Kevin Durant

Knicks Notes: Randle, Anunoby, Robinson, Hartenstein, More

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Tuesday that Julius Randle continues to make “good, steady progress” in his recovery from a dislocated right shoulder, per Ian Begley of One day later, speaking publicly on Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury, Randle told reporters that he’s feeling “better and stronger” than he was earlier in the month, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post.

However, neither Thibodeau nor Randle indicated that the possibility of season-ending surgery is off the table.

“I mean, we’ll see. There’s still necessary steps. It’s a process to everything. I have to weigh out everything ultimately and decide from there,” Randle said. “But right now I’m just focused on trying to avoid (surgery), obviously, and get back on the court as soon as I can.”

Even if Randle is able to return to action this season without undergoing surgery, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to avoid a procedure on the shoulder in the offseason, Botte writes.

“I’ve heard many different opinions. Both, so we’ll see,” Randle said when asked about that scenario. “I like how I feel today as far as getting better, feeling stronger, progressing to where I need to be, as far as getting on the court.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While Randle’s recovery timeline remains very much up in the air, another injured Knicks forward – OG Anunoby – said on Tuesday that he “for sure” expects to return before the end of the regular season and be available for the playoffs, according to Botte. Anunoby, who underwent a procedure on his right elbow a couple weeks ago, is expected to be reevaluated around March 1 and to resume on-court activities not longer after that, a league source tells Fred Katz of The Athletic.
  • Within that same Athletic story, Katz says center Mitchell Robinson (ankle surgery) is on track to resume on-court work not long after the All-Star break, though it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll return this season. Katz adds that big man Isaiah Hartenstein doesn’t view the Achilles injury he has been nursing as a serious issue.
  • Hartenstein, Donte DiVincenzo (hamstring), and Bojan Bogdanovic (calf) all returned to practice on Tuesday and went through a second day of workouts on Wednesday, according to Thibodeau, who said that all three players remain on track to return on Thursday (Twitter link via Steve Popper of Newsday).
  • During a discussion (YouTube link) between Kevin Durant and longtime business partner Rich Kleiman, the duo confirmed that Kleiman badly wanted Durant to sign with the Knicks as a free agent in 2019, when the star forward instead chose to join the Nets.

Pacific Notes: Suns’ Buyout Options, Durant, Booker, Harden, LeBron, Curry

The Suns have numerous options on the buyout market, but their preferred targets may not be available, writes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. Phoenix had two roster spots open after an active trade deadline, and one of those will be filled by Thaddeus Young, who is expected to finalize his reported deal with the team early this week, according to Bourguet.

The Suns are looking for help in several areas, and one of their top priorities was reportedly Delon Wright, who is expected to sign with Miami. Sources tell Bourguet that Phoenix also considered Danilo Gallinari, but he was crossed off the list after the agreement with Young and wound up signing with Milwaukee. Bourguet also cites mutual interest in a reunion with Bismack Biyombo before he reached a deal with Oklahoma City.

Bourguet identifies ideal targets as Spurs forward Cedi Osman and Jazz forward Otto Porter, who hasn’t played since being acquired from Toronto at the deadline. However, there hasn’t been a strong indication that either player will reach a buyout before the March 1 deadline to be eligible for the postseason with a new team. If they aren’t available, Bourguet looks at Danuel House as a potential signing, along with the possibility that Saben Lee could be promoted from his two-way contract.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker both talked Saturday about the connection they’ve formed after a full year as teammates, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “We have the same likes in life,” Booker said. “We’re hoops junkies and that’s where it started. Now we spend a lot more time together, man. We like to kick it, chill. Talk basketball and play video games.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believes the early-season trade for James Harden relaxed the burden on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, enabling both stars to stay healthier, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register.“(Having Harden) makes it a lot easier on Kawhi and PG not to have to handle and make every play for themselves and for our team,” Lue said. “So, James has been great, just keeps everybody happy … takes a lot of grind off of PG and Kawhi.”
  • In the wake of a report that the Warriors contacted the Lakers about LeBron James before the deadline, Bruce Jenkins of The San Francisco Chronicle looks at what would have to happen if James and Stephen Curry decide they want to join forces with Golden State.

Warriors To Explore Trades For Star Wing In Offseason?

