For the past few years, a G-League All-Star Game (well, then a D-League All-Star Game) has been part of the festivities during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. This game didn’t mean as much to players trying to get called up as the D-League Showcase week, but it was still an honor for the best players in the league.
This year the NBA is changing it up.
With G-League stars representing USA Basketball during qualifying for the World Cup, this year at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles a team of G-League All-Stars will take on the Mexican National Team, the NBA announced Saturday. Jeff Van Gundy, the ABC/ESPN analyst and former NBA coach who is coaching the G-League players in the World Cup qualifiers, will coach this G-League team as well. The game will take place Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1:30 Pacific (4:30 ET) at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where the NBA Fan Fest will take place.
“We are thrilled to showcase an innovative international exhibition game between top NBA G League players and the Mexico National Team at NBA All-Star,” NBA G-League President Malcolm Turner said. “This first-of-its-kind event will be an outstanding display of high-quality basketball and spirited competition for our fans around the world to enjoy.”
This a good showcase, and a little more interesting than the standard All-Star Game format.
Team USA beat Mexico in the first round of qualifiers 91-55 back on Nov. 26. At the end of February, the USA has World Cup qualifying games against Cuba and Puerto Rico.
FIBA moved the World Cup qualifying from its traditional summer to the fall and winter in an effort to be more like FIFA (the soccer governing body) where the major leagues around the world take a break and let the best players leave their clubs to play for country. The NBA — and major European leagues — are not playing along. That is leaving a lot of countries shorthanded, without their best players (for example, there is no chance Spain gets the either Marc Gasol or Pau Gasol now). The USA has a deeper talent pool and can survive, but after these G-League players qualify USA Basketball, Gregg Popovich and his group of stars will step in for the actual 2019 World Cup games in China. (Which is not exactly fair, but the reality. Thanks again, FIBA.)
It all adds up to what will be a more interesting than usual All-Star weekend in Los Angeles in February.