By Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers
I had a very exciting weekend, starting off with flying to Houston for NBA All-Star. I left early on Thursday morning with my teammate Dion Waiters, and our other teammates Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson left a little later in the day. It was cool because we were all playing together in the Rising Stars Challenge. I was on the same team – Team Shaq — with Kyrie and Dion, and Tristan was the only Cavalier playing on Team Chuck.
Let The Games Begin
Once we got to Houston and hung out at the hotel for a little bit, we had some media interviews and a photo circuit to do with the rest of the rookies and sophomores. At the end of that, I got matched up with other rookies to shoot an NBA TV thing. They taped us while we were sitting around having a conversation about our rookie year. So many of us have grown up playing with and against each other, so it was fun to see each other and trade stories a little bit.
Then we were off to our do’s and don’ts of All-Star meeting. It was nothing too groundbreaking … the typical “be at practice” and “keep working hard” reminders. We went over our itinerary and got our gear for the weekend. That night, I went out with some friends and people from my agency for dinner.
Friday morning, we had practice at Jam Session, which took place inside the convention center. Well, they called it practice but basically it was a shootaround. Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale was there working with us. There were some fans watching, so the NBA gave us these little basketballs to throw up into the stands. I threw one of the balls really hard trying to get it to the top, but then it just hit a pole and came back down. Oh well.
Following practice, we all went over to participate in a bunch of NBA Cares projects. Our first stop was to help put up a basket at a school. And then we went to help build a house. Our job was to put up a chain link fence and we also planted a tree and some bushes.
After NBA Cares, I had some time to go back to the hotel and take a little nap. Then it was game time. All of us players met downstairs and went over to the gym. We had a quick shootaround and Commissioner Stern came into the locker room to say a few words. He congratulated us on being there and said to go out and tip off All-Star weekend well. Then we went to take team pictures, which ended up being pretty funny. I took one with Harrison Barnes because we went to college together, then they tookone of the four Cavs. Then we started realizing the photographers were taking pictures of practically every combination they could think of — international players, guys who went to college together, guys who have the same agent. It was funny.
A little before the game, Shaq came over to talk to us for a couple minutes. He basically told us the same thing as Commissioner Stern.
The game itself was fun, but there was no defense and you got basically got to do whatever you wanted. I tried to have fun rather than be as serious as I normally am at our regular-season games. If I got the ball, I tried to score. And it was fun to guard Tristan for a little while. Since he was the only Cav on Team Chuck, the rest of us were having fun with that. After the game, we just had some of the typical media stuff to do.
Next Stop: Chapel Hill
On Saturday morning, it was time to head to Chapel Hill for my UNC jersey retirement. All-Star was definitely a fun experience and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t mind having to leave early because I knew it would have been tough to stay there for four days and feel rested afterward. I needed a couple days to relax, mentally and physically.
We went straight to a private airport, which we had a little trouble finding at first. There were just five of us on this little plane — me, the two pilots, the owner of the plane and a guy who works for UNC.
My family met me at UNC. It was really cool to be back there and see all kinds of people you haven’t seen in a while — even cool to see the trainers, security guards and maintenance people I used to see at the gym every day. It was really nice to see them and say, “Hi.” Before the game, they presented me with the Patterson Medal, which is UNC’s highest athletic honor. During the game, we had the jersey retirement ceremony. I sat with my parents and girlfriend during the game, which was great because I hadn’t seen them in a while. The whole experience was awesome! The fans, who are always great, were doing a lot of cheering. I was joking that I better not come back too often or they might start booing me!
My little brother Cody, who goes to Indiana University, had a basketball game that afternoon. So my whole family watched it together on TV and then went out to dinner. Sunday morning I went back to the church that I went to all throughout college, and I flew back to Cleveland that night.
Even though the All-Star break was busy, I do feel physically and mentally refreshed. I was doing a lot of running around, but at the same time, was able to get away from it for a little bit and take a break from the pounding on my body.
Now it’s time to get back to Cavs basketball. Hopefully our team can get on a good run and continue to get better for the second half of this season and next year.
Follow me on Twitter @ZellerTyler!
Tyler Zeller is a 7-foot center from the University of North Carolina. He was the 17th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
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