All-Star Game

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Embiid, Celtics, Griffin, Irving

In order to maximize their chances of winning a championship, the Sixers need to reinvent themselves around an injured Joel Embiid, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. Embiid is dealing with ligament damage to his thumb and will undergo surgery after the playoffs.

As we relayed, he has no intention of sitting out, but he clearly seemed bothered by the injury in Game 4. The MVP candidate still finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, but he was frequently grabbing at his hand during stoppages of play.

The Sixers have enough talent around Embiid to close out their series against the Raptors, but advancing beyond the second round without his usual level of production would be difficult. Embiid is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 50% shooting.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe takes a look at the Celtics’ hopes to bring the All-Star Game back to Boston. The Celtics are preparing a bid, Washburn notes, as Boston hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1964. The team would likely look to host in 2025 or 2026.
  • Nets veteran Blake Griffin provided a lift off the bench in Game 3 against Boston, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Griffin played for the first time since April 2, recording eight points in nearly eight minutes. He could see action again in Game 4 on Monday.
  • A trio of ESPN hosts — Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon — ripped Nets star Kyrie Irving and believe the team shouldn’t sign him to a long-term deal, as relayed by Adam Zagoria of Irving didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 and couldn’t play in home games until late March this season due to New York City’s vaccine requirement. That, combined with a midseason James Harden trade and key injuries, have harmed the Nets’ ability to build chemistry. Irving could decline a $36.5MM player option for next season and become a free agent this summer.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, Gobert, 2023 ASG, Hernangomez

The Jazz have made the playoffs in each of the four years since Donovan Mitchell entered the NBA and are on track to do so again in 2022. However, Mitchell has yet to make it beyond the second round of the postseason and is feeling more urgency to make a deeper run this spring, as he tells Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“I think I’m really at a point now where we’ve made the second round, and we want more,” Mitchell said. “We crave it. I watched Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp in the Super Bowl; they just found ways to win. So, for me, that’s the biggest thing. The ultimate goal is for us to be the last team standing. That’s the sign of the ultimate winner.”

In addition to voicing his desire for the Jazz to “take another leap,” Mitchell once again brushed off the notion that there’s any tension between him and teammate Rudy Gobert, echoing comments he made to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports earlier this month.

“I’m at a point now where it’s the NBA, this is what it is,” Mitchell told Jones. “People are going to write things. If I have to respond every five minutes to a story, then I’m taking away from my teammates, and I’m taking away from my happiness. I love this team, and we want to find a way to win as a group. I’m focused on my team. As long as my teammates and my coaches know my intentions, then that’s what it is. But I’m not going to allow articles to deter me from my main goal. I love this group. So, let’s find a way to do it.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Rudy Gobert, who watched 19-year veteran LeBron James hit the game-winning shot against his team in Sunday’s All-Star Game, said he’d love to be able to replicate LeBron’s longevity, as Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes. “I’m taking great care of myself, just to trying to see how far I can go,” said Gobert, who is in his ninth season. “Whenever I feel like I either can’t play anymore or I lose that competitive edge, then I’ll probably stop it, but for sure I would love to play for 19 years.”
  • In the wake of 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune looks ahead to the 2023 event, which will be hosted by the Jazz, and considers what it will mean for the Salt Lake City market. It’s the first time the All-Star Game will be played in Utah since 1993.
  • Juan Hernangomez, acquired by the Jazz at the trade deadline, is under contract through 2022/23, but his salary for next season is non-guaranteed, so he’ll likely become a free agent this summer, if not sooner. As Antigoni Zachari of Eurohoops relays, Hernangomez would like to finish this season in the NBA and could remain stateside beyond that, but he’s also expected to draw significant interest from teams in Spain, including Barcelona, according to international reports. Hernangomez played in his home country for Estudiantes for two seasons from 2014-16 before entering the NBA.

Stephen Curry Named MVP Of All-Star Game

Warriors guard Stephen Curry was named the MVP of the 2022 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland on Sunday night, following a record-setting performance in which he put up 50 points and made 16 three-pointers for Team LeBron.

Curry’s 16 three-pointers obliterated the previous All-Star record of nine and are more than any player has made in a regular season game in NBA history (Curry’s teammate Klay Thompson holds that record, with 14).

While Curry’s outside shooting stole the show for much of the night, it was his teammate – and fellow Akron, Ohio native – LeBron James who hit the game-winning shot to secure a 163-160 win for Team LeBron. Curry said after the game that it was an ideal way for an All-Star Game in Cleveland to play out.

“It was kind of a perfect ending,” Curry said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Obviously, I got the MVP; I played well the whole night. (LeBron) hit the game winner. All the history of our series and the Akron ties, and all that kind of going into how the night went, so it was pretty — can’t really draw it up any other way. It’s right on the nose of how it should go.”

