The Feb. 18 NBA All-Star game at Staples Center will have the feel of a reunion tour, with former Cleveland teammates LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and former Oklahoma City teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook joining forces.
As the leading vote-getters in their respective conferences, James and Golden State star Stephen Curry were named captains of the two teams. Under a new format for the game, they conducted a secret draft from a pool of eight other All-Star starters and 14 reserves, regardless of conference.
The 12-man teams were revealed Thursday on TNT, with James selecting Durant, the Golden State forward; Irving, who is now Boston’s point guard; and a pair of New Orleans stars, forward Anthony Davis and center DeMarcus Cousins, as his other four starters.
Curry chose Houston guard James Harden, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid as his other four starters.
James, as the top overall vote-getter, had the first pick among the starters. It was assumed he took Durant, who is averaging 25.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game, with the top pick, but when asked by TNT’s Ernie Johnson if he had done so, James said, “I can’t tell you that, man.”
Curry had the first pick among the reserves but passed on Westbrook, the reigning NBA most valuable player who is averaging a near triple-double (24.8 points, 10.1 assists, 9.7 rebounds) for the Thunder.
James snapped up Westbrook, who teamed with Durant for eight years (2008-2016) in Oklahoma City, from the reserves , along with Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Like James, Curry refused to divulge his top pick.
“But I will say, we did have a good time,” Curry told TNT. “Hopefully we’re both captains again next year, and we can broadcast it to the world in real time.”
The NBA players association released a statement Thursday saying players could not reach a consensus on whether to televise the All-Star draft, but that could change if Curry and James get their way.
“This thing should have been televised,” James said. “At one point in the draft, Steph and I started laughing really hard. It definitely should have been televised. The fans should have been part of this, for sure.”
Irving, who is averaging 24.5 points and 5.0 assists a game for the Celtics, requested a trade out of Cleveland last summer in hopes of finding a bigger role with another club.
He will be reunited in the All-Star game with James and Love, who were teammates on Cavaliers teams that played in three consecutive NBA Finals and won the championship in 2015-2016.
There were reports that James and Irving feuded at times in Cleveland, but there was no hint of animosity from James on Thursday.
“Having Kyrie in the backcourt will be special, along with Kevin Love,” James said. “We’ll have another weekend where we can bring back some of the memories we had when we were all together. Kyrie is one of the best point guards in our league. It was an easy choice for me.”
Both James and Curry believe the new All-Star format, which shunned the traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference exhibition, will help “get this game back to where it should be from a competitive nature,” James said.
Added Curry: “The look on the floor, kind of switching it up a bit, getting some different matchups and story lines, I think it will breathe some new life into the game. The game is in L.A., so there will be a buzz. I think it’s gonna lead to a great All-Star weekend and a great Sunday for the game.”