Giannis Antetokounmpo

2021 NBA All-Star Game Starters Revealed

The NBA has revealed its 2021 All-Star Game starters. Here are those names:

Eastern Conference

After missing all of the 2019/20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Durant is making his triumphant return to the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as a Brooklyn player, the 11-time All-Star will captain a team, having led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern All-Stars]

This is the seventh All-Star appearance for Durant’s teammate Irving. Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, has just made his fifth All-Star game. A frontrunner for the 2021 MVP award, Embiid is appearing in his fourth such contest. Beal will be making his first All-Star start after playing as a reserve in the 2018 and 2019 All-Star contests. The Wizards are the No. 13 seed in the East.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA with 5,922,554 fan votes, will again be a team captain. He will be suiting up for his 17th All-Star appearance, the third-most ever behind only fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 appearances) and Kobe Bryant (18). James was previously tied for making the third-most cumulative All-Star contests alongside Hall of Fame Nets and Sixers wing Julius Erving, who was selected into five ABA All-Star games and 11 NBA All-Star games.

Jokic, an early top MVP contender along with James and Embiid, will earn his first All-Star start in his third appearance in the game. Curry will partake in his seventh All-Star contest, while Leonard has just been voted into his fifth All-Star game.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Western All-Stars]

Doncic barely edged out Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to be the second All-Star guard next to Curry among the starters, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Despite extended absences from starters CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins, the Blazers boast an 18-10 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the crowded West, largely thanks to Lillard. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 13-15, the No. 10 seed in the West.

As was the case during the last two years, the top vote-getters of each conference will captain a team, and will be able to draft players from either conference. The “Elam Ending,” which made the conclusion of last year’s game much more entertaining than it had been in recent years, is set to return again this year.

Earlier today, the league officially announced that the 2021 All-Star Game is set to take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, as a one-night event on March 7. The evening will also include its three All-Star weekend mainstay events: the Skills Competition, the Three-Point Contest and the Dunk Contest.

A full list of fan voting totals is viewable at this Twitter link, courtesy of Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The complete voting breakdown by position and conference, including media and player votes, can be found at the bottom of this press release.

The league will announce the 14 players who will comprise the All-Star reserves on Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. ET, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).

Western Notes: Giannis, Jazz, Aldridge, Dort, Williams

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the Jazz after losing a 129-115 game to the team on Friday, calling them the “best team in the West” after the contest, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy,” Antetokounmpo explained. “It looks simple. For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you’re at that point and you’re playing with that confidence, you’re hard to beat for sure.”

Utah has won seven straight contests and 18 of its last 19 games, playing stellar basketball on both ends of the floor. The team is playing without Mike Conley (hamstring), who last saw action on February 5, though it still holds the best record in the league at 22-5.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs veteran LaMarcus Aldridge is without a timetable for his return, head coach Gregg Popovich said, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Aldridge missed his sixth straight game on Sunday as he continues rehabbing a hip injury, with Popovich adding that he’s not particularly close to a return.
  • Luguentz Dort is gradually turning into the best defensive ace the Thunder have ever had, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman opines. Dort has established himself as one of the league’s better defenders, also averaging 11.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his second season.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams is grateful for the time he spent in Philadelphia as an assistant, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I was grateful when they first called me to be able to go to a team that was contending for a championship,” said Williams, who was with the Sixers in 2018/19. “You just don’t get those opportunities. … So for them to not only ask me to be apart of it, but take on a huge role is something that allowed me to answer the questions whether or not I was going to be able to do it again.”

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Super Bowl, Trade Restrictions, Jerebko

LeBron James publicly spoke out this week against holding an All-Star Game this year. Several other stars have joined that chorus, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Giannis AntetokounmpoJames Harden and Kawhi Leonard also made their feelings public on Friday after the league and Players Association agreed to hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7.

“I’ve got zero energy, zero excitement,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, if they tell us we’re going to show up, we’ve got to do our job. … Inside, deep down, I don’t want to do it. I want to get some break.”

