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With old guys gone, a new look arrives at the NBA's All-Star weekend

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NEW ORLEANS - There was a hint of panic as Dwyane Wade wondered whether elder actually was eldest.

"Who's the oldest player here?" Wade asked.

The Miami Heat star can relax. He's not even the old man on the NBA's Eastern Conference All-Star team.

But he's close, and he can't believe how quickly it happened.

"Me and Bron, we were talking to (DeMar) DeRozan and Kyrie (Irving) and Paul George and we were like, 'When we came in we were in y'all's position,'" Wade said of a conversation he and LeBron James had earlier in the weekend with some of their teammates who faced the West on Sunday night in the All-Star game.

"It was the Jason Kidds, the Kevin Garnetts, these players that we have so much respect for were at the All-Star game. They were the older guys that had been around 10 years and now we are. It's crazy."

Kidd now coaches Garnett. Allen Iverson is retired, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Vince Carter are getting close, and Tracy McGrady is trying to become a baseball player.

Those were the perennial All-Stars when Wade and James first started showing up in the midseason event about a decade ago.

"It's a little sad. When I first got in, it was always Kobe, Tim Duncan, Shaq was still every year and now I'm the old guy," said Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, the oldest All-Star who will turn 36 at June.

Bryant, who sat out the game with an injury, is a couple of months younger. Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, who turns 33 in June, was the oldest East player. Wade turned 32 last month.

Otherwise, this was largely a kids' game.

"We're babies coming up, we're babies trying to just follow the path those guys set. Take the torch from those guys and try to improve ourselves and leave a statement on this league and have a good career," said 23-year-old John Wall of Washington, the star of Saturday's slam dunk contest.

The rosters were loaded with players 25 and younger, including first-time starters George, Irving, Stephen Curry and Kevin Love, making some relatively young men feel rather old.

San Antonio's Tony Parker is only 31, but that made him the senior citizen in a West point guard crop that included Curry (24), Portland's Damian Lillard (23) and the Clippers' Chris Paul (28).

"For me it was funny, because when I arrived it was Steve Nash and Gary Payton and Jason Kidd," Parker said. "They were the best point guards in the league and I tried to make my through, and then CP arrived and now you've got all the young point guards."

The All-Star rosters change every year, but this felt like more than a changing of players. This year's weekend marked the change of an era in the NBA.

It started right at the top, with Adam Silver overseeing his first All-Star weekend as NBA commissioner since replacing David Stern, who retired on Feb. 1 after 30 years on the job.

Stern had an immediate success in 1984 with the debut of All-Star Saturday night, highlighted by the first slam dunk contest. The league installed a new, two-round format for that event that didn't go over entirely well, so expect Silver to take a look at it before bringing next year's All-Star weekend home to New York.

The jerseys in Sunday's game had sleeves for the first time, but it's the guys wearing them that made things feel so new.

"We're in the middle of a new age right now and I guess we're the old heads nowadays," said Miami's Chris Bosh, recalling some of the players he competed with and against from his first All-Star appearance in 2006.

"I guess we've taken their place now, so it's always going to be in with the new and out with the old, and I guess we're next."

That 2006 game in Houston was the first time James, Wade and Bosh played together as teammates, three years after coming into the league together and still four more before they joined up in Miami.

They were touted as the future of the league back then. Now, they are watching it arrive.

"You see the younger guys coming up and they are the future of the NBA and one day, they'll be doing the same thing we're doing," Wade said. "They'll be looking back like, 'How fast did it go?'"

___

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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