NBA stars amazed by warm welcome in Manila

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02:02 PM July 22nd, 2011

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By: Celest R. Flores, July 22nd, 2011 02:02 PM

NBA stars arrive in Manila for the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend. JESS YUSON / INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines – Eight of the nine NBA stars who will throw their basketball-passionate Filipino fans a big treat in the Smart Ultimate All-Star weekend arrived in Manila Friday morning.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant tweeted to say that he would be in Manila Saturday morning as he would be leaving for the US Friday.

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant , who just wrapped up his five-city Asia tour for Nike, arrived late Friday from Shanghai in China.

New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul, Washington Wizards’ Javale McGee and Sacramento Kings’ Tyreke Evans all expressed their amazement at the warmest welcome they’ve ever received – and that was just at the airport.

“What a welcome from the fans here in Manila,” said the star playmaker Paul, who planed in with brother C.J., on his Twitter account.

“Shoutout to all my fans in Manila. They all showed me love at the airport,” said the former Rookie of the year Evans.

NBA Star Kobe Bryant emerges from a plane shortly after it touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Bryant and other NBA stars are in Manila for the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend. JESS YUSON / INQUIRER

“So much love on Manila,” said McGee, the runner-up of last season’s slam dunk contest.

And the lanky, high-flying center could not wait to bring, not just his dunking prowess, but his planking act here in Manila – with the jeepney as his first prospect.

“Pierre gon’ plank on one of these,” said McGee, posting a photo of a jeep with the route ‘Guadalupe.’” Planking is a wide spread craze involving lying face down in an unusual location.

Minnesota Timberwolves’ draft pick Derrick Williams, who has not even played a single NBA game yet due to the lockout, was also given a “crazy welcoming” by the fans.

And what was the first thing that the second over-all pick of this year’s draft noticed?

“I saw a 24-hour Shakeys on the way here!” said Williams. “Hopefully they deliver! Best pizza ever.”

Meanwhile, the Thunder’s bearded guard James Harden is already thinking about shopping two hours into his stay.

“Wanting to do some shopping in the Philippines. Any ideas?” Harden said.

The Thunder’s James Harden, Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose and Los Angeles Lakers’ Derek Fisher also arrived for the series of exhibition games to be played at the Araneta Coliseum on July 23 and 24.

The star-studded USA selection will go up against the PBA All-stars on Saturday at 7 p.m., even as they face the Philippine national basketball team on Sunday at 1 p.m.

“I can’t wait to get out on the court tomorrow [Saturday]!” exclaimed Paul.

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