really didn't see all those people around me. It was when I was looking at the big man, I knew I could kind of cross the grain a little bit. And once I got through all that traffic with the ball, there was no -- I had no other choice but to shoot it.

SMITH: (INAUDIBLE) like home.

CURRY: Yeah, exactly. And to me it's a good shot because I feel like I can make any shot and the reaction I got from Coach Kerr, they have a shot of him on the sideline and he has hands on his head, he's like, why did he shoot that, the ball is in the air and I make it and he just goes like -- he just walks back to the bench. Because he wanted to coach me and knew that was a terrible shot, but I made it.

SMITH: Who is your Mount Rushmore of all time ball handlers?

CURRY: I got to put myself on there, I put myself, Kyrie, Pistol Pete, and Magic Johnson. He was up there and he wasn't anything like the breaking ankles type. He knows I can get from point A to point B and there's nothing you can do about it. So that's ball handling is about being efficient, so I have to put him in there.

SMITH: You didn't put your dad?

CURRY: My dad probably dribbled 20 times in his career.

SMITH: I was about to say your dad is like play, he ain't dribbling too much.

CURRY: He knows that, so yeah. Well, shooting, that's a whole another segue.


SMITH: You know, just getting the chance to watch that piece, Andre, I have to ask you, when you're playing with Steph, do you find yourself sometimes just in awe of watching some of the things he can do? And then also can you believe he wasn't that great of a basketball ball handler in high school?

IGUODALA: Well, that's shocking to hear he wasn't a great ball handler in high school because the way he works at his shot, I'm just figuring that's the same way he works on his ball handling. So, you know, he works on everything. He's perfected shooting, but he still works on shooting, and I've seen him put on clinics in practice end of the game, so you become accustomed to him just doing great things and expecting them in the game.

LAFORCE: Well, we'll hope to see more of the Steph show this weekend too as All-Star Weekend continues and our coverage continues. We get to hear from one of the newest stars and the youngest stars in the NBA. He has a personality that matches his height too. Grant Hill sits down with Joel Embiid when we come back.


LAFORCE: Welcome into beautiful and sunny LA. We're bringing you everything you need to know regarding NBA All-Star Weekend. And Andre, one of the biggest names and personalities this weekend is the 76ers' Joel Embiid.

IGUODALA: Big fan, big fan of his. Game changer in my opinion.

LAFORCE: He's a big personality. And our own Grant Hill sat down with Joel. Let's listen in.


GRANT HILL, BASKETBALL ANALYST: How does it feel to be an NBA All- Star for the first time?

JOEL EMBIID, NBA PLAYER: It feels great. You know, I was really excited when I heard and then especially for the first time as a starter and it's one of my favorite cities, LA, so I'm excited.

HILL: What are you looking forward to most once you get into the NBA All-Star game?

EMBIID: Well I'm feeling like that's my kind of stage. You know, I like to have fun.

HILL: Right.

EMBIID: I enjoy everything that's going around me, so I feel like that stage is made for me, so I'm definitely going to have fun.

HILL: You have a big personality, you really embrace that. What is it about the game of basketball that just brings that out in you?

EMBIID: The fans, they pay for everything, you know. So I feel like I owe them a lot and they've shown me a lot of love, so we have a special connection. I love like being on the court. I don't like when it's quiet at all, I like when they do it and our fans are really passionate, so I like when there's so much energy. I like when the atmosphere is amazing.

When it's so quiet, I know how to get them going and I just need to raise my arms and they're going to go crazy. But sometimes I need that too, to be able to play well.


IGUODALA: He's a great personality and the City of Philadelphia has embraced him and he's embraced the city as well. And they've called him the process, but they're soon going to be looking for the results. The thing I enjoy most about him is that the environment hasn't changed who he's been so far as an NBA athlete and his personality. And I hope he continues on that same trend.

LAFORCE: He's an intimidating rim protector on the court, but he's just a fun, lovable guy and we hope that he holds on to that. IGUODALA: Definitely, definitely. And I think he's going to change the game. He has the opportunity to. The game is outside in.

LAFORCE: Exactly.

IGUODALA: It's outside in and he has the opportunity to change it back to an inside out game and the big man will be more of a threat and you're going to have to have someone to match up against him.

LAFORCE: He's going to be fun to watch. All right, coming up next, we get to sit down with the photographer who has photographed Bird, Magic, Shaq, you name it. You may not know his name, but you definitely know his work. The NBA's most legendary photographer joins us next.


LAFORCE: Welcome back to our coverage of NBA All Star Weekend. Think of some of your favorite players, Jordan, Magic, Bird, you name it. Well, there's a man who has captured their greatness for the last three decades. His name, Andrew Bernstein and he shares with us some of his most iconic moments.


