The Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference-best record of 40-12 is recognized this weekend with a large Pacers contingent headed to New Orleans for NBA All-Star weekend. The Pacers superior record gives Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel and his staff the opportunity to lead the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Sunday's NBA All-Game at 8:15 p.m. (TNT) Pacers forward Paul George is an Eastern Conference starter voted by the fans, while the Eastern Conference coaches selected center Roy Hibbert as a reserve.
Vogel looks forward to his first All-Star game experience.
"Just the experience to meet some of the guys that are playing at an elite level, All-Star players," said Vogel before leaving Indianapolis. "It's going to be fun for me to get to work with them a little bit. Also, just getting to represent our team and our state on a very, very big stage. It's going to be fun for me."
Vogel hopes George and Hibbert will be helpful to him in New Orleans.
"I'll be relying on them for how things are done for once, rather than them relying on me," said Vogel. "They've both been down there before. It'll be fun just to have those guys and, in particular, in the fourth quarter, if it's close, to be able to have those guys out there on the defensive end is something I'm looking forward to."
Both George and Hibbert are All-Stars for the second times in their careers. George is also competing in the slam dunk contest for a second time.
"It's an honor to be a part of a special event this weekend," George told the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd in a pregame ceremony Wednesday. "Me and Roy are going to go out there and represent the Pacers proudly. It's also an honor to be there with Coach (Vogel), our coaching staff and the Big Dog (Hibbert)."
"Thank you all for the support," added Hibbert on the public address system. "My team - I could not have done it without you guys. And one last thing - Let's make sure you vote for this guy (George) on Twitter. He needs to win this dunk contest. He should have won it the last time. We need you to vote on social media."
The dunk contest on Saturday night at Smoothie King Center has a new format this year. George will captain the East dunk squad, joined by reigning dunk champion Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors and John Wall of the Washington Wizards. The west team consists of Harrison Barnes of the Golden State Warriors, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers and Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings.
The dunk contest will start with a freestyle round, 90 seconds for each team to showcase as many dunks as they like. Judges will decide which conference wins, giving that team the choice of going first or second in the battle round. Then dunkers square off head-to-head, east vs. west. Every battle loser is eliminated and the first team to win three battles is crowned 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk champions. Fans will vote online for a "Dunker of the Night".
WTHR is covering the Pacers at NBA All-Star weekend. Watch for my live reports from New Orleans starting Friday on Eyewitness News.