All-Star Game

And-Ones: International Games, ASG, Barea, Marijuana, Swanigan

While the NBA often plays preseason games in China and regular season games in Mexico and Europe, that won’t be possible during the 2020/21 season due to the coronavirus — plans for a regular season contest in Paris had to be tabled. However, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes, the league is looking into scenarios that would allow games to be played overseas again in ’21/22.

“We do anticipate that once it becomes healthy and safe to be able to do that that we’ll return to a schedule of international preseason and regular-season games,” deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said.

Meanwhile, the 2021 All-Star Game is also in jeopardy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but it sounds like the NBA hasn’t entirely ruled out the possibility that some sort of All-Star event could still take place. Commissioner Adam Silver said on TNT on Tuesday that the status of the All-Star Game is “yet to be decided depending on how things go,” as Adam Zagoria of Forbes tweets.

Here are more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • Although no deal appears imminent for J.J. Barea, the veteran free agent guard is staying in game shape and remains intent on playing this season, either in the U.S. or internationally, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.
  • It seems likely that the NBA and NBPA will eventually negotiate the reduction or removal of marijuana-related penalties in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but Adam Silver is wary of creating issues for players in cities where the drug has not yet been legalized or decriminalized, writes Bill Shea of The Athletic. “We want to make sure we’re not creating a trap for our players and putting in place rules that will put them in the crosshairs of the law,” Silver said.
  • NBPA executive director Michele Roberts made it clear, within Shea’s story, that she’ll push for the removal of marijuana testing before the current CBA expires. “I don’t see any reason to test for marijuana or cannabis. That’s just nuts. Same for alcohol,” Roberts said. “Are we in the 21st century or what? What are we doing here? I think it’s absurd.”
  • Speaking of marijuana, former Trail Blazers forward Caleb Swanigan received a reminder that he’s not in Oregon anymore, having been arrested for marijuana possession early on Wednesday morning in Indiana, reports Justin L. Mack of The Indianapolis Star. Police said they found over three pounds of marijuana in Swanigan’s vehicle following a traffic stop.

NBA Postpones All-Star Weekend In Indianapolis

The NBA and Pacers have postponed All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, which was originally set to be held from February 12-14 in 2021, the league announced in a press release today.

The events have been re-scheduled for February 16-18, 2024, with the All-Star Game scheduled to commence on February 18. Plans for a revised 2021 All-Star Weekend will be announced at a later date.

“While we are disappointed that the NBA All-Star Game will not take place in Indianapolis in 2021, we are looking forward to the Pacers and the city hosting the game and surrounding events in 2024,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.  “I want to thank [Pacers owner] Herb Simon, Steve Simon, Rick Fuson and the entire Pacers organization as well as the NBA All-Star 2021 Host Committee and the community of Indianapolis for working with us to reschedule our All-Star activities.”

Following 2021, Cleveland is set to host All-Star Weekend in 2022, with Salt Lake City hosting the events in 2023. The 2024 event would mark the second All-Star Game hosted by Indianapolis, with the first being held back in 1985.

“We are excited about the opportunity to bring Indiana the very best All-Star experience in 2024,” Simon said. “The efforts of so many Hoosiers to prepare for NBA All-Star 2021 put us ahead of the game for the hard work to come, and we are so grateful to the NBA for once again recognizing Indianapolis as a city that delivers world-class events.”

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Playoff Pool, Lemon, Blossomgame

The 2021 All-Star Game will likely be moved to a later date or even cancelled, according to J. Michael and Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star. According to a statement from Pacers president Rick Fuson, the chances that the All-Star Game will be played on February 14 are dim, since the start of the season will be pushed back to December or later. Indianapolis is scheduled to host All-Star weekend.

“We have been working with the NBA since 2017 to bring our fans and our city this world-class event, just as we did when we last hosted in 1985,” Fuson said. “While it appears All Star 2021 is unlikely to happen on Presidents’ Day weekend, we are excited about continuing to collaborate with the NBA as we look to the future.”

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • This year’s playoff pool is a record $23,287,266, up $1.6MM from last year, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. The playoff pool has steadily increased in recent years. It was $20MM in 2018, $15MM in 2017 and 2016 and $14MM in 2015. Teams get a bigger share of the pool via seeding and their advancement in the postseason.
  • Former NBA player Walt Lemon has signed with Hapoel Tel Aviv, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. The 28-year-old guard played in six games with the Bulls in 2018/19 and five games with the Pelicans the previous season. He was cut by the Pacers during training camp last fall.
  • Jaron Blossomgame has also signed to play in Israel, inking a deal with Ironi Nahariya, according to a separate post from Carchia. The 26-year-old forward appeared in 27 games with the Cavaliers during the 2018/19 season. Blossomgame appeared in a combined 42 games this season for the G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Windy City Bulls.

