When Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder heads to Atlanta for this year’s NBA All-Star Game, he’ll have a few familiar faces joining him.
And one who is not. At least not yet.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were both selected by Western Conference coaches as All-Star Game reserves.
Veteran guard Mike Conley, however, was not among the seven Western reserves named Tuesday, in spite of a bounce-back season that has seen him register highly efficient numbers in helping the Jazz to the NBA’s best record, at 25-6.
The reserves named Tuesday also include the Suns’ Chris Paul, the Clippers’ Paul George, the Blazers’ Damian Lillard, the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, and the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson from the Western Conference. The West starters, announced last week, include the Lakers’ LeBron James, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, the Warriors’ Steph Curry and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic.
The East reserves are the Nets’ James Harden, the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Sixers’ Ben Simmons, the Knicks’ Julius Randle, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic. The East starters are the Nets’ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Sixers’ Joel Embiid and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal.
While both Mitchell and Gobert said they’d be honored to be selected, they were also pulling hard for their teammate’s inclusion.
“I’m praying Mike gets in. For a guy like him who’s done so many things for his career — on and off the floor — he deserves this,” Mitchell said after Monday’s victory over Charlotte. “I think he’ll make it, I’m banking on it. But he’s a guy that puts the work in time and time again, has put in the time and effort. And I think that’s going to pay off and pay dividends.”
Conley has made no secret of his desire to be chosen for the All-Star Game for the first time in his 14th season, telling reporters, “If it’s not going to happen this year, man, that’ll be tough.”
He is not necessarily out of hope. If any All-Star is unable to play on March 7 due to injury — like, say, the Lakers’ Davis (who is expected to miss four weeks after suffering a calf strain and aggravating a case of Achilles tendinosis in his right leg) — then Commissioner Adam Silver has sole discretion in naming a replacement.
This marks the second consecutive season that Gobert and Mitchell were selected as All-Stars.
Gobert is averaging 13.9 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game, and is shooting 64.0% from the field. He also leads the NBA in plus/minus. Mitchell is averaging career-highs in points (24.5), assists (5.2), rebounds (4.4) and 3-point shooting (38.9%).
Both said Monday night that, should they be selected, they will consider it a reflection of the Jazz’s collective success this season.
“It would be a blessing. But it’s really a reward of what we’ve been doing as a team,” Gobert said. “When I look at All-Stars, and Defensive Player the Year, all the individual stuff is not possible without the team and what we do as a group. I don’t know how many we’re going to have, but regardless of whoever is going to be selected, I think it’s just rewarding for the work that we do as a team and as an organization.”
Conley, though, was not rewarded in spite of averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 41.2% from 3-point range. He is also second to Gobert in the NBA in plus/minus.
In true Conley fashion, though, rather than complain about being snubbed, his immediate reaction was to tweet out congratulations: “Yessir!! Congrats to @spidadmitchell @rudygobert27! Hopefully many more to come!!”
There is no “All-Star Weekend” this year. Instead there’s a compressed one-day schedule because of COVID-19 protocols. A 3-Point Shootout is expected to precede the game, while a Dunk Contest will occur at halftime.
Snyder, who was named an All-Star Game coach by virtue of the Jazz having the best record in the Western Conference, will lead the team that is drafted by the Lakers’ James (who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference). Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers will coach the team drafted by the Nets’ Durant, the top vote-getter in the East.
James and Durant will select their respective teams — first from among the other eight starters, regardless of conference affiliation, and then from among the reserves — on March 4. So Snyder could potentially be coaching one or both of his players — or coaching against them.
Then, each quarter that team wins will earn $100,000 to be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice, as selected by the captains. The fourth quarter will be an untimed “Elam Ending” finish. The first team to get to the score set by the winning team through three quarters plus 24 — Kobe Bryant’s late-career number — will be the winner.