New Orleans is a busy place this week

New Orleans is a busy place this week

NEW ORLEANS — After the NBA pulled out of Charlotte late last summer because of the North Carolina LGBT laws, the city of New Orleans was a last-minute replacement for the NBA All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game had been in the Crescent City twice in the past decade (2008 and 2014) and as usual, this years All-Star Weekend is taking place during the annual Mardi Gras celebration.

The culmination of Mardi Gras this year is Feb. 28 — Fat Tuesday — the day before Ash Wednesday, but the celebrations have been going on since January and parades are held daily for 11 days prior. There was a parade down St. Charles Street in the middle of the afternoon Friday, and luckily after it rained for much of the day, it cleared for a couple of hours.

Besides Mardi Gras and the All-Star Weekend festivities, several conventions are in town, including one for Orgill Incorporated for 15,000 people. Hotel rooms are scarce and expensive as a month before All-Star Weekend, 96 percent of hotel rooms in New Orleans had already been booked.

GORDON’S WHIRLWIND: For Utah’s Gordon Hayward, it’s been a whirlwind of sorts since he arrived Thursday afternoon with Dante Exum and Trey Lyles, who were playing in the Rising Stars Challenge, and others from the Jazz organization.

Hayward is one of four players making his All-Star debut along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kemba Walker and DeAndre Jordan.

On Friday morning, Hayward met with the media, the biggest contingent he’d ever seen, he said later, and talked to several national commentators. Then he went to the outskirts of the city to participate in the NBA Cares event, where he and Kawhi Leonard donned rain ponchos and did a little carpentry work on a house.

Then, while other All-Stars presumably went off to have fun, Hayward went and had a private workout with Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant.

“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.”

LOW EXPECTATIONS: According to Bovada in Las Vegas, the odds of Hayward winning the MVP Award are 70-1. That’s worse than every player in the game, except Memphis’ Marc Gasol and former Jazzman Paul Millsap of Atlanta, who are both 80-1.

As for the Saturday Skills Challenge, Hayward is the No. 4 choice at 8-1 behind Isaiah Thomas, John Wall and Devin Booker. One TV analyst who picked Hayward to win the Skills Challenge was none other than former Jazzman Raja Bell, who hasn’t had many good things to say about Utah lately.

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JAZZ STAR POWER: The inclusion of Trey Lyles and Dante Exum into this year’s Rising Stars Challenge brings the number of Jazz players in the game since 2012 to 11. That’s more than every team in the league except Minnesota, which has been represented by 12 players over the past six years.

In 2012, the Jazz were represented by Hayward and Derrick Favors, in 2104 it was Trey Burke, in 2015 it was Burke, Exum and Rudy Gobert, while last year both Lyles and Rodney Hood played in Toronto.

If the players truly are rising stars, Utah and Minnesota should be a pair of the NBA’s top teams for years to come.

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Published at Sat, 18 Feb 2017 05:45:00 +0000