ANDREW BERNSTEIN, NBA PHOTOGRAPHER: Magic and I were essentially rookies together. He was an amazing person. He was so amazingly photogenic, you know, with that great smile and the no-look passes. Kobe and Michael was extra special. To see the young Kobe, the pre mamba-mamba and the grand master there.

Fast forward a few years down the road and Michael is about to retire and Kobe has moved up into almost, you know, iconic status himself, but he's still picking the brain of his mentor on the court and it was truly a passing of the torch moment.

One of the amazing moments of my career actually was when the Bulls won their first championship and then Michael Jordan won his first trophy, I needed to get a picture of Michael somehow. No one could find Michael because he was supposed to be on stage during the live trophy presentation. And something, some voice said look to your left, and literally I looked to my left and down and there he was sitting in a locker with his dad, hugging the trophy crying his eyes out. It was just one of those moments that I just was in the right place at the right time, and that picture is iconic and it will live forever.

I've been around awhile, so I got to see the players of yesteryear with their kids becoming players of today. This was the '92 three- point contest. Papa Dell was one of the participants and he had young little Steph in his lap. I didn't obviously know at that time, but it was a pretty cute picture to have, you know, the little guy with the dad. To be there for the firsts were great too, for LeBron's first championship, for Steph Curry's first championship, Kobe's first championship, Shaq's first championship. It was amazing and a long, long season comes to an end in that way, it's very gratifying. (VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

LAFORCE: We're joined now with Andrew himself. And Andrew some of those photos are just -- Steph when he was young and the young Kobe, these are incredible moments that you've gotten to capture, so thank you so much for capturing it for all of us.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, well thanks, Allie. I appreciate it. It's been a good career. I appreciate that.

LAFORCE: I would imagine that you have to be somewhat removed, but that you become emotionally attached to these athletes in some way.

BERNSTEIN: For sure, but if I'm getting too emotional and too involved in the game, I'm not doing my job. So my job is to keep my eye in the camera and then kind of think about it later on.

LAFORCE: Well, we have to brag about you a little bit before we let you go. You're receiving the Curt Gowdy Media Award honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. You're officially a hall of famer. Congratulations.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you, thank you very much and I really am shocked and amazed and unbelievably flattered by it.

LAFORCE: Well, Andrew, thank you so much for stopping by. We know you do have a job to do, so good luck capturing the action this weekend.

BERNSTEIN: Thanks so much, Allie. I appreciate it.

LAFORCE: When we come back. It's time to preview the best part of the weekend, it's the slam dunk competition, more slam dunk and three- point shooting preview when we get back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

LAFORCE: Welcome back to All Access' NBA All-Star Weekend and we are just a few hours away from, in my opinion, the best part of the weekend. We have the skills challenge, we have the three-point shooting competition and the slam dunk competition. You're a former runner-up in the slam drunk competition, one of the best shooters at the NBA and Steve Smith to my right. So guys, what are you most looking forward to in this competition tonight?

SMITH: You know, I think first just a celebration of all these guys. This is All-Star Weekend, they play such a long season, so this is where you celebrate all the guys. And then obviously after this, it starts to become real. So what I'm looking forward to is the guys having fun celebrating.

But in the dunk contest, I'm really looking forward to watching Donovan Mitchell. I think he something up his sleeve. LAFORCE: How about you, Andre?

IGUODALA: Three-point competition, obviously I'm going with my teammate, Klay Thompson, he's going to bring it home for us. This will be his second time after he wins the three-point competition tonight. And the dunk contest, after going through it, what I've learned is experience is key. It's a little different atmosphere out there when everyone is watching you, there's TV timeouts and you're a little stiff, so I got to go with Victor Oladipo because he has experience.

LAFORCE: Smithy, you have a unique experience, so tell us about the virtual reality experience, give us some insight.

SMITH: Well it was fantastic. The way the game and technology are coming together. I mean in virtual reality, you get a chance to control your experience, which is fantastic. And for me, getting a chance to call this All-Star Weekend, it's just a joy to see it from a different angle. I got the see the dunk contest from like eight different cameras and I think for everybody out there in virtual reality, to be able to have your own experience and see it in some different ways, it's phenomenal.

LAFORCE: Well, all of the action gets going soon on our sister network TNT tonight 8 o'clock Eastern. It's All-Star Saturday night, and of course tomorrow at 8 o'clock, the All-Star Game we've all been waiting for. It's been fun you guys, so Steve Smith and Andre Igoudala. Enjoy the weekend. I'll see you next time.