The All-Star Game is certainly a unique experience that few NBA players have a chance to take a part in, but this year’s will be like any other. Of course, this is now the fourth year that the All-Star squads have been selected by team captains after fans, media members, and coaches elected representatives from both conferences. Jayson Tatum will be a starter for Team Durant and Jaylen Brown will rep the Celtics as a Team LeBron reserve.
“I remember last year, I woke up that morning and I was nervous because it was all surreal for me. It was new,” Tatum said of his first All-Star experience last year. “I’m still excited about today, but I know what to expect a little bit more. I won’t be nearly as nervous. I’ll be a lot more relaxed. I only had six points last time, so I’m just trying to score more each year so hopefully I can get more than six points today.”
For Brown, it’s his first selection to the midseason classic, but in the age of COVID-19, the coronavirus is still at the forefront of his and the league’s mind and puts a different focus on the day’s festivities. Earlier today, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out of All-Star festivities because of contract tracing and the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“COVID is still out there, so definitely your approach is different and your understanding of everything,” Brown said of his first All-Star appearance in these extraordinary times. “That limits family time, that limits the festivities, that limits everything or stops it completely, so having an awareness of that is still important.”
Brown and Tatum were selected in consecutive drafts in 2016 and 2017 and after signing rookie extensions with the Celtics, have become cornerstones for the franchise. Their future will always be forever linked, but in their short history together, they’ve faced each other a bunch of times in practice, two conference finals runs, together with Team USA in 2019, and now as All-Star foes and Three-Point contest competitors.
“I’ve played JB so much in practice and one-on-one...I was thinking of guarding somebody else just because we play each other so much, but if it does happen, I know all of his moves,” Tatum said. “I know what he’s going to do, so I ain’t going to let him score.”
“Nothing extra needed. Get them puppies moving and it’s a wrap. We good. I’m looking forward to it though,” Brown said. “Me and JT have obviously played one-on-one. He thinks he knows my moves. I tell him all the time, ‘I ain’t gotta do too much.’ He thinks he knows my moves. I’m looking forward to it. I think it should be fun.”
This year, the league will also be “generating $3 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), through donations to scholarship funds” and focus on their influence and importance.
Tatum spent a season at Duke and called Grant Hill the greatest alum of all time, but he did give a shout out to two HBCU’s in his pre-game availability. “Being from St. Louis, Harris-Stowe University which is in St. Louis downtown right next to St. Louis University. I’ve had basketball camps, summer league basketball games there. I know plenty of people that went to Harris-Stowe that’s right in my backyard.
Secondly, being that I went to Duke for one year, North Carolina Central was down the street. Coach LeVelle Moton who is still a great friend of mine--called him ‘Unc’--I’ve known him since I was in high school. I was on North Carolina Central campus a lot when I was at Duke and they have a really really good basketball program. They’ve been to the tournament a couple times the last several years.”
Coverage for the All-Star game starts at 5 pm EST on TNT with Skills Challenge and Three-Point Contest scheduled for 6:30 pm EST followed by the All-Star Game at 8 pm EST and Slam Dunk Contest at halftime.