Starters for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game
Will he stay with Golden State or team up with another superstar in New York?
The pleas from fans showered over Kevin Durant as he left the court at Spectrum Center. He ignored them — that’s not what Sunday night was about.
Offseason questions aside,Durant unquestionably played a valuable role in Team LeBron’s 178-164 win over Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game at Spectrum Center. The most valuable, to be precise.
The Warriors’ forward scored 31 points and grabbed seven rebounds en route to his second NBA All-Star Game MVP award. His 18 second-half points helped Team LeBron erase a double-digit deficit before decisively winning a track meet of a basketball game.
It’s another piece of hardware for a player who’s won two NBA titles, a regular-season MVP and four scoring titles. He can’t complain about any of them.
“It’s all sweet to me,” Durant said. “It’s hard to rank when everything is special, but it’s cool to be out there with some of the best players to ever play the game. Winning MVP in front of my family and friends is pretty sweet.”
Durant was team captain LeBron James’ first pick of the All-Star draft, and was later joined by Golden State teammate Klay Thompson and former teammate James Harden. So while he had some built-in chemistry with a couple of members of Team LeBron, it didn’t take him long to develop some with the rest.
“I think every one of these guys, you can relate to them on a different level,” Durant said. “A lot of these guys come from the same background and same circumstances, so you relate to them on a different level. All our skills match with each other. So you’ve got guys that can play four positions out there.
“So you don’t mind sitting in the corner waiting for the ball to come to you for a three. So you don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players. You can do what you’re just best at.”
Durant did plenty of what he’s best at Sunday night — scoring. Although his opponent’s captain had him beat in that category.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 38 points in a losing effort, powering his team to 95 first-half points. The three-time All-Star was admittedly nervous in his first two All-Star Games, but seized a leadership role this time around.
“It’s easy as long as you stay humble and down to earth. It’s easy,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think just being a leader of the team, it wasn’t as tough as I thought because my teammates, the guys in the locker room encouraged me to step up and take it serious and play hard and help the team to win. So that was kind of easy tonight.”
His team’s win boosted his All-Star MVP case, but Durant still heaped praise on Antetokounmpo following a breakneck, head-to-head showcase.
“He’s got potential through the roof. He’s still producing at an elite level, and it’s scary to see how far he can keep going,” Durant said. “His game is rounding into shape. He’s still getting better, but he’s a leading top five, top three MVP candidate right now at 20. How old is he, 23? To be that young and already at the top of the class as one of the elites in the game, it’s a joy to watch his progression.”
Durant, Thompson and Stephen Curry, who grew up in Charlotte, travel back to California to continue the Warriors’ push for a third straight NBA championship. When the season is over, Durant’s impending free agency will be thrust to the forefront of the basketball world’s collective minds. He hates the questions and speculation, but he didn’t have to deal with much of it this weekend.
This weekend, Durant could just be an NBA All-Star, and that seemed good enough for him.
An MVP trophy is just icing on the cake.