Young players getting invited to All-Star Weekend is exciting, exotic and gratifying.
The three Charlotte Hornets headed to the Rising Stars game all believe it will be, and their coach is certain of it.
“Absolutely!” said Hornets coach James Borrego, who saw numerous San Antonio Spurs go to All-Star events in a decade as an assistant there. “Being around great players, seeing how they think, how they interact. Their terminology and how they approach the game.
“You also gain a mentality of wanting to be there again — the motivation to come back and experience that year-after-year, no matter what part of the (weekend) they’re a part of.”
Point guard Devonte Graham and forwards Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington were chosen to play for the U.S. team that will play a group of first- and second-season NBA players from around the world. The Rising Stars game was late Friday night.
In addition, Graham will compete in the 3-point contest, part of All-Star tonight (8 p.m. on TNT).
Former Hornet Kemba Walker (the now-Boston Celtic will be a starter in Sunday’s game) said early in his career he used All-Star Weekend invitations as a way of picking elite players’ brains.
Graham said he hopes to do just that when the opportunity surfaces. He mentioned Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard as a player he’d particularly like to approach for advice.
“We don’t have a lot of veterans now” on the Hornets roster, Graham said. “When you get around guys like that (take advantage of it).
“You know it’s a break, and (All-Stars) might not want to talk basketball all the time, but that is our lives! That’s all we want to talk about. I know as vets, they’d love for the young guys to talk to them and try to ask questions.”
Bridges is the only one of the three with previous All-Star Weekend experience. As a rookie a year ago, he was in the dunk contest in Charlotte.
Bridges said he’s never been reluctant to ask veterans for advice, and he’s not found them standoffish when approached for help.
“You’ve just got to go around and learn as much as you can,” Bridges said. “That’s what greats have done with past greats before. When we go there, I’ll bet we all ask a lot of questions.
“Last year, I was in the locker room with Kyrie (Irving) when he was getting (treatment), and I got to talk to him a bit. It’s just good to be around those type of players. It gives you extra motivation to go out and be an All-Star one day.”
Bridges and Washington said they’ve never found great players unapproachable. They said their college programs — Michigan State for Bridges and Kentucky for Washington — encourage alumni to mentor young guys.
“Most of the All-Stars I know are happy to share information. They’re not secretive or anything. They want other players to get better, too. That’s what is good about the NBA — it’s a brotherhood,” Bridges said.
“At Kentucky, you can call pretty much anybody” for advice, Washington added. “Everybody in the NBA wants everybody to get better. That just brings the whole league up.”