It’s the first All-Star MVP award for Curry and the fifth time in NBA history that a Warriors player has won it, with Curry joining Kevin Durant (2019), Rick Barry (1967), Wilt Chamberlain (1960), and Paul Arizin (1952).

James (24 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (30 points, 12 rebounds) were among the other Team LeBron standouts, while Joel Embiid led the way for Team Durant with 36 points and 10 boards.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Hachimura, Heat, Carter Jr.

Heat star Jimmy Butler is honored to represent his team in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. While co-star Bam Adebayo likely would’ve made the All-Star team if he stayed healthy, Butler is the lone representative this season for a Miami team tied for the Eastern Conference’s top spot.

“It’s an incredible blessing to be able to be on the court with all of these superstars and crazy talented players,” he said. “I think you’re just thankful that you get the opportunity to play basketball again because it’s not promised to anybody.

“[This weekend] is a lot, but I don’t complain about it. I think it’s an honor to be able to be an All-Star and go out there and compete with these guys.

This is Butler’s sixth All-Star season and second in Miami. He’s currently averaging 21.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, shooting 48% from the floor and 90% from the charity stripe.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura scored 14 fourth-quarter points to defeat the Nets on Thursday, reminding the team of his upside, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Hachimura finished with 20 points in 27 minutes off the bench, shooting 8-of-15 from the floor. “Rui, he’s just got the joy back… I can see that smile again, I can see that laugh, I can see that joy,” teammate Ish Smith said. “Rui’s a special player. He’s been a special player the first two years I was here with him and now you guys are seeing him just continue to grow and get better.”
  • The Heat‘s coaching staff are making the most of their All-Star opportunity, Anthony Chiang writes in a separate article for the Miami Herald. Head coach Erik Spoelstra and his assistants will coach Team Durant in the All-Star Game, something that’ll surely be a unique experience for all involved.
  • Stephen Noh of Sporting News examines the new and improved Wendell Carter Jr. Carter, who signed a four-year rookie scale extension prior to the season, is in the midst of a career year with the Magic, averaging 14.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in 29.4 minutes per contest. He’s in his second season with Orlando.

Donovan Mitchell To Miss All-Star Game

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell will miss Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game due to a non-COVID-related illness, the guard announced today (Twitter link). Mitchell was set to appear in his third career All-Star Game.

“It is a great honor and has always been a dream of mine to be selected as an NBA All-Star,” he said. “Remorsefully, I will not be able to play in tonight’s All-Star Game due to an upper respiratory illness (non-COVID-related).

“The entire All-Star weekend is a celebration of the basketball community, the fans and the sport I am blessed to play. I’m focused on getting well and back out on the court. Thank you for all the get-well wishes. I can’t wait to see the game later today.”

Mitchell was drafted by Team LeBron as a reserve for the game. He’s averaging 25.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest this season, shooting 45.6% from the floor and 35.1% from deep. The Jazz are 36-22 in large part because of his steady production.

Community Shootaround: What Changes Are Needed For All-Star Weekend?

This year’s All-Star Weekend featured an underwhelming Slam Dunk Contest, a confusing Skills Challenge, and a revamped Rising Stars competition. Although the events provide a showcase for current stars and a few NBA legends, there’s a sense that the entertainment value has slipped from past years.

The biggest offender was the dunk contest, where Cole Anthony, Jalen Green, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Obi Toppin missed more dunks than they made, and no one provided a memorable highlight to excite the crowd. Toppin was the winner with a combined score of 92 in the finals, but his dunks were relatively safe as Toscano-Anderson misfired on his final three attempts.

Dwyane Wade, who was part of the TNT broadcast of the event, said afterward that the dunk contest rated a “solid 6,” which is the score competitors get when they miss all their dunks, per Cydney Henderson of USA Today. Broadcast partner Kenny Smith added, “We always have an off year. Even LeBron James has off games.”

The hometown Cavaliers captured the Skills Challenge when Evan Mobley sank a half-court shot on his first attempt. It was the most crowd-pleasing moment of an All-Star Weekend that is usually filled with high points.

The Antetokounmpo brothers admitted to not fully understanding the rules in the three-point shootout part of the competition that determined whether they or the Cavs would advance to the finals, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. They believed all three members of the team would get a shot, so they had Thanasis go first. He missed, and when Darius Garland sank his attempt, the Antetokounmpos were eliminated. They said Alex would have shot first if they had been aware of the rules.

Reviews were much more positive for Friday night’s Rising Stars event, which featured a single-elimination tournament involving four teams of first- and second-year players. The Elam ending was employed in all three games, and in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary, the semifinals were both played until someone reached 50 points and the finals were played to 25.

“I like this,” LaMelo Ball told Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I feel like this was dope. Having something new, with the 75 and the 50 and the 25, I feel like it was creative.”

