Despite several of the league’s biggest stars being against the event, the NBA is still planning to push forward with the All-Star Game next month — and apparently has more of the schedule in place.
The annual 3-point contest and skills challenge will be held before the All-Star game in Atlanta on March 7, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. It was reported last week that the dunk contest will take place at halftime of the game.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 15, 2021
The NBA and the players association agreed last month to a modified All-Star Game in Atlanta instead of the traditional weekend event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything is now set to be held on the first Sunday in March at State Farm Arena.
NBA limiting travel options for players during All-Star break
The league has struggled to keep its season rolling amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the 2020-21 season isn’t even two months old.
The NBA has had to postpone 25 games already this season because of the coronavirus. It postponed Tuesday’s matchup between San Antonio and the Detroit Pistons on Monday due to a positive test and contact tracing within the Spurs’ organization — which left the team without the required number of players needed to compete.
The United States is averaging more than 91,000 new cases each day, according to The New York Times — which is significantly down from the nearly 260,000 cases each day in early January. The country, however, is rapidly approaching the 500,000-death mark.
As vaccines are starting to be administered throughout the country, individuals who attend the All-Star Game that are vaccinated won’t be required to undergo standard daily coronavirus testing there, per Charania.
Players who do participate in the game, according to ESPN, will have to travel to and from Atlanta via private transportation by the NBA and return two negative coronavirus tests. They will also be allowed to bring a "limited" number of family or friends with them — though those guests can only be at the arena or hotel.
Those who are not part of the festivities will be allowed to travel within the United States, but must do so privately, per the report. International travel is prohibited. All players, whether they participate or not, must continue to undergo daily coronavirus testing.
NBA stars slam All-Star plan as league struggles with COVID-19
Many in the league, however, don’t sound too excited about the All-Star game being held at all. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James even called it a “slap in the face.”
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, while equally upset, knows exactly why the game is moving forward.
“We all know why we’re playing it. It’s money on the line,” Leonard said. “It’s an opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much. We’re playing games now and it’s still a pandemic.”
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