Warriors sources confirm to Sam Amick, Anthony Slater and Jovan Buha of The Athletic that Golden State made an unsuccessful run at Lakers superstar LeBron James prior to last week’s trade deadline. However, there’s “zero indication” the Warriors came close to acquiring James, per The Athletic’s report.

Still, the fact that Golden State tried to pry James out of L.A. shows the Warriors are willing to take big swings to try and capitalize on Stephen Curry‘s still-excellent form, despite his advancing age (he turns 36 next month). And it opened the door to a possible pursuit again this summer, when James could hit unrestricted free agency if he declines his $51.4MM player option.

According to The Athletic, James won’t be the only marquee player the Warriors will explore going after, assuming they’re even available. Their “dream scenario” would be trading for Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, with Clippers wing Paul George and Suns forward Kevin Durant among the other star wings on their wish list.

Antetokounmpo has only ever played for Milwaukee and signed a long-term extension before the season began that has him under contract through at least 2027, with a player option for 2027/28. George holds a $48.8MM player option for ’24/25 and has openly said he hopes to sign an extension with the Clippers (he’d have to decline the PO to sign an extension). Durant, who won back-to-back titles with Golden State in 2017 and 2018, could hit free agency in 2026.

The emergence of Jonathan Kuminga — whom GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. called “virtually” untouchable after the deadline — has given the Warriors an internal pathway to a possible star running mate for Curry. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. Depending on what route Golden State takes, Kuminga could also be an enticing headliner in a blockbuster trade, The Athletic’s authors note.

As Amick, Slater and Buha write, only one of the Warriors’ future first-round picks (2030) is tied up in a trade beyond this year’s draft, and the team will have some financial flexibility as well, with Klay Thompson on an expiring $43.2MM contract and Chris Paul on a pseudo-expiring deal (his $30MM salary for ’24/25 is non-guaranteed).

Suns Notes: Ishbia, Beal, Nurkic, Durant, Booker

Suns owner Mat Ishbia said at the start of October that he felt Phoenix had the best team in the NBA. While injuries slowed down the Suns early in the season, they’ve won 13 of their last 17 games to move up to the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference at 32-22. Ishbia tells Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic that he feels just as good about the roster now as he did in October, especially after the trade-deadline additions of Royce O’Neale and David Roddy.

“We have our three star players and we also have a lot of other players who could be considered stars as well. We have a great all-around team. I love our team. I feel excited about what’s going on,” Ishbia said. “… We’re jelling. We’re playing our best basketball right now. Just because we had the best to start the season or felt like we had the best roster, doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. So we’re always going to try to improve things and that’s what we did I think with the addition of Royce and David.”

As Bobby Marks of ESPN observed after the trade deadline, 10 teams projected to be taxpayers a month ago and nine of those clubs either reduced their salaries or stood pat through the deadline. The Suns, who increased their projected tax bill by more than $13MM, were the only one of those 10 teams to add money.

“When we come to Mat with ideas and suggestions on saying, ‘Hey, let’s go trade for Royce O’Neale and David Roddy, but it’s going to add a significant amount of money to our tax bill and to this team,’ he says, ‘Hey, if it’s going to make us better, and the answer is yes, then let’s go do it,'” Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein told Rankin. “Many people don’t do that, especially at the trade deadline. You saw several teams shed money. We’re all in to win a championship and when you have an owner willing to do that and use any resource possible, it makes your job easier. You can go after the best players no matter where their salaries are at.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • After Bradley Beal strained his left hamstring in Tuesday’s win over Sacramento, the Suns have ruled him out for their final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday vs. Detroit. There’s optimism it won’t be a long-term issue though, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. “They don’t think it’s too serious,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “Hopefully with the (All-Star) break right after, he doesn’t miss too much more time. We’ll see where he’s at.”
  • In the latest episode of his podcast, Warriors forward Draymond Green ripped Suns center Jusuf Nurkic for his comments to reporters following Phoenix’s loss to Golden State on Saturday. “The little guy went into the media complaining like I did something to him as if he didn’t do the ‘too small’ celebration and then he starts to question my character,” Green said (hat tip to Rankin). “What a coward. You go questioning character about a basketball game you just lost that you got destroyed in. The only thing you should talk about his how you got punished.” Nurkic tweeted a reply accompanied by a crying-laughing emoji: “All good bad boy just don’t stay to long on podcast, gonna be late for therapy session.”
  • Sources who spoke to Rankin disputed ESPN’s report stating that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey inquired on Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Beal prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline. Whether or not it happened ultimately doesn’t matter that much, since all three players were considered unavailable and remained in Phoenix.
  • In case you missed it, the Suns officially announced today that they’ll have a G League affiliate of their own beginning in 2024/25. Phoenix is the final NBA team to secure an NBAGL affiliate.

