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Visit by NBA players pumps up Peres’ office

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ten past and present NBA players visited Israeli President Shimon Peres at his Jerusalem office.

Wednesday’s visit by the hoopsters, under the auspices of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, generated much excitement in the halls of the President’s Residence, with staff members vying to take photos with the players.

“We’re here to stand in support of Israel,” Allan Houston, a former star with the New York Knicks and now in the team’s front office, told Peres.

Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings, the first Israeli to play in the National Basketball Association, was part of the delegation.

AIPAC brought the players to Israel to educate them about the U.S.-Israel relationship, since they are influential with the American public, an AIPAC official told the Jerusalem Post.

Peres was given a basketball autographed by all the players as well as an official game jersey. Peres passed the ball to his aides, who passed it among themselves after the presentation.

Other delegation members included Jerome Williams, David Wood and Dwight Howard Sr., the father of Orlando Magic All-Star Dwight Howard, as well as Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace.

The players will conduct a basketball workshop and training session for teens on Saturday under the auspices of SportsPower International, a nonprofit organization that uses current and former NBA players as role models to make a positive impact on international youth. Later that day, the Maccabi Haifa professional basketball team will scrimmage against a team of former NBA All-Stars.

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