CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All-Star Weekend in the NBA means there is a lot to unpack over three days, so we want to bring you the three things you need to know from the last 72 hours in the NBA.
1) Recruiting is alive: The undercurrent of a wild coming free agency was everywhere in Charlotte. From the moment LeBron James picked a free-agent heavy team — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson, plus he has Anthony Davis — the tampering jokes flew. LeBron tried to play down the idea that he would recruit guys over All-Star weekend.
Not Washington’s Bradley Beal, he leaned into it.
The NBA moved the trade deadline up a couple of years ago to avoid having talk of trades overshadow the events all weekend (DeMarcus Cousins being traded during the All-Star Game was the final straw). That has worked, to a degree. But the shadow of July’s free agency period that is going to reshape the NBA was still hanging over the weekend.
Especially with Davis, whose agent requested a trade before the deadline that did not come to fruition. When he met with the media Saturday, Davis also leaned into the controversy, including about the list of the four teams he wanted to be traded to (Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Bucks).
“That list that came out, it’s between my agent and the Pelicans,” Davis said, but then added:
That list never included Boston, which now is one of the front-runners to be able to trade for him.
“They are on my list, I never said Boston wasn’t on my list,” Davis said.
So, is Boston on your list?
“I never said they wasn’t on my list,” he reiterated.
The NBA should take a lesson from Beal and Davis — lean into all the rumors and trade talk. It’s part of what has fueled the league’s growth.
2) Kevin Durant is your All-Star MVP, but talking about Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is more fun. The All-Star Game felt like a distilled essence of what has gone on around the Golden State Warriors for two years.
On the biggest stage, Durant was the player of the three. The two-time Finals MVP was named MVP of the All-Star Game, an obvious choice as Durant helped spark Team LeBron’s comeback..
However, it’s far more fun to talk about Curry and Thompson.
They guarded each other for stretches of the game and Curry was loving it.
Then late in the game, Curry (who struggled in the fourth going 3-of-11) got Thompson on a four-point play.
“It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him,” Durant said after the game.
3) Soon it will be Giannis Antetokounmpo’s world and the rest of the NBA will just live in it. His team lost the All-Star Game, but Antetokounmpo may have been the best player on the court all night. He had 20 first-half points on his way to 38 points and 11 boards for the game, plus some ridiculous highlights along the way.
“He’s got potential through the roof,” Durant said after the game. “He’s still producing at an elite level, and it’s scary to see how far he can keep going. His game is rounding into shape. He’s still getting better, but he’s leading top five, top three MVP candidates right now at 20. How old is he, 23? [Ed. note: 24] To be that young and already at the top of the class as one of the elites in the game, it’s a joy to watch his progression.”
A joy unless you’re the coach that has to gameplan against him for the next 10 years.
BONUS THING TO KNOW: There was one dunk for the ages in the Dunk Contest. For the most part, the Dunk Contest was flat. Except for Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo doing a Vince Carter-style elbow dunk over Shaq. That was as good as it gets.