Warriors Attempted To Get Lakers To Consider LeBron Trade

Prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline, the Warriors tried – unsuccessfully – to convince the Lakers to consider sending superstar forward LeBron James to Golden State, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

The Warriors’ pursuit of James occurred at multiple levels, per ESPN’s reporting. Klutch Sports client Draymond Green contacted agent Rich Paul in an effort to solicit his help getting LeBron on board with a move to Golden State, while Warriors owner Joe Lacob reached out to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. touched base with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka.

Ultimately, the same answer came back from all involved parties — the Lakers had no interest in trading James, and the four-time MVP had no interest in going anywhere, as Paul stated six days ahead of the deadline.

As Wojnarowski and Shelburne outline, the Warriors’ pursuit stemmed from the fact that James seemed to be frustrated by the Lakers’ up-and-down first half. He hinted at those frustrations in some comments to the media and posted a cryptic tweet consisting only of hourglass emoji.

When Lacob reached out to Buss, she told the Warriors owner that while she had no interest in trading LeBron, that she would check in with him and Paul to gauge their thoughts.

Sources tell ESPN that Buss has “operated with the mindset that she wants her star players content with the franchise,” so if he had been unhappy with his situation in Los Angeles, the team would have been open to changing its stance. That wasn’t the case, however, as Paul told both Lacob and Dunleavy that his top client wanted to remain a Laker.

ESPN’s report doesn’t include any details about the package the Warriors would have offered for James, but since the goal was to pair him with Stephen Curry and Green was involved in the recruiting, we can at least safely assume those two wouldn’t have been on the table. Beyond that, there are many permutations Golden State could have explored — an offer involving Chris Paul and/or Andrew Wiggins, plus prospects and draft picks, seems most likely, given that the Dubs reportedly weren’t interested in moving Klay Thompson.

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, the Warriors weren’t the only team to check in on James prior to the trade deadline. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey also inquired on LeBron’s availability, though that’s a common practice for Morey, who also contacted the Suns to ask about Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and/or Bradley Beal, per ESPN.

As ESPN’s duo explains, the Warriors situation was a little different because it began at the ownership level and included a conversation with Paul, whereas Morey is known around the league for making “bold” long-shot trade inquiries. When Morey asked the Lakers about LeBron, Pelinka responded by inquiring about the availability of reigning MVP Joel Embiid, which ended their brief conversation, sources tell Woj and Shelburne.

James will have a decision to make this summer on a 2024/25 player option worth $51.4MM. While he’s considered likely to either pick up that option or sign a new deal with the Lakers, suitors like the Warriors and Sixers may get a chance to pursue him again at that time.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, AD, Westbrook, Harden, Little, Beal

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Lakers superstar LeBron James declined to elaborate on what he meant by sending out an hourglass emoji after Tuesday’s loss to Atlanta, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

On Friday, Rich Paul, James’ agent, publicly said his most famous client won’t seek a trade and won’t be dealt ahead of the February 8 deadline.

There was no reputable reporting suggesting James would seek a trade, but there had been some speculation from fans and media members about his future, given the Lakers’ middling record (25-25) this season, his age (39), and his contract situation (he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer).

James said he hasn’t thought about whether or not he’s going to exercise his $51.4MM player option for 2024/25, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin relays.