NBA Likely To Keep Target Score Ending For All-Star Game

The NBA will probably use a target score again in next year’s All-Star Game, president of league operations Byron Spruell tells Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Based on the “Elam Ending,” the concept got rave reviews for bringing excitement and intensity to the end of this year’s game, which Team LeBron won 157-155 over Team Giannis. Spruell said the league hasn’t officially approved anything for next season, but there is strong sentiment for keeping the format.

After the third quarter of Sunday’s game, a target score was set at 24 points above the score of the team with the lead. There was no clock for the final quarter and the game continued until one team reached that mark.

Spruell said the original plan was to set the target score 38 points above the third quarter total, which has been the average fourth-quarter score per team since the current All-Star format was adopted. That figure was later reduced to 35 and then to 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant. Spruell said next year’s total will probably be higher, even though this year’s fourth quarter took 39 minutes to play and stretched over the equivalent of 15 minutes of game time. A television timeout is also being considered, and the rules may be adjusted so the game can’t end on a free throw.

The Elam Ending has been popularized through a pair of summer ventures, The Basketball Tournament and The BIG3 League. Chris Paul, president of the players’ union, coached a team in TBT last year and suggested it as a way to make the All-Star Game more competitive. Its debut received an overwhelmingly positive response.

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in.”

He added that consideration will be given to bringing the target score to the G League, but was pessimistic about its implementation. The NBA wants G League games to resemble its own as much as possible to serve as a training ground for players, coaches and referees.

Spruell said NBA officials will discuss adopting the target score for elimination rounds of a proposed mid-season tournament, adding that a Board of Governors vote on that and a play-in tournament for the bottom two playoff spots in each conference could happen in September.

Poll: Should NBA Stick With New All-Star Format?

When the NBA first announced last month that it was making changes to the All-Star Game format for 2020, those changes were met with skepticism — and with plenty of jokes about how convoluted the quarterly mini-games and fourth-quarter target score sounded.

However, the general consensus after Sunday night’s game is that the new format worked much better in practice than in theory. Since the team that won each quarter earned $100K for its charity, the end of each quarter essentially turned into “crunch time.” That was especially true in the third quarter when Team Giannis executed a Trae Young/Rudy Gobert lob with 2.2 seconds left to tie the score at 41.

The fourth-quarter target score then inspired both teams to go into lockdown mode on defense in the final moments of the game. As Team Giannis and Team LeBron vied to get to 157 points, the effort level increased and the game got more physical, as players dove for loose balls and drew offensive fouls. Against increased pressure, the two teams shot just 35.5% from the floor in the fourth quarter, compared to 55.5% in the first three.

The reviews for the format were almost unanimously positive. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today suggested the game was “one of the more entertaining and competitive All-Star Games in the past decade.” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said the fourth quarter featured the “most intense play this weekend has seen in decades.” Zach Kram of The Ringer wrote that the changes “brought an unexpected playoff atmosphere to an exhibition game typically defined, in part, by a distinct lack of intensity.”

And it wasn’t just media members that were in favor of the changes. Giannis Antetokounmpo said he “loved” the new format and hopes it sticks around (video link via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). Joel Embiid said in a tweet that it was the “best All-Star Game ever.” Several non-All-Stars around the NBA – including Myles Turner, Lou Williams, Evan Fournier, and others – complimented the changes as well, as ESPN details.

Still, it wasn’t entirely perfect. The game ended when an Anthony Davis free throw pushed Team LeBron’s score from 156 to 157, which was a little anti-climactic. A number of players suggested after the game that they’d rather not see the game end on a foul shot.

If the NBA considers changing that rule, the challenge would be finding a solution that would still disincentivize late-game fouling. Turning every late-game foul into a side-out, non-shooting foul would encouraging the losing team to maul any shooter who might have an open look.

One possible solution, as relayed by Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris (via Twitter), would be for end-of-game free throws to take away points from the losing team rather than add them to the winning team. Even in that scenario though, it would probably be in the losing team’s best interest to foul on a potential game-winning shot.

The target-score ending also may not have been considered such a success if the game hadn’t been so close. Getting to a next-basket-wins scenario was the ideal outcome for the NBA, but the excitement level wouldn’t have been as high if one team had won by 15 or 20 points. Of course, the same could be said of the traditional format.

In the wake of one of the NBA’s most exciting All-Star Games in years, we want to hear your thoughts. Did you like the new format better than the old one? Would you make additional tweaks to the new format?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Trophy Unveiled

Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA will rename its All-Star Game MVP Award in honor of Kobe Bryant, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star selection and played in 15 of the games. He was named All-Star MVP four times, a record he shares with Bob Pettit (Twitter link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post).

The league is still in shock over the death of Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Silver explained that the NBA decided not to cancel its games on that day because fans were already at several arenas and the league wasn’t able to confirm Bryant’s death in time to call off the games. He adds that the decision to play was made after discussion with the Players Association (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune).

