In this edition of UTW, we look back at the week that was and cast a glance towards the All-Star Weekend that is apparently on the horizon.
Takeaway of the Week
Under normal circumstances, this would be the edition of Unpack the Week immediately following All-Star Weekend. However, nothing has been normal about the past year.
Just a year ago, the All-Star Circus rolled into my town. I attended the All-Star Experience that Friday at Navy Pier, and it was so much fun. That was followed up by an enjoyable All-Star Saturday with a controversial finish. The weekend was capped off by a re-formatted All-Star Game that delivered its fair share of excitement. I would say the weekend was a success, and I’m glad Chicago had the chance to host it.
However, since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. The NBA show goes on, but scheduling has been heavily affected. The season was pushed back two months, the schedule has been released in halves, plenty of games have been postponed, and one of the teams can’t even play games in their own city this season.
As a result, instead of reflecting on the exciting happenings this past weekend in Indianapolis, this was just another week in the Association.
Honestly, we didn’t even think there would be an All-Star Game. The release of the first half of the 2020-21 NBA schedule made clear that the weekend would not come to pass. Instead, the week of March 5 through 10 was carved out as rest time between halves of the season and open dates that could be filled with previously postponed matchups. The city of Indianapolis would have their chance to host All-Star deferred to 2024.
However, the NBA recently reversed course. On February 4th, they announced that the Game is on for March 7 in Atlanta.
Like, why? After a couple of rough weeks, the NBA has done a good job containing the virus within their ranks. So why gamble that good fortune by bringing players from different locales to one place for a weekend and then send them back to their camps like everything is okay?
This hubris is in line with a lot of businesses and municipalities. NBA teams across the league have slowly been allowing more fans into their arenas as COVID restrictions have been loosening across the country. Surely, this is in the face of the national decrease in the amount of new cases. However, the death rate remains high, so we aren’t truly out of the woods here. This is still a very dangerous virus.
Of course, this decision made by both the NBA and the Players Association comes down to money. All-Star Weekend is a major event for the NBA. Not holding it would be a major financial hit to both the league and TNT, the network that has been tasked with airing the festivities since 2003.
On a human level, holding this event is downright absurd. On a financial level, the (on- and off-court) employees’ checks still need to clear. The only way for a basketball business to sustain itself, even in a pandemic, is with more basketball.
You would think the millionaire and billionaire team governors would have the cash to cover the loss instead of continuously putting their employees in virus-catching danger. But no millionaires or billionaires anywhere in this country are providing financial relief to their employees, so here we are.
Chances are, I will likely still watch the full All-Star weekend. Especially considering that, according to De’Aaron Fox, selected All-Stars have to participate if they aren’t injured or else they’re fined. I would like to support the players that end up going to Atlanta to put on this show since they’re essentially forced to. However, I’m also fully behind any players declining to go in protest.
This whole situation sucks and I wish the league would reconsider holding this All-Star Game, even in the face of the financial ramifications. I will likely feel this way in the lead-up to it and well after the weekend has passed. I will admit, though, that when things are actually tipped off, I’m sure I will be lost in the world of hoops for at least those hours. For that little bit of time, nothing else on the outside will matter. Just the best the league has to offer facing off in a fun exhibition game.
So in the end, as voting ends tomorrow, I give you my All-Star Starters ballot for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game That Totally Should NOT Be Happening But It Is Anyway So Ugh I Guess:
My All-Star Ballot
Joel Embiid, C, 76ers
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks
Kevin Durant, F, Nets
Zach LaVine, G, Bulls
James Harden, G, Nets
Nikola Jokic, C, Nuggets
LeBron James, F, Lakers
Kawhi Leonard, F, Clippers
Stephen Curry, G, Warriors
Damian Lillard, G, Trail Blazers
Top Performers of the Week
Weekly Total Leaders
|Statistic||NBA Leader||Rookie Leader||Bench Leader|
|Points||Luka Doncic, Mavericks (144)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (78)||Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers (85)|
|Rebounds||Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies (56)||Deni Avdija, Wizards (33)||Chris Boucher, Raptors (36)|
|Assists||Draymond Green, Warriors (40)|
Ja Morant, Grizzlies (40)
|LaMelo Ball, Hornets (27)||T.J. McConnell, Pacers (23)|
|Steals||Dejounte Murray, Spurs (11)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (9)||Jordan McLaughlin, Timberwolves (6)|
Kira Lewis, Pelicans (6)
Pat Connaughton, Bucks (6)
T.J. McConnell, Pacers (6)
|Blocks||Jakob Poeltl, Spurs (13)||Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (7)||Chris Boucher, Raptors (9)|
|3-Pointers||Malik Beasley, Timberwolves (23)||Saddiq Bey, Pistons (16)||Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers (13)|
|Double-Doubles||Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (4)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (3)||Miles Bridges, Hornets (3)|
|Triple-Doubles||Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks|
Jimmy Butler, Heat
LeBron James, Lakers
Luka Doncic, Mavericks
Mason Plumlee, Pistons
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (1)
|Plus/Minus||Jamal Murray, Nuggets (+64)||Immanuel Quickley, Knicks (+40)||Alec Burks, Knicks (+49)|
|Rank||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|1||Dallas Mavericks (3-1, 127.8)||New York Knicks (2-1, 99.3)||Los Angeles Clippers (3-0, 14.8)|
|2||New Orleans Pelicans (1-3, 125.8)||Miami Heat (2-1, 102.4)||Utah Jazz (3-0, 14.3)|
|3||Los Angeles Clippers (3-0, 125.3)||Washington Wizards (2-2, 104.5)||New York Knicks (2-1, 12.0)|
|4||Portland Trail Blazers (4-0, 122.5)||Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3, 105.0)||Denver Nuggets (3-1, 11.8)|
|5||Phoenix Suns (4-0, 122.2)||Golden State Warriors (2-2, 106.4)||Portland Trail Blazers (4-0, 9.6)|
|26||Orlando Magic (1-3, 105.6)||Houston Rockets (0-4, 119.8)||Boston Celtics (1-3, -5.1)|
|27||Oklahoma City Thunder (1-3, 103.3)||Atlanta Hawks (0-3, 121.1)||Atlanta Hawks (0-3, -8.3)|
|28||Miami Heat (2-1, 100.0)||Dallas Mavericks (3-1, 124.4)||Sacramento Kings (0-3, -10.7)|
|29||Washington Wizards (2-2, 100.0)||Cleveland Cavaliers (0-4, 128.2)||Houston Rockets (0-4, -20.4)|
|30||Houston Rockets (0-4, 99.5)||New Orleans Pelicans (1-3, 128.5)||Cleveland Cavaliers (0-4, -20.7)|