For the first time in over a generation, the Nets are going to have two starters in the NBA All-Star Game: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Forget whether the NBA should even be having an All-Star Game amid a pandemic; that’s a dilemma for another day. The event is scheduled to take place March 7 in Atlanta, and when it tips off there will be two Nets in the starting lineup for the first time since 1993-94. There will almost certainly be a third there as a reserve in James Harden.
Durant — making his 11th appearance — was confirmed as the leading vote-getter for the Eastern Conference, receiving 5,567,106 votes, surpassed only by Lakers star LeBron James in the West. Irving — with his seventh nod — finished second among Eastern guards, behind only Washington’s Bradley Beal, the league’s leading scorer. Irving finished second in the fan and player vote, and fourth in the media vote.
The starters were announced Thursday night on TNT. It was the pregame for a doubleheader, first the Bucks and Raptors, followed by the main event with Nets facing James’ Lakers at Staples Center.
The All-Star reserves will be announced in another half-hour pregame show on Tuesday at 7 p.m., with Harden certain to be one of them. Harden was third in the fan, media and fan vote, edged by Irving. But Harden — leading the league in assists — will surely end up in the All-Star Game, he just isn’t guaranteed of joining his Big 3 teammates on the East.
With Durant being named captain, he earned the right to draft his team from the eligible pool of players (starters in the first round, reserves in the second). But captains aren’t required to draft based on position or even conference affiliation.
That means with James holding the top pick by virtue of being the leading vote-getter, he could grab Harden over the likes of Portland guard Damian Lillard (who lost a tiebreaker to Luka Doncic) or Boston wing Jayson Tatum. James’ fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis is injured, out for weeks after aggravating an Achilles injury and calf strain.
Durant — who missed the Lakers game Thursday with a hamstring injury — is averaging a team-high 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
Irving, who returned Thursday after missing Tuesday’s come-from-behind win in Phoenix with a sore back, entered play averaging a career-high 28.3 points and 5.7 assists. Harden was averaging 24.3 points, as well as a league-high 11.3 assists and 7.3 boards.
The Nets haven’t had multiple All-Stars since 2006-07, when high-flying Vince Carter was a reserve and an injured Jason Kidd was replaced by Joe Johnson. Three years earlier, Kidd and power forward Kenyon Martin were both reserves.
Nets fans have to go back 27 years to have two starters, when Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson helped lead the Eastern Conference to a 127-118 win over the West at Target Center in Minneapolis.
“We had the nucleus of a great team. Me, him, Drazen [Petrovic],” Coleman said recently. “We led the league in rebounding, Chris Dudley, Terry Mills, Chris [Morris], so I always felt that we were on our way. I think the tragic accident that happened with Petrovic really took the wind out of our sail.”
But these Nets have their Big 3, arguably as gifted as any trio in league history. They will all be in Atlanta — even if Harden is on the other side — and could lead the Nets to their first NBA Finals since Kidd led them there in 2001-02 and again in 2002-03.
“The potential is the sky’s the limit with that team,” Coleman said.