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LeBron James chooses Anthony Davis first; Team LeBron, Team Giannis All-Star rosters picked

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This draft’s No. 1 pick had all the suspense of the last NBA Draft’s No. 1 pick.

LeBron James didn’t have to pick Anthony Davis first to recruit him this time around. Instead, LeBron selected his teammate Davis with the top pick, the opening of the All-Star Game team drafts.

Team LeBron and Team Giannis are now set after a playground-style draft broadcast on TNT Thursday. No trades this year β€” Giannis Antetokounmpo joked last year’s trade cost him the game β€” and not as much drama. Although Antetokounmpo did have a little fun at James Harden‘s expense.

Fans again voted LeBron and Antetokounmpo captains (they were the top vote-getters in the fan All-Star voting), and they picked their teams on Inside the NBA Thursday. That started with them picking from the pool of starters (voted in by the fans, media, and players), then the reserves (chosen by the coaches vote).

LeBron took teammate Davis first but “only because he’s from this city (Chicago).” Antetokounmpo went with fellow African Joel Embiid for his first selection, and it went from there.

Here are your All-Star teams:

Team LeBron (coached by Frank Vogel)
Starters
LeBron James
Anthony Davis
Kawhi Leonard
Luka Doncic
James Harden

Reserves
Damian Lillard
Ben Simmons
Nikola Jokic
Jayson Tatum
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Domantas Sabonis

Team Giannis (coached by Nick Nurse)
Starters
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Joel Embiid
Pascal Siakam
Kemba Walker
Trae Young

Reserves
Khris Middleton
Bam Adebayo
Rudy Gobert
Jimmy Butler
Kyle Lowry
Brandon Ingram
Donovan Mitchell

The NBA All-Star Game will be played Feb. 16 at the United Center in Chicago. You can catch it on TNT starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Team LeBron and Team Giannis will play in the new NBA All-Star Game format, aimed to add a spark to what has evolved into a boring exhibition that is all scoring and guys making sure they don’t get injured. The league office has been looking for a way to bring some energy to the game, and they have come up with this new format β€” and thrown in a Kobe Bryant tribute to boot.

It works like this: Each of the first three quarters will start with a 0-0 score. The two teams will be playing for specific charities each quarter, and the team that wins that quarter gets more money for their cause. After three quarters, then the game heads to a modified Elam Ending: the teams’ scores will be added together to get a traditional score, then 24 points will be added to that to create a “target score,” and the first team to that number wins. No game clock, just play until one team gets to the target score. (The league chose 24 points to honor Kobe, as he wore that number.) Here’s an example to help explain it: If after three quarters Team LeBron leads 150-145, then the “target score” becomes 174 (150+24) and the first team to that number wins the All-Star Game. Team LeBron would have to score 24 points, but if Team Giannis can score 29 points first to win.

It promises to make a confusing broadcast. But at least the televised draft was entertaining.

 

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE β€” Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”

Rumor: If there aren’t big changes to Chicago’s plan, Lauri Markkanen ready to move on

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NBC Sports Chicago recently reached out to members of the media β€” myself included β€” as well as doing a fan poll asking a simple question: Which young Bull has the highest upside?

My answer fell in with the majority (of both media and fans) in picking Coby White, but it was difficult not to select Lauri Markkanen. Seven-footers who move well and can shoot the three like Markkanen are incredibly valuable and hard to find, but this past season he often seemed a combination of lost and passive in Jim Boylen’s offense. Markkanen has regressed under Boylen.

Markkanen apparently felt the same way. If there are not significant changes and a better use of his skills, Markkanen would be happier somewhere else, reports Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Make no mistake about it, third-year big man Lauri Markkanen was one unhappy camper before the coronavirus put the NBA on hiatus. Unhappy enough that if the direction of the organization was going to stay unchanged, he’d rather be elsewhere.

Change is coming to the windy city, the question is will that be enough change, or at least enough to find a better way to use Markkanen? Chicago just started its search for a new person to head up their basketball operations, with several deserving executives expected to be interviewed. The questions become: Will the person hired have the power to make real changes to the Bulls culture? Is Boylen safe or will there be a new coach? Change is coming to Chicago, but how much change?

The Bulls still control Markkanen’s rights. This was Markkanen’s third season with the Bulls, he is technically eligible for a contract extension this summer but that seems unlikely. More likely is he plays one more year with the Bulls before going to restricted free agency. Or, the new head of basketball operations thinks he can trade Markkanen and get back players that fit whatever style the team is going to play.

There are more questions than answers about what is next in Chicago, including if Markkanen will be part of that future.

ESPN plans televised H-O-R-S-E competition between isolated NBA players

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Friday night started ESPN’s broadcast of an NBA 2K tournament between NBA players. The network also has bumped up the release date of its much-anticipated Michael Jordan documentary.

Next up on its quest to find content in a locked-down sports world:

A televised H-O-R-S-E competition, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Discussions have been ongoing among the NBA, NBPA and ESPN about a competition among several players in isolation — presumably using home gyms — that would include them competing shot for shot in the traditional playground game, sources said.

Details — including a schedule and specific player involvement — are still being finalized.

What else have we got to do, re-watch Tiger King? Let’s make this happen, people.

There have been some rumblings about trying to spice up All-Star Saturday night with a H-O-R-S-E competition to go with the Dunk Contest and the rest, but it has not become a reality. With no other sports programming to put on its multiple channels, this seems like a good gamble by ESPN.