The NBA takes its updated All-Star format to the next level.
The league and NBPA announced Tuesday that captains will select their teams from an all-star pool in a pre-game draft just before the whistleblower — just like on the playing field. 7:30 p.m. ET on February 19 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m.
It looks like LeBron James and probably Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to look the players in the eye as they are not selected late in the process.
The pre-game draft is an update to the All-Star format the league adopted in 2018. Prior to this year, the game always pitted the Eastern Conference All-Stars against the All-Stars of the Western Conference. As of 2018, the highest number of votes from each conference was voted captain, and the captains then chose the teams. But they did in a studio segment that aired on TNT weeks before the game.
James has captained each season of the new format. He also established a 5-0 record with the teams he selected. He was the Western Conference’s biggest vote-getter against Stephen Curry in the final round of voting announced Jan. 19. Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, held a slight edge in the East over Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since January. 9.
Fan-selected captains and starters will be announced on Thursday.
James will face pressure to select Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis if Davis is named All-Str and healthy enough to play. He has had a foot injury since December 23. Meanwhile, no one likes to be picked last, especially in front of a crowd.
This should be fun and might provide some in-game motivation for players fresh off a late draft.