We have more from the basketball world:

  • The league is discouraging players and personnel from holding Super Bowl parties, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. They are not permitted to gather outside of their home for Super Bowl Sunday. At home, individuals are expected to watch the game only with household members. Team members that are on the road may host up to four family members or close friends in a hotel with advance testing.
  • Trade restrictions on most free agents that signed contracts this offseason have been lifted, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. A total of 90 players that signed offseason deals are trade-eligible, while 29 others are still restricted in some fashion, Marks adds. However, there haven’t been any trades on the date that those restrictions were lifted in prior seasons, dating back to 2012, Marks adds.
  • Former NBA big man Jonas Jerebko had his contract with BC Khimki Moscow terminated last month and he told Swedish news organization Aftonbladet that his time there was an unpleasant experience, Sportando relays. The dispute began when Jerebko asked permission to visit his family in December. “The day before departure my agent writes me. He told me I could stay at home. Coach said I might not come back. It was not such a difficult decision to stay at home when he said so. Since then, there have been some non-payments and stuff like that.”

Central Notes: Warren, Hayes, Rose, Giannis/Forbes

Starting Pacers small forward T.J. Warren went under the knife on Tuesday, January 5, to repair a small navicular stress fracture in his left foot, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Agness added that there is no timeline for Warren’s return to the floor following his surgery.

In his four healthy games this season, Warren averaged 15.5 PPG (on 52.9% shooting from the field), 3.5 RPG, and 1.3 APG for the Pacers.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:

  • After starting Pistons point guard Killian Hayes suffered a labral tear in his right hip, Detroit remains open to multiple possibilities with regard to his recovery, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Hayes could try to rehabilitate without undergoing surgery, and potentially return this season in 4-6 weeks if he responds well to non-surgical treatment, or he could go the surgical route, and face a longer-term rehab process that could finish his rookie season. Sources tell James Edwards III of The Athletic that there does not appear to be structural damage in the hip.
  • Luckily for the Pistons, whose point guard corps has thinned out thanks to Hayes’ torn labrum, his backup Derrick Rose is not expected to miss any time with a minor right knee contusion suffered yesterday, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News.
  • Reigning two-time Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed a strong on-court rapport with new reserve guard Bryn Forbes, highlighted by a flashy inverted pick-and-roll action, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “It’s a play that works,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you don’t stay in front of me, I’m going to try to go downhill and if somebody else comes, the corner is wide-open.”

And-Ones: Giannis, Lillard, 2021 FAs, 2022 Draft

During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).

The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.

Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.

“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”

In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.

Bucks GM Horst Talks Roster, Giannis, Connaughton, More

The Bucks fell short of the NBA Finals in each of the last two postseasons after putting up the NBA’s best regular season record in each of those two years. However, general manager Jon Horst tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that he believes the club is “young in its evolution of championship contention,” and that the current Bucks roster is its strongest yet.

“I think that this is the best roster that we’ve had in the last three years,” Horst said. “I have a ton of confidence in the work that our coaches have spent on improving our offensive and defensive systems and our style of play and just the way that that they’re going to approach the season and the way that we’re going to work. And then the work that our players did.

“… If you really peel back, how do you get better? I think you get better coaching, player internal development, and from a front office perspective, you improve the roster. I think we’ve checked all those boxes, and I feel confident about those things. The work that’s been put into all those areas and the results in all those areas. That’s why I feel good about this team and that we’re better than last season.”

In his conversation with Nehm, Horst discussed a wide ranging of topics, including his thoughts on all the veteran players Milwaukee added to its roster in free agency or via trade this offseason.

The discussion is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few more notable comments from the Bucks’ GM:

On what Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign an extension with the Bucks says about the organization:

“I think it shows mostly a lot about Giannis and his desire to win and to be part of a culture where winning is first and foremost, and where the resources are going to be provided to you to win and continue to push the envelope and be in a position, year in and year out, to compete at the highest level. But to do it in a family environment, in a healthy environment, where people want to come to work every day and enjoy what they do every day. And for us, the goal from day one has been to create that environment, create that culture, and not just do that, but also to win at a high level. And we haven’t reached the ultimate goal yet, but I think we constantly improve and get better and push toward being great.”

On the NBA’s investigation into the Bucks’ pursuit of Bogdan Bogdanovic, which cost the team its 2022 second-round pick:

“We were fully cooperative with the NBA, very open and transparent. And a decision was made and we’re moving forward from that. We’re excited about the season. I think that at different points in your life or different points in your career, things happen and you’re only as good or as bad as how you respond. And we chose to be very cooperative, forthcoming, transparent and tried to work with the league to come up with the best result. The takeaway is that, be honest and helpful and deal with the result and move on and be better. … It’s not a lesson, but it’s a takeaway.”

On the Bucks’ decision not to sign a true backup center to replace Robin Lopez:

“It’s more a bet that we’re going to be more versatile and more equipped to play against teams that constantly go small. And so really our backup fives are Bobby (Portis), D.J. (Wilson), and Giannis, right? All of which also play the four very well. So we have options and versatility.

