DENVER — There were no Ping-Pong balls and no live coverage. Kristaps Porzingis found out he had been selected to Team LeBron for the NBA All-Star Game by seeing it on a Knicks staffer’s phone on the court during warmups for Thursday night’s game against the Nuggets.
Porzingis’ reaction? Not much of one.
“Focused on the game,” he said. Meaning the Knicks-Nuggets game.
Porzingis missed the Knicks’ previous game against the Warriors with left knee irritation. After a light practice on Wednesday and Thursday morning’s shootaround, Porzingis declared himself ready to go and was in the starting lineup.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said there are no limitations on Porzingis for the finale of the road trip Friday in Phoenix. He will be able to play in the back-to-back if he feels up to it.
As for the All-Star Game, the NBA is trying something new this season, and it affected the Knicks’ lone All-Star. LeBron James and Stephen Curry — as the leading vote-getters in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively — held a “draft” to build the rosters for the Feb. 18 All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Gone are the days when the East played the West to see who was best.
James picked Kevin Durant (Curry’s Golden State teammate), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving (now a Celtic) to start alongside him. As reserves, he selected Porzingis, LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), John Wall (Washington) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).
Curry will start with Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) and James Harden (Houston). Curry’s reserves are Jimmy Butler (Minnesota), Draymond Green (Golden State), Al Horford (Boston), Damian Lillard (Portland), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Klay Thompson (Golden State) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota).
After the selections were announced, James posted on Twitter: “Yo @StephenCurry30 that was fun!! Definitely should’ve been televised.”
Curry replied: “Yeah I’d have to say that was legit! #next year”.
The draft wasn’t televised because the players’ union didn’t want it to be, according to ESPN.com. It seems some players didn’t like the idea of being picked at the bottom end of the draft.
“It was the absence of a consensus by prospective players likely to be affected that led to” the decision not to support televising the draft, the NBA Players Association said in a statement to ESPN. “Whether a decision to broadcast the draft will be made after this year’s game, that will be determined going forward.”
Like most leagues, the NBA is trying to do something — or anything — to spice up the All-Star Game and juice the TV ratings. Knicks fans hoping to watch Porzingis play with LeBron will get their wish. But they would have under the old format, too.
Earlier in the day, Porzingis was asked if he was excited about “the big draft.”
“The big draft?” he said. “Oh, it’s today? I didn’t know. I didn’t really pay attention to that. Focused on the Denver Nuggets today. We’ll see. I’m not really paying attention. I haven’t really thought about who I’m going to play with. I mean, it’s exciting. It’s something new, definitely. It’s more exciting for the fans, I think. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting.”
Porzingis will be joined in Los Angeles by rookie teammate Frank Ntilikina, who was selected on Wednesday for the World team in the Rising Stars Challenge. That game will be held on Feb. 16. Porzingis played on the World team the last two years.
“It’s going to be fun for him,” Porzingis said. “He probably knows most of the guys from the draft. To get together again with them and play the game and have some fun. The winning team gets a little extra money, so that’s also nice.”