The Nets have bigger dreams for this season, but they will be well-represented at the NBA All-Star Game.
If health allows, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be All-Star starters together for the first time since they joined forces in Brooklyn. Voting revealed Thursday night showed Durant, who is currently out with a sprained right MCL, received the second-most votes in the Eastern Conference and Irving was the first East guard voted in. The Nets are the only team with two All-Star starters.
Durant, who had been leading the conference in votes prior to his injury this month, lost his top spot to the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be one of two captains, along with the Lakers’ LeBron James. The teams will not be decided until the night of the game, Feb. 19, when the captains will hold a draft shortly before tipoff.
Durant, voted to his 13th All-Star Game overall and 11th as a starter, has missed 2 ¹/₂ weeks since he was injured on Jan. 8. The Nets said this week he is “progressing well and as expected,” but he won’t be evaluated again for another week and a half, setting himself up for a possible return shortly before the All-Star break.
Because of injuries, Durant has not played in an All-Star Game since he was MVP in 2019. He said Tuesday he wants to be a part of the game.
“Obviously, I don’t want to rush anything. I want to make sure I’m 100 percent. But yeah, I want to play,” Durant, who is averaging 29.7 points on 55.9 percent shooting this season, said.
For Irving, who scored 40 points in a 130-122 loss to the Pistons at Barclays Center on Thursday night, this will be his eighth All-Star Game and sixth as a starter. He missed the festivities last year, when he played sparingly because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“More than grateful. I don’t take any of these accomplishments for granted,” Irving said. “Hopefully going to be hitting double-digits [All-Star appearances] soon.”
The East’s other starters voted in were the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and the Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell.
After a grueling loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the only Nets regular to sit Thursday on the second night of a back-to-back was Seth Curry, who rested his sore right knee.
“Hopefully,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said, “it’s a minor thing and [we will] be able to see him later in the week.”
Ben Simmons (knee soreness) and T.J. Warren (knee contusion) both left the game early. Vaughn was not sure whether either would require MRI exams on Friday.
Day’Ron Sharpe (lower-back soreness) was out for a second straight game.
Nic Claxton, who finished with 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting, set a career-high in points for the third straight game. He scored 24 on Sunday at Golden State and 25 at Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Nets on Thursday began a stretch in which 10 of their next 11 games will be in New York City. Nine of those games will be at Barclays Center, while another will be at the Garden against the Knicks.
Vaughn said he was looking forward to spending “a few more nights in my bed hopefully coming up.”
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