2023 All-Star

Key takeaways from 2023 NBA All-Star Media Day

Players are excited to take the court regardless of All-Star team selection process or changes to All-Star Draft format.

Donovan Mitchell, who played 5 seasons with the Jazz, says he's 'forever thankful' for his time in Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — The constant handwringing regarding changes for the NBA All-Star team selection process drew chuckles from the players Saturday at NBA All-Star Media Day, but little else in terms of negative reaction.

The overall gist: nobody seems concerned about when their name might be called.

“We’re here,” Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We’re at the All-Star weekend. It’s an honor just to be here. Whoever gets picked last, if you get picked last, it’s whatever. You worked hard to be an All-Star and it’s All-Star weekend. We’re not worried about who gets picked last.”

In the past, All-Star team captains selected their teams on a television simulcast well in advance of the actual game. But for this year’s NBA All-Star Draft, captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick their teams in a live, televised segment Sunday just before tipoff.

The voting results determined each conference’s captains. So, James leads the West, while Antetokounmpo heads up the Eastern Conference. As the overall leader in votes received during the balloting process, James takes the first pick of the All-Star Draft. The captains then take turns choosing from the All-Star field.

TNT’s Ernie Johnson disclosed Thursday that James and Antetokounmpo would choose reserves first before drafting among the eight starters in this new format that ensures the last player selected would still take the court on Sunday as a starter.

“I’m excited,” Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic said. “But I think the stars go last. So, there’s not going to be a last pick, I think. I appreciate being here. Not a lot of people can say they were an All-Star multiple times, so I’m really excited to be here.”

Initially, it was believed the captains would first choose from the pool of reserves before turning their attention to the group of starters, leaving many to speculate about who might be chosen last. James has served as a captain in six consecutive years since the All-Star draft format was introduced, and his teams own a record of 5-0.

Either way, the All-Stars – with most having spent a chunk of their youth hooping in playground settings – pointed to the fact that participation in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game overshadows the prospect of becoming one of the last players selected by the captains.

“Was I ever not picked first?” Mavs guard Kyrie Irving asked. “Of course, of course. There was definitely a time where I wasn’t sure who I was going to be as a player. All the pickup games that I played in New Jersey [growing up] made me who I am today.”

Mitchell even admitted, “I was trash” as a basketball player, having focused mostly on a budding baseball career as a youngster, before devoting full attention to the hardwood over the last two years of his high school career.

“I didn’t get picked first a lot,” he said. “I got picked last a bunch of times.”

Thirteen-time NBA All-Star and former MVP Kevin Durant started laughing when asked about the first time he was picked last for a pickup game.

“I don’t remember getting picked last ever,” the newest member of the Phoenix Sun said, before sharing an analogy he saw on Twitter. “But in this setting, being picked last really isn’t saying [anything]. Somebody said the last pick is like the brokest [sic] millionaire. It don’t matter, man, as long as you are out there on the floor.”

Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s NBA All-Star Media Day at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at the University of Utah:

LeBron unavailable for Media Day

The NBA announced Saturday that James would miss his team’s All-Star practice and media availability due to personal reasons. The league added that the 19-time NBA All-Star would be available to the media ahead of Sunday’s game at Vivint Arena.

James sat for three games due to a foot injury before returning for his team’s final game going into the break on Wednesday, and he played 29 minutes in a 120-102 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. It doesn’t appear James’ absence on Saturday will affect his status for Sunday’s game.

On the other side, it’s unknown whether East captain Antetokounmpo will participate in Sunday’s game after spraining his right wrist Thursday in a win over the Chicago Bulls.

“I’m going to try to draft a really good team,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re going to play hard, and hopefully we can enjoy the game and try to take them down this time.”

Durant excited about CP3’s ‘IQ for the game’

Having worked with new teammate and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in Phoenix for approximately a week now, Durant mentioned the point guard’s “IQ for the game” when asked what excites him about playing for the Suns.

“I think his [Paul] enthusiasm for the game goes underrated,” Durant said.

“CP really loves ball. He just likes watching the game, analyzing, like going through the strategy and stuff. It’s been a week there now, a couple of practices and a few games, and he’s always pulling me to the side, and we’re just talking hoop. I love that about him. On the floor, he can create so much for his teammates and for himself. He’s only going to help us.”

Irving and Durant defend trade requests

Kyrie Irving speaks with the media at 2023 NBA All-Star weekend.

Donning a hoody and sunglasses, Irving reflected on his time in Brooklyn, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity despite the team failing to live up to the expectations associated with starring opposite players such as Durant and James Harden.

In the final year of his contract and looking for a long-term extension that the sides could never reach, Irving eventually requested a trade, which led to him joining the Dallas Mavericks. Once the Nets moved Irving, Durant also asked for a trade  (he requested a trade over the summer, too). That led to Brooklyn consummating the blockbuster trade that sent Durant to the Suns.

“I don’t think it’s bad for the league,” Durant said. “It’s bringing more eyes to the league. More people are excited. The news hits that we got from me being traded, Kyrie being traded, it just brings more attention to the league. So, I think it’s great for the league, to be honest.”

Irving, meanwhile, took issue with some of the criticism the former teammates received in the aftermath of the trades.

“Why doesn’t anyone have the ability to ask for trades?” Irving asked. “When did it become terrible to make great business decisions for yourself, your happiness and peace of mind? Not every employer you’re going to get along with. So, if you have the chance to go somewhere else and you’re doing it legally, I don’t think there’s a problem with it.”

Tatum ‘happy’ for Joe Mazzulla

During the 2023 NBA All-Star Media Day, Joe Mazzulla expresses his gratitude after being named full-time head coach in Boston.

Boston’s brass finally removed the “interim” tag from Joe Mazzulla’s job description on Thursday and gave the former Celtics assistant a contract extension. Mazzulla, 34, led the club in navigating a turbulent offseason headlined by the Ime Udoka suspension, and the Celtics compiled the NBA’s best record along the way.

Boston star forward Jayson Tatum said Mazzulla’s promotion was “much deserved.”

Asked to evaluate Mazzulla’s performance, Tatum quickly pointed to the results.

“We’ve got the best record, right?” Tatum said. “He’s got some good players on his team, but we like the relationship. He helps us, and we help him. We’re all in this together. [The promotion] wasn’t something that we necessarily talked about in the locker room or were concerned about. He and the team, we do a great job of focusing on the task at hand each given night. Nothing is going to change. We’ll continue to do what we’re doing.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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