“… This season, I think we’re intentionally trying to push our money to the front and be a little bit riskier on the back end. And if we have to adjust and pivot, we’ll figure out a way to do it. Of course, we are always a little nervous, but I’ll tell you, I think our roster fits the NBA and the way teams are going to play us better this season than it ever has before.”

On the perception that the Bucks made a mistake by agreeing to a two-year deal with Pat Connaughton that would have violated CBA rules before amending it to a three-year deal:

“I’m sure it’s a more interesting read to write the story that we don’t know what we’re doing… We know what we’re doing. Maybe (it’s) not as interesting to say a deal wasn’t done, (that) negotiations and discussions are still evolving. We’ve done some complex things in the last few years and got it done and figured it out. We were negotiating and trying to figure out a deal that would work for Pat and us.

“… Frankly, I was surprised by a lot of stuff that was written in the process of negotiating a deal with Pat. There’s not a better answer than that. Again, you’re just trying to figure it out, like you’re literally going through real time. If people want to report stuff in real time as fact and final, that’s fine.”

Central Notes: Cavs, Giannis Effect, Mad Ants, Pistons

Thanks to the intriguing addition of rookie swingman Isaac Okoro, drafted with the No. 6 pick out of Auburn, the Cavaliers will suddenly face some fun wing rotation questions, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Fedor speculates that Collin Sexton will most likely remain the starter at the shooting guard slot, pointing to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s recent praise of Sexton. Bickerstaff declined to officially confirm whether or not Sexton would start.

“I think his performance last year, and at the end of last season, was above and beyond,” Bickerstaff said. “I think he’s one of those guys who earns the opportunity to play extended minutes.”

Fedor opines that the tough, defensive-minded Okoro’s strong showing in training camp and the preseason suggests that he deserves the opportunity to start over incumbent starting small forward Cedi Osman.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are benefiting from a “Giannis effect” merchandise boon, according to Jabari Young of CNBC“The phone calls started both ways,” Matt Pazaras, chief business development and strategy officer for Milwaukee, said. The team’s sponsored jersey patch is now open for new bidders after its deal with Harley-Davidson expired this offseason. Interest in a sponsorship is strong now that MVP forward Giannis Antetokounmpo inked a record five-year, $228MM contract extension.
  • The G League affiliate of the Pacers, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, intend to take part in the proposed G League “bubble,” according to team president Tim Bawmann in a conversation on 1380 The FAN’s Sports Rush with Brett Rump, (hat tip to Caitlin Cooper of Indy Cornrows). Bawmann notes that the bubble’s locale could be Atlanta or Orlando.
  • With the 2020/21 NBA regular season fast approaching, James L. Edwards III of the Athletic assesses the depth chart for the Pistons and, in a surprise, speculates that oft-injured power forward Blake Griffin and new small forward Jerami Grant could play the most minutes per game (28) for a rebuilding Detroit team.

Central Notes: Markkanen, Giannis, Pacers, McGee

The Bulls and Lauri Markkanen have both expressed interest in working out a rookie scale extension for the fourth-year forward prior to Monday’s deadline, and conversations between the two sides are ongoing, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he’ll leave those negotiations to executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s agent, but referred to the former lottery pick as an “important piece to our team.” For his part, Markkanen confirmed that there have been contract discussions, but couldn’t offer any additional updates, telling reporters, “We’ll see what happens.”

With or without an extension in place for Markkanen, the Bulls project to have a significant chunk of cap room available in 2021, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Now that a number of potential top 2021 free agents have signed extensions and will be unavailable, the Bulls’ new front office regime may have to get creative when it comes to using that cap room, Johnson observes.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to eight executives from around the NBA to get their reactions on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s super-max extension with the Bucks, while Eric Nehm of The Athletic relays that head coach Mike Budenholzer learned of the agreement from his sons while he was driving. “It was a don’t-run-the-red-light moment and kill yourself (moment),” Budenholzer said with a laugh. “In the midst of the excitement, I was able to honor the red light and stop and do a little screaming and yelling with my boys.”
  • In his review of the Pacers‘ offseason and preview of their coming year, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes that there are still two big lingering questions hanging over the franchise: Whether Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner can thrive alongside one another, and whether it makes sense to trade Victor Oladipo before he reaches free agency.
  • Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he received glowing reviews on JaVale McGee from Warriors assistant Mike Brown and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details. McGee told reporters on Thursday that he was surprised to be traded, but is looking forward to being “a great example of a hard-working vet” for his new team.

