NBA All-Star 2021: Rosters, schedule, Embiid and Simmons out, Dunk Contest, more
There is no denying these remain unique times.
With that said, there are some tweaks to the events, a few injury replacements on the rosters, and a last-second removal of two of the game's participants to sort through.
Here’s everything you need to know and what to watch for on Sunday.
First thing to know: The schedule is a little … different
It used to be that Saturday evening was time for the All-Star hors d’oeuvres. You’d have the Skills Competition, the 3-Point Contest, the Slam Dunk Contest. Maybe even a celebrity game. (Who wouldn't want to watch an old Scottie Pippen stuff Justin Bieber?)
All of that would be a fun warm-up for the main course on Sunday.
Now, though, in the interest of safety, the league has compressed everything into one neat Sunday package.
TNT will start the action with a pregame show at 5 p.m. ET. That will be followed by the Skills Competition and 3-Point Contest back-to-back beginning at 6:30 p.m. The game itself begins at 8 p.m., and the Slam Dunk Contest will be held at halftime – strange but true!
Now, for the contestants …
The All-Star Game will feature Team LeBron taking on Team Durant, as team captains LeBron James and Kevin Durant (naturally) selected their squads, draft-style, from a pool of available players. Durant himself is injured and unable to play, however.
*Booker was an injury replacement for Davis, before Booker himself was replaced by Conley.
**Williamson replaces Embiid in the Team Durant starting lineup due to COVID-19 protocols (see below).
Just after 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, the NBA announced Simmons and Embiid were ruled out of the All-Star Game due to contact tracing for COVID-19 after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus.
The individual involved was a barber, per reports.
Because of the timing of the news, the NBA did not intend to replace Simmons or Embiid on the All-Star rosters.
In the Skills Competition, we’ve got a surprising amount of size. Usually this is an event for the guards to run around and show how good they are at running and dribbling and passing and the like. But this year, in addition to Paul and Doncic, not to mention Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington, you’ll also see New York Knicks tank Randle, Indiana Pacers forward Sabonis and Orlando Magic center Vucevic.
In the 3-Point Contest, it’ll be former champion Curry and a strong collection of challengers, including Utah Jazz guards Conley and Mitchell, Boston Celtics duo of Brown and Tatum, and Chicago Bulls star LaVine.
Which leads us to two questions: First – wait, LaVine isn’t in the Dunk Contest? Second – who do you have, Curry or the field?
An MVP gesture from Embiid
There has been plenty of MVP debate of late. But one player has been gaining a lot of momentum lately in this area – Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid.
As Skip Bayless said on ‘Undisputed,’ "Joel Embiid has finally figured out how to get and stay in shape and he is a maturing monster."
Off the court, Embiid made an impressive move as well, announcing that his $100,000 in earnings from the All-Star Game will go to several Philadelphia homeless shelters. The 76ers committed to donating an additional $100,000 to the same groups.
"So many have fallen on such hard times during the pandemic," Embiid said in a statement. "I felt it was important to provide more support for individuals and families struggling with homelessness and food insecurity. I'm continually grateful for all of the support that Philadelphia and the fans have given me not just around All-Star but all my years in the league. I will continue to help in any way I can."
No word on whether Embiid being ruled ineligible for the game will affect his plan.
Veteran guard Conley, who is averaging 16.1 points per game in his 14th season, will be an All-Star for the first time. This might not be a huge deal for the casual fan, but it’s undoubtedly a huge deal for the Jazz star.
Conley was named the replacement for Phoenix's Booker, who will not play after suffering a mild knee sprain in Thursday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Booker himself was an injury replacement for Los Angeles Lakers star Davis.
Our own Mark Titus was thrilled for his former college teammate.
A trip down memory lane
If you want to get even more ready for Sunday's festivities, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a glance at the NBA’s Twitter feed, which has been taking a pretty entertaining look at the past.
For instance, here’s LeBron James mic’d up at his first All-Star Game in 2005.
Here’s a rookie Curry in 2010, saying that in 10 years he’ll "hopefully still (be) in the league, and still effective in the league."
Spoiler alert: You did it!
And here’s a collection of some of the best 360-degree dunks in history.
Now, are you ready?