SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The “last pick” of Sunday night's All-Star Draft will be a starter.
The NBA has changed the format of Sunday’s draft, and LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo — the captains — will make their picks from the pool of reserve players first.
They’ll then choose their starting lineups, from the pool of eight other starters. The switch will ensure that no player will have to deal with the stigma of being picked last, even though that hasn’t been too much of an issue in the past.
This is the sixth year of the format where captains — determined by fan voting — choose their own All-Star rosters, but the first year in which those captains will do so on game night and basically right in front of the other All-Stars.
The 2018 draft was not shown publicly. The 2019 draft had Bradley Beal as the last pick among reserves, not including Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki — who were added to the game by Commissioner Adam Silver to commemorate their final seasons. (Nowitzki wound up being the last pick.)
In 2020, Domantas Sabonis, then of Indiana, was the last pick. In 2021, Rudy Gobert, then of Utah, was the last reserve left on the board. And last year, the final pick was James Harden — after Kevin Durant took Gobert, and didn’t choose his former Brooklyn teammate in a comical scene.
Team Dwyane rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Team Ryan 81-78 in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday night. Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Basketball Hall of Fame finalist Dwyane Wade served as honorary captains of the celebrity teams.
Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf paced Team Dwyane with 20 points and 10 rebounds — but he'll be best remembered for an array of dunks. Actor Everett Osbourne led Team Ryan with 23 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Metcalf was named the game’s MVP.
Each celebrity team included a WNBA All-Star. Phoenix Mercury guard Diamond DeShields played for Team Ryan. Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale played for Team Dwyane. Other notable athletes participating included former NFL player Calvin Johnson and former MLB player Albert Pujols.
Wade added former NBA player Carlos Boozer to his team in the second half. Smith countered by adding former NBA player Richard Jefferson. Jefferson served as part of the officiating crew during the first half; he also worked as an official for one quarter of a Summer League game in Las Vegas last year.
Between the game, and a 3-point shootout between Smith and Wade, $142,000 was raised for 5 for the Fight, a charitable foundation devoted to funding cancer research.
Smith said the funds raised on Friday would benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute on the University of Utah campus.
JABARI ON JORDAN
Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr. was asked if Michael Jordan — who turned 60 on Friday — could compete if they were were to play 1-on-1 now.
Smith was pretty sure Jordan wouldn’t be getting buckets.
“He’s not beating me right now. If a 60-year-old is hooping on me, I need to hang it up,” Smith said. He then added, “Happy Birthday, MJ!”
New Orleans guard Jose Alvarado is listed at 6 feet, which might be a tiny bit generous.
He doesn’t mind.
When told before Friday’s Rising Stars event that he was a hero for the undersized, Alvarado had a message for others who consider themselves vertically challenged.
“Hey short people, I’m just like y’all. We got a lot of heart,” Alvarado said. “I see lots of other little guys tagging me on Instagram. I see your love. Keep being yourself, don’t try to be nobody else.”
Alvarado admitted that the highlights of him hiding behind bigger players to get steals in the backcourt is making it tougher to surprise opponents.
“Everybody seen those clips. Now, so I just got to find another way, but I’m crafty,” he said.
Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams said the season has been like a dream. He used to wear Derrick Rose's shoes constantly when he was younger and then found himself guarding D-Rose in Madison Square Garden.
“So wild,” Williams said before the Rising Stars games. “Going up against people that I watched on TV is definitely kind of surreal.”
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