(Rick Hickman/American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, August 10, 2014 2:14 PM
While the Tournament of Stars lacked the usual showcase of big-name NBA talent across the city this season due to upcoming international play, Southwest Louisiana still got its fair share of quality basketball Saturday.
Teams from throughout the South played games at LaGrange and Barbe high schools and the Ward 3 recreational center with several professional players keeping their skills sharp as they prepare for next season.
In the back of their minds was the recent injury to Indiana Pacers star Paul George, suffered while on duty with Team USA in preparation for the FIBA basketball World Cup.
Despite that, Boston Celtics’ Marcus Thornton, an LSU alum, played alongside former Louisiana-Lafayette star Tyren Johnson, who played in France last season, for the Baton Rouge-based team Another Level.
While the tournament lacked the quantity of stars of recent years — Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Los Angeles Clippers forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler have played in the last few years — Tournament of Stars director Harold McReynolds said he believes it’s due to a combination of the upcoming international tournament and George’s recent injury.
“I’m sure the George injury affected some (players). I wouldn’t think otherwise,” McReynolds said. “We definitely had a couple guys, (Atlanta Hawks forward) Paul Millsap is one of them and was bringing several (NBA) guys with him. But, the USA tryouts pulled guys away two weeks ago.”
Thornton, who split time with the Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets last season after being traded, was acquired by Boston in a three-team trade last month.
He’s looking to rebound from what he sees as a rough pair of seasons. Thornton averaged 9.8 points-per-game last year, the second-worst season of his career.
“(I’m) just trying to get back to that feel I had two years ago,” he said. “Unfortunate things happened these past two seasons, but I’m looking forward to getting back to where I was two years ago.”
George’s injury doesn’t affect Thornton’s preparation for the season.
“I try not to think about it. It was an unfortunate injury for Paul,” he said. “I just try to go out here and play. Accidents happen and that was a freak accident.”
Johnson spent time playing with George during a stint with the Pacers in 2011 and calls him a friend. He was shaken by the injury.
“When it happened I was flying to Miami to play in another tournament,” he said. “Chris Copeland (a teammate of George’s in Indiana) told me. When they saw it happen they were crying in the living room.
“The next day I was kind of shooting jumpers, scared to penetrate. It really affects you because you don’t want that to be you.”