NEW ORLEANS Point guard Deron Williams worked on a housing project. Power forward Carlos Boozer pounded nails, building portable stages at a local school. Even Jazz president Randy Rigby pitched in, painting at the same school Laurel Elementary where Boozer worked.
It was all part of a massive All-Star Weekend service project sponsored by the NBA in New Orleans, which is far from fully recovered following the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.
"I was talking to the driver that drove us from the airport, and I asked her how much was still untouched," Williams said. "(She) said it was a lot. There are a lot of people who still haven't moved back. ... It's just really rough down here, and hopefully things get better soon."
"They've got a long way to go," Boozer added. "I was talking to a lady earlier today at the hotel, and she said she can't even go to a grocery store in her city. She has to drive like 23 more miles to go to a grocery store."
The two-hour appearance at various projects by NBA players was largely for publicity purposes, a reality not lost upon Boozer.
"We're only here for a very small period of time," he said, "and for us to be able to be seen out there doing some work and trying to help the community out a little bit hopefully will encourage some other people to come down and help out a little bit, too. There's a lot of work that needs to be done."
Boozer was particularly struck after passing one house still painted with notes by Katrina rescue workers.
"How many dead, how many alive," he said. "It makes you realize that we have to get down here and help out more."It just humbles you," Boozer added. "Anytime you go through a scenario like we have down here in New Orleans, where they're still trying to rebuild, and you go back to your big house and your pool and your cars, it humbles you. It makes you realize that some of the people out there are in need, and if people can give back you should."