The Lakers were without James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) and Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and left hip spasms) for Thursday’s upset victory over Boston, and both players are questionable for Saturday’s contest in New York. James, who said he was “very proud” of the team’s effort vs. the Celtics, is “hoping” to play against the Knicks.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • According to Buha, James also addressed Jarred Vanderbilt‘s foot injury, which is expected to keep him out for several weeks. “Well, honestly, obviously, we took a big hit with Vando last game,” James said. “Our team has always been constructed around how healthy we can be and how much chemistry we can put on the floor. So, obviously, that’s a big-time hit, big-time blow for us. But guys have to pick it up in his absence. If we can play some good basketball, string a couple wins together, and not be so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on any given night, then we’ll be OK.”
  • Clippers guard Russell Westbrook reached a historic milestone in Friday’s win over Detroit, as he became just the 25th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points (Twitter link via the league). The former league MVP is also only the second player to record at least 25,000 points, 9,000 assists and 8,000 rebounds — James is the other.
  • Regarding his omission from the All-Star game, Clippers guard James Harden says he’s focused on a bigger prize, per Law Murray of The Athletic. “I’ve got bigger goals,” Harden said. “None of that — scoring titles and assists and All-Stars and MVPs — right now. I’ve done it all. I’m here for one reason. And I think everybody knows what the reason is.” Harden, of course, is looking for his first NBA championship. The 34-year-old is averaging 16.9 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG and 0.9 BPG in 42 games for the Clips this season (34.1 MPG). He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
  • Suns forward Nassir Little is nonplussed by hearing his name in trade rumors, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’m doing good,” Little said. “It’s a normal thing in the league. It’s been like that since I’ve gotten into the league. Your name is always going to be thrown around in trade rumors. It’s part of the business. So I don’t really be seeing it that much, but I just chill until something happens. I get a text from my agent or somebody call me in the office, I’m going to keep doing what I got to do.” Little, 23, is in the first season of a four-year, $28MM rookie scale extension.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant praised Bradley Beal‘s toughness for playing through a broken nose he sustained last week against the Pacers, Rankin tweets. He’s a soldier out there,” Durant said of Beal. “He could’ve easily took a game off in Orlando. Taken the rest of the game off in Indiana. … We’re behind him. We want him to continue to be aggressive.” Beal has missed 24 games this season due to back and ankle injuries and has struggled to get comfortable with the protective masks he’s wearing due to the nasal fracture, averaging 13.3 PPG (on .345/.125/.733 shooting), 7.0 APG and 4.5 RPG in the past four games (37.6 MPG).

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Porzingis, Celtics, Embiid

Returning to Brooklyn Wednesday for the first time since being traded last February, Suns forward Kevin Durant didn’t feel like speculating on how his time with the Nets might have turned out differently, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Although he talked briefly about his raucous tenure with the team, Durant preferred to look forward rather than backward.

“I mean, that’s just a pointless exercise, in my opinion, to think about what could have been,” Durant said. “What happened. That’s what I thought about: what actually happened. The reality of it. We didn’t have enough time together. That’s just it. Guys wanted to go their separate ways. We tried our hardest to, you know, salvage everything and everything together. We had three or four different teams [from] when I signed here until when I left. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed coming to work, playing for, being a part of this community and playing, representing Brooklyn; regardless of what went on, what was said or how I felt, I still came to work.”

Durant was expected to make the Nets one of the NBA’s elite franchises when he and Kyrie Irving signed as free agents in 2019. He continued to play at an All-Star level after recovering from a torn Achilles, but injuries and off-court issues prevented the team from reaching its potential, even after James Harden was added in a 2021 trade. Bontemps notes that although Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal are in their first season as teammates, they’ve already played more games together than Durant, Irving and Harden did.

“If you want to talk about me individually, you can just look at the work that I put in here,” Durant added. “I think I’ve grown as a player. I’m on my way to mastering the game. I think coming here helped me, pushed me far closer to that. So that’s what I try to take from my time here.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The offseason trade for Kristaps Porzingis has raised the Celtics to a new level, observes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Porzingis, who was training in Spain when the trade was announced, said he understood how much he meant to the Celtics when he learned they were willing to include Marcus Smart in the deal. “I didn’t know it was going to be [Smart] in the trade, but seeing what they were going to give up for me, I realized that ‘OK, they really wanted me,'” he said. “That means that they expect a lot from me, also. So I have to show up.”
  • The Celtics are expected to seek another bench piece before the trade deadline, but the improved performance of the team’s reserves may lessen the urgency for such a move, observes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports (subscription required) examines Joel Embiid‘s historic accomplishments this season and the “absurd” reaction to the Sixers‘ decision to hold him out of Saturday’s game at Denver.

