NEW ORLEANS -- The hordes of people do not swarm them. You can walk up and have a conversation for the most part. Behind the din of the gaggle and away from where King James holds court, members of two of the best teams over the first half of the season took questions Friday during All-Star Weekend.
The Pacers are 40-12 at the break, second best in the league behind Oklahoma City. The Blazers are 36-17, having fallen to the fifth seed in the West during their most significant struggle of the season. Both teams are enjoying the most success they've had in nearly a decade. Combined they share four All-Stars and the coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
Yet the Pacers were scheduled for national television just 10 times this season, Portland only 11. The NBA's TV deal doesn't allow them to make much room for the better teams, so they'll sneak on to NBATV throughout the season but by and large they're just going to keep winning under the radar.
Last year, after a huge Pacers win vs. the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, Indiana center Roy Hibbert famously criticized the lack of media attention, replying that he didn't get enough credit for Defensive Player of the Year last season (when he finished 10th) because, "Y'all [expletives] don't watch us play," referring to the media.
On Friday, Hibbert expressed regret over those comments while acknowledging that this year, the Pacers are getting some credit.
"Our body of work has been better than it was last year," Hibbert said. "People are watching us more. I was out of line for saying that last year. It was a stupid comment, and I reflect off that. But I'm happy we're winning games."
As for why, after going to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers still didn't see an increase in exposure, Hibbert referenced that the moves wouldn't look so bad with teams like Chicago and the Lakers on TV night after night if the stars hadn't gotten hurt.
"It's all about the schedule. People get hurt after the schedule gets made. If we get more games next year great, but I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to go out there and play, and shut my big mouth."
LaMarcus Aldridge of the Trail Blazers has been credited as arguably the best power forward in the Western Conference. And he has been the rock for the Blazers since he was drafted. While Brandon Roy was the superstar everyone talked about and Greg Oden was the phenom whose potential was to guide the way for the team, Aldridge has been the best player on the team over the past eight seasons.
For him, the vindication of being an All-Star and getting recognition for his play is a long time coming.
"It's definitely a good feeling of vindication. I think I've done some pretty good things. "
So why has it taken this long?
"Being in the Northwest and not being on national TV as much I think has had something to do with it. But it definitely feels good to be a part of the conversations now."
It's going to take playoff success for the Blazers and Pacers to garner sustained attention, but their All-Star appearances show that market economics can't keep them out forever.