The NBA appears set to play an All-Star Game in March after initially deciding not to hold the midseason event at all this season.
However, that decision has not gone over well with the league’s biggest superstars – led by LeBron James and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo – who have voiced their strong opposition to playing the game amid the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is still serving out another spell on the sideline due to COVID protocols.
Read on below as SBOTOP round up all the biggest news surrounding the top basketball league in the world.
NBA superstars speak out against All-Star Game plan
The 2021 NBA All-Star Game is a go after all. After initially deciding not to have the marquee event this season, the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association are nearing a deal to hold the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, ESPN reports.
The single-night event will feature the Eastern Conference-Western Conference game as well as the skills competitions like the Slam Dunk contest and 3-Point Shootout.
However, the decision has not been met favourably by the top superstars in the league, including the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, who called the decision a “slap in the face.”
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”
Other stars, such as the Milwaukee Bucks’ two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden, and the LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard have followed James’ lead and also expressed their displeasure at having to play the All-Star Game. Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox called the decision to play the game this year “stupid.”
James was the West’s leading vote-getter with 2,288,676 votes in the league’s first voting returns announced earlier Thursday. The Nets’ Kevin Durant led the East with 2,302,705 votes, the only player with more votes than James.
Durant set for another COVID protocol absence
Speaking of Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets star could be eligible to return on Friday after missing the last few games due to the COVID health and safety protocol.
Durant had been exposed to a team employee who tested positive for COVID-19, which meant he had to quarantine for six days.
The employee’s positive test was confirmed during their game against the Toronto Raptors, so Durant was not allowed to play in the second half.
Aside from Durant, the Nets were also without Kyrie Irving in their 124-108 to the Philadelphia 76ers as he sat out the second night of a double-header. The loss dropped the Nets to 14-11 on the season, fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets will be without Durant for two more games this week against the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. But Durant will be eligible to play against his old team, the Golden State Warriors, next Saturday if he tests negative.
This is the second time Durant will have to sit out for a week-long quarantine this season. He missed four games back at the start of 2021.
Durant is having a terrific first season with the Nets. He is averaging 29.5 points on 53 per cent shooting, with 7.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists.
Curry, Jokic still lose despite each dropping 50 points
Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic both made NBA 2021 highlights with their monster scoring performances on Saturday. But despite their heroics, neither one ended up getting the win.
Curry’s 57 points — including 11 3-pointers — was not enough for his Warriors to overcome Luka Doncic, who had 42 points himself as the Dallas Mavericks won 134-132. Kelly Oubre Jr. had 14 points on just 5-of-16 shooting after his career-high 40-point outburst in their first game against the Mavericks, which was a 147-116 Warriors win.
Meanwhile, Nuggets star Jokic had a career-high 50 points in a losing effort against the Sacramento Kings, who won 119-114. The Nuggets were without starting point guard Jamal Murray due to a knee injury.
This was Curry’s second game of 57 or more points this season. He set a career-high with 62 points in January against the Portland Trail Blazers.
As for Jokic, this was the second time he set a new career-high in the space of a week. He scored 47 points in a win over the Utah Jazz last Monday.
The Nuggets, who have now lost two games in a row, are 12-10, which is good for sixth place in the Western Conference. The Warriors are in eighth, half a game behind at 12-11.
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