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Siakam, Green, Clippers, Durant

The Warriors have fielded player-for-player offers for forward Andrew Wiggins, sources told Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Though Wiggins is the Warriors player most likely to be moved before next month’s trade deadline, there hasn’t been an offer that has enticed them enough to make a deal. It’s key to note that they wouldn’t necessarily need to attach a draft pick to shed his contract, according to Slater. Wiggins is in the first season of a four-year, $109MM extension.

Golden State could go through the deadline without making a significant deal, despite its disappointing record. The internal expectations of making that kind of move have steadily decreased over the last month, Slater hears.

The Warriors remain in the buyers column, but they are reluctant to part with valuable pieces and don’t own their first-rounder this year. They are seeking a strong second option to pair with Stephen Curry but probably lack the assets to get that type of player.

They had exploratory conversations with the Raptors regarding Pascal Siakam before he was traded to Indiana. However, the Warriors’ most valued trade chip — Jonathan Kuminga — wouldn’t have been an ideal fit next to Raptors franchise player Scottie Barnes since their skill sets overlap.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors forward Draymond Green said he harbors no resentment for being left off Team USA’s pool of players under consideration for this year’s Olympics, according to Michael Wagaman of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I would like to believe that there’s some guys in that pool that I’m just not as good as,” Green said. “Didn’t quite think it would be so many great players in the pool because it just hasn’t been [that way] over the last couple of Olympic cycles. Then you look up and all of a sudden the ‘who’s who’ is there. I’m no idiot. You go with the who’s who and you figure it out.” Green was part of the 2016 and 2021 Olympic gold medal teams.
  • On that same topic, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden are on Team USA’s 41-player list and are legitimate candidates to make the 12-man Olympic roster, says Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Coach Tyronn Lue is an assistant on the USA coaching staff and he’d like to see at least one of them wind up on the 12-man roster. “Hopefully, it works out,” Lue said.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant says he’s looking forward to returning to Brooklyn for the first time since last season’s trade. Phoenix visits the Nets on Wedneday. “I’m excited,” Durant said. “It’s always fun playing in Brooklyn, it’s always fun playing in New York. Can’t wait to see some of the people that I worked with that I got to know over the last four years. New York City has become my favorite city in the world just from me living there for four years. I miss it a lot. I built a lot of bonds and relationships with the people that actually worked in the organization.”

Wizards Executives, Players Discuss Head Coaching Change

Appearing at a press conference on Thursday, Wizards executives Michael Winger and Will Dawkins explained that the decision to move Wes Unseld Jr. out of his head coaching position was more about how the team was losing than about the losses themselves, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post and Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“We can tolerate losing a game in which we were competitive for 48 minutes. We can tolerate losing a basketball game where we see the team improving as a collective,” Winger said. “In the absence of 48 minutes of competitiveness, in the absence of collective team basketball progress over the course of time, irrespective of the individual improvement, we have an issue to address. And that’s sort of how that conversation unfolded.”

As Robbins observes, the defense performed especially poorly under Unseld. The Wizards’ 120.5 defensive rating at the time of his removal was just narrowly better than Charlotte’s league-worst mark of 120.6. Additionally, Robbins says, the effort level from several players was inconsistent and players repeated the same mistakes from game to game, en route to a 7-36 start.

“We know our energy wasn’t always there,” Dawkins said. “We know our competitiveness was not always there. And defensively, there were nights that were unacceptable, and those are things that we want to continue to work on. And we think that a fresh voice right here, right now, is what we need, and also (is needed) for the betterment of the future.”

Unseld wasn’t technically fired — he’ll remain in the organization in an advisory role in the front office. Winger stated on Thursday that the Wizards are “a better organization because of Wes,” adding that multiple players showed real growth under the first-time head coach.

However, as Robbins points out, the comments made by some Wizards players on Thursday suggested they felt they weren’t held accountable enough under Unseld. Corey Kispert and Kyle Kuzma were among those to cite accountability when they were asked about assistant Brian Keefe taking over Unseld’s role.

“B.K. keeps it real 100 percent of the time, and he’ll say it like it is and he won’t hold back for better or for worse,” Kispert said. “And we need a good dose of that in this locker room. If we want to grow and be the team that we think we can be for the remainder of the season, we’ve got to be held accountable for what we do and we don’t do.”

