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NBA's young talent will be on display in All-Star game

NBA's young players are taking center stage for All-Star weekend

Kobe Bryant won't play in Sunday's All-Star game, his season already over because of a shoulder injury.

Dwyane Wade will also skip it because of a sore hamstring.

Carmelo Anthony is here, a reasonable expectation because the New York Knicks are his team, but he can't shake the lurking possibility of season-ending surgery on a troublesome knee.

The sun is getting dimmer for some of the NBA's bigger names, the 30-something clan yielding quickly to the kids born in the '90s: Anthony Davis, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and Klay Thompson.

They're the ones scoring 37 points in a quarter (Thompson), resurrecting basketball in Washington (Wall) and quickly earning the title of the NBA's third-best player (Davis). They create outrage if they're left off the All-Star team (Lillard, initially), create conversation by arguably becoming the game's best center (Cousins) and then create, period, with LeBron James on a game-to-game basis in Cleveland (Irving).

What's an old-timer to do?

Sit back and enjoy the show unfolding around him. It's OK to yield to youth. At least on All-Star weekend.

"It's wonderful to see the talent that's coming about and how they're really taking over this league," said Tim Duncan, two months from turning 39 but selected as a reserve for his 15th All-Star game. Even he admitted he was surprised.

Wade's hamstring didn't stop him from attending All-Star weekend, though it was more like a family vacation. He brought his 13-year-old son, who insisted on seeing players that are, um, a little younger than his 33-year-old dad.

"It's still a big deal for our kids to see all their favorite players," Wade said. "The 'NBA 2K' in person. That's exactly what it is."

Full disclosure: One of the top young guns won't suit up Sunday because he's injured too. Davis is out because of a sore shoulder from a hard fall after a dunk.

But the ones that will play speak reverently about their alleged elders. 1998 is eons ago to them. Michael Jordan is mentioned in semi-hushed tones.

"I remember watching the All-Star game when Kobe, this was his first one, and he was playing against MJ. MJ won the MVP," Irving said. "Now that I'm actually going to get a chance to step on the floor and play with tremendous talents in this league, it's truly a blessing."

Then again, maybe they all don't speak deferentially.

"My goal? I would love to break Magic's all-time assist record," said Wall, who would need 23 on Sunday to top Johnson's 1984 mark. "But if not, just have fun out there and try to win the game."

Somewhere in the middle of this is James.

He turned 30 two months ago but remained the game's top player despite the challenges from below.

He keeps piling up trite accolades (youngest ever to 24,000 points, one of only two players to get 24,000 with 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists, etc.). But he's also hitting the important marks too — well-documented championship runs in two of the last three years.

It's his world, and the kids still live in it. As well as the old players.

But there will be challenges for James. Quite a few for a gradually improving Cleveland team that was only fifth in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break.

If the Cavaliers are lucky enough to get to the NBA Finals, they might run into the Golden State Warriors, whose backcourt of Thompson (age 25) and Stephen Curry (26) were selected to the All-Star game.

"It's a great moment in my career. And hopefully I'll be back again," Thompson said.

Then he added the musings of a 20-something.

"Hopefully put on a show for the fans, go back and enjoy some California sunshine before the break is over."


Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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