NBA GMs Vote Lakers As Offseason Winners, Title Favorites

The NBA’s general managers liked the Lakers‘ offseason moves and are bullish on the team’s chances to repeat as champions in 2020/21, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes in his annual survey of the league’s GMs.

An impressive 81% of the responding general managers picked the Lakers to win the championship in 2021, which is the third-highest percentage any team has received since Schuhmann began conducting his annual GM survey 19 years ago. The Clippers ranked second at 11%, while the Nets and Heat received one vote apiece.

Meanwhile, the Lakers (37%) beat out the Suns (22%) and Thunder (15%) in the voting for best offseason roster moves. The Hawks, Bucks, and Sixers each received two votes, while the Trail Blazers got one too.

Here are a few more of the interesting responses from Schuhmann’s GM survey, which is worth checking out in full:

  • The Suns‘ acquisition of Chris Paul (44%) and the Bucks‘ trade for Jrue Holiday (33%) were voted the moves that will have the biggest impact this season. The Clippers‘ signing of Serge Ibaka (15%), the Pelicans‘ deal for Steven Adams (11%), and the Trail Blazers‘ trade for Robert Covington (11%) were the front-runners for the most underrated offseason player acquisition. Gordon Hayward‘s $120MM contract with the Hornets (54%) was voted the most surprising offseason move.
  • While NBA GMs view Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (39%) as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year over Warriors big man James Wiseman (29%), Wiseman received the most votes (36%) among this year’s rookies to be the best player in five years, followed by Ball (25%). Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton, meanwhile, was voted the biggest steal in the 2020 draft (43%).
  • Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic were the top choices as the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. They each received 43% of the vote, with Lakers stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James and Pelicans youngster Zion Williamson also picking up votes.
  • Speaking of Williamson, he helped the Pelicans receive the nod for the team with the most promising young core (41%). The Grizzlies (22%), Hawks (11%), Celtics (11%), and Nuggets (11%) also got multiple votes.

Central Notes: Giannis, Porter, P. Williams, Pacers

Plenty of options were waiting for Giannis Antetokounmpo if he had reached free agency, but he chose to remain loyal to Milwaukee, which has been his NBA home for the past seven years, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN. Antetokoumpo provided an early Christmas present to Bucks fans on Tuesday when he agreed to a super-max extension that runs through the 2025/26 season.

“The way that this city has supported me and my family has been amazing since day one, since the day I walked in the Cousins Center gym and Bradley Center, also. It’s been amazing. I was 18, I’m 26 right now. All I know is Milwaukee,” Antetokounmpo said. “When I came here, all I knew is that this is a city that loves basketball, it’s a city that … We have more things to do now, but when I came here we had a lot of things to do so I could just focus on basketball and it’s a place that I want to be.”

While the Bucks had a huge advantage in the money they could offer Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP had to be convinced that he could win a championship in Milwaukee. The front office was aggressive over the offseason, trading for Jrue Holiday and signing D.J. AugustinBobby PortisBryn Forbes, and Torrey Craig.

“I think we can get better. I believe we can be better. We’ve got better,” Antetokounmpo said. “We have a great team. We have a great culture. I know that I’m working toward that goal. The front office is working toward that goal, so I’m good. I’m happy. I think everybody’s on the same page.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers swingman Kevin Porter Jr. didn’t travel with the team to New York, which means he won’t play at all during the preseason, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The Cavs have chosen to address Porter’s legal issues internally, Fedor adds, and are being vague in their public statements. Porter didn’t practice with the team until December 10 and may not be ready for the season opener next week.
  • The Bulls gave first-round pick Patrick Williams a start in their third preseason game, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. The decision was based partly on the team’s shortage of personnel due to injuries and COVID-19 concerns, but coach Billy Donovan also wanted to see how Williams would respond to opportunity. “It’s just more to see, like, OK, what does Patrick look like with that first group,” Donovan said. “Does Otto (Porter Jr.), you know, give us a little bit of a punch off the bench from a scoring standpoint? We’re gonna have to make some sacrifices all the way around as a team in terms of how we need to play, and then also what guys’ roles may be, just because of the uniqueness of what we’re all dealing with at this point in time.”
  • The Pacers appeared to be on track to make another front office addition, possibly a second assistant general manager, but they’ve tabled those plans for now, tweets J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.