On the eve of NBA All-Star Saturday Night, "my coach came to me and said, 'Maybe you should go to All-Star Weekend,'" recalled Kawhi Leonard. "I just told him, 'Just because I have some stuff, doesn't mean I'm in your team. If you want me to play, I'll play.' "
The game sure looked like it could be going the wrong way for Leonard.
The last time he attended the weekend was during a bizarre experiment with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2007 when he came home from playing at the University of San Diego to be traded to Toronto and was then acquired from the Raptors before the trade deadline of the previous season to San Antonio.
But his trust was quickly broken in those days when Leonard was seen at games regularly hanging out with former All-Star guard Stephen Jackson. Former general manager R.C. Buford explained that Leonard had some anger issues as a youngster, which allowed Jackson to take advantage.
Leonard was a superstar for the Toronto Raptors in his rookie season.
Leonard was traded to San Antonio in 2012, and "I never left," he said. "I don't care. The All-Star game is all about entertainment, playing basketball. It doesn't matter what you do."
The game could have been going the wrong way for him for a while on Saturday night when he had a dunk blocked by Karl-Anthony Towns and didn't appear to be in much of a mood to follow through on the dunk.
"I was telling everybody at the free-throw line," he said. "I'm going to dunk it off here."
Leonard had another chance later on in the game when he lost control of the ball in the third quarter and had to settle for a three-pointer, which didn't go in. "I knew it was going in," he said.
Then there was the blooper in the third quarter when Leonard had what looked like a pick shot blocked by JaVale McGee. All Leonard had to do was turn and go for the rebound, but he fumbled the ball away. That led to a timeout.
In the fourth quarter, Leonard went to the free-throw line late in the game and was just able to pull up for a four-point shot, which made it a five-point game. The crowd cheered the way Leonard always does, knowing full well how many times his release dribbled to the left. Leonard was later named to the starting team for the All-Star Game at Staples Center.
"That was the most exciting moment," he said. "I couldn't breathe."
LeBron James was honored as the league's Most Valuable Player.
On the reality-show front, Leonard said this about Carmelo Anthony: "I love Melo. It would be nice to see Melo play. I hope he gets a job somewhere and fits in well and plays good."
The Lakers did win in the late game with a 123-115 victory over Washington on Friday night in Charlotte, scoring 15 points in the final 11.4 seconds. For the Lakers to have to go to overtime after leading by 21 points, “we didn’t look like that,” said Coach Luke Walton. “We didn’t look like we were having fun. But we didn’t have enough to come out on top.”