“I think as a whole right now, we’re looking at an organizational mindset shift,” Kuzma said. “And that’s defense and accountability, and I think those are the first two building blocks that’s going to be an emphasis and something that we kind of lacked over the past 40-something games.”

While the Wizards went just 77-130 under Unseld, it’s worth noting that the rosters during his tenure weren’t exactly loaded with talent. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who had Unseld on his staff for several years in Denver before the Wizards hired him, lamented the fact that his former assistant never got to coach the team he interviewed for, since Bradley Beal missed so much time with injuries and Russell Westbrook was traded shortly after Unseld was hired (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).

The Wizards will see if Keefe can get more out of the current roster during the second half and then plan to conduct a full-fledged coaching search in the offseason. Presumably, if Keefe does well the rest of the way, he’ll receive consideration for the permanent position. Washington’s new head coach said on Thursday that his focus will be on improving the team’s play on defense.

“Defense has to be our calling card,” Keefe said, per Wallace. “We have to see improvement on that. That’s going to be my first step. And I’ve always thought that. Basic tenets of the NBA — I like unselfish basketball; I like spacing; I like making the simple play. But our focus right now, for us, is we got to see growth defensively.”

Keefe, who served as an assistant for the Thunder from 2007-15, earned praise on Thursday from one notable member of that team for his work in Oklahoma City.

“He wouldn’t take any credit for it, but he taught me everything I know as far as how I approached shootarounds, practices, games, workout sessions, just everything,” Suns star Kevin Durant said (Twitter video link via Will Clayton). “He just changed my mindset. I met him when I was 18, so from 18 probably to 25, he was grooming me into the player that I am today, so I owe a lot to him. … He’s easily one of the most influential guys that I know in this business, in this game, and in life, so I got nothing but love and respect for B.K.”

2024 All-Star Starters Revealed; LeBron Sets Selection Record

The NBA revealed the 2024 All-Star Game starters on Thursday night, with Lakers forward LeBron James leading the pack with his record-breaking 20th straight selection. James has been a starter since 2005, his second season in the league, and broke his tie with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most selections in league history (Twitter link via NBA PR).

James and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will serve as captains. Joining James as Western Conference starters are Suns forward Kevin Durant, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. James is a captain for a seventh straight year.

Joining Antetokounmpo as Eastern Conference All-Star starters are Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Bucks guard Damian Lillard, Sixers center Joel Embiid and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

Thursday’s selections represent milestones for several players. Antetokounmpo is making his eighth career start and was the top vote-getter. Lillard is making his first career All-Star start. Haliburton is the fourth player in Pacers history to be named an All-Star starter, joining Paul George, Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal (Twitter link). Embiid is a starter after not being named one in his MVP season a year ago. Tatum is making his fifth All-Star Game.

In the West, Doncic set the Mavs’ franchise record with four All-Star Game starts. Jokic was first in player and media voting en route to his sixth straight selection. Gilgeous-Alexander is making his first start. Durant is making his 14th All-Star appearance.

The starters are selected by a weighted voting process with the fan vote accounting for half of the final outcome. The player and media portions of the vote each counted for 25 percent. Three frontcourt players and two guards were selected from each conference.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes there was little drama in the selections for the starting positions. The voting totals from fans didn’t vary much from week to week, with Embiid, Haliburton, Tatum, Antetokounmpo, James, Jokic and Durant well ahead in their respective positions. The second guard spot in the East was more competitive, with Lillard and Hawks guard Trae Young going back and forth in fan voting. The guard spots in the West were also tight, with Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander and Warriors guard Stephen Curry close in voting. Bontemps points out Lillard finished well ahead of Knicks guard Jalen Brunson in fan voting to earn the starting nod.

Full voting results can be found here.

The coaches for each All-Star team will be determined via the standings on Feb. 4, with the top-seeded coach taking the reins for each conference. However, Boston’s Joe Mazzulla and Denver’s Michael Malone are ineligible by virtue of the fact that they coached the two teams last season. Entering Thursday, the Thunder and Timberwolves are tied atop the West while the Bucks are next up behind the Celtics in the East, with the Sixers one game behind Milwaukee.

This year, the league is returning to the East vs. West format, so these players are suiting up for their respective conferences in the 73rd NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 18.

The reserves, who are picked by the league’s coaches, will be announced Feb. 1.