There have been suggestions that changing the order of events might help in the future, with the dunk competition moved up and the Three-Point Contest saved until last. There have also been proposals to freshen up the weekend with new events, such as a one-on-one tournament or a H-O-R-S-E competition.

We want to get your opinion. What needs to be done to improve All-Star Weekend? Please leave your responses in the space below.

Jarrett Allen To Replace James Harden In All-Star Game

Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has been named an All-Star replacement, the league announced today in a press release. Allen will sub in for Sixers guard James Harden, who will miss Sunday’s All-Star Game due to a left hamstring injury.

It’s a deserving honor for Allen, who is enjoying a career year in his first full season as a Cavalier after signing a new five-year contract with the team in the offseason. In addition to anchoring the Cavs’ defense, which ranks third in the NBA, the 23-year-old is averaging 16.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 49 appearances (32.6 MPG). His 66.5% shooting percentage is the league’s second-best mark.

Allen is the second All-Star representative for a Cavaliers squad that ranks third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-22 record, joining teammate Darius Garland. Allen and Garland will play in their home arena on Sunday, as this year’s All-Star Game will take place in Cleveland.

Harden, the final player selected in last Thursday’s All-Star draft, was part of Team LeBron, so Allen will join LeBron James‘ roster for Sunday’s game.

Allen beat out other All-Star candidates such as Pascal Siakam, Jrue Holiday, and Jaylen Brown to take Harden’s place. It’s possible another replacement player will be necessary if Zach LaVine is forced to miss Sunday’s game due to his knee injury. If LaVine bows out, the replacement would again come from the Eastern Conference and would join Team Durant.

LeBron Chooses Giannis, Curry In All-Star Draft; Durant Picks Embiid, Morant

After James Harden was traded away from the Nets on Thursday, former teammate Kevin Durant opted not to pick him in the All-Star draft conducted on Thursday night. Harden was the last player chosen by LeBron James for Team LeBron, as the league announced (via Twitter).

LeBron’s starters, besides himself, are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Jokic.

Durant, who won’t play in the All-Star Game at Cleveland due to his knee injury, chose Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Trae Young and Andrew Wiggins as Team Durant’s starters.

James selected Luka Doncic as his top reserve. His guard-heavy team also features Darius Garland, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, Fred VanVleet and Harden.

Team Durant’s bench includes Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, Dejounte Murray, Khris Middleton, LaMelo Ball and Rudy Gobert.

Thus, numerous teammates will be on opposing clubs for the All-Star game, including the Jazz’s Gobert and Mitchell and the Suns’ Paul and Booker.

The game will be played February 20 in Cleveland.

NBA Announces Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge Contestants

The NBA has announced a full list of the participants for its three-point, slam dunk and skills challenge competitions ahead of the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Per the NBA (Twitter link), the following players will partake in the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest, which appears to have outpaced the dunk contest as the premiere event for established stars at All-Star Weekend. Four 2022 All-Stars will compete:

According to the league (via Twitter), these are the contestants in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest:

Below are the NBA’s announced players for the newly revamped Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Twitter link). This year, the Skills Challenge will be divvied up into three teams: Antetokounmpo brothers (“Antetokounmpos”), Cavaliers players (“Cavs”), and rookies (“Rooks”).

These three events will take place on All-Star Saturday on February 19.

LaMelo Ball, Dejounte Murray Named All-Star Replacements

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball will replace injured Nets forward Kevin Durant in the All-Star Game, while Spurs guard Dejounte Murray will take the place of injured Warriors forward Draymond Green, the NBA announced today in a press release. Commissioner Adam Silver named Ball and Murray as replacement players.

Previous reported had indicated that Durant (MCL sprain) and Green (back/disc) would miss the All-Star Game in Cleveland on February 20 due to their respective injuries, so it comes as no surprise that a pair of replacements have been added to the 12-man rosters for the event. There’s no indication at this point that any other All-Stars will have to miss the game, though that could change in the next couple weeks.

Ball has averaged 19.6 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 7.1 RPG in 47 games (32.1 MPG) this season for the Hornets. He beat out a handful of worthy candidates – including teammate Miles Bridges, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, Pacers center Domantas Sabonis, and Raptors forward Pascal Siakam – to be named Durant’s replacement.

Like Ball, Murray has filled up the box score this season in a breakout season in San Antonio. He has put up 19.6 PPG, 9.2 APG, and 8.4 RPG with a league-leading 2.1 SPG in 47 games (34.4 MPG). Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Lakers big man Anthony Davis, and Suns forward Mikal Bridges were among the other candidates to be named Green’s replacement.

Since Durant was a starter, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been moved into the starting lineup, per the league. Tatum was the next-highest vote-getter among Eastern Conference frontcourt players.

Durant is still one of the two All-Star captains, along with LeBron James, and will be responsible for drafting his All-Star roster.