NBA All-Star Weekend 2017: From Kevin Durant to LeBron James, the best of the league set to clash

The All-Star Weekend is unusual because it is not a sporting event that really counts for anything, but one would not know it by the hoopla surrounding this year’s All-Star Selections. There’s the 3-Point shootout, which Steph Curry has decided to stay out of. He won it in 2015 and his Golden State Warriors teammate Klay Thompson in 2016.

Eastern Conference's LeBron James and Kyrie Irvingof the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA All-Star Practice. Reuters

Eastern Conference's LeBron James and Kyrie Irvingof the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA All-Star Practice. Reuters

There’s the dunk contest, of course, which last year proved to be the most exciting in years. Zach Levine, who this season has been playing really well for the Minnesota Timberwolves, beat a most phenomenal and determined Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. Levine and Gordon battled each other in the final round with some of the best and most original dunking that the competition has seen in years. Many a fan of the dunk have compared it to 2000 when the iconic Vince Carter put on the greatest dunk contest ever. This year, however, Levine has decided to opt out of it after winning it twice. Gordon is an outright favourite to win this year’s contest.

The All-Star Game, however, is important not because of the standard of competition. The games lack any of the intensity that make basketball games fun, and with the exception of the last three or four minutes of the last quarter, teams play no defence at all. It’s suppose to be a fun and more relaxing extravaganza and that’s fine. But the act of getting selected to play in in, whether as a starter or a reserve, however, is not. It is supposed to be a selection of the best players in the league, which adds more weight than it should. Player X is an eight-time All Star, Player Y is a four-time All Star. It separates the best from the rest.

This year’s All-Star Game is its 66th Edition, and the game will be played on 19 February. The selection process, which in previous years used to be a straight forward one in which fans did all the voting, was changed to a more elaborate system of voting by fans, players, and selected members of the media. In the All-Star Game, the best from the Western Conference face off against the most elite that the Eastern Conference has to offer.

Apart from the five starting members, there are seven players who are selected as reserves. The starting five for the Western Conference team include Kevin Durant and Curry of the Golden State Warriors, James Harden from the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leanord and Anthony Davis of the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans respectively.

The Eastern Conference has a starting five of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving who are teammates and defending NBA Champions, the Chicago Bulls’s Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan from the Toronto Raptors, and the Greek star of the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The most surprising omission as far as the starting five is concerned is Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is easily the best performer in the league; he averages a triple-double, and for him to not be a starter is flabbergasting. Fellow NBA players have echoed similar statements. It would be interesting, however, to see how he and his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant get along. There have been a couple of interesting situations this season between the two of them, after Westbrook admitted that he and Durant stopped speaking to one another after the latter jumped ship and opted to sign with another Western Conference competitor the Golden State Warriors.

The Western Conference reserves list for the All-Star Game is not as impressive as that of the Eastern Conference. Apart from Westbrook, Thompson and to a degree Draymond Green, it is very hard to argue that any of DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, Gordon Hayward, or even the Clippers’s DeAndre Jordan (who is not even the best player on his team — Chris Paul and a healthy Blake Griffin are) are as good as the Indiana Pacers’s Paul George or the Cavaliers’s third cog Kevin Love, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry or 5’9 Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker or John Wall, six of the seven reserves for the East. The last player selected for the game is Paul Millsap.

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2017 09:08:12 IST

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