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Looks like they’ll be an All-Star after all

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NBA: All Star Game-Team LeBron at Team Stephen Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the NBA and its players union, the NBPA, as closing in on an agreement to play the league’s annual All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta. The decision to hold the game —and associated skills contests— is a turnaround from the league’s original plan to hold a five-day break between the first and second halves of the pandemic-abbreviated season spanning March 5 through 10.

Woj writes...

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are progressing toward an agreement for an All-Star Game on March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, a single-night event that encompasses a game between the Eastern and Western Conferences and skills competitions, sources told ESPN.

While a formal agreement has yet to be finalized, the NBA and NBPA have been working through the details of a scaled-down event that centers on transporting players in and out of Atlanta in a significantly shorter window of time than what would be required on a typical All-Star weekend, sources said. Safety protocols are among the details still being ironed out.

A scaled down version of the mid-season celebration would return it to traditional roots of all-conference teams facing off rather than teams picked in a superstar-run Draft. There will also be skills competitions, including the dunk and 3-point shooting contests. Other recent add-ons to All-Star Weekend, like the rookie and celebrity games, do not appear to be part of the plan.

The league opened All-Star voting Thursday without confirming there would be a game. But a number of NBA contracts contain bonuses of up to seven figures for making the team, including Kevin Durant’s. He’ll make an extra million dollars if he’s named to his 11th All-Star team. Votes ends 11:59:59 on February 16 with starters announced two days later and reserves February 23.

The Nets would have three bonafide candidates for the East team with KD, Harden and Kyrie Irving all among the NBA’s leading scorers. As noted, Durant has been an All-Star 10 times, Harden eight and Irving six. Joe Harris who won the 3-point shooting contest two years ago could return to that competition ... or wind up as an All-Star reserve.

Still, as Woj writes, there is opposition to the plan and players can opt out of the game if they are concerned with health and safety issues. (Two of the Nets “Big Three” — Durant and James Harden — tested positive for the coronavirus during the pandemic.)

Woj notes...

NBPA president Chris Paul has been an advocate of the Atlanta All-Star Game idea, including a plan to use the game to benefit historically black colleges and universities and COVID-19 relief, sources said. Nevertheless, this is an idea that has been met with resistance and skepticism among both players and team executives. Even with protocol safeguards around the game, many see it as an unnecessary risk for the league, players and support personnel.

No word on when an agreement could come.