Silver addressed a few other topics in his annual All-Star Weekend press conference:

  • He expects a “return to normalcy” soon in the league’s relationship with China, but can’t predict when that will happen, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Silver adds that NBA games still aren’t being shown on CCTV and said that decision is “outside of our control.” The league won’t press China to begin showing them again (Twitter link). Silver added that the loss of business from China is only partially tied to the league’s revenue decline and expressed hope that the nation might host pre-Olympic games this summer or NBA preseason games in the fall (Twitter link from Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). Silver expects the loss of revenue from China to be “substantial,” estimating it will be “less than $400MM.” (Twitter link“We accept the consequences of our system and our values,” he added (Twitter link).
  • Silver is still optimistic that the NBA’s Board of Governors will eventually approve a mid-season tournament, but nothing is currently imminent (Twitter link). He said discussions are being held with players and media partners about that tournament and a play-in tourney for the final playoff spots in each conference (Twitter link).
  • The commissioner also discussed a Comcast/Altitude dispute that is preventing many Nuggets games from being shown in Denver. Silver said owners are examining the best methods for distributing their games (Twitter link).

Damian Lillard Suffers Groin Injury, Out Through All-Star Weekend

FEBRUARY 13: An MRI confirmed that Damian Lillard has a groin strain. The anticipated recovery timeline will range from one to two weeks, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 12: Damian Lillard was set to be a major part of All-Star weekend. He was lined up to participate in the 3-point contest and put on a rap performance on Saturday before playing in the actual game on Sunday. All of that seems unlikely to happen after the point guard suffered a groin injury on Wednesday.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links) reports that it’s a grade 1-2 right groin strain for Lillard. Dame will spend All-Star weekend recovering in preparation for a second-half playoff push.

Lillard is averaging 29.5 points while dishing out 7.9 assists per game this season. He’s taking an absurd 10.0 shots from three per game, which somehow is only second in the league behind James Harden (12.8 shots per game).

There’s no word yet on who will replace Lillard in the All-Star game and three-point contest. Who do you believe should be Lillard’s replacement? Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Devin Booker Replacing Lillard In All-Star Game, 3-Point Contest

The NBA has announced that Suns guard Devin Booker will replace injured Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard in this weekend’s All-Star Game and 3-point contest. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 first reported (via Twitter) that Booker would be Lillard’s replacement for both events.

Booker, 23, was widely considered the most notable Western Conference snub when the 2020 All-Star reserves were revealed last month. He took the exclusion hard, publicly suggesting the picks were about entertainment, drama, and politics rather than rewarding the NBA’s best players. Now, after Lillard suffered a groin injury that will sideline him through the break and specifically endorsed Booker as his replacement, the Suns star will get a chance to play in his first All-Star Game.

In 52 games (35.9 MPG) this season, Booker has averaged 26.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 4.2 RPG with a shooting line of .496/.358/.920. Considering his scoring numbers are more impressive than those put up by several All-Stars, Booker presumably didn’t make the initial cut due to Phoenix’s poor record and his limitations on defense. Bradley Beal, the biggest snub in the Eastern Conference, was omitted from the list of All-Star reserves for similar reasons.

Beal was ineligible to step in for Lillard since the replacement had to come from the Western Conference, despite the fact that the All-Star Game won’t actually pit the East vs. the West. Booker will join LeBron James‘ team, since LeBron selected Lillard in last week’s All-Star draft.

Lillard had also been scheduled to put on a rap performance during Saturday night’s festivities in Chicago, but it’s safe to say Booker won’t be replacing Dame D.O.L.L.A on stage as well. Lillard still intends to perform, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

LeBron, Giannis Draft Their All-Star Teams

Thursday night’s NBA All-Star draft has concluded, with captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo making their selections.

James surprised no one by taking Anthony Davis No. 1 overall. Giannis followed that up by selecting Joel Embiid. The two stars went back-and-forth selecting from the pool of starters with the Lakers’ star picking all of the Western Conference players that were voted in and the reigning MVP picking all of the Eastern Conference players.

In the second round, Team Giannis’ first pick was teammate Khris Middleton. LBJ’s first selection of this group was Damian Lillard, who will reportedly put on a rap performance during All-Star weekend.

Up until the selection of Ben Simmons, both Antetokounmpo and James had stayed within their respective conferences with their picks. After it was all said and done, each side will only have three players from the opposing conference. Here’s a full recap:

Team Giannis

Team LeBron

 

NBA Announces 3-Point, Slam Dunk, Skills Challenge Participants

Names have been gradually trickling out, but we now have all the participants for the league’s 3-point, slam dunk, and skills challenge contests, which will take place during All-Star weekend in Chicago later this month.

The three-point contest will contain a new wrinkle. There will be a pair of extra shots, with one location at the top of the key to the left and one to the right, as shown in this diagram. Those two basketballs, which will be green, will be worth three points apiece.

The following players will complete in this new format, according to the league’s press release:

Here are the participants for the Slam Dunk Contest (press release):

Here are the participants for the NBA’s Skills Challenge (press release):