Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will be starting for opposing teams in Sunday’s 70th annual NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.
James was the leading vote-getter among Western Conference players for the third time in his three seasons with the Lakers, making him a team captain. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference and the game’s other captain.
As the top overall vote-getter, James got the first choice in the draft of all-star players, and made Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo the first selection. Durant chose Leonard with the sixth overall selection.
A second Clipper, forward Paul George, was chosen for the All-Star Game as a reserve, and will play for Team LeBron.
A second Laker, forward Anthony Davis, was also selected for the All-Star Game as a reserve, but will not play because of a right calf strain that has sidelined him since a Feb. 14 game against the Denver Nuggets.
James missed Wednesday’s 123-120 loss to the Sacramento Kings because of left ankle soreness but is expected to make his 17th All-Star Game start in his 17 seasons in the league. The 17 starts increase his record. Kobe Bryant is second with 15.
Wednesday’s game was the first game James has missed this season after starting each of the first 36.
Prior to traveling to Atlanta, Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons had contact with an individual who was confirmed Sunday to have tested positive for the coronavirus and will not play in the All-Star Game, the NBA announced.
Participation for other All-Stars and members of the 76ers coaching staff in Atlanta is not affected because they were not exposed to the individual in Philadelphia, according to the league.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will replace Embiid in the starting lineup for Team Durant. According to NBA rules, if an All-Star Game starter is unable to participate in the game after the All-Star Draft has been conducted, the coach of his All-Star team will select a replacement starter from that team’s group of reserves.
The NBA and the union representing its players, the National Basketball Players Association, have established additional measures for the All-Star Game to supplement the league’s health and safety protocols.
Between a participating player’s last game before All-Star Weekend and his arrival in Atlanta, a player may leave his team market only to travel via private transportation to his out-of-market residence such as to be with his family at his home prior to All-Star Weekend. All participating players must continue to test daily.
The NBA provided private transportation via charter flight or car service to Atlanta for each participating player and his guests Saturday. Following the All-Star Game, players will depart Atlanta via private transportation provided by the NBA.
To protect against the risk of COVID-19 transmission, participating players and their guests will be required to remain at their designated hotel, which will be exclusive to NBA players, their guests, and personnel, except to participate in All-Star activities. There will be health-focused limitations on interactions among players and with other players’ guests.
Participating players, their guests, and personnel will be required to follow a league-designated testing program in Atlanta that will involve at least daily PCR testing and additional testing Sunday before the All-Star events.
Similar to the policy for the restart of the season last summer, each player will be able to bring to up to four guests to Atlanta — family members, longtime close personal friends or their agent, provided they comply with all applicable protocols and requirements.
Each participating player will also be able to bring one health-focused staff member (who may be a team staff member) to help the player prepare for Sunday’s All-Star events.
The player guests were required to self-quarantine at home with limited exceptions from Feb. 27 until departing for Atlanta.
Player guests must undergo regular PCR testing as directed by the NBA, including immediately leading up to arrival in Atlanta and while in Atlanta for All-Star activities.
State Farm Arena will be closed to the public for the game.
For the second consecutive year, 24 points will be incorporated into the calculation of the final target score to honor the late Kobe Bryant, who wore 24 for the final 10 seasons of his career. The target score will be determined by adding 24 to the number of points the leading team scored through the first three quarters.
The first team to reach or exceed the target score wins the game.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the All-Star Weekend’s customary three days of activities has been condensed to one and several have been dropped. The only other events besides the game will be the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest, which will both precede the game, and the dunk contest, which will be held at halftime.
The All-Star Game will provide financial support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Team LeBron will play for Thurgood Marshall College Fund, composed of 47 publicly supported HBCUs. Team Durant will play for the United Negro College Fund, consisting of 37 member colleges.
Each organization will receive an initial $500,000 contribution. At the end of each of the first three quarters, an additional $150,000 will be awarded to the leading team’s selected organization. The organization represented by the team that first reaches the final target score will receive an additional $300,000.
The game court design was created in collaboration with HBCU alumni from various schools and incorporates icons representing the best of HBCU academics, music and campus life while connecting back to the celebration of the game at center court.
The three game officials are all HBCU alumni. Norfolk State graduate Tom Washington, in his 30th season, will be officiating his third All-Star Game; Southern University graduate Courtney Kirkland, in his 21st season, will make his second All-Star appearance; and Clark Atlanta University graduate Tony Brown, in his 19th season, will be a part of his second All-Star Game crew.
The TNT telecast will include a commercial narrated by James for More Than A Vote, the organization started by last year by James and a group of other prominent Black athletes and entertainers aimed at protecting African Americans’ voting rights.
The 2021 All-Star Game was initially scheduled to be played in Indianapolis, but plans to play an All-Star Game in 2021 were called into question because of the cornavirus pandemic.
When teams learned Feb. 4 of an expected agreement between the NBA and its players’ association to hold the 2021 NBA All-Star game in Atlanta on March 7, James criticized the move, saying, “Coming into this season, you know, we were told that we were not having an All-Star game, so we’d have a nice little break.
“Five days from the fifth through the 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season. My teammates as well. Some of the guys in the league. And then they throw an All-Star game on us like this and just breaks that all the way up. So, pretty much kind of a slap in the face.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday “it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to say to LeBron that you should speak out on issues that are important to you, but not ones when you’re critical of the league.
“We’re all part of a community,” Silver added. “I respect him and his point of view. Also, at the same time, I appreciate his professionalism. If you had a chance to see him, as captain and general manager of his team, proceed with the draft, he did it in good humor. He took it very seriously. My sense is he’s going to be here, as he always is, as a top-notch professional and engaged in the game.
“It seems like issues that can be worked out in the family, so to speak.”
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