HOUSTON - Players and coaches concede that Sunday's NBA All-Star game is a show for the fans yet when the game is on the line, action on the basketball court could become a little hostile.
"The main object is fun ... the players want to show their talents and they want to play with each other. Certain players are never going to play with somebody else on the same team," said West coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
"But when you get to the fourth quarter it gets serious they want to win. Things get a little chippy and very competitive."
The West has won the last two games, including 152-149 last season in Orlando behind 36 points by Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's an unbelievable weekend for the fans to be able to put all of their favorite players together in one venue," said Miami's LeBron James, who tied Durant's 36 points last season in a losing effort for the East. "We have a great time with it."
James admitted the first half was a "feel out process."
"The second half, everyone's competitive nature kicks in," he added. "At that point, both teams want to win."
West starting guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said the All-Star game "means everything."
"Without the fans, the support, we wouldn't have the opportunity to be here and enjoy this entire experience," he said. "All-Star Weekend is always a privilege, an honor."
One of the NBA's top point guards, Paul said the weekend allows him to catch up with friends on other teams. And, he said, the enjoyment of being around his Western Conference team mates is a family affair.
"During the season, after a game you don't get a chance to talk, and also we're too intense during the season," he said. "For me now, being a father, having my son here is the best part of the whole thing.
"He talks about all these guys all day, every day. And he just loves being around them."
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be playing in his 15th All-Star game, as will power forward Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics. (Editing by Frank Pingue)