(MCT) — HOUSTON — Tyson Chandler’s 21-61 rookie season with the Bulls in 2001-02 is never far from his mind.
Such growing pains make what the Knicks’ center has experienced in a dizzying run of success that much sweeter — an NBA title in 2011 with the Mavericks; Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 with the Knicks; Olympic gold last summer in London; and now, his first All-Star Game appearance on Sunday.
“To go through everything I went through — to never give up and say, ‘Look, I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can and eventually it’s going to pay off’ — and then to have it actually work out is a big blessing,” Chandler said. “This is a great compliment to my hard work. I’m very humbled by it.”
Chandler ended Dwight Howard’s three-year run as Defensive Player of the Year and, along with fellow first-time All-Star Joakim Noah, is among this season’s favorites for the award.
“There are a lot of special defensive players in the league,” Chandler said. “But I think what I bring is like no other player.”
Chandler said he’s proud that defensive-minded role players like him and Noah received All-Star recognition in coaches’ voting for reserves. The two players were ejected from a Dec. 21 game at Madison Square Garden after a brief tussle.
“I’ve loved the way Joakim has played since the moment he came into this league,” Chandler said. “When you play like that and I play the way I play, sometimes tempers flare. He knows I have the ultimate respect for him. And I think he feels the same way about me.”
Dance fever: Luol Deng said he has no pregame surprises in store after unveiling a T-shirt honoring his home continent of Africa last season in Orlando. Like Derrick Rose, Deng also won’t dance as many players do during introductions.
“I’m just going to wave my hand this year,” Deng said, laughing. “Joakim might dance. He’s the type to dance.”
As a second-time All-Star, Deng knows what to expect of the game.
“You start off playing slow, showing off and thinking you’re all that because you’re an All-Star,” he said. “Then it goes out the window and you start playing to win.”
Swan song: Presiding over his final state of the league news conference at All-Star weekend, Commissioner David Stern, who will step down on Feb. 1, 2014 for Adam Silver, was asked his favorite All-Star memory.
“This is my 37th All-Star (Game). The first was 1976 in Philadelphia,” said Stern, who assumed his current post on Feb. 1, 1984. “And I would have to say my favorite memory — actually compounded and grown to present day — is awarding Magic Johnson the MVP trophy in Orlando in 1992. Giving sweaty Magic Johnson a big hug right after he hit the last 3-pointer — and still being able to hug him because he’s alive every time I see him. That is at the top of the list. And it will not easily be dislodged. Even though I enjoy every All-Star (Game), that one will resonate for the rest of my life.”
Layups: Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving edged the Spurs’ Matt Bonner 23-20 to win the 3-point competition. ... Terrence Ross won the slam dunk competition with a little inspiration from Vince Carter. Wearing a Carter jersey as a tribute to the former dunk champion, the Raptors guard took a pass off the side of the backboard for a reverse 360-degree dunk in the final round. Ross also jumped over a ballboy in his other final-round dunk, shifting the ball between his legs and dunking with one hand. Defending champion Jeremy Evans was the runner-up. ...
The Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard won the skills competition, an obstacle course in which competitors race to make a chest pass, bounce pass, top-of-the key shot and dribble around imaginary defenders. Lillard completed the course in 29.8 seconds in the championship round, edging the 76ers’ Jrue Holiday (35.6 seconds). ... The team of Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash won the Shooting Stars contest, in which players scrambled to make shots from various spots on the court as quickly as possible. ...
Asked what other sports he liked as a kid, Noah smiled. “A lot of tanning on the beach,” he said. ... A European reporter asked Noah if had met Toni Kukoc, who is an occasional visitor to the Berto Center. Noah smiled again. “He always watches our games and shows support by telling me I can’t shoot and my right hand sucks and that I have to work in the gym with him,” Noah said. “He always gets mad at me because I never call him to work.”