Playing with the stars

Playing with the stars

HK players dribbled, shot and slam-dunked with some of the NBA's finest

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NBA stars Chris Paul (left) and Carmelo Anthony put some of Hong Kong's best young players through their paces at Southorn Stadium.
NBA stars Chris Paul (left) and Carmelo Anthony put some of Hong Kong's best young players through their paces at Southorn Stadium.
Photo: Edward Wong
There's some exciting news for basketball fans on the mainland. NBA mega stars Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets have shown interest in playing in the China Basketball Association.

During a basketball clinic at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai on Tuesday, Anthony and Paul said the mainland was their first choice if the NBA labour dispute remains unresolved. The NBA has imposed a lockout on players due to the pay disagreement.

The two stars were in town earlier this week for the clinic, the kick-off event of the Jordan Brand Flight Tour 2011.

Twenty top-notch teenage basketball players selected from the Nike League were invited to work out with the stars on Tuesday, while an exhibition game was played the next day.

The stars hosted dribbling, shooting and passing drills for the players at the clinic.

The workouts reflected each player's style of play. Anthony, one of the greatest shooters of all time, conducted several shooting drills. But he didn't seem to be in good rhythm as he lost a number of shooting contests and had to do push-ups as a penalty.

Towards the end of the workout though, Anthony finally regained his form by throwing down a couple of dunks and swishing a few jump shots in a casual three-on-three tussle. Paul, a crafty ball-handler, ran a series of dribbling drills for the players. He also dazzled the crowd with his flashy dribbling and challenged some players to one-on-one games, in which he demonstrated the art of making defenders look helpless.

On the second day, the 20 Nike League players were divided into two teams for an exhibition game - Team Flight coached by Anthony and Team ISO led by Paul.

The game was exciting but the crowd did not get going until Paul decided he had done enough coaching and joined the game with some three minutes remaining. Known as a fantastic passer, Paul set up shots nicely for his teammates but they were unable to convert. With Paul in the game, the crowd was eager to see Anthony in action, chanting his nickname "Melo! Melo!" They were granted their wish when Anthony stepped onto the court with 20 seconds remaining and the score tied at 64. However, he was unable to get a touch in the game's final moments and the match went into overtime, much to the fans' delight.

The three minutes of extra time was a head-to-head battle between Anthony, a small forward, and Paul, a point guard, something rarely seen in an NBA game.

In overtime, Anthony displayed why he is one of the best players in the game, scoring all seven points for his team.

He drilled a three-pointer, a turn-around jump shot and finished with a reverse dunk, leading Team Flight to a 71-70 victory.

The two-day visit was an incredible opportunity for basketball fans to watch NBA stars in action. However, fans of Miami Heat all-star guard Dwyane Wade were disappointed because he missed out on the Hong Kong tour with an eye injury.

After Hong Kong, Anthony and Paul will visit Chengdu, Hangzhou and Beijing.

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