Detroit — For some players, All-Star Weekend was an opportunity to relax and detach themselves from the rigors of the NBA season. For those participating, it was an opportunity to raise their profiles, like Philadelphia 76ers two-way guard Mac McClung did by winning the Slam-Dunk Contest. Others added new accolades to their resumes like All-Star MVP Jayson Tatum and newly-crowned 3-point champ Damian Lillard.
However, Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey, who participated in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge, used the annual basketball homecoming events to connect with a few Hall of Famers.
“It was a blast. I actually had a lot of fun,” Ivey said after Thursday’s shootaround. “The most important thing I wanted was to get an opportunity to talk to legends, like Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson. I talked with Julius Erving. His birthday was yesterday. It’s just crazy, being able to be around greatness and kind of just pick the brain of those guys who’ve been in the league a long time, who’ve won at the highest level.”
Ivey leads all rookies in assists (4.6) and ranks third among all rookies in scoring with 15.2 points per game. His natural speed and explosiveness caught the attention of Wade, Iverson and Erving. Their conversations during All-Star weekend centered around consistency.
“I think the biggest thing is to stick with my work,” Ivey said. “They told me I was a special talent, and that’s a confidence booster for me. (These are) guys that have won at the highest level and been in the league for a long time. That just gives me all the confidence in the world. Whatever I go through, failures, just keep pushing through and be able to see that and be in that environment was special.”
Ivey said his favorite moment throughout the weekend was during a party hosted by Wade, in which he and Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero were invited on stage to take pictures with some of the biggest names in the league.
“There were a lot of great people there, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul. A lot of CAA guys, from my agency. This random guy, I think he was security, was like, ‘Yo, you need to go to the front with Dwyane Wade and Candace Parker. They’re having a group picture.’
‘I’m like, ‘No way I’m up here with Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, D-Wade.’ For them to recognize me and for them to be in a picture was special.”
As for the All-Star events, Ivey appreciated the opportunity to share the floor with Banchero and a few others from the 2022 draft class. Ivey’s team, drafted by two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol, won the Rising Stars Challenge, but his rookie team with Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. fell short in the Skills Challenge.
“I feel like we were competitive in the Rising Stars Game. As far as the Skills (Challenge), it was a little shaky,” Ivey said. “I feel like they changed the format from a year ago and it kind of messed us up a little bit. Other than that, it was fun to be around Paolo and all of the guys I’ll be facing for years to come. It was fun to be around that environment and see a lot of great people.”
Ivey will likely have another opportunity to receive an invitation to next year’s Rising Stars Game and Skills Challenge, but he ultimately strives to play in the “Big Game” annually on Sunday nights. And with confidence from Wade, Iverson and Erving, he appears equipped and motivated to finish his rookie year strong.