With the 2021 All-Star Game approaching, the Los Angeles Lakers will have someone representing them in Atlanta as LeBron James qualified for his 17th-consecutive appearance.
Anthony Davis would’ve also appeared in his eighth All-Star Game, but because of lower-leg injuries, he unfortunately won’t be playing. The NBA replaced Davis on the roster with Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
The NBA also plans to hold its usual skills events — the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest — on the day of the All-Star Game, rather than the day before, because of health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
While Los Angeles won’t have anyone participating in those events, they could’ve had a player showcasing his dunk abilities. Alex Caruso, L.A.’s energetic point guard, received an invitation to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest, but he declined the opportunity, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
Alex Caruso was among those who declined a spot in the slam dunk contest during this weekend’s All-Star Game, league sources said. Caruso said earlier this week that due to the short offseason he was “maybe looking forward to (the break) a little bit more” than normal. Asked about his plans for the break, he said, “I’ll probably just play some golf with some buddies and leave it at that.”
With the pandemic causing a truncated offseason shortly after the 2019-20 season wrapped up in the Orlando bubble, players have received minimal rest during a season in which games occur more frequently than usual. The Lakers notably received the least amount of rest, along with the Miami Heat, because they endured the bubble the longest as they battled in the 2020 NBA Finals.
If Caruso accepted the invite, it would’ve marked consecutive seasons where a Laker participated in the Slam Dunk Contest with Dwight Howard representing L.A. last season.
James critical of 2021 All-Star Game
When the NBA first announced its plans to hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta, James was among one of several players who voiced irritation over those plans.
“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James recently said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game, but it’s an agreement that the Players Association and league came about.
“We’re also still dealing with a pandemic, still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into one city that’s open. Obviously the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it when it comes to that weekend. Obviously you guys can see I’m not very happy about it, but it’s out of my hands.”
James added he’d still attend but not in the same vein as he usually does.
“I’ll be there if I’m selected. I’ll be